Saturday, May 13, 2006

Tit-Check!!

Okay, this one required me to actually seek out the beast in his lair. Here is where I said it (I'm probably banned by now). Here is what I said:

Dear Mr. Larsen,

Your column almost changed my life.

You see, up until I read it, I'd been raised as a girl. I had pink baby clothes, wore my hair in pigtails, went to girl's gym class, and read those horrible Kimberly Clark pamphlets right before I started to bleed for 3-6 days each month and pick shirts based on how well my bra was concealed.

Then I read your column and realized that while all of that happened, I'd been collecting baseball cards and comic books right alongside my brother and other, older brother (the one that I mistakenly thought was my sister). I hadn't realized that that was how you actually told gender differences!!

I was on my way to change my driver's license, until it occured to me to do a Breast Exam (Or headlight-check, or jug-test, or can-scan, since you seem unaware of the proper names for parts of the female body). Yep, they were still there. I was a woman after all.

And that's when I realized I'd been unfair to you. I think I know your problem. You're just not recognizing all those female comic book readers as female!

So, Mr Larsen, I'd like to introduce you to some new (to you, at least) bra sizes. They are the D, C, B, and yes, the A-Cup sizes.

No, what you thought was an A was actually a DD.

No, I don't want to see what you thought a DD was.

Anyway, beyond A it gets tricky. Some women do not need bras. But, they are still technically women -- even if they are holding comic books. Now, it's normally considered bad manners to ask in this case, but I'm sure if you explained your problem tactfully enough you'll avoid offending her.

I hope you find this information of good use in the future,

Best Wishes,

Ragnell the Foul

Friday, May 12, 2006

Could I get a favor?

Just peeking in for a quick word (I have work in a few minutes), I found an LJ feed for When Fangirls Attack and linked it to the mainsite in case anyone preferred the feed to checking the site. This morning, when I linked it it had four subscribers, now it has fifteen.

I thought it might be useful for my sister and some of our friends back home (since I post here considerably more often) and I checked into how you create a syndicated feed. Well, you need a paid account and I just don't like livejournal that much. If anyone has one already and it doesn't bother them to create a feed for Kim and company, I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks!

Mama-Thon -- Mama Reyes

The new Blue Beetle's not off to the best start, but a lot of that has to do with being a teenager. Superhero lives are complex enough without high school and parents to worry about. Especially when your parents are unaware that you're the new Blue Beetle, and you have no convenient excuse like an "Part-time job working for Mr. Wayne" to explain why you spent the night out fighting supervillains and Green Lanterns.
Jaime's Mom
So, Jaime does a little sneaking around. Here we see Jaime, after a long night of Superheroics, after ending up miles out of town and having to hitch a ride back, sneaking in through an open window late at night.

Into his baby sister's room.



Milagro naturally shrieks her head off, and parental help comes running. So here is the point in a story where we see the father rushing through the door with his shotgun, devoted wife clinging to his shoulder nervously, right?

Wrong! Guess who comes running when Milagro cries in this family.



A Mama with a baseball bat. I have to say, she's off to a better start in this series than her son is.

This is only the second issue of Blue Beetle, so there's not much data on Mama Reyes (I didn't even see her first name anywhere), but I already like her. For that, and for her part in the first issue below.



The time of day, the door that mysteriously opens despite Mom's hands being full, the banter, the fighting with the older brother... This could be my family. It even looks like she has the same job as my own mother!

Last Lines (It's Been a While, Hasn't It?)

As per usual, there are spoilers contained below.
The Complete Wynonna Earp, JSA #85, Supergirl #6, Action Comics #838, Superman #652, Infinite Crisis #7, 52 #1, Action Comics #1, and Ion #1

Spoilers here
The Complete Wynonna Earp -- "Adios Trooper. Be seeyin' ya."

I hope we'll see her again. I read the entire trade, and the art was hideous (Joyce Chin, then Pat Lee) in the first few stories, but I liked Wynnona herself enough that it didn't bother me. One of those aggressive, no-nonsense heroes. Kalinara was right, women don't suffer under Beau Smith's pen (his Wonder Woman in Warrior was pretty cool, actually), they get to be leaders and save the day. Now I wish I'd gotten to see him write the more traditionally feminine Ice.

Its a shame that the last story in the book was the one where they finally got a decent artist with talent beyond bad cheesecake.


JSA #85 -- "Alan!"

Alan! Are you healed up enough to join us in solving this problem, or is this last arc of JSA going to be like all the other JSA arcs?


Supergirl #6 -- "Summon your sisters. There's hunting to be done."

This is what they get for dressing up like Kryptonian Gamebirds.


Action Comics #838 -- "I'm -- I'm not-- Not--"

Yes, Clark, you are.


Superman -- "And there's a buzzing in my brain --"

No insights or snarkiness here, I just enjoyed reading that line.


Infinite Crisis #7 -- "And I've gotten out."

Oh please, I know exactly what this means. This means we're going to see him at the end of the year in some huge crossover getting his ass beat down yet again with a HUGE Green Lantern crossover brawl where we find out that Kyle has not been evil (just manipulated/insane) and Prime still busts through the thin green line to be stopped by Superman, Power Girl, Supergirl, all 4 Wonder Women, and, inexplicably, Batman and Co.

But on the bright side, we'll get to see Guy call him whiney again.



52 #1 -- "Are You Ready?"

Sheesh, how cheesily metatextual can you get?


Action Comics #1 (Courtesy of The Superman Chronicles Volume 1) -- "Missed -- Doggone it!"

Those words were spoken by Superman as he lept rooftop to rooftop carrying a traumatized henchman. Then, then issue ended, to be picked up in Action Comics #2. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the very first Superman story was a two-parter! A cliff-hanger! Take that, Cult of the Single Issue Story-Arc!!


Ion #1 -- "I don't know why you came here, but you're not going to take me."

