Saturday, September 09, 2006

And, oh yes...

Today is my One-Year Blogiversary.

So I celebrated with a rare update of the sidebar.

Justice Society Preview Art

This week's 5.2 About 52 column at Newsarama has a preview page for Justice Society of America at the end. If there was any doubt left about who was wearing the Liberty Belle costume, it's resolved now.

"And telepaths who can bench-press a buick?"

I read Mystery in Space, feeling a little worried. I was afraid I may not like it, since the only other Jim Starlin work I've read was Cosmic Odyssey (a storyline that filled me with mixed feelings).

But what was I thinking? It has Captain Comet in it! It's in outer space!! Of course I was going to enjoy it.

Still, it would have been nice to get the four dollars.

Mild Spoilers

Anyway, Starlin is a better penciller than Shane Davis. Davis pencilled the first story, Starlin the second. Davis is not a bad storyteller, or bad with anatomy -- My main problem with the art in the first story actually had to do with the lines on Capt. Comet's face, which is Matt Banning's problem. I think his face would have been better looking with a different inker. It didn't make it difficult to read, though I liked the art overall on the second story much more.

The story's intriguing, it gives the promised cosmic mystery while giving us the basic history of Capt Comet (which is complex and definitely necessary) in a natural, and the history of the Weird in a natural way. Good for new readers who are unfamiliar with the characters (I'd never seen the Weird before), and for old readers who missed a few issues or have forgotten a lot. Both stories end with a cliffhanger, of course.

They do very well with the two main characters in each story, but neglect to tell us about the yellow-skinned woman. She looks like Stealth from L.E.G.I.O.N. but I don't have all of that series so I'm not sure what happened to Stealth, or why she would have an eyepatch right now. They don't give a name for her.

The setting reminds me of Deep Space Nine.

There is also a talking dog in the first story. He is impressively drawn.

Oh, and like with Rann-Thanagar War, I'm well-aware that I am one of maybe five people in all of fandom who like this one. So, stuff it, Sims!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Help Me Out Here.

I should have joined in the conversation in this post, but I'm trying to keep to my "Don't Comment While Angry" rule. It's difficult, because whenever I read the discussion, I get to a single comment and freeze in my tracks.

It's a very condescending comment, one that goes out of its way to oversimplify the opposing argument (and completely disregards my oft-stated opinion on Steve Trevor). I try to pass by it, but I can feel my fingernails turn to claws and snakes rustle in my hair. That comment colors every comment after it. It brings out the monster in me. I read through the rage and neutral statements seem like unprovoked attacks. I'm licking my fangs as I formulate my responses, until I realize that if I join in I'll find myself attacking every commenter and making no headway in the process.

To prevent this, I wait a few hours, look again, and freeze again.

The only way to solve this, is to take that comment out of the conversation and study it directly. And I need some help with this.
Once again, finding male companionship is equated with marginalization of female characters.

Sad.
What do you think, readers?

Hernandez Housefire

An open letter, reposted from Newsarama:

LEA HERNANDEZ'S HOUSE BURNS: HOW YOU CAN HELP

Early this morning, the Texas home of award-winning writer/artist Lea Hernandez, my friend and co-creator of the graphic novel Killer Princesses, caught fire and burned. Half her house is now gone, and the rest is smoke-damaged. In addition, she lost at least six of her family’s beloved pets, two dogs and four cats. If you knew Lea, you’d know how devastating that is.

She’s lost a great deal of her family’s possessions, including irreplaceable art. She doesn’t yet know the full accounting of what’s been lost at this time.

Most know Lea as the brilliant creator of such works as Rumble Girls and Cathedral Child. She drew the Marvel Mangaverse Punisher book, and has drawn for Transmetropolitan, among many other accomplishments. She is also the co-founder and original editor for Girl-A-Matic, one of the most important venues for female-friendly comics created to date.

She’s also my friend, and it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t have a career in comics if she hadn’t asked me to write Killer Princesses for her to draw.

And finally, Lea is one of the last great firebrand hellraisers in comics.

Lea has two (wonderful, amazing) special needs children and right now they need a place to stay and some clothes to wear. More than that, they need
some help, and fast, in the form of donations to her paypal account. Lea’s a proud person so I’m going to ask FOR her. This is important, and a great chance to do a wonderful thing for a creator who has consistently enriched this industry we all love so much. Please, take a moment and send WHATEVER YOU CAN to Lea’s paypal account and help make this time a little bit less painful for someone who would do the same for you if the positions were reversed.

If you’re a retailer, I ask that you set up a donations jar. If you’re a creator, I ask you to think of how devastating this would be to your career and donate what you can. If you’re a reader, I’m asking you to take a moment and hit the paypal link. You’ll be doing something heroic and you’ll feel great about it, I promise.

Read what Lea had to post on a neighbor’s computer while wearing her pajamas at: Livejournal.com/users/divalea

Donate (PLEASE) to her paypal account at: divalea@gmail.com

Finally, if I understand the story correctly (as told to me by Lea’s good friend and current Girl-a-matic editor), it was Lea’s daughter hearing the smoke alarm that allowed the family to get out in time, so for God’s sake, do everyone you love a favor and CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS.

Thank you so much for helping. Really, any amount you can send will make a difference. That’s all I can say.

Sincerely and gratefully,

Gail Simone

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sandicomm needs her own blog...

