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The superhero comic is dead. Long live the superhero comic.

I love Marvel Comics. Always have. Especially the cosmic stuff, Busiek’s Avengers run, and the Uncanny X-Men as written by the inimitable — a word I see everywhere but cannot define — Chris Claremont.

But things just aren’t as fun anymore. Look, I know what you’re thinking. And no. This has nothing to do with the recent changes to the Avengers line-up. Riri’s cool. Jane Foster as Thor kicks butt. I love Sam Wilson.

My favorite scenes in Captain America: Winter Soldier are when Cap and Falcon are out of costume, just being friends.

I would watch the hell out of a Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson buddy movie. Like, no superhero stuff. Just Steven and Sam renting a condo for the summer and getting into wacky shenanigans. Maybe Carol Danvers shows up, and the three of them crash a party at a swanky resort where they act all silly and there’s this old lady going “Well, I never.”

I would watch the shit out of that.

As for having Sam as Cap? It works. All-New Avengers volume 1, the one with Miles Morales, the new Nova, and the new Ms. Marvel is fantastic. Miles Morales is written hilariously, and Nova and Ms. Marvel’s interactions are some of the most amusing cringe-fests ever commited to paper. Falcon (he’s always Falcon to me. I just love me some Falcon) has to deal with haters who comment “Where’s the real one?” and “Not my Captain America,” echoing the sort of people who start their sentences with “I’m not a racist, but…

(Kind of like I did at the start of this post. Isn’t it weird how white guys like me are more worried about being perceived as racist than trying to figure out how we can combat racism itself?)

But here’s the thing. These comics, for me, just aren’t as much fun as they used to be.

Maybe it’s because grad school combined with a full-time job has left little time to catch up on story lines (the Red Skull did WHAT?!). Maybe it IS the shifting demographics in Marvel. Am I that thin-skinned as to be put off by increased diversity?

Is it the fact that Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and several of the other so-called heroes have been outed as almost as evil as the evil they oppose?

I missed most of the comics dealing with the incursions and the Builders and all that world-ending stuff. It looked cool, yeah, but what the actual fuck, Marvel? It’s like they lost their damn minds. They realized nobody reads comics anymore* and just decided “Heck with hit. No one’s reading anyway. Let’s just go crazy!”

In the end, maybe the problem is just that the times are a-changing and comics are finally changing with them. The increased emphasis on diversity — gender and racial — is part of it (and long overdue, frankly). But you know what? It’s more than that. Marvel (and DC for that matter) have (for once) stopped giving us the same stories over and over. You know. The Busiek stories. The fun stories. The safe stories. The House of Ideas and the House of El are doing something fans have been demanding for decades now: Actually advancing and resolving character plot-lines. Actually changing. Having stories with — gasp! — consequences. Dealing with real-world issues. Basically, doing a lot of what makes comics good.

Don’t get me wrong. Ultron still wants to destroy all humans, and Lex Luthor is still (I assume?) a bad guy. But even though Cyclops got Phoenix powers, the resolution to Avengers vs. X-Men was NOT  a redo of the Dark Phoenix Saga.

But you know…Sam Wilson is not my Captain America. And Miles Morales is not my Spider-Man. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t like those characters. I love both characters, and I’m ecstatic over the fact that Marvel is finally acknowledging the fact that they have millions of nonwhite fans.

I think I’m just not comfortable right now with the stories Marvel is telling. I’m having trouble finding an entry point into Avengers, specifically (X-Men has been consistently awesome, more or less, since the early 2010s. Mostly in X-Force.) This is a shame because I subscribed to Avengers at the very start of Busiek’s run back in the 90s (a happy coincidence). These all-new, all-different guys just…aren’t the ones I grew up with. That’s all. I dunno. I like to think that the changing demographics of the Avengers line-up is just the surface of what’s got me so hot and bothered. I hope it’s not residual racism rearing up from the reptilian section of my brain. But if it is, I hope I have the courage to change — to adapt — as Marvel has.

Without adaptation, a species cannot survive.

The superhero comic is dead. Long live the superhero comic.

Meanwhile, old geezers** like me who grew up on exaggerated tales of killer robots, alien invasions, and other Troperiffic fare will just feel like the folks in this Monty Python clip which my 12-year-old students would find exceedingly boring:

Footnotes:

*Nobody reads comics = very few people go into comic stores and buy physical books. A few hundred thousand or so. Millions and millions read free comics on scans-daily, download comics through apps, and watch both live-action and animated adaptations. Hell, I used to think X-Men #1 was about Jubilee escaping the Sentinels.