I thought for a long time about this line (longer than you think, actually, as I managed to get my hands on a black and white preview copy at the end of March). You see, I've railed on Marz's plotting skills, but his strength is normally in dialogue (well, that and completely unintentional symbolism -- I'll tell you all about the triple layers of text I saw in the Fridge scene someday, I promise). This was an awkward line. It seemed rushed, clumsily assembed. It was out of context. He knew exactly why that woman was there. She'd told him. It can't have been that hastily written off, since Kyle says the same line earlier in the... Suddenly the whole book comes together. Of course the line's awkward and out of place, Kyle's not connecting fully with the situation. The boy's no longer living within the borders of reality. When you think about it, the dreamy incomplete art (with a conspicuous lack of visible Green Lantern backside! Hmph!) seems to fit that way. He's losing his mind.

It's about damned time. That kid has been through Hell and back (literally, figuratively, multiple times and on alien planets), he's been thrown into combat with zero training, thrown across the universe without a map, stalked by cheesy Captain Atom villains, on the hitlist of every criminal organization in the freaking universe, manipulated, mind-controlled, had his heart torn out (literally and figuratively), been stabbed in the back (literally and figuratively), kidnapped (many, many times), strapped to tables, tortured, experimented on, rewired, tossed across dimensions, powered up, powered down, powered sideways, powered by a vindictive dead woman ("Not listen to me in the middle of a battle, huh? Well, here, live with a constant reminder of how my death is your fucking fault, Kyle!!"), mentally and emotionally attacked by Giant Yellow Fearbugs (from Outer Spaaaace!!!), forced to deal with Brainiac 2, leered at by Hal Jordan, dated by Donna Troy -- Something's gotta give!

And (*Wicked Cackling*) it has. In no time at all we'll see him locking himself into his studio for ten day binges of coffee and dry kool-aid as he paints Crazy Modern Art that monsters leap out of, people get sucked into, and Brainiac 2 steals to sell at outrageous prices to Green Lanterns who think it's good luck.

As for the why, well, I wouldn't really care, except that I suspect it involves bondage of some sort. He's clearly reliving some horrible trauma that happened right before the first page (Umm... Who had "During the One Year Gap" on the Kyle kidnapping pool?), and he's become some sort of touch freak. There will be much more insanity and destruction before this story-arc ends, glorious insanity and destruction and I'm going to follow Kyle's cute (and hopefully visible next issue) little butt the whole way, baby!

What Annalisa Wants

Over on LiveJournal, there's a movement forming in response to Spoiler's death. Well, rather in response to Dan Didio's attitude about Spoiler's death. MonkeyCrackMary is building a website to champion her cause and will have some extra space to host similar causes (are you listening Katma Tui fans?).

I hadn't paid muich attention, as I'm not even diagonally a Spoiler fan, until this conversation started. It has a few good comments, and one really stuck out at me. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the threadlink to work, so I'm just going to quote it here.

From Annalisa Maria LaRoza in response to the post Make some noise:

Hm. What do I want from comics' and their females?

Let's see..

I want to be able to read comics without ending up feeling split on whether or not a certain female character's death was 'sexualized' and over-glorified to ridiculous proportions *cough*nuffsaid*cough*

And then you have the differing mentalities behind the death sequences: A male character goes out like a 'true hero' by being blasted in the head. A female character is put through a drawn-out death sequence involving torture with power tools, being beat up, shot, and dying in bed, denied medication. And why does that happen? Because "She deserved every bit of it"?

And then when you show the aforementioned female hanging from chains by her wrists, with her cape hiked up to show her tight spandex-clad form that leaves little to the imagination, or a shot of her dying and her costume shredded up to expose her..yeah.

I'm sure there's better examples than the ones I gave, but those are what came to mind. Though Infinite Crisis was basically a blip on the radar as far as things are concerned for me, Phantom Lady's death, when compared to her male teammates, was the most gruesome.

Black Condor simply got shot through the chest by a beam, while Human Bomb got pummeled to death and imploded on himself. The last one was brutal enough, but then you have Phantom Lady being torn up by claws, when she gets stabbed through the breasts. We're treated to a closeup of her dying, the sword/staff shoved through her exposed chest, and blood gushing out. Then we see a (shadowed out but still overly gross) shot of her dead body starting to slide down the object that impaled her.

It didn't bother me as much when I first read it, as I basically breezed through the issue. But after going back and reading IC as a whole, it's just..wrong. A 'quick' female death I could think of would be Pantha, as she was done away with in a single panel. But then, they showed her decapitated head boucning around on the ground afterwards..so..I don't know.

There should be more diversity in the females, especially in the young girls section. We need more fully-developed (in personality, people!), strong girl characters, and less tarted up, overly-'sexy' ones who seem to only be put in for the 'girl' character slot and the 'sex appeal' factor.

Sadly, in most of DC's team books, the females in the group fall to the background alot. Outsiders has three, yet the guys get more of the attention and spotlight. Then there's the point of the girls being mostly in the T&A/sex factor there. Teen Titans' girls were simply 'there', though it looks like we may see some developments with Rose and Cassie.

There doesn't seem to be enough 'cute chick' characters one can relate to these days in DC. They're either killed off, forgotten, or fall into the old cookie-cutter mold.

Marvel has this problem as well, but as I don't regularly buy their books, I wouldn't know how long it's gone on for. The same thing could be said for Image and other related companies.

It's funny looking at the old Silver Age comics when female heroes (Batwoman, Bat-Girl, etc.) were portrayed as extremely vain and weak-willed against men, and couldn't hold their own without getting 'runs in their tights' or busy fawning over the 'hot' man heroes.

Though some things have changed, others have remained the same. I'd like to think that if characters back then were written today, they'd have more to them. However, with how things seem to be going..I'm not so sure now.

For instance, with the new Batwoman, whoever it may be, will she only be shown as "Hey! Look, it's like Batman, but not! 'Cause she's a WOMAN!". If so, that's scary, to say the least. I want to be drawn into a book by the character and their own appeal, not by the 'because she's hot and a girl' hook.

...I just want to read comics without all this complication, that's all.

I think I've blathered enough on the subject. That's what comes to mind, though.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mama-Thon -- The Red Tornado

One of the suggestions for the Mama-Thon was somebody I'd already made up my mind to include -- the Original Red Tornado, Ma Hunkle.



I first encountered her in a DCU Holiday Bash Special, which was where I first encountered the whole JSA, come to think of it. They did a story where the JSA had a party at their headquarters, and cut to the kitchen for a page. There was Ma Hunkle, the original Red Tornado, chasing a bunch of kids away from the food. She was a big, solid redheaded-woman who looked like she could easily scare anyone away from the kitchen. I didn't see her again until JSA #55 (A Christmas issue!), when Alan Scott goes to invite her to the JSA Museum as curator.

