PJ Media versus Green Lantern

14

September 15, 2012 by Ish

Julia and I began this blog with two goals in mind, exploring geek culture from the perspective of our right-wing politics and exploring right-wing politics from the perspective of nerds. Today shows us a fine example of why we need to have actual nerds covering nerd issues: PJ Media is trying to cover comic books.

Now, look, I love PJ Media. Instapundit is pretty much my first stop every morning on the internet, the last site I look at before going to sleep at night, and I visit it probably a dozen times randomly during the day. I read almost all the articles that appear on the main PJ Media site. I adore Andrew Klavan, stand in awe of Stephen Green, and confess to something of a man-crush on AlfonZo Rachel. In my opinion, Bill Whittle is pretty much a demigod… but, frankly, I doubt any of these folks have touched a comic book since grade school.

So this report on DC Comic’s newest character to bear the name and powers of the Green Lantern are, on the surface, correct… they jump to some odd conclusions and make a lot of assumptions based on scant evidence. Green Lantern Vol 5 #0 will be the debut of Simon Baz, a Lebanese-American from Dearborn, Michigan. According to pre-release interviews with the Detroit Free Press, main themes of Simon Baz’s story will be “taking responsibility for the decisions [you have] made.” Radical stuff for a comic book, eh?

Green Lantern Vol 5 #0 (November, 2012) Cover art by Doug Mahnke.

Robert Spencer, author of this terrible review at PJ Media, gets a few things right in his piece, gets many things wrong, and fails to mention several important bits of information.

He is right that DC Comics will soon be introducing Simon Baz as the new Green Lantern. Simon Baz is going to be a Muslim. Simon Baz is going to be from Dearborn (a real place, with one of the highest concentrations of Arab-Americans in the US… I live about three minutes away from there). A major part of Simon Baz’s background history will be the events of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. But, even as Robert Spencer gets these facts right, he is doing his readers a disservice, I’ll get to that in a minute…

Robert Spencer gets many, many things wrong about how the comic books work and the character of Green Lantern in particular. Asking about “death rays” or speculating about how he “develops his super powers.” It should be pretty clear even to a casual comic book fan that Spencer’s never bothered to so much as see 2011′s Green Lantern film, let alone read an issue of the comic book. Which is perhaps the ultimate disservice Spencer does to his readers…

I said before that Spencer fails to mention several important bits of information to his readers, and I think this is the most clear and obvious one… and the greatest failure. Robert Spencer has not read Green Lantern Vol 5 #0. No one outside of DC Editorial and the books creators have, because it won’t hit newsstands for a few more weeks, Green Lantern #0 is the November 2012 issue. Since I highly doubt PJ Media gets advanced copies of comic books, every plot point and artistic detail Spencer mentions in his review are either speculative or hearsay.

Spencer also fails to give any context for the book such as the DC Universe’s recent New 52 reboot, that Simon Baz will not be the only Green Lantern, the concept of the Green Lantern Corps, the name of the author… Hell, he doesn’t even cite the issue number or even the name of the comic book!

Robert Spencer is the author of ten books including several New York Times bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and The Truth About Muhammad. Spencer also writes for the blog Jihad Watch. See how that works? I’ve given you an idea of the background and qualifications of the author whose work I am critiquing. This let’s you know that Spencer isn’t some random hack, but that he might have a bit of a bias.

In Spencer’s review of the Green Lantern comic he never read, he utterly fails to mention anything about the comic book’s writer — such as his name. Green Lantern Vol 5 is being penned by Geoff Johns. Geoff Johns started writing comics professionally in 1999, and is considered something of a superstar in the industry, his most critically acclaimed and fan-loved works include recent runs on The Flash, Justice Society of America, Green Lantern events Blackest Night and Brightest Day, and one of the most important recent series in the entire DCU: Infinite Crisis. I mention this because Spencer doesn’t, and I think it is important to establish that the Simon Baz character isn’t being created by some hack with an axe to grind, but rather by one of the most respected comic book writers around.

Geoff Johns might also be Paralax… or Gollum.

I also bring up the identity of the author because I think we need to establish a few other facts about Geoff Johns besides his list of previous works. Geoff Johns, like your’s truly, is a Michigander; Born in Detroit, and raised in the suburbs of Grosse Point and Clarkston, Johns eventually went to Michigan State University. Geoff Johns is also of half-Lebanese ancestry… Yep, an Arab-American from suburban Detroit is going to be writing a book about an Arab-American from suburban Detroit. To Robert Spencer, that’s a scandal, to anyone sane that’s just a case of “write what you know.”

