Saturday, January 14, 2006

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna

I just reread Zatanna.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I think it's about becoming a mother.

Spoilers here, so read on at your own risk.Standard Seven Soldiers Spoiler Warning


No, I'm not talking the literal physical pregnancy thing here. I'm talking metaphysically. We've all seen the spiritual trinity of Maiden/Mother/Crone applied to female characters so much that it's become cliche. But here's the thing, it's an accurate depiction of the phases of a woman's life applied through mythology. It's deeply a part of our subcollective cultural view of women.

All three women of Seven Soldiers are making the transition from Maiden to Mother in some manner. Sir Ystin is making a physical transformation. She's growing from a child to fertile young woman (note the "I smell the blood of a womb" comment from Gloriana). Alix Harrower has actually regressed from a fully realized confident young woman (in the mother stage of life -- she's nuturing a marriage, her husband's dreams, and her own career -- which deals with autistic children) to a child playing dress-up. She's still midway through her series, but in order to survive you can tell she'll need to grow up by Seven Soldiers #1.



And then there's Zatanna.

When we meet Morrison's Zatanna, we can see that she's been trapped in Maidenhood for such a long time. She's trapped not only by DC's elastic timeline policy and our cultural obsession with youth in women, but also by her own nice in the DC Universe

DC's elastic timeline, as we all know, serves to keep up to 60 years worth of events trapped in a 10-15 year model. I call it elastic, because I think that at some point we'll find out in some future crossover that the Timeline in the DCU is actually stretching to fit all of stuff that's happening into just 15 years. Jon points out that everything that has happened since Zero Hour all fits into one year. That's a single comic book year stretched out to accommodate eleven years of publishing. (On the other hand, Kyle's quite a prodigy, isn't he? And he sure as hell can't have breached 25 yet)

Zatanna's physically trapped because we want our female superheroes to remain young, beautiful and sexual. There's a severe lack of Elder females in the Golden-Age set. While Ted, Alan, and Jay are around and showing their advanced years, the late Hippolyta was immortal and time-traveling to retain her youthful looks; Black Canary I is dead; Phantom Lady I is aged and retired; and Liberty Belle only very rarely surfaces. Poor Z has a double-dose of this trap, however, in that her "day job" is in show business. She's the Magician and Beautiful Assistant at once.

But the above can all be dealt with. The major problem as I see it, is that Zatanna is a legacy character, though we often forget it. She succeeded her father, Zatara, as the top-hatted backwards talking magic-user of the superhero set. Her place in the legacy-driven DC Universe was secured by her father's long-standing death and her own lack of a sidekick to replace her. Unfortunately, this leaves poor Zatanna at a loss. There is no aging in her world. Her Elder Statesman is dead and vanished, and she has no teenaged counterpart to outline the passage of time.



This is a big deal. Look at the Green Lantern franchise. Check out the the Showcase: Green Lantern stories of Hal Jordan. Compare them to the Hal we have now, and the one we had 15-20 years ago. Hal's matured quite a bit. Hal made a transition to a Fatherly archetype because he was given younger Lanterns like John and Guy to mentor. Early issues of Volume 3 illustrate this relationship between Guy and Hal beautifully. John and Guy were in turn able to mature because they had a hand in mentoring Kyle. Kyle, surrounded by a lack of other Lantern characters, was trapped in the rookie mold for more than a decade. Once Hal returned, and the Corps was restarted, however, Kyle was allowed to mature. Why? Because with a new Green Lantern Corps, he's surrounded by younger, newer recruits that enable him to become a mentor and grow past the Youngest Son archetype.

In Zatanna #1, we see these years of stunted growth pile up on her. She looks like a beautiful mess. The whole plot of the first two issues is because she's made a beautiful mess of her life. She craves maturity and stability, and having no family left, she does an ill-considered love spell and accidentally conjures up the villain of the first half. She then proceeds with a plan to gather her father's books, the last of his wisdom, and runs headlong into this monster she created instead. She's so devastated at this and her other past actions, and so drained of any hope for the future that she can't even get her powers to work.

She thinks she wants romance, but what she really wants is family. She particularly wants her father back. What she needs, though, is to fully grow into her father's shoes. But she can't do that, no matter how many times she saves the world, until she can fill the role of parent/mentor. She has all of this knowledge given to her by her father, and it's just there. She needs to pass it on. She needs to stop being a daughter and become a mother.

Enter Misty, the Beautiful Magician's Young Apprentice.