She has a fascinating story, with loads of elements I'd love -- working class mother, fed up with crime in her area, inspired by Green Lantern to throw on a red longjohns, a blanket (a cape!), and an old cooking pot (for a mask!) to fight crime. She even pretended to be a man to disguise her secret identity, which is something I've been dying to see a female superhero do! Eventually, she got to be such a thorn in the sides of the local mobsters that she had to go into the Witness Protection Program. There she stayed until there was a break between world-shattering plots during Christmas so they could bring her back in a heartwarming story.



They couldn't resist showing that she still liked punching people while wearing men's clothing.

In All-Star Comics #3 Ma Hunkle nearly became a Justice Society founder. She was the first women to appear at one of their meetings but sadly was unable to stay long enough to share a story. However, as this is the only Golden-Age page I've ever seen of Mrs Hunkle, this is what I'll leave you with tonight. Enjoy!

Don't Step in the Meta-Text


She-Hulk #7 Spoilers


I was looking at the racks today, when my eyes fell on the Marvel section. She-Hulk was out. I remember a conversation on one of the Big Moneky Comics forums about the current storyline. Jennifer was defending an accused rapist. I was curious as to how it was handled.

I flipped through the end of the book, and, hands shaking with rage, I picked up that and the previous issue.

Yes, there's more.

It made me think of Angela Spica. You remember back when Mark Millar was writing The Authority? He had a storyline with the Evil Doctor as the villain. He had the same powers as their teammate the Doctor, which is basically Shamanism on a Global level. In the middle of the fight, he tries to scare Angela with gore and violence, and she tells him she's not so easily freaked.



Then he reveals that he can move laterally through time.

And he does, he goes back in time to when she was a schoolgirl.

And changes things.



It was the ickiest thing I'd ever seen a supervillain do. Your life works out one way, you grow and change and gather experiences that make you the person you are, you person you should be, its a forward moving thing with the past set well in stone. In comic books, though, history is fluid and changing, according to the writers whims, and when they write time travel, according to the characters.

When I open a comic book, I slip off my shoes, toss the robe of reality on the lawn chair, and dive right in. When the narrative's done right, it's like swimming underwater, you concentrate on the story and immerse yourself in the little world there. If it's sympathetic, you immerse yourself in the character, in their head. You're swimming in their life. That's how I was Authority when I got to that scene. It was one of the ickiest things I'd ever read, and I dropped the book shortly after this issue.

A villain, going back in time, and changing one thing. Just five minutes in the past that reverberates through Angie's life. She experiences it and she's experienced it years ago and dealt with it and moved past it and experienced it again in the same instant! The same instant that I was swimming in Angie Spica's life.

This never happened with a normal fistfight. I was used to a normal fistfight. It didn't even happened with other sexual abuse stories (though I was sensitive to them then), because I'd read them before and never been this irritated. But this, this was disturbing. This was happening on several layers of the story at once.

What Angie experienced was a sexual abuse retcon like nearly every other female hero on that sad, long list that's been forming in the back of my head -- only Angie's was behind the scenes and in the story itself. This somehow makes the whole thing more powerful.

Metatextually, Angela is every one of those female characters, and the writers who are retconning this -- guess who they are. The supervillain, the Evil Doctor, doing this just to freak them out.

And, by extension, freak us out.

And that's all Mark Millar did it for. Make no mistake. He was trying to get an emotional rise out of the audience, make us squirm in our seats. Beyond that, there was no purpose, and there was absolutely no necessity.

And it's losing its power. It's not stopping me in the reading anymore, it's just making me roll my eyes in disgust and hate the writer. It's becoming like a normal fistfight through its overuse, and that is what is making me angry. I don't want to be desensitized to this. I don't want it to be a normal rite-of-passage for a female character.

I don't want to read this moment anymore.



But I bought it, and I sat down and read it again, closely this time, the whole story.

Starfox has the power to make people do whatever he wants them too, something to do with his voice. He'd been an Avenger and a superhero in the past, but in this story one of the women he woke up with brought him up on rape charges. During the course of the stories, Jennifer reveals that she seduced Starfox back when they were both Avengers together. Later on, as she cross-examines the plaintiff in the courtroom, she realizes that she may not have been the one doing the seducing after all.



She calls him to deny it, and he hangs up on her. Even though it was years ago, she's so enraged that she leaves the courtroom and Hulks out on the staircase.



I will give credit where it is due. The story is well-done. It was clever and respectfully handled. Jennifer was not turned into a victim during this, and the retcon wasn't used to manufacture an audience bond with her. Instead, Slott writes her like a human being.

And it addressed something that's been bugging me about the Marvel Universe for quite some time now -- how it's got fifty billion telepaths, half of them use their powers to "get laid" (*Ahem* Psylocke and Cyclops) and no one calls it as the rape it is.

There's even a point where Dan Slott echoes some of the fan's thoughts about rape in superhero comics (From the voice of Stu of the record's department "I just don't think of superheroes that way. And I sure don't want to see it in my comics") and with the same character's voice let us know why he did this particular story. I can see his point and I can see why Starfox had to be officially villainized because of his past behavior.



But even though it was well-done, and served two purposes,

But still, it bugs me that this, the first time I see a female character in a telepathic rape story, is the first time it finally gets called for what it is.

And it also bugs me that She-Hulk, who to my knowledge was free of sexual assault in her past, now has it retconned in there.

Yes, it does help that she got to beat the crap out of him as soon as she realizes it...



...but not much.

Because for every Dan Slott, there's a Mark Millar and a Kevin Smith.

It's not necessary.

It's not fun.

Stop It.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The 2006 Mama-Thon Kick-off Post

This Sunday is Mother's Day. Jake got me thinking about it when his commentary turned to real-life motherhood.