Now, I have not read a single issue of any of the New 52 Green Lantern books, and I certainly haven’t read the unpublished debut issue of Simon Baz. But neither has Robert Spencer… but Spencer writes for one of the more influential right-wing journals around, PJ Media, making his a powerful voice. But, to borrow a phrase from DC Comic’s rival, with great power comes great responsibility… Spencer has failed to live up to that. His review is speculative, full of hearsay, lacks context, and omits such basic information as the name of the book he’s talking about!

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14 thoughts on “PJ Media versus Green Lantern

  1. Julia says:

    Non-comic-book readers writing reviews of comic books is bad enough (for serious, I don’t even like DC and I haven’t seen the movie, and I know how the Green Lantern Corps members get their powers), but writing reviews of comics they haven’t even read? Come on now…

    PJ Media should stick to movies if they are going to insist on including “cultural” stories. Its coverage of the Dark Knight movies is much more useful and interesting (http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/08/03/the-5-most-politically-incorrect-ideas-smuggled-into-the-dark-knight-rises/).

  2. Ish says:

    I’ve got no problem with anyone from PJ Media deciding to read and write about comic books. But, the key part of that sentiment is that they read and write about them… I just hit up two local comic book shops this morning, looking for Green Lantern #0, since it is listed as the Novemember issue but, as we all know, it isn’t uncommon magazines and comics to have a cover month that is actual off by quite a margin. It isn’t out yet. Robert Spencer based his entire attack on an article from another source that based their writting soley on the pre-publication press releases from DC Comics.

    Robert Spencer is a professional anti-Islamist, and has allowed this prejudice to bias him against a book he hasn’t even read yet… Tragically ironic, given the main story in the news this week about Islamist freaking out about a crappily-made Youtube movie they haven’t seen themselves.

    When Green Lantern #0 does hit the local newstands, I’m going to pick up a copy to read for myself, and write a follow-up to this story. Spencer may be right about it, but, I suspect not… and none of us will know until we get to read the damn thing.

    • Julia says:

      When I read the premise, I rolled my eyes, but I wouldn’t go and write a review of something I’ve never read, and I certainly hope I wouldn’t so blatantly display my ignorance of the franchise.

      On a related note, this Sword & Sorcery #0 / Amethyst book coming out this week . . . would I like it? I’ve never purchased a DC title in my life, but it sounds like something relevant to my interests.

      • Ish says:

        I never got to read any of the original 1983 Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld books… I’m familar with the character mostly by osmosis, through some third-hand references in other books. My understanding is that the old title was, essentially, “She-Ra done right.” A sword-and-sorcery title, targetted towards young women and older girls, that started out pretty light but evolved into darker and more serious tone by the end of the series. It’s fondly remembered by fans, but I have no first-hand knowledge of it.

        The new Amethyst has me interested, I’m fond of a good sword and sorcery tale and have a fondness for both superheroines and the “magical girl genre” (as you well know*). Plus, one of my favorite comicbook writers of all time, Gail Simone, says that she Amethyst is a character she loves and seems very excited by the new title. Seems like a book worth giving a shot.

        * Julia and I met via a play-by-email Sailormoon fanfic-slash-roleplaying game during high school. Yep, we’re nerds… is this suprising?

  3. ChuckieC says:

    I read an electronic 0 issue of the book. I think this is an interesting twist on the green lantern story line. I would love to read your ideas about new dark knight movie.

    • Ish says:

      Ah, okay, I was unaware the e-comic was published in advance of the physical copy. (I just can’t do electronic comics. I’ve tried, but they just feel wrong.)Having said that, I still stand by my assumption that Spencer hasn’t read the book in any format.

      It has been a bit too long since I’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises for an in depth review, but I did really enjoy it. Three-and-a-half to four stars out of five, I’d reckon.

  4. Worldmusic says:

    Amethyst was one of DC’s first “maxi-series” (12 issue limited run) in the Sword & Sorcery genre that was sweeping the early 1980s due to the Dungeons and Dragon role-play phenomenon. Neither He-Man (let alone She-Ra) had yet to be a blip in popular culture. As a boy in 5th grade, I had no intention of buying a “girlie” comic, nor was I into fantasy genre, but when I read the six page preview in an issue of The New Teen Titans, I was blown away by the Gene Colon artwork, and the Mike W. Barr storyline. That mini series was groundbreaking on many levels, and highly doubt this reboot will capture the imagination the way the original did, but I’m happy Amethyst is back.