Look carefully at the art in issue one compared to two, three, and four. In the first issue, Zatanna is a lost little girl who never combs her hair. She's at the end of her rope, facing a nightmare she created, and utterly alone. Then Misty enters. Suddenly, Zatanna is responsible for another life. Not only that, here is a ready and willing receiver of all of that knowledge and wisdom her Father gave to her. She has her doubts about it, sure, but she ills the best role a person can. She accepts the challenge to teach and protect the next generation.

And Voila! Zatanna's confidence returns. You can see it in Sook's art on the covers alone. Again, she still has doubts, but the despair is gone. She may not have her powers back, but she's responsible for this.

And now, she's responsible for Misty. She has to handle it. And she's certainly capable. She's combat trained by the JLA, for heaven's sakes. She shouldn't be sitting in a support group when the end of the world is nigh! She should be stopping it!

Zatanna is finally allowed to grow to the next phase of life. She's passed her wisdom on. She has a protege` out there.

I'm afraid, however, that won't be the end.

You see, she's filling her predecessor's shoes in very direct way. Most of the other Soldiers are legacy characters, but only tangentially. Zatanna has directly taken over for her father.


And he died fighting the forces of evil.


Friday, January 13, 2006

More on JSA #81

I just realized that I never pointed out the second thing I noticed in JSA #81 last week.

Slight JSA and Bulleteer Spoilers here, so read on at your own risk.Spoiler Warning

The Shade can fly.



"Ragnell, he could always do that."

Name one time you've seen him floating without being actively lifted by his own constructs.

"Well, okay, that's what he's doing there."




Look closer. There is nothing underneath those feet and the only shadow construct in that picture is the giant hand catching the statue.

The only conclusion we can make is that the Shade is now flying under his own power.

How or why is anybody's guess.

(Personally, I suspect he's found a happy thought.)







(No telling what it could be, though)

Two New Blogs

Very young blog, less than 7 posts, but shows promise. From his review of Quasar:

"It's a little like time-lapse photography. Reading something it took somebody years to write and draw over the course of hours. Watching subplots sprout, bloom, and die. Seeing artists evolve their styles. Watching writers define characters."

Even younger blog that has nothing to do with comics. But it's very personal, very skillful writing. From her first post:

"I am a firm believer in following your heart to a place that calls it - but I can't help but feel that my heart is slowly unravelling at the thought of yet another person in my life leaving."

Granted, there's not much reading in either place, but there is stuff worth reading.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How to Find Me

A few days ago, even with the butt post, my top keywords tended to revolve around OYL questions, Soranik Natu, Written World and Ragnell. Mostly I was found through Google.

Today, that has all changed.

Today, when you look for "jodie sweeten" "easy quiz answers" and "boobies" I am what you find.

I am among the first ten you meet when you ask for who "Gareth was killed by" or want to see a "tall woman movie" and "giantess breasts tall strong women" on Google.

When you ask Google for "quotes of Palemedes knights of the round table" or "guy gardner ahd ice" (rotten typos) you will find me first. If you continue on to find "jade dumps her ex" or "brainwave and his powers from dc comics" I'll be number two on that list, but I'll be there.

And when you search on Yahoo for "curvy wonder woman" or "wonder woman pornography" you will find me at the top of the list.

In other news, Shiny Metal Racks beats Glowing Green Rumps 329 (in just 2 days!) to 318 when it comes to attracting readers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More Linkblogging

Spencer's Back! This is deserving of Linkblogging. Check out his Best and Worst of 2005.

Chris Sims reviews the Greatest Single-Issue Story Ever Told.

Melchior spends too much time at the DC Message Boards.

This turned interesting.

Serenity and the Tale of the Free Parking Spot.

How to Read Body Language

The 2005 DC Comics Death Toll.

On Decimation.

Mallet loves Namor

Tony writes a letter to Marvel Comics.

Michileen Martin closes down Superheroes Etc to pursue a writing career. Aspazia has some advice.

Kalinara continues to scare me.

And, of course, Hal Jordan continues to be abused mercilessly, which is why we love him.

Boobies! (And the Lack Thereof)

"Helligan's a tragic loss. Why's everybody's so excited bout her? Like Whip and Jackie and Dan and Vigilante? Yeah, she was cool. But she's a vampire zombie now. "Sky High" Helligan gives us a human and common sense perspective as to the levels of view shown here. She zooms out and sees the whole picture. Cue us to do the same." -- Chad (July 5, 2005)

The above opinion was expressed in response to Shining Knight #3, where FBI Agent Helen "Sky-High" Helligan came out of nowhere to help us piece together the reasoning behind there being two Shining Knights in the DC Universe, shortly before being bit by the Bitch Queen from Beyond the Vampire Sun for all of her trouble.