I haven't gone in-depth with it on this blog yet, but I have a beef with how motherhood is portrayed in comics. I think it's the nature of comics, the serial storytelling that normally revolves around male heroes, that brought this about. It's just easier to have a fling and a long-lost child show up than to explore a loving, ongoing relationship between two sympathetic characters. The story revolves usually around the male hero, and the mother is often a guest-character, more often a villain. The few female characters who are in the lead rarely get pregnant and have babies (Yes, I've been meaning to check out Catwoman) because no one wants to do the Nine-Month Story Arc. So, as a result we have a deluge of irresponsible and clueles but well-meaning fathers, and outright evil and selfish mothers. I have special problems with the stories that put daughters at odds with their mothers (Jade and Thorn, Cassie Cain and Lady Shiva), but that's a long, involved rant for another day.

Because Mother's Day is supposed to be celebratory, I made a conscious effort to focus on positive portrayals of motherhood in comics at the beginning of the week. A few good mothers came easily to mind - Martha Kent, Queen Hippolyta, May Parker -- and then it stopped. I asked Kalinara for help and we started brainstorming. Sadly, it was so much easier to think of the evil mothers than the good ones. We managed between the two of us to come up with maybe ten ideas for highlighting the best comic book Moms have to offer. What bothered me, though, was that some of those few mothers I simply didn't know enough about to dedicate a long post to, maybe a short note.

So I sat on the idea, for three whole days, and I'm finished sitting on it.

I am committing myself, here and now, to posting once per day about a Good Mom in comics, at least until Mother's Day, and maybe beyond. I can't promise link-worthy posts everytime, but I do promise some content at least. I welcome any of you to join me, if not for the long haul, then maybe just a post or two.

In fact, I'm making it my first Comics Blog Meme. If you want to particpate, if only for one post, leave a note in the comments with the address.

Anyway, without further ado, let the 2006 Comics Blogs Mama-Thon Commence!

The First Mama-Thon Mama



Our first Mamathon Mom hails from the unfortunately named planet Jerome, located somewhere in the back galaxies of the DC Universe, chronicled in the backup stories of old Pre-Crisis Green Lantern issues, filed near the back ends of longboxes, stacked in the back room of a used bookstore that I occasionally frequent. KT21 was an experienced member of the Green Lantern Corps who spent her off hours glassblowing, house-keeping and caring for her young son. She was still waiting on the replacement Green Lantern the Guardians of the Universe had promised when BJ, pictured above, was born. He appears to be four or five years old by human reckoning, and here's poor KT was still waiting on Maternity Leave! See, that's how you know its a work of fiction --1 mean, if you can't trust a secretive cabal of short, balding, old men who've been estranged from their wives for six billion years to safeguard the interests of the women who work for them, who can you trust?

Anyway, sometimes you just can't afford to take time off for the kids, and KT understands this well. This story opens in her studio, where KT sits working on her glass projects while her son plays. His pet eats his last packet of plastiglass, a toy for training kids to grow up to be glassblowers. While she promises to get more, news of a pirate raid at the local mega-sized supercenter type store comes over the radio.

KT suits up and hits the skies in the classic tradition of Green Lanterndom - by which I mean she set on her way without anything even remotely resembling a plan. But KT is smarter than the average superhero, as she realizes this before she runs into the actual villain and decides to sneak quietly into the store. On her way, she is distracted by something colorful on the ground. BJ's toy! The one he was crying about earlier. Her baby still on the brain, she scoops up a couple of packets of plastiglass, knowing this is wrong, but rationalizing that the store would let her keep them if she stopped the pirates. She goes on and confronts the villains, and that's when the Green Lantern Curse hits her up.

No, not that curse (although if she has a husband, he is neither seen nor heard from in this story), I mean the yellow weakness. Not only the yellow weakness itself, but the rule that if you are a Green Lantern who is still suffering from the yellow weakness, any and everything that you are attacked by will be yellow. This curse has recently been replaced by "Man, I run out of power fast lately," curse, but at the time of KT's story it was still in effect.


And, of course, at the time of this story, just about everyone in the Universe was aware that Green Lanterns were weak to the color yellow. Jerome is a planet with a thriving glass-blowing industry. Well, assumedly thriving glass-blowing industry. I don't recall seeing any actual glass but KT seems to make a living, they make a point in training the workers young, and the villains are experienced in glass-blowing techniques.

So, KT gets trapped in a giant yellow bubble, and it looks like the end for her. It's a good thing she had her handy-dandy straw and had stolen borrowed a few plastic bubble-blowing packets. She took out one and blew an inner red lining to her bubblicious prison so that she could use her Lantern energy to bust out, make short work of the criminals and be rewarded with piles and piles of bubble-stuff packets for BJ to play with. All in a day's work for Super-Mom Green Lantern.



From here, she fades into obscurity... Maybe.

I blogged a short time ago about my initial reaction to lnfinite Crisis #7 and the sheer joy I got from seeing so many female Green Lanterns in the GLC crowd shots. I was so overcome with this that it wasn't until my second read-through that I noticed this lady.



Adjusting for Phil Jimenez's art style, could that be KT21 still waiting on her maternity leave?

Maybe.

Writing Wrongs

After my initial Fantern gushing has died down, I've realized that I liked Infinite Crisis #7 for another reason. Not because of a non-ending, but because of a restored beginning. I'm a modern-age reader, and I'm not an enemy of dark and gritty storytelling -- but I started DC Comics with Grant Morrison's JLA, the Return of Barry Allen, and Kingdom Come. Written well into the 1990s, but all nostalgic books somehow. Unlike Marvel, where I started with shiny new stuff and lost interest when the old continuity came barreling down on me, I started DC with books that explored and revered a complicated and fluid past. DC's past wasn't set in stone, through Retroactive Continuity it changed as often as it's future did. I love this about the company, as it allows for flashback stories to be as fresh and interesting and still as surprising as your typical tales that run forward in an unceasing monthy marathon. No story ever really ends in comics, and you can't be entirely certain of the way it began. Some fans dislike this, but personally it's part of why I like comics. It's why I like the writers I do, the ones that weave strange tapestries with leftover threads from twenty years ago and who place at the annual Continuity Gymnastics Meet.

Sometimes, though, a Retcon needs to be retconned back to way it was, or at least, closer to the way it was. Infinite Crisis #7, for all its flaws, has left us with one very, very, very important thing.

Which is...

Wonder Woman helped found the Justice League.