    Now to the REAL reason I’m writing to this blog. As an African-American growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, collecting mostly DC (story over action), my friends of color and I (attending private schools in NYC) resigned ourselves to the fact that graphic literature will rarely ever reflect the part of the population that we belonged to: Haitian, Dominican, Black Caribbean, Arab, Hindu, Muslim, Indian, Asian, South Asian, Mixed Race, or Jewish (outwardly). It was not gonna happen, and we accepted it. Then came the late ’90s, with Milestone comics, and a host of Independent companies and characters reflecting diversity. I and my friends were shocked and delighted. But its funny how all the Letters to the Editor pages began to brim with complaints and whining from “fans” who were not at all happy with characters either be rebooted in a multicultural light, or the introduction of characters of color. Wow. “Be wary of discussing politics in a comic book shop” I used to say to myself, “you may not want to know what that fellow fan of Batman and the Outsiders thinks about race and identity in the United States.”

    I read PJ Media when I want a good laugh. When I want to know what the most racist, narrow minded, reactionary, homophobic, ill informed, and completely bat-shit loony tooned part of the population thinks. And that article on the new Green Lantern did not disappoint. I find it astonishing that the only nit-pick you had with it was that they kinda dissed graphic literature and the fans who read them. Wow, I guess the racist, anything-having-to-do-with-creating-a-nonwhite-christian-hero-is-an-abomination comments flew under your radar or you didn’t have a problem with them. Ha, Howard Stern once said you never want to know the politics of your favorite musicians, artists or actors. Its kinds too bad I learned about your politics before I discovered your blog. We share a love for graphic literature, but we want this beautiful nation to go in different directions. Obama 2013!

    • Ish says:

      I was a huuuge fan of Icon, had it added to my “pull list” at the comic shop… and I was a suburban white kid. Good storytelling is just good story telling, three of my favorite books of the period were Icon, Green Lantern: Mosaic, and Batman. Two of three had black men as the lead.

      I did make comments, on their website, about how some of the commentors were being biased against comic readers and the comic industry, but saved my main criticism of the article for this blog post here. I am livid that Spencer reviewed this comic without reading it, and that his entire source of offense seems to be Simon Baz’s ethnicity and religion.

      The vast majority of “A-List” superheroes from DC and Marvel are, in fact, white men and women. Mostly this is a byproduct of their having been created in the 1940s to early 1960s. However, there are plently of minority heroes in both studios major lineups these days, so the commentors over yonder that are mad about adding diversity are, well, idiots. It is in the interest of both of the majors to create new minority heroes at a greater frequency than white guys. They’ve already got 70 or 50 years of white guys…

      I agree with the general sentiment that the comic shop ain’t the place for discussing politics, but this isn’t the shop. This blog was founded for the very purpose of two nerds being out of the closet with our rightwing politics.

    • Julia says:

      Thank you for some more background on Amethyst. I have already told my husband that we’re going to the comic book store this week to buy the first issue. It looks like the original is being released soon as a graphic novel (or maybe two graphic novels?), and I may pick that up as well. This will be my first DC series–I have always been a Marvel girl. The people are just more interesting to me–but I am very interested in girls who suddenly find out that they are princesses, since it is one of my life goals.

      Let me tell you my personal reasons for rolling my eyes at some of the recent political correctness in comic books–no generalities, this is my actual opinion, as Julia. The race, identify, etc. of a character is irrelevant to me, because I’m looking to read about interesting people doing interesting things. Whether or not a character is interesting has much more to do, IMO, with his or her history and personality, not race, gender, sexual orientation, or any of that on its own. Sometimes those factors inform or affect a character’s history or personality, of course, which is fine as long as they don’t completely subsume any other influence; that makes a character one-dimensional and boring. If a company wants to bring in a black character, or a gay character, or whatever, I don’t care one bit as long as that person is interesting and is there to be part of a compelling story. I think retcons and relying heavily (or solely) on one trait of a character are signs of bad or lazy writing, though, and that is usually what makes me dubious. I do not in any way believe that ALL minority characters suffer from that fault, but I get concerned when a character is specifically advertised as whatever minority group.

      I always say that I have switched to YA fiction from adult fiction because I got sick of authors relying on sex scenes to sell their books–seriously, if your biggest selling point is that people take off their clothes, you’ve clearly written dull characters who do dull things when they are not naked–and while written pornography is in fact a genre, when I go to the sci-f/fantasy section, I am obviously not looking for pornography. That’s an analogy for how I feel about the reliance on one or two traits to characterize someone; if the only thing an author can say about his character is that he is black or Muslim, then the character is obviously poorly-written, and if the only way to describe the plot is, “It’s about a black guy,” the plot is obviously poor-written.

