Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rise of Arsenal celebrated for its "accurate depiction of substance abuse"

Bleeding Cool reports that Justice League: Rise of Arsenal is being nominated for a Prism Award, which celebrate "outstanding accomplishments in the accurate depiction of substance abuse and mental health disorders." This has to be a joke, right?

I wonder if anyone on the jury has even read the comic. I fail to see what aspect of they they found accurate. Is it because a formerly heroin-addicted super-hero relapses after being violently dismembered and learning of his daughter's death? Yes, I supposed real-life addicts do sometimes relapse during hard times, although it usually doesn't involved dismemberment. Maybe if this was all there was to it, I could this as a somewhat "accurate" depiction of substance abuse.

But as we all know, there's a lot more going on in this comic. Like when, overcome with grief, Roy tries to have violent sex with his ex-girlfriend, only to find that he's unable to "get it up." Or when smoking heroin magically causes him to hallucinate (which is not a known side effect of heroin), then mistake the corpse of a dead cat for his daughter.

To sum it up crassly, the story goes like this: "Tragedy causes former addict to not only relapse into drug abuse, but also completely abandon his ethical code and turn into super-villain." I'm sure readers who have dealt with substance abuse felt empowered by that!

This is the first year that the Prism Awards have a category for comics. I wonder how much research went into it. Do they realize that this book has been nearly universally hated by fans, bloggers, reviewers and industry commentators. I lost count of how many times I heard it described as one of the worst comics of the year, if not of all time. (Comics Alliance placed it at #2 on its list of the 5 Worst Comics of 2010.) It was endlessly talked about at conventions and on message boards as a so-bad-you-must-read-it-to-believe-it phenomenon, which probably accounts for a large percentage of the sales. It spawned numerous jokes and internet memes, mostly because of the dead cat. In fact, the mockery of the dead cat was so widespread that it even turned up in other DC comics, like in this issue of Supergirl, where Bizarro Arsenal can be spotted with a quiver full of dead cats!

People sometimes criticize the GLAAD nominations for lacking originality or refusing to take risks and sticking to popular mainstream comics instead of recognizing more subtle or challenging works that would benefit from the added exposure. But at least they don't usually nominate works that are so laughably bad they actually do the exact opposite of what the awards are supposed to celebrate.

It just blows my mind that Prism would choose to honour this comic book with an award nomination. They're not only adding insult to injury, but are actually hurting their own credibility. How can anybody take this award seriously with this comic among the nominations?


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