If you're up to speed on your Seven Soldiers, Read On

Seven Soldiers Spoiler Warning

As it's been over two weeks now, most of you following Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers project know that Sky-High Helligan returned for a short swan-song in the Bulleteer #2, where once again she came to give us exposition and advice before croaking.

In case you haven't noticed, the Bulleteer is a hypersexualized character. Paquette was specifically chosen for his ability to draw cheesecake. Yet, Helligan, standing next to Alix, is far from sexualized.



She's a lovely woman, yes, but standing next to Alix, it's harder to realize. In fact, Alix's outstanding appearance enhances Helligan's normalness, and actually enables the FBI agent's skills and personality to shine. Helligan is a fine foil for Alix, also, drawing attention to the taller woman's naivete, and casting everything about her, even the way she stands, in the light of that characteristic. Helligan stands and walks like a real woman. She is serious and practical, and constantly using her mind. Next to her, Alix's posing is revealed as more than just the artist's style, and less than Morrison's metatext. It becomes characterization. Alix is new to this world. She's self-conscious. She's like an adolescent girl, trying to find her identity. She knows what superheroes are supposed to look like and she tries to fit the part with her posing and her wardrobe. On her own, she looks the part. She is a comic-book female. But next to a wise, self-possessed, professional woman like Helligan, Alix's true childish nature is revealed. It's a put-on. Alix has no idea what a real superhero would be like. She only knows how to look the part. That's fortunate, though, because that's all she needs to do for Helligan. Had Sky-High lived longer, they would have made an ideal team. Now, Alix will have to grow into her own.

Sounds good, right?

Surely, that's all there is to Sky-High, right?

No, that can't be right. Grant Morrison wrote this. There must be more metatext than just that.

One of the obvious themes of Bulleteer is what men value in women. That's how Alix got her powers. Her appearance was valued by her scientist husband. He wanted not only to preserve it, but to enhance it so he could live out his superhero fetish fantasies. To get the point across, Alix is hypsexualized in Bulleteer #1. It's not until the second issue, though, when you meet Helligan again that you realize that that's special to Alix. Most purely cheesecake artists pose all of their featured females provocatively. Paquette reserves these poses for Alix. And the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced there's metatext behind Sky-High's lack of hypersexuality.

I suspect it means that Helligan, or rather, what she represents, is not valued by men.

Her skills are not physical, they are mental. She is not a soft, feeling, social woman. She is not passive, nor is she passionate or fiery in her aggressiveness. She's a cool-headed, creative, analytical, intuitive and intelligent woman who gets excited and talkative about ideas. She's pure of heart without being an ingenue. She's worldly and knowledgeable, but not jaded. Indeed, all her knowledge, up until the unfortunate incident with the aforementioned Gloriana Tenebrae, just makes her more fascinated by her subject.


Helligan does her detective work by connecting her analytical deductions with creative leaps. She seems to be making things up on the fly, but is actually basing her conclusions on on an immense collection of knowledge, experience and clues. She's so good at putting together the "Big Picture" she's nicknamed Sky-High. The way she describes her cognitive abilities reminds me a lot of feminine intuition. A woman's gut instinct is based on a thousand unconscious clues. She reads people, she reads places. She factors in the wisdom passed down from the elder generation. She draws conclusions about the entire situation based on these subtle details. Traditional masculinity dismisses this ability, and the entire body of feminine wisdom that lies behind it, as silly or superstitious.

Alix, a young, physically fit, beautiful woman who worked with children, is soft-hearted and caring, but shy and gullible. She is womanly strength and beauty as defined by man. She's the heroic archetype of the Reluctant Good-girl hero. The Beautiful Young Girl (Bishoujo) archetype.

Helligan embodies the Wise-Woman archetype. Not Athena, but Metis the Forgotten Mother (which is fascinating given how much Gloriana resembles Medusa). It's not in her age but in her skills, her story role, and her group dynamics position. She is a creative thinker and an expert in metahuman affairs, she appears to dispense exposition, and she gives younger woman like her sister and Alix (and actually, Ystin to a point, since she was there to help), the benefit of her knowledge and experience. Hell, she even figures out where the Sheeda are from, and I'd lay money she's right.