**People who remember Geocities, Neopets, and Friendster. (Think your dad’s Facebook account, Pokemon GO, and MySpace, kids.)

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Pointless Political Musings

I hate posting about politics. No one listens if they’ve already made up their mind. No one wants to consider another side. People who change their minds are, after all, flip-floppers. Better to continuously support wickedness than “flip-flop” to the side of truth and justice.

Anyway.

Fox News. Let’s talk. It’s on all the time at my house. I consider myself a bit of an expert, as I’ve seen most of their programming. A couple of their shows, I even like. (Hi, @KennedyNation)

Unlike mainstream media news programming (ABC, CBS, NBC), Fox News (and MSNBC, I assume, as their sister network) presents a single, unified narrative to the American people. Alternative views are presented, mocked, and discarded. Guests who disagree with the host are brought on, present their points (poorly) and are shut down with the weakest arguments imaginable. A single story is allowed to take hold and flourish.

That single story, in essence, is that the Democratic Party of the United States is the true heir of fascism. Led and bankrolled by George Soros and Ivy League elites, liberal organizations in general and the Democratic Party in particular are on a mission from the Not God they don’t worship to destroy America as we know it.

We know this because Fox News says it is true. And Fox News can never be wrong because they’ve promised never to lie to us. Not like those dirty mainstream networks do.

Fox News functions a bit like a cult. Those who get sucked in can no longer value outside perspective. Those of you who enjoy the majority of their programming have already either closed the tab or gone to the comments to lecture me about the glories of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

Part of what makes Fox News so attractive is that their anchors actively reject any appearance of academic achievement. Academia, in fact, is the enemy. This makes sense. Socialism is extremely popular in academia. Glenn Beck got that much right. So when they talk to you like someone you can have a beer with, it’s easy to trust them because, hey, they’re your buddies. Not like those fancy college boys with all their boring numbers and facts. No, we’ve got our own numbers and facts, conflicts of interest be damned! And our anchors are way, way cuter.

kennedy

Well, they are.

In any case, who am I to talk? Growing up in the 90s, I just accepted that sexism was still a problem we were working on in this country. I saw evidence of sexism whenever guys felt like they could just grab women randomly or when locker-room/guy-talk (as disgusting as it could be) was met with a shrug.

I saw evidence of racism at least in my own family. I had family members who would wear that badge with pride. When my science teachers and Captain Planet warned us about global warming, I believed them. Because they were showing and explaining to me logically how these things were happening. Years later, I listened to the climate change argument — that global warming could wind up causing an ice age — with equal acceptance.

I listen to experts. To scientists. To doctors. I trust them. Why? Because they are academics. I trust people who read the big thick books I haven’t gotten to yet. \

But why do I speak as one with authority? As if my way is the only true way? Simple. That’s how Fox News has changed the dialogue in this country. It’s no longer “come with me on this journey toward enlightenment.” No. Now, it’s totally acceptable to say “come with me and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong.”

Can’t blame Fox News entirely for that. Only partially. Not sure where else the blame lies. Probably I’m just entitled, as you can tell by all the cars and trophies my parents bought me…

(Ok, they did buy me one trophy, but I thought it was dumb, and I really didn’t think I deserved it. It was for being a good shot on school field trip to Camp High Harbor. That’s right. At 6th grade, they let us shoot rifles at a YMCA camp. I went to a public school. The 90s were a weird time.)

But of course, if I can’t see that NASA’s own research is tainted with the blood money of George Soros (billionaire activist who funds things much as the Koch brothers also fund things), it is obvious I’m just another liberal zombie, brainwashed by the Hollywood Ivy League Elite to bring down this great country.

Yes, I’ve been on food stamps. Yes, I’ve been on disability. I didn’t like going on either. I didn’t get thousands and thousands from the government. I don’t expect handouts. I don’t want handouts.

But I don’t believe Obamacare is the reason businesses aren’t hiring. (It may be the reason SMALL businesses aren’t hiring, though. Quick sidenote: This is why I didn’t vote for Obama. I thought Obamacare would be too damn expensive for a country of 300 million, though much less expensive than single-payer. I hate being right all the time.)

Big companies like Delta and AT&t aren’t hiring because businesses exist to make money. The 2008 recession taught businesses that they could layoff thousands of Americans and still make money. Why the hell would they start hiring now? Make no mistake. The only thing businesses hate more than customers is employees.

So sure. Repeal Obamacare. Insurance will still suck. It doesn’t matter. Insurance companies exist to screw you over. We know this because every insurance company has operated the same way since the first insurance companies were founded in Little Italy around the turn of the century. Back then, they were called protection rackets.

godfather2

1947 meeting of the Five Families: Lucchese, Genovese, Gambino, Profaci, and Aetna.

