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Filtering by Tag: comics

Christ in a Corset at Comic Con

Brad Fruhauff

DSC_0006 N.B.: Follow links at your own discretion; some content may be unsuitable for work or children.

My boys were enthralled with playing Super Smash Bros. on an old Nintendo 64, so they didn’t notice the black-bearded man in the long, bleach-blond wig, white halter, cape, and white g-string pulled up over his basketball shorts (imagine a dude in this). It was my third Comic Con, so I knew to expect a range of costumes and costume quality, but this was the first where I noticed the cross-dressing cosplay they call “crossplay.”

If you go to Comic Con, you’re going to see some stuff, and it will teach you something about how you see—especially as a male. Imagine if every fifth woman you saw was squeezed into Harley Quinn spandex or Catwoman leather or some suit that projected her bared chest out for the world to admire. One needs to watch one’s thoughts.

There were impressive male costumes, too, like Captain America, Mr. Freeze, or Cardinals Iron Man. And there were playful, elaborate costumes like the Charizard with extendable wings or the 8-foot-tall, Ewok-piloted AT-ST with articulating legs, or even the girl in the BB-8 dress on white and orange roller skates—not to mention any number of winged, intubated, or grotesque characters I didn’t know.

I’m ambivalent about taking my young boys—four and seven—into these situations. Most of the time they don’t seem to notice the more unusual or “adult” costumes since they are distracted with the Pokémon and Storm Troopers. When I asked, afterward, if they’d seen anything they didn’t understand or if they had any questions, they shrugged and kept eating their graham crackers.

What would I say, anyway? I don’t quite understand a lot of cosplay, much less crossplay, despite my penchant for choosing female video-game avatars or my fondness for Spider-Woman and Wonder Woman.

Frankly, a lot of cosplay seems garish and in poor taste to me—and I’m not a big fan of camp. It doesn’t ruin my time or offend me; it’s just not what I would choose to look at, certainly not to do myself.

I get that it’s about transformation. It’s like Halloween in HD. For a brief time you get to participate in the existence of another persona, you get to alter your habitual way of being in the world, even if you don’t look great doing it.

But it really started to click for me when we passed a group of four very large women corseted up in gothic leather with plenty of ties and laces. Their hair and makeup was blue and black, their skin pale, their breasts almost obscenely bulging out of their tops, and there they were, sitting in a circle on the floor with their hot dogs and their plastic bags full of toys and comics like it was a normal thing to do.

If you clicked through any of the links above, maybe you felt that mixture of contempt for “the nerds” and envy at their dedication to their passion. It’s easy to feel superior at Comic Con, but if you are at Comic Con, then you’re the nerd in someone else’s eyes.

But I didn’t see nerds in that circle of busty, hot-dogging Goth girls. I saw regular people searching for the story that would make their reality match their inner sense of their universal significance.

That’s not vanity, that’s the imago Dei in them. Aren’t we all destined for something greater than earning a paycheck and consuming entertainment media? Whatever their errors, the “nerds” understood the importance of belonging to something greater than themselves.

Maybe heaven will look a little like Comic Con: a mass of society’s oddballs glorified in unexpected ways by grace. The challenge of being a good artist—or human—I think, means trying to see that shimmer of Heaven through the cleavages in the present.

Give Me Batman, Mostly

Brad Fruhauff

Photo by Matias G. Martinez / CC BY 4.0 I want to play along with our pop culture superhero obsession, I do. I've seen the movies and the TV series, I've read several dozen superhero comics. My boys pretend to be the Flash and Captain America. But at the end of the day, I don't care that awful much about Superman or the Avengers or even Spider-Man. Give me Batman.

Mostly. I do have a thing for Wonder Woman, and I've developed an affection for Spider-Woman that's kind of hard to explain. I'll watch the next season of Daredevil and I’ll follow Arrow until it jumps the shark. My interest in those characters, however, is pretty limited, even casual. But Batman? I'll read pretty much anything with his name on the cover.

For me, Batman has the most spiritual narratives. I'd venture to say that, in general, D.C. excels Marvel in exploring the hero's soul, and no soul is darker than Bruce Wayne's.

Bruce Wayne suffered the ultimate psychic injustice in witnessing his parents’ murders. That fact, combined with the Gothic setting and the hard-boiled tone (a descendent of Gothic), makes for a hero not just up against incredible odds but against a fundamentally unjust world. Every criminal is his parents’ murderer. Every supervillain embodies the pervasive moral evil at the heart of us all. Other heroes live in worlds where most people are basically good. Batman, like the hard-boiled detective, lives in a broken world and knows he’s as broken as anyone, but he fights tooth and nail to do good anyway.

Arguably, Batman’s mythos is the most nihilistic in that it depends the least on luck, i.e., on something happening just in time because the good guys always win. Batman wins because he spends his free time thinking of and planning for every contingency; he wins by sheer force of will. And, yet, it remains the most spiritual precisely because it takes the pervasiveness of evil so seriously and because Batman opposes absolute evil with moral absolutes: criminals must answer to the law; no killing.

I think that’s why fans often favor him over Superman, and why in Justice League stories Batman somehow manages if not to be the key hero to somehow still be right. Superman, as Frank Miller showed in The Dark Knight Returns, is too public and thus can become co-opted by national governments. Wonder Woman is an outsider. The other guys are aliens or simply lack adequate cool. Batman stands for the capacity of the individual human to do what’s right in the face of insurmountable odds.

I’m aware of the merits of other heroes, and I’m sure you can point to a storyline here or there that’s worth reading, but I have my doubts that any other superhero story can really look into the abyss like Batman can. Iron-Man’s cool. Hulk’s anger mirrors our own inner rage. But for the icon of the human fronting an evil world, give me Batman.

Festivals, Comics, and Craig Thompson

Jake Slaughter

Thompson is a highly skilled artist, and his autobiographical narrative feels impressively honest and personal. The story is primarily concerned with his first experiences of falling in love while in high school and his life growing up in a Christian church.

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Paul's Advice for Writers

Brad Fruhauff

As Relief starts considering an expansion to graphic narrative, I've been trolling the web to see what Christians are up to out there in the world of comics. Let's just say that it's not pretty. Not unlike a lot of the standard fare in Christian fiction, graphic narrative under the banner of God Incarnate tends toward the didactic, polemic, reductive, simplistic, sappy, disingenuous, and even outright violent. My guess is there are Christian comic artists out there in desperate need of a journal like Relief. We just need to find one another.

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