Alix's sexualization, next to Helligan's lack of sexualization, just screams that the Ingenue is valued over the Wise-Woman from a masculine point of view. This seems to matter quite a bit to Alix, who's entire identity is based on her late husband actions. She's a portrait of womanly strength as painted by an adolescent boy. (The condition of the Mirror in the panel at right tells us all we need to know about that viewpoint) She can't see her own value to the universe, she only knows what her late husband wanted and is stuck with the hand he dealt her. Sky-High Helligan, on the other hand, is self-identified, a portrait of womanly strength as created by the whole of the universe and knows her value as it applies to the tapestry of life itself.

In the events of the Bulleteer #2, Helligan is slowly dying. Alix needs to carry her at points. But Helligan is still in complete control of the situation to her last breath. Alix feels helpless and worthless, "not like a superhero at all", while Helligan dies seeing the Big Picture and knowing what she's done for it.

Alix has none of Helligan's observation skills. If she had, she would not have powers. She would have seen her husband for the pervert he was, and realized his subtle digs at her age and appearance were signs he didn't really love her at all. It's too late to fix that now, but its fairly obvious that in order to survive, Alix will need Helligan's undervalued wisdom in addition to the physical powers she recieved from her husband. Hopefully, by the end of Seven Soldiers, Alix will have enough wit to be more than muscle and window dressing.

How Empress Did It

They have discovered the secret to becoming white. It's targeted towards Jubilee, but I guess it works for other races too because M and Empress have both turned white recently.

And here I thought something just scared them.

Monday, January 09, 2006

New Sound in JSA

It was definately worth the two extra days it took to get comics this week. I had a three-way tie between Jonah Hex #3, JSA #81, and Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2 for favorite comic. I have to say, though, that JSA has the edge because of a certain guest-star.

JSA #81 Spoilers


Expandable posts are great for Spoiler WarningsFirst I need to confess something.

I love the crotchety old men of the DCU. I love them telling Nazi war-stories. I love them showing up the younger set. I love them keeping the decent values of their generation and accepting the progress of the modern era. I love them fighting, I love them planning, I love them sitting around playing poker. I'd still read JSA if the entire comic was Jay, Alan and Ted bitching about the thermostat. Hell, throw in Hippolyta and I'll have to write begging for another issue like it.

But my favorite crotchety old man is the oldest and most crotchety of all. The retired (not reformed, mind you) supervillain. The one who never ages, and doesn't look old. The one who hadn't changed his values for 150 years, no matter what the rest of the world was doing. The one who regularly tells demons, figuring that each one is the Devil himself anyway, to go back to Hell. The one who would have no problem dating a girl young enough to be his great-great-great-great-great granddaughter. The one who knows a whole bunch of secrets he probably shouldn't, and records them in journals that would cause an insane scandal if any of them were stolen and made public. The one who probably doesn't remember most of the sixties, even though he was awake the entire decade.

Yes, I'm talking about the Shade.


It's been a while since we've seen the Shade. He put in a required appearance in the Princes of Darkness storyline (as everyone who had ever been connected to a member of the team showed up), but otherwise he's been keeping to himself. He never writes, he never calls. Even so, provided he's not written by You-Know-Who, he's always welcome in my pull list.

But I noticed two things this appearance, and I'm going to discuss the first with you today.



He has a new sound effect. BWWOOF! Shade's never made noise when he teleports before. Not that I've seen. But this is worthy sound-word.

I know, the most famous teleport sound is BAMF! But BAMF is a Marvel sound. And besides, BAMF! doesn't suit Shade's style of teleportation. BAMF is too impish. It implies a small burst of energy, as though the teleported item had been contained to atomic size, transported very quickly through subatomic space, and was suddenly pushed back to normal size. That is not how I've understand the Shade to teleport.

We know that the Shade slips through darkness into the Shadowlands. He opens portals in the middle of thin air to step through. And then he appears elsewhere.

In between those two places, I've always gotten the impression that he does not move himself, but rearranges the area to suit his path. He actually moves reality so that the area in the Shadowlands that corresponds to the area of the normal world that he wants to go to, is closer to him. Then he opens a portal from the World of Darkness to the World of Light, and ends up quite a ways away from his starting point. This wrecks havok on the Shadowlands, which explains why no Darkness-manipulator other than Culp (who would have teleproted in the same manner) has ever operated in the Shade's territory. Because the Shadowlands around Opal City look like they were painted by MC Escher.