After the first Crisis wiped her part of this out and shoved a substitute female in to hold fragile continuity, this latest Crisis has undone that damage and restored Diana to her rightful status in League History.

New Earth is a good thing.

A very good thing.

Oh, I'm sure there are those of you our there, those of you who started in the Modern Age as I did, who don't think this is a big deal. You may even dislike it, as it retcons away Mark Waid's JLA: Year One story and potentially removes Black Canary from her role as a replacement founder. I don't see the problem, myself. I liked Year One, I read my sister's copies when it came out, I even own the trade now. It doesn't need to be current continuity to be a good story. And yes, I adore Black Canary. I love her in Birds of Prey, I love her in the revisionist retconned JLA stories, but the bottom line is she was replacing Diana. Black Canary isn't a big name like Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman. She's a secondary character put in to replace a primary seller.

And I can see the argument now -- Buuuut Raaagnuuuuulll, Superman and Batman are the big names and they're not founders. Why does Wonder Woman have to be?


And you're right, it's not an issue of membership. It's more one of timing. My problem with Diana not being a JLA founder is the reason she was not a JLA founder. It's because after Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 when they rebooted the Big Three, Wonder Woman got the shaft.

Oh yes, she did.

Superman was retconned, and his origin was retold. He was taken out of the 1940s Justice Society, but still remained the very first of the "Second Wave Heroes" who showed up at the beginning of the DC Ten-Year Elastic Timeline they wrote after the Zero Hour Crossover. It was important that he still be an inspiration, and while he wasn't a JLA Founder he was still around when it was formed. He got a power down, but was still the biggest when it came to raw power and DC towed that line for a long time.

Batman was retconned, and his origin was retold. He was taken out of the 1940s Justice Society, but still remained one of the first of the "Second Wave Heroes" who showed up at the beginning of the DC Ten-Year Elastic Timeline they wrote after the Zero Hour Crossover. It was important that he still be a veteran hero, and while he wasn't a JLA Founder he was still around when it was formed. He got a little grimmer, and became more of a fighter than a gadgeteer but he still held the office of "World's Greatest Detective" after his reboot.

Wonder Woman was retconned, and her origin was retold. She was taken out of the 1940s Justice Society, and placed as a New Arrival directly after the Crisis. This put her at the Four Years Ago point in the DC Ten-Year Elastic Timeline they wrote after the Zero Hour Crossover. She was no longer a JLA Founder because she was not even around then. She was not a veteran hero, but a naive novice who was just learning about Patriarch's World. She did get a power-up, but she lost her seniority for it.

As a result, Wonder Woman was younger, less experienced, and less wordly than her former contemporaries. Again, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but it sure as hell does to me. Seniority is a huge deal where I work. These men were her colleagues before, and now, when she had been an equal when it came to age, experience and wisdom, she was now behind the curve. She went from looking to them as friends and co-workers to looking at them as examples and possible mentors. When they were veteran heroes she was a rookie. She was originally meant as an inspiration specifically to women, but now, when she came on the scene, it was littered with female heroes anyway. Her own sidekick, Donna Troy, had been recast at the beginning of the timeline and was, as Wonder Girl, more experienced than Wonder Woman when she first arrived.

And why? So that Diana, originally conceived as a teacher could be recast as an innocent setting her first feet on Man's Shores and learning the harsh lessons of life. They couldn't do it like Batman: Year One or Man of Steel and write her origin in a miniseries set at the beginning of the timeline. No, they put her at the beginning of Crisis so that we would watch her new life unfold in real-time. They rewrote her supporting cast to fit. Where she'd been a mentor and friend of a group of young girls, she was now surrounded by older women (Julia Kapetalis, the new Etta Candy, Myndi Mayner) who were there to guide and mentor her. She'd previously had a love interest, an adorable Navy pilot with a cute butt she followed all the way from Themiscyra, a man with old-fashioned ideas about womanhood who found Wonder woman strangely intriguing. She used to roll her eyes at him, try to subtly teach him lessons, and save him from danger when he got in over his head. Now, he was aged over twenty years ahead of her, and instead of a cute guy she wanted to come around to her way of thinking she had an older man to act as a father figure and guide her in this new world because she was now so fucking young and naive.

In fact, all romance was drained from her life as he was married off to a lady who used to serve as the comic relief. It was like Lois marrying Jimmy Olsen, dammit! She's never had another love interest even close to viable. But of course, they had to cut out romance because if she's not a virgin she's a whore, right? Or is it just to make her less experienced?

Her backstory family, her mother's Amazons, went from a goofy Golden Age take on Greek Mythology to a freaking Modern Age Greek Tragedy. They didn't just up and choose to leave Man's World of their own volition. Oh no, first they all needed to be recast as the reborn souls of women who died because of violence. Then, they needed to be punished for withdrawing from Men (which y'know, may have had something to do with having past-life trauma of violent deaths at the hands of men combined with immortality and no need to procreate) by being drugged, chained up and raped by Herakles and his army (in a retelling of an ancient story that, when I first read it had ended in Herakles running for his skin because of a misunderstanding when Hippolyta voluntarily gave him her girdle after talking so he could settle a debt), then forcibly exiled to an island in the middle of the freaking Bermuda Triangle by their own patron goddesses!!!

They powered her up, gave her flight, yes. The also removed the dumbest and most obviously sexist of the arbritary weaknesses -- when chained by a man, she loses her powers. The insanely outdated reason for no men on Paradise Island -- that Aphrodite had cursed the Amazons to a lust-frenzy if a man set foot there (which still gives me a chuckle, because its such an Aphrodite thing to do) -- also gone. That was all gone. But what good is it to make her physically more powerful and then scale back her personality so she's less threatening. What good is it to drop the silly Golden-Age bondage joke just to replace it with some seriously disturbing backstory that involves bondage and rape? They made Wonder Woman from a slightly worrysome children's story (which, let's face it, all children's stories are somewhat worrisome) into a book I'd never feel right about giving a little girl. I had to stop in the middle of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a grade-schooler, I'd never have made it through Wonder Woman (Volume 2) #1.