 

Nowadays, insurance companies don’t go through the trouble of beating you up if you don’t pay. Instead, they wait for something terrible to happen, so they can pounce and deny you services. Oh, you still have to pay protection. But we won’t keep your storefront from getting smashed in. Sorry. Them’s the brakes.

And as for picking your own doctors? Before, you went to the doctor the insurance company picked. Now you go to the doctor the government picks? What, exactly, is the difference if affordable choices are still limited?

And is it weird to anyone else that medical costs don’t seem to obey the laws of supply and demand? If we have fewer sick people (demand sinks), medical costs go up. A breakthrough in technology (supply rises)? Medical prices go up. If everyone’s on anti-depressants, shouldn’t they be cheaper? It’s like there’s a cartel thing going on.

But yeah. None of this matters. There will never be a Savior on capitol hill. And no one who disagrees has had their mind changed.

Some days, I can’t wait for our whole civilization to come crashing down.

And feeling like that, folks, is proof that white male privilege exists. Because unlike members of other American minority groups (women, African Americans, Jews, Muslims), I will probably do alright during the apocalypse. No one lynches white male autistic Catholics when the going gets rough.

Not first, anyway.

 

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How Protests Work

Say what you will about Black Lives Matter. At least they understand the fundamental fact about protesting: In order to be effective, it has to be disruptive. They didn’t call it a “sit-in” because Dr. King and co. were standing quietly with placards in a special cordoned area, out of sight of racist business-owners and their racist customers. The idea that protests should only happen in certain, legally-sanctioned spaces is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the fact that people choose to abide by such totalitarian regulations. If I want to protest a business or organization, I’m not going to do it three streets away, in an alley, facing a brick wall.

Since Ghandi’s Salt March, the whole point of nonviolent resistance has been the spectacle. Plan something public. Make sure the press will be there. Let the bad guys come and beat the crap out of you. Sit back and watch world opinion force the bad guys to cave to your demands. That’s how it works. That’s how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 got passed. That’s how the British Raj fell. That’s how you get what you want.

That said, if you’re protesting just because your union says you have to, please stay in those cordoned areas. No one cares that labor and management couldn’t come to an agreement over dental plans before October 1st. I gotta get to Cincinnati.

And if you’re a teacher striking during the school year?

Quit your job because you clearly don’t care about it. 

And if you’re a teacher whose union threatens your job if you do not protest during the school year, go outside and picket those jackasses.

This is not Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or Airstrip One. You can protest anyone, anywhere, at any time. And if they don’t let you, sue the bastards. What’s more American than that?

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Indecision 2016

The current election appears to be a no-win scenario. I’m not a big fan of Hillary, but Trump, in my eyes, lost the election with his talk of the of Mexican illegal immigrants being rapists. Sorry, you don’t get to generalize about 11 million of the world’s poor like that and then be leader of the free world. Not in my America. So then I thought Ok. Maybe I’ll go third party.

Then I saw this sad display:

I know what Aleppo is. Should I run for president when I turn 35?

So yeah. Now I feel like this:

Side-Note: In the above video, I am all three characters.

Foot-Note: I once rode the bus with a woman who wore an eye patch everyday. Yes, she did look like a pirate. Yes, it was cool. And no, I never spoke with her, though she seemed friendly enough.

Head-Note: I hope you listened/watched that whole Trump video. He says we have no idea who’s coming in. Really? I suppose the Syrians are just WALKING over the Atlantic? Trump needs a kickstarter. He’s got a billion dollars and no globe.

Shoulders-Note: And yes, that’s an old Trump clip. But if we can criticize Hillary over this mess from four years ago, we can criticize Trump over comments from last year.

 

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Never Mind

It ain’t broke. Let’s not mess. Bubblegum-Man will resume when I have enough content for 6 months or so of updates. Until then, enjoy random musings as always.

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Welcome back! – UPDATE

Hey folks. As you can see, we’ve gone through a couple cosmetic changes: TheOptimistsUmbrella.com is now conqcomix.net. The content hasn’t really changed that much. We’ll still be putting up Bubblegum-Man comics (issue 3 on the way, promise), as well as posting updates on my creative works and for the site as a whole under the “State of the Conq” category and blogging on a variety of subjects in the “Side of Conq” category. Bubblegum-Man will continue to use the “Bubblegum-Man” category and will still update at the top of the page. Comics like In His Spare Time and Apples and Oranges (coming soon-ish) will update with the blog postings. Hope you like the new layout! Let me know what you think. If you haven’t read Bubblegum-Man yet, now’s the time to get caught up on issues 1 and 2. Just click on the links below.