Now, I have no basis for this assumption, other than it sounds cool and it suits his personality. The Shade does not go places, places go to him. And I like the idea of Obsidian having to follow the Shade someday and getting that "I'm trapped in an Escher Painting" kind of headache.

BWWOOF! is an excellent sound effect because it implies a great rush of energy. The Shade rearranging the Shadowlands would cause just such a rush of energy, especially in a hurry over a great distance, as shown here.

And so, it is a good sound effect. A worthy sound effect.

Ragnell Ranting

Rant Subject: Sexual Harassment
What Set Me Off: The wording in this interview that states "If you accuse a well-known comics personality--what they referred to in my neck of the woods as an "old soldier"--of harassment, you are de facto blacklisted."

(I promise something lighter next post, but I must get this off my chest or I will probably bite off the head of the first male I see tomorrow. And it'll be some unsuspecting innocent, I'm sure.)

(Click Here to see my Sexual Harassment rant)Most of you have picked up that I work on an airfield, in a heavily male dominated career field (I am the only female, for example, on my shift in my shop. Some shifts and some shops are entirely male). I was trained to work on aircraft during my enlistment in the US Air Force. And everyone knows what they say about the military and sexual harassment.

It was the best work environment I'd ever worked in.

Hell, it was a better work environment than any of my older female relatives had ever experienced. During my first term of enlistment, three female relatives all experienced some form of sexual harassment. My one cousin was suing, because she had a job that invovled roughly 10% labwork and 90% customer service/paperwork, and had been fired when she got pregnant and couldn't do the 10% labwork. Do you know what happens when you get knocked up in the military and the Doctor says you can't do 95% of your job? You do everybody's else's 5%, take your maternity leave, and come back to your normal job. No penalties (unless you hate paperwork). No pay cut (except perhaps for hazard pay if you get it). No firing.

And you know how I found out about one of the others? When me, my mother and my (also, at the time, military) aunt were all laughing at the latest "Military Equal Opportunity" briefing at Fiesta, one of our companions was visibly upset. The experience she related was utterly foreign to us. She was in sales, had been come onto by a coworker (who had no seniority, but was friends with the boss), turned him down, and was being screwed for scheduling, and therefore commissions because he didn't want to work with her again. We just gaped and thought "This still happens? What the hell?" because that's how much better an environment my aunt and I were in.

Everyone's heard of at least one major sexual harassment scandal in the military (usually the Navy, which may have something to do with wearing nametags on their asses, but my friend Cindy was a radioman and she never had a problem so apparently that branch was cleaned out also) and it's because of all that housecleaning in the 80s and 90s that I worked in such a lovely environment during my enlistment, and it's because of housecleaning that I work in such a comfortable environment at my current job.

Nowadays, not even a four-star General could expect to get away with that kind of behavior. Hell, even a Commander-in-Chief's been called on it. If a military professional were even verbally heard in private to express the same attitude found in Frank Miller's ASBARTBW Script, which was publicly printed, he risks being called on it and severely corrected. And the more seniority the offender has, the more severe the corrective action.

So, what kills me is to see an industry where the senior men are still protected in this manner. It may only be 5% or so, but what has that 5% ever done to deserve this protection? They've written comic books, for Mars' sake. Comic Books. This is not Colonel Stutz or Sgt. Levitow (neither of whom have anything close to this dishonorable attached to their good names, but the point is a soldier with a comparable record wouldn't get the break well-known comic professionals are given just because no one remembers their crappier work) we're talking about here. These are not "old soldiers." These are writers and editors. Get some perspective.

The entertainment industry is so fucked up.



Even Herbie knows it's Unacceptable Posted by Picasa
Herbie panel courtesy of Chris Sims at the Invincible Super-Blog


Click Here to See Me Make Light of This Subject

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I Think I Could Cry

After days of compiling the posts relating to females in comic books, I ran across a Dissenting Opinion. Now, I don't mean a "You're overreating a tad, aren't you?" post. I mean, an honest-to-goddess Dissenting Opinion. It complained about the suggestion that indy comics or manga had better portrayals of women than mainstream DC and Marvel. Some of the wording was foul, but it was an excellent argument.

It was somewhere on livejournal, and I think it had a dark blue background.

I was so excited to find it, the rarest of posts, and quickly copied the link to post later on When Fangirls Attack.

Or, rather, I thought I copied the link.

I lost it.

And now I can't find it again. Even through Technocrati.

And now I'm all sad.