Meanwhile, Batman and Superman get by relatively unscathed, in some ways improved by the modernizing. Oh yes, they got darker elements in the reboot too. But somehow "Because Krypton's been recast as a no-huggin society that creates test tube babies in incubation chambers, I, DC's First Superhero, was now actually conceived without sin" and "In this timeline my parents are still dead, I'm turning paranoid, and my on-again off-again quasivillainous girlfriend used to be a prostitute (who still kicked ass because she punched out her pimp, rescued a younger prostitute and gave up the business for the more lucrative career of robbing mobsters) but I was still considered Character of the Century when all was said and done" don't hold a candle to "I, who once represented female autonomy and came from a society of female supremacy to preach about the value of femininity to an unappreciative culture, am now from a society of paranoid isolationists who have all been deeply wounded by men. My bright, funny backstory has been replaced by a tale of humiliation and death. Rather than make our own decisions, I and my sisters are now completely and utterly at the mercy of the fickle whims of the gods, because even Amazons can't make their own decisions."

And they keep their seniority, their experience, and their in-story status.

It just seems like there's something unbalanced there.

Then there were the little continuity holes like "Wonder Woman is no longer in the 40s" and "Wonder Woman is no longer in the JLA" when they wanted to reference old stories. How to fix those? Why, for them it was easy! Just take a female character who's around during that time, and stuff her in there. It doesn't matter who! They're female, they're interchangeable!

I am not overreacting.

Case in point: Black Canary and JLA Foundership.

Once again, I've nothing against Black Canary, she's a kickass character.

But I'm sorry, she could not replace Wonder Woman in the JLA. There is nothing, powerwise or personality-wise, that the two have in common aside from their gender and having been members in the past.

"Hmm, okay for this story Pre-Crisis we had Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman."

"Can't use Wonder Woman in the flashback. New continuity."

"Crap! Well, we need to replace her, I need this flashback to explain the villain."

"Okay, well, let's think. She's got superstrength, superspeed, invulnerability, a magic rope that forces you to tell the truth, and can deflect bullets with her bracelets."

"Hmmm... Can't we stuff in Superman?"

"Nah, we need a chick. We'll use Black Canary. Martial Arts and Supersonic Scream."

!!

Allow me to repeat that...

!!


Y'know, in Today's world of questionable character mis-handling and suspiciously symbolic death that can usually be chalked up to cultural factors rather than malice, it's nice to have that one clear, shining example of direct misgyny.

Can you imagine that logic at work in real life?

"Sir, we have everyone we need in the ground support crew for this experimental exhibition flight except for a hydraulics expert in case of brake problems."

"Hmm... There's no women on the crew, better put MacKenzie in."

"Sir, MacKenzie's unavailable because of her vacation."

"Oh, shoot, then use Kaleikini."

"Ummm... Sir, Kaleikini is an wonderful technician, but she specializes in an onboard navigation system that isn't featured on this model of aircraft."

"So, what's the problem? We have a crew chief, a propulsions expert, a comm-nav guy, a GAC guy, and a chick. That's all we need, right?"

"..."

You know, I've heard John Stewart's role in the JLA derided as tokenism, and yes, he was there in JLU for racial diversity. But think about it, JLU is the animated version of the Justice League/JLA comics. In the story, he wasn't replacing Steel or Black Lightning as the resident Black Guy. He was replacing Kyle or Hal as the resident Green Lantern. His ultimate role in the franchise was based on his powers, not his color. But Dinah Lance, Dinah's another story entirely. She had no overlapping powers or skills with Diana, but was considered a suitable substitute anyway simply because she was another woman. There's your tokenism, right there. That's where inclusion attempts become sexist or racist in itself, when the character's status as an "Other" -- a woman, a black person, or a gay person -- overrides the character's abilities. Now, I love the old nineties teambooks where the demographics were carefully and deliberately plotted out when putting together the team, but for it to work the characters personalities and skills had to be more important when it came to the actual story. And therein lies the problem of revisioning and retellings. You can't carefully choose the demographics, you have to work with what was used before. Terry Berg will not suffice when a story calls for Damon Matthews. You wouldn't take out Kimiyo Hoshi and put in Cassandra Cain -- the abilities are too different and there's no justification for that replacement. By the same logic they should never have taken out Diana Prince to replace her with Dinah Lance.

Thankfully, someone at DC figured out that all of this was that stupid and put Diana back to when she belongs -- contemporary to the boys. I don't think this necessarily means that Canary's role in the beginning is ruled out (but in all likelihood, it does), and two female founders would be interesting, but I wouldn't be angry if it was just Diana and the four guys, the way it was originally written. I'm sorry, if you're the sort of fan who think Black Canary loses her worth as a character because the retcon that made her a founder is simply retconned away, then you must have no appreciation for the character. And if you're the sort of person who thinks that WW's role in early Justice League is simply that of "The Girl" and that Black Canary really was a suitable substitute in retelling the old stories then I honestly don't know why you read this blog.

But anyway, I like New Earth. New Earth is a good thing. A very good thing. It restored Diana's seniority and her role in the JLA, in one sentence. And now, we'll get to see the revisionist tales with Wonder Woman. And who knows what else they fixed in the relaunch? Greg Rucka was adamant a few months ago when this was announced that it was not a reboot, but a relaunch, so I don't expect all of my problems with Wonder Woman, Volume 2 to magically go away when Volume 3 hits the shelves (June Seventh!). But there's extra years to play in now, and the Kubert varient cover shows Diana, Hippolyta in the Golden Age outfit, Donna Troy and Cassie Sandsmark, so I expect some interesting backstory.

And I do love DC's fluid and flowing backstory. Comic books get to rewrite their history to fit the present.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I Really Hope This Is An Ion Spoiler

Because I'm feeling lazy tonight (I'm still too damned lazy to review Ion #1 like I promised), I'll just weigh in with a quote from Ron Marz's last interview on Newsarama.

On Kyle Rayner:
"Wait until you see him wipe out the Khund Empire in issue #4."


Someone please tell me he's serious.

And that they use a behind Kyle panel-angle.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Point of No Return.

Dorian linked to DC's 52 website.

And the first thing I thought, upon seeing this page, was "HEY! Opal City's Sports Team is named the Spectrums!"