      People are individually more than one of their traits. I am not JUST a woman or JUST a conservative, and if someone tried to describe my personality and only came up with those two things, I would be offended, because they aren’t my personality. That is why I think it is bad writing to be like, “Here is my character, he is black, and his personality is that he is black.” That is lazy writing, and downright insulting to readers. If the writers actually put out effort to develop a deep character, with internal conflicts, relationships, flaws, and merits, that will be a character who is interesting to follow, regardless of race, religion, or anything else. Can those conflicts, relationships, flaws, and merits have a connection to the minority group to which the character belongs? Absolutely. My only objection is when the minority group becomes the ONLY trait the character has. I’ll tell you right now, if I buy the first issue of Amethyst and it’s all about being a woman with a boring accompanying plot, I won’t buy another issue.

      I don’t want to read about minority archetypes doing archetypical things any more than I want to read about white male archetypes doing archetypical things (seriously, my least favorite comic book character is Cyclops, because he is pompous and BORING)–I don’t want to read about plain, unmodified archetypes, PERIOD, regardless of the race, gender, orientation, religion, or anything else. Is every minority character made to pander? Absolutely not, some are in fact interesting, multi-dimensional people who do interesting things. They are clearly present to participate in the story (which may include aspects of their minority group), not BE a story. That is the distinction I am trying to make here, so I hope I was clear.

      Perfect example of what I am looking for: my second all-time favorite character in fiction, Tennou Haruka/Sailor Uranus from Sailor Moon. I don’t know if you watch anime or read manga, but my description of her would be that she is dedicated to her duty above all else, and has to struggle to fulfill that duty while maintaining her relationships and juggling other responsibilities. Also, she is a talented pianist, great fighter, and general badass. Oh, also, I almost forgot–she’s a cross-dressing lesbian. She represents a minority group, but that is not the sole factor in her personality or history–not by a long shot. She is primarily characterized as someone who is so dedicated to her duty that she lies to and tricks the main characters (who are supposed to be her allies) so that she can fulfill a duty that will actually HELP them. Don’t get me wrong, the manga and the Japanese-language anime series make zero attempt to hide the fact that she’s a lesbian, but that’s not her main character trait–just like real people, who are composed of more than just one trait.

      I was mildly annoyed at Rictor suddenly being gay because I don’t appreciate retcons (the story was already told! You can’t change it!), but when you go back and read X-Force in the 90s, there was some subtext with Shatterstar. That said, Rictor CLEARLY had a romantic relationship with Wolfsbane, so I guess they are trying to say that he is bi? See, I wish they had just introduced a new character who happened to be gay instead of working with an existing character, but at least they picked one who already had even a little subtext in his backstory. (I feel similarly about Dumbledore, except I think he’s even more of a retcon. If Rowling had wanted it to be in the books, it would have been in the books. It wasn’t, and I am distrustful of her randomly making a comment during an interview–I’m not sure that’s canon)

      Anyway, I hope you see my point. Any objection I have to individual characters, minority or otherwise, comes from my meta-theories of writing. I don’t know if other fans think about things as deeply as I do, so I can’t speak for them, but I know my husband, at least, feels the same way I do (and he is a liberal). We want good writing and characterization, period, regardless of race, religion, orientation, gender, whatever.

      Oh, and Ish was pretty clear in his disagreement with Spencer’s assumptions about religion and culture in Green Lantern. Your statement, “Wow, I guess the racist, anything-having-to-do-with-creating-a-nonwhite-christian-hero-is-an-abomination comments flew under your radar or you didn’t have a problem with them,” is unfair given the words Ish actually wrote. Also, I think maybe you’re reading a different PJ Media than I am. I have seen very few articles there that remotely fit into your description. Besides than this Green Lantern article, do you have any other examples?

      I’m glad that you took the time to comment–thank you for that. I love discussing media from a political perspective, so that’s why I get kind of ramble-y.

      • Ish says:

        Interesting characters and a good story count a lot more for me than a diverse cast of characters, consider my recent review of Justice League International: The Signal Masters: the team line-up contains a Chinese man; Brazilian, African, Norweigan, and British women; three American white guys; and a Soviet dude. The primary supporting characters are a black (presumably) American man and his (I think) Asian-American assistant… but the bland story never rising above what I called “unremarkable mediocrity.”

        One of my all-time favorite comics, one I personally think should be as hallowed as Kingdom Come or Maus for showing the power of comic books as “real” literature, is the 18-issue 1992-93′s Green Lantern: Mosaic written by Gerard Jones. The series is about diversity, multicultralism, race, the expereince of African-American Jon Stewart growing up in mostly white suburban Detroit… and, on occassion, some superpowered fisticuffs. Hell, my favorite issue of the entire run is #11 (“”I Am Myself Mosaic.”) is basically Jon Stewart delivering a monologue about being black in America. But the story works, as it is meant to be a story about race.