Bubblegum-Man #1

Bubblegum-Man #2

These two issues will be getting remastered in the near future, with clearer dialogue and tighter plotting. Keep your eyes out for that!

UPDATE: For convenience and old times’ sake, TheOptimistsUmbrella.com and williambrust.com will both still direct to this site.

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Summer Break

Hey folks. The site is going on a long hiatus. I’ve realized this blog/website is not focused enough, and there needs to be more new content on a weekly basis.

Much of the plan is TBD for now, but here are the ideas I have so far:

  • I will finish crafting the next three issues of Bubblegum-Man. Once they are done, the site will update automatically on a weekly or possibly bi-weekly basis (oooooh, fancy).
  • More IHST and new comics updating on an irregular basis.
  • I will hire or find a guy or gal to help me make the website look more professional. Maybe figure out how Black Mudpuppy gets his comic to update just by clicking on it. (Witchcraft? Probably not.)
  • The content of the blog will be more focused. I’d rejected the specialization trend in blogs and sites, but you know what? It seems to be what the people want.
  • New hats. Ok, maybe not new hats.

We should be back at the end of the summer. If not, just keep waiting.

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“It’s the only argument I need, Shawn!”

Iron2

Hi, my name is Iron Man, and I think superheroics need to be regulated by the government. It’s very important. A lot of us have powers and abilities that can cause untold devastation, enough to make Nagasaki look like a day at Chuck E. Cheese. We need to be answerable to someone, somewhere. We can’t just be cowboys.

Cap

Hi, my name is Captain America.

Iron2

Iron Man here again. Look, I understand folks are concerned about their civil liberties. But really, this is not a valid argument in this instance. Would it be against civil liberties to make sure nobody can blow up your entire town just by thinking bad thoughts? Do we really want a world where the Hulk destroys Tuscon because he ate a bad burrito?

Cap

My name is Captain America.

Iron2

Look, at some point, we have to make sacrifices. In order to live together in a free and just society, people have to feel safe and cared for. We can’t do that if people can run around shooting fireballs out of their eyes every time the Pats win the playoffs. It’s all about personal responsibility. How can a democracy function if the gods who live in it cannot be  held accountable for their actions?

Cap

My name is Captain America.

Iron2

Stop it, Steve! This is serious!

Cap

I am taking this very seriously, Tony. And my name is Captain America.

Iron2

You’re acting like a child.

Cap

A child named Ca-

Iron2

Don’t say it!

Cap

Childnamedcaptainamerica.

Iron2

Ahhh!

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The Next Three-Quarters: Good Ending

Something I wrote a while ago, when I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. Hopefully, this will bring you some peace as it has for me. I wrote this over a year ago, when I was thirty and feeling it. (Some parts are edited for content and surprise, as I fully intend to propose to whoever I wind up with at the location indicated in this piece, and I want it to be a surprise!)

#

            Sad endings are easy. You don’t really have to do anything to get the worst possible ending. Here’s the worst possible ending: Everyone dies slow, in pain, alone. The end.

But what about a happy ending? What if everything goes right? What would that look like and how would I get there?

Conq worked very hard and managed to get his novel published within the next few months. He published a few short stories, and within the year, his reputation within the scifi/fantasy community was established. He earned enough money from his writing to quit his job at Walgreens and move out of his parents’ house. Towards the middle of 2014 [sic], he moved into his new home, an apartment in midtown Atlanta. As he began spending more time with his old church pals and other friends, he met a beautiful redhead with a penchant for spaceships and hard CANDY. She liked his writing, and he was pretty impressed with her own artistic endeavors. They both liked Doctor Who and lasagna. They went out for a year, after which William proposed to her at the CANDY STORE atop the CANDY STORE. She said yes, and they were wed as the ball dropped on 2016 [sic]. They honeymooned in Europe and had CANDY across several notable landmarks. Lots and lots of CANDY. It was pretty neat. Anyway, they had some kids and things got a bit more complicated. The pressures of family and work and their disparate artistic ventures threatened to drive them apart, but they got through it. Their kids went on to do great things. Conq and his wife got old and moved to Hawaii, where they died in their mid-120s. They were buried on the side of a volcano, like a pair of badasses. Because that’s who they were, who they’d always been, and who they’d always be..

I didn’t move out of my parents’ house in 2014. It’s 2016, and I’m still as single as ever. My journey is taking longer than I’d wished.

But I still hope to meet someone special who thinks I’m not so bad either.

And I still would like to be buried in the side of a volcano.