If you are a male in his mid-20s with a well-developed ass in the Oklahoma City area and are interested in staying up extremely late to date a somewhat chunky, topheavy, mostly non-sexual brunnette with glasses who reads comic books and knows electronics; I'm terribly sorry we've never had a chance to meet, and I hope you find what you're looking for. You see, It's far too late for me now.

I've become a DC Nun. I think I took my final vows when I enjoyed Infinite Crisis #7.

Power Girl: You Be the Judge!

It's no secret that I'm a Power Girl fan. I have been since I first saw her guest-star in Peter David's 1990s Supergirl series. I can't remember the issue number (my sister has it somewhere), but it was cute and funny. I remember Power Girl lifting a truck or something at the end of one issue, and then helping out in the second. There was a joke about pointy sticks. There was one point where she told Linda (this was the Linda Danvers Supergirl) she had an idea, and it cut to a panel of both women bracing their shoulders against a spaceship or a flying city or something like that. I just remember it looming over them, Linda asking "Now what?" and Karen remarking "Unfortunately, here endeth the plan."

I liked her immediately. She was an older, gutsier version of Supergirl. Unfortunately, she was appearing only Sovereign Seven and I had no money (and my sister wasn't shelling out for that series), so I didn't get to see her in action for a while (I wasn't disappointed when I did). In the meantime, I did search online, and found a scan of her first appearance somewhere. She earned my Eternal Fanitude right there.

Of course there's more!

She was just what a teenaged girl living in our society would want to grow up like. Beautiful and alluring (Everybody by that age wants to be pretty) by the traditional standards, but uncompromising, brave, superstrong, supertough, respected by all the old men around her, and able to fly. I'd even go so far as to suggest that Power Girl is why the fear of feminism thing never took hold of me as a teenager.

I like how she was classy, brassy, and outspoken. Her easy banter with some of the guys and her complete lack of fear in drawing the line when it came to sexism. It's tough in a mostly male workplace. You always wonder if they don't trust you to do the job because you're newer than them or because you're a woman. You don't want a hostile workplace, so you let things slide that really do bug you. I loved how she just showed up and laid down the law. It was awe-inspiring.

And yes, her character design did help. At least, Wally Wood's original Power Girl design did. She's busty, slightly chunky (as comic book ladies go), and straight-backed. She stood like Superman. She was definately feminine, though. Her hair and eyes had the softness, and she was shaped that way. (And before you start in on me for liking traditionally feminine characteristics, I'm going to tell you right here I'm well aware of the unrealistic appearance and bullshit beauty standards modern society shoves down our throats and I know that that's what's affecting my assetment. Awareness of this influence, knowing why I like it, just doesn't change the fact that I like the character design). To me, the hole in the chest-fabric worked much better than the simply white costume, because of her body type. With the little window, I get the impresson of a bra.

I get that impression because yes, I'm busty (and somewhat chunky in belly area), a bit topheavy so to speak. Power Girl is probably the ideal for my body type and I like how she looks with the little window costume. Especially the new design (I think Amanda Conners came up with it) with the visible seams on the outfit. It looks like a sports bra to me. And because it's so obviously not spandex, and because of the way the cleavage shows up in the little window, I know that she's wearing an underwire with very tough fabric and a racerback -- the same sort of bra I don't feel comfortable unless I'm wearing. So, yeah, there's a little self-projection here.

I don't think that's all there is to her, but I do think her appearance, like any well-designed comic book character, emphasizes her personality.

Anyway, I've been following the recent round of posts set off by Savage Erik Larsen (No, I'm not telling you where I got that) and found two that stood out to me. One included Redlib's latest anti-Power Girl jibe, which put me in the mood to defend her, and the other was the one Kalinara posted on Power Girl while I was in Mississippi, where one of the comments caught my attention.

"I dunno, maybe you need to talk to more women. :) The thing I dislike was that Wally Wood (I think it was him) deliberately drew her breasts bigger in each succeeding issue just to see if anyone would notice. He was basically taunting editors (and of course completely ignoring even the possibility of female readers). PG's breasts started out as an ARTIST IN-JOKE. I dunno about you but I find that kind of offensive on its face."


Ignoring the first sentence (which actually kind of offends me), we see a rumor I've seen pasted all over the internet, but never seen confirmed. Mr Wood is no longer with us, so everything we really have is second-hand. I asked Cronin over at CSBG to look into it, but he hasn't gotten around to it.

Well, to paraphrase my mother, if you want something done right, do it your own damned self. I've gotten my hands on a few back issues of All-Star Comics form the 70s, and of course there are scans of Power Girl's first appearance all over the internet. In effect, I have samples of artwork from all five issues of All-Star Comics that had Wally Wood drawing Power Girl. I selected the clearest full frontal body shot of Power Girl seen in each issue, and have posted them here for comparison. If you don't believe me DC is collecting these issues into a trade paperback in August.

So anyway, without further ado, I bring you...

The Power Girl Breastrospective

(All-Star Comics #58)

(All-Star Comics #59)

(All-Star Comics #60)

(All-Star Comics #61)

(All-Star Comics #62)

(All-Star Comics #63)

(All-Star Comics #64)

(All-Star Comics #65)
(I needed to tilt this one on its side.)


(Once again, the term "Breastrospective" courtesy Chris Sims)

It was particularly annoying in 60, 62, and 65 where she seemed to be at an angle everywhere, but I did the best I could. I think we have enough data. What do you guys think of the Wally Wood legend? Fact or Fiction?

Two Women Discuss Food and Fashion


"Hey, Diana, I thought you were a vegetarian!"

Wonder Woman looks up from her snack to see Power Girl approaching.

"Hi Karen!"

"Is that beef jerky?" Karen asks.

"No, it's venison," Diana takes a bite and offers it to the others. Karen accepts, but still raises a questioning eyebrow

"No," Diana answers, "I'm not a vegetarian. My cook is. I respect his personal reasons for being so and eat what he makes, but I have nothing personaly against eating meat."

"Isn't that a conflict with your nature-beliefs and animal rights stance?"

"Not at all. Lady Artemis' primary office is Chief Hunter, Lord Hermes is the patron of livestock farmers, and I've been recieved more from them than I can repay. It would be a spiritual betrayal, for me personally, to swear off meat when I benefit from their patronage. This doesn't mean I condone unnecessary cruelty, but I don't find nutrition cruelty, just how it may be collected. This venison, for example, was freeze-dried and given to me by a hunter friend from a deer she personally killed during the allowed season."