        Another pair of great comics, Static from Milestone and Christopher Preist’s run on Black Panther, are unquestionably about black heroes… but they’ve got almost nothing to do with race, except in passing or as background. Static is straightforward superhero fare and Preist’s Black Panther was a taunt political thriller (a close freind once called it “Tom Clancy’s Batman”).

        We’ve come a long, looong way from the blaxploitation days of the 1970s, and we’ve come light years from the depictions of minorities in the 1930s at the birth of the medium. But, I prefer to judge a comic book by the quality of its characters and the content of its story, not the color of the ink used for the characters’ skin.

      • Julia says:

        I don’t think I can Like a comment, so I’ll just write that I like it *lol*

  5. Avi Green says:

    I took part in a bloggers conference several years ago with Spencer, and to his credit, he knows a lot about the contents and verses of the Koran, and is a valuble resource of info in that regard. But I too noticed that he was surprisingly awkward about the GL issue’s details: besides failing to mention the Green Lantern title, he didn’t mention that the van stolen by the Baz character contained a bomb, and it was implied that Amanda Waller might have something to do with it! Unlike Spencer, I did my best to research the story’s content and managed to find a couple panels and reviews that confirm the story is disturbing and potentially insulting to Americans. From what I can tell, Spencer’s weakness is that he may not be all that different from various other mainstream news columnists who won’t do deeper research of the comics medium.

    Still, if you think Spencer goofed, wait’ll you see what Jonathan V. Last of the Weekly Standard said on a site called The Daily about Metamorpho! He said that Rex Mason was once replaced by an Asian woman, but I couldn’t find anything to back that up. Jonathan Last is actually worse in some ways, because I once found him acting as apologist for Steven Spielberg’s Munich and even superficially fawning over DC’s Identity Crisis. It was pure horror.

    That told, I want to state that whatever your opinions on Johns’ writing, I was repelled by a lot of the visual content of his stories. Take the Flash’s Blood Will Run storyline, for example. An early case of his resorting to horrific violence and bloodletting, and he even later wrote a story in 2004 where he implied that the Turtle supervillain was willing to stoop to child stalking. If you’ve heard of a miniseries called “Rogues’ Revenge” from 2008, that was the last straw for me: he depicted Impulse’s nemesis Inertia terminating an infant named Josh Jackam first seen in Blood Will Run with a vibration impact. It made no difference if Inertia met his fate soon after; that execution of the child was uncalled for and pointless. Stuff like that offends me more as a Marvel fan than a DC fan and I never read Marvel for shock tactics like those (sadly, they’ve already long turned up in the MCU under Joe Quesada too).

    By the way, have you ever seen any heroes or supporting cast of Armenian descent in mainstream comics? Or even characters with ancestry from Bulgaria, Cameroon, Denmark, Croatia, Macedonia, Burma, Arabs of Christian background, Copts from Egypt or even Ainu from Japan? If not, that’s the kind of diversity one would think the majors would be interested in, yet they stick to some very superficial and selective ideas of what “diversity” means.

    • Ish says:

      In the late 1960s to early 1970s, a distaff counterpart of Metamorpho was created, the creatively named Element Girl. So far as I know, she was never featured in too many stories after her intial story arc, and I’m not sure if she was moved into the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths universe, although according to the DC Wiki (linked above) she did. Metamorpho has never been replaced as a character, although he has died a few times and left the various teams he’s been in on various occassions… so, maybe at one point he died/left a team and an Asian woman took a place in the book?

      Identity Crisis had some serious flaws, but I enjoyed it despite myself, especially if you take is as the setup for the JSA: Black Reign / Infinite Crisis / 52 trifecta… the problem I have is that in the six or seven years following those excellent events, DC Comics basically went apeshit… Countdown, Amazons Attack!, Battle for Bloodhaven, Rise of Arsenal… Ugh. If you’ve got a few hours to kill, I highly recommend you check out the excellent reviews of those piles of shit by Linkara at Atop the Fourth Wall. Marvel went downhill in a similar manner at roughly the same time: Ultimatum, Decimation, and those three words that can rip the hear out of a comic book fan’s chest at fifteen paces: One More Day.

      Thank god that DC seems to have wised up… all The New 52 titles that I have read so far from last years re-launch have been very good (okay, one was just average). I hope to add another four or five such reviews soon.

  6. [...] weeks back, I wrote a lengthy rant about a “review” of [i]Green Lantern[/i] (Vol. 5) #0 that appeared on PJ Media. That [...]

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