"Still seems like a conflict to me," Karen says, "but then a lot of things with you are contradictory."

"Not to me they aren't. As I'm sure things that seem natural to you may seem contradictory to others" Diana indicates the window over Power Girl's cleavage.

"Look who's talking!"

"This outfit was considered acceptable by my culture. Themiscyra is a very warm climate, and I had no need for extensive armor with my gift from Demeter. You chose your costume well aware of what the Patriarch's World would think of you. I'm not condemning you at all, but I am curious as to why."

"It's a distraction tactic."

Diana raises an eyebrow. Karen frowns, she should have known better than to try and bullshit Wonder Woman.

"I was going to put a symbol there, like Superman's..."

"Then why not leave it blank?

Karen tosses her head, ill at ease. This is embarassing.

"I have a nice body, I'm proud of that. I wanted to show off a little."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing!"

"Then why try to cover it with another explanation?"

"Because guys don't understand, damn it. They see the window and the boobs and think 'That's it. That's Power Girl.' And if I complain, they say 'Well, you're showing yourself off. You want this kind of attention.' Which is wrong, I want to be sexy and lively and beautiful, but I'm still a person, y'know. I don't want to be reduced to these."

"Makes sense. A little in this society tends to turn into a lot. Some people see a little bit of skin and consider it a complete nullification of humanity. They can't see past the sexuality and see that it's just a part of an entire person, and so a little sensuality gets seized upon as a 'distinguishing characteristic' and even the entire identity of a woman. The emphasis on sexuality increases, and soon the whole woman is lost in this hideous caricature of femininity. They're not a fully realized person to the observer, they're just a fantasy, or a joke. I can see why women in this society would tend to hide themselves in the attempt to minimize this."

"I've tried that," Karen states sullenly, "more covering costumes, frowning and scowling all the time. It didn't feel like me!"


"Of course not! You're lively and bawdy and it's wonderful. You remind me of my mother sometimes."

"Now, you mother was fun," Karen grins momentarily, remembering the Amazon Queen, "But she had the same problem. It pissed her off, too."

"And she resisted both sides of the argument. She resisted the people who tried to define her as little more than a pair of breasts, and the people who tried to cover her up because they believed that definition. And in the end, how do you remember her?"

"As a wise, lively, brassy woman," Karen says after some thought, "Who found the same fun and excitement saving the world as dancing at the victory party."

Diana smiles widely.

"But not everyone remembers her that way."

"I'm ever an optimist, Karen, those are the ones who never met her. And I have to believe that more people remember her for the good deeds she did than the pin-ups she posed for. I also have to believe that more people will remember you for saving the world than for baring part of your bust."

"You are so naive," Karen replies affectionately.

"Still, are you going to sew up the hole in your costume?"

"Are you going to drop the deer jerky?"

"Fair enough. Let's find something to do."

"Or someone to hit."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Is it June yet?


(Via Newsarama)

The Flash is Starting to Scare Me V

(Redlib is going to love this one)



Wait for it... Waaait for it...

Phantom Lady Breastrospective

(Thanks to Chris Sims for coining the term Breastrospective)

Enter the Hall of Objectification, If You Dare!!!

I'm sure you all remember the Monstrosity pictured below, where we all discovered that artist Daniel Acuna had no idea what a real woman looked like. It caused quite a stink.



Freedom Fighters #1 (as previewed on Newsarama), is not quite so bad, but still -- They're very round, bouncy and shiny, aren't they?



Granted, Grant Morrison created this lastest incarnation, there may yet be a reason for her appearance. Maybe's she's a plastic person like we saw in Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle. That would be fun. If that's the case, I may give the series a shot despite disliking Acuna's art (as so many of his people look plastic) even though it's not actually Morrison writing.

Nevertheless, I still find them freaky. In all of my comics-reading time, I don't think I've ever seen anything so freaky. The freakiest thing, however, is that people find them necessary to the character.

For example, the inimitable Erik Larsen seems to believe that "Phantom Lady's whole claim to fame was looking like a porn star with her impossibly perky Triple-D breasts as the star attractions to her book."


Later in the same article, he asserts "The Phantom Lady's only distinguishing characteristics are her ample cans. That's pretty much all she has going for her. Ditto Power Girl. To tone them down is to strip them of their identities." (Emphasis Mine)

Wow, all the years I've been following these characters and I've before never realized that the only likeable thing about them is their breasts. I guess Power Girl's brassy attitude, unapologetic honesty and feminist aspirations were fabricated by my own sick imagination. And here I didn't realize that there were dozens of women running around with invisibility powers, a Golden Age legacy, a socialite background, in a political backdrop with a patriotic superteam and the only thing that distinguished our Phantom Lady was her humongous bazongas! Thank you, Mr Larsen, for enlightening this foolishly idealistic woman!

I'd have to say that the above quotes are what really pissed me off about Larsen's column. The assumption that neither character had a personality or a usefulness to the story, and that without hooters to ogle they would be a pointless addition to the cast.


Sadly, he was not smart enough to shut up after that stunningly idiotic statement. He continues to insist "And frankly, that's what they're supposed to look like! It's not a situation where an artist took Catwoman and distorted her to fit his fetishes -- these characters started out busty as all hell -- drawing them that way is drawing them right. If you don't want the Barbi twins to look like the Barbi twins, don't use the Barbi twins."

Really? Phantom Lady is supposed to look like that? With such massive mammaries that her head is dwarfed by them?

I beg demand to differ. I've seen this image on a number of pages, including her profile on the International Catalogue of Superheroes website. It's one of her earliest appearances in Police Comics.



And here, from her own series, the cover to Phantom Lady #2.



Her Silver Age costume, with the added window for a convenient peek at the cleavage, as seen in Justice League of America #107.



Oh course, the most incriminating picture I've found, after the Peek-A-Boo window morphed into the Dental Floss-tume, still features a woman with human proportions, albeit human proportions on display.



And finally, a peek inside Action Comics Weekly #640 for a little more perspective, see the Dog's Paw vs. the Breast in question?



Looks like Larsen's Beloved Twins are a more recent addition than previously believed.