...But until then I'll quote one of her comments to draw attention to it:
And on a completely unrelated note, I had a mini-epiphany when I was walking my dogs this afternoon. The worst thing that can happen to a comic book woman is to be raped, as if the death of a loved one or contracting a horrible disease weren't worse. (And don't get me wrong, rape is an incredibly bad thing, but if you really want to hurt a character, surely there are other things to do.) But the best thing that could happen to her is that she gets a mate, particularly a superhero. So there's a blinding double-standard, and the only thing a woman is good for is sex, even in a world where women can be just as superpowered as men. This is something you've known and thought about for a long time, I'm sure, and it's something I understood self-consciously, but I never really realized it until now.

52 Week 17 Interview

(Okay, this one's serious) With Amy's question in mind, I looked around for some information on that sequence in 52: Week 17 with Starfire. Here's what I found:
NRAMA: Is allowing one’s top to be torn off a part of negotiating in a vacuum? Because if it is, earth is screwed, as the bulk of our astronauts are dudes…

SW: Male breasts are used as currency on Venus, so we’re good.

NRAMA: A joke about the collective net worth of fanboys could be made here…

SW: But we won’t. As for the scene, Tamaraneans have historically been shown to be very open about their bodies, ashamed of nothing - much like George PĂ©rez, who I’ve heard draws wearing only old issues of Swordquest. So as I reread the issue for the interview this week, I had one regret about that scene: Kory probably should not have covered herself after Lobo pulled her top off, it made her look too vulnerable and victim-ish, which isn’t the truth in the least.

(And forget it, Internet, her “Code Unapproved” parts would have still been covered artistically, this ain’t Vertigo!)

That’s not to say anyone can rip off Starfire’s top and live to tell about it. In this case, she needed Lobo to do something for her and her team and wasn’t going to be stopped by a torn top. She knows she has plenty of time to get him back for that.


I do have to say I'm very glad he noticed this -- "Kory probably should not have covered herself after Lobo pulled her top off, it made her look too vulnerable and victim-ish, which isn’t the truth in the least" -- though it would have been preferrable before the issue went out.

Any other thoughts?

52 Week 16 Interview

Steven Wacker: How ya doin’, Geoff?

Geoff Johns: Awesome.

SW: That’s great!

GJ: Awesome.

SW: Thanks for coming on as a guest this week.

GJ: Dude!

SW: What?

GJ: Sweet.

SW: Umm…I think we’re going to need you be more expansive.

GJ: Awesome.

SW: “Awesome” what?

GJ: Dude. It’s just so sweet.


Ladies and Gentlemen: Geoff Johns, Writer

(Whole interview here)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Motherhood in Comics

I'm still feeling rotten and overworked, but I need to get some thoughts out into the open for sanity's sake. For a while the posts will be coming out in their "Formative Stage" as opposed to the completed and structured form that regular readers are used to (spoiled by). This one is the first, struggling thoughts of a post I've been wanting to do for months, but I've been unable to turn off Rant Mode long enough to get a coherent set of paragraphs out.

I wasn't originally going to comment on this post because, to be brutally honest, complaining about pathos in Gotham is like complaining about idiocy in Green Lantern. Still, this comment, and how it relates to a pet peeve about comics, stuck out at me:
So apparently, Babs can't be a strong woman who wants to try to help make gotham a better place, she's merely trying to connect to the men in her life. Right. That's us told then.
This is a natural turn of the character of Babs Gordon, yes, she has always had very strong paternal ties. But it still is an underlying problem with a lot of superheroines. This particular one, the daughter fixation on her father wouldn't be a problem if Batgirl had been created with a substantial maternal presence in her household.

As it is, I can think of very few heroes (Black canary II, Wonder Woman) with mother fixations, and quite a few (Zatanna, Power Girl, Oracle, Stargirl, Cameron Chase, Manhunter, Black Canary I, Arisia) with father fixations. That's not to say I don't like the character, or the dynamic, but damned if the imbalance isn't sending a nasty message about the value of motherhood.

It gets even worse when you try to think of male characters with female role models, or even mothers who had nearly as much of a positive impact as their fathers did. I can't think of any, actually. Maybe the new Zatara in teen Titans, if his mother is Zatanna (I hope it is).

And then, look at the hero-villain couples that produce a child. How many of those are heroic/semi-heroic fathers with villainous/semi-villainous mothers? Arsenal and Chesire? Batman and Talia? Alan Scott and Thorn?

Hell, one of the reasons I like the very same writer that the linked comment is complaining about is because he took Hal Jordan, a character with standard superhero father issues, and added a strong maternal influence (I think his mother's death has been referenced in three storylines since the last series restarted? And I'm sure it'll lead back to his romance problems). He couldn't make her a role model with the setup, but at least he made her count which is more than the previous writers had.

And I know that DC Comics is generational, and that First Generation of Heroes was overwhelmingly male. However, it doesn't help that the few women in that generation have been killed off (Hippolyta, Dinah Lance I), aged (Red Tornado, Sandra Knight), pushed to the background (Sandra Knight), and not many heroes have picked up their legacies, and everywhere I look I see the overwhelming important of Fatherhood over Motherhood even the newly created characters tend to have Father issues or Fathers to live up to or Absent Fathers they constantly angst over (though the ones with Absent Mothers barely bring them up) and are just inspired by their Fathers while their Mothers bake apple pie in the background--

And that's when the fledgeling thought pattern descends into inarticulate blind rage...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

And...


Because I missed a whole day of blogging (having felt like crap), here's a special bonus Steve Trevor panel to mock!

Disordered Thoughts on Character Appeal

I blame my deteriorated mental state for the Kalinara-esque title. I'm still sick, but this was rattling in my head and needed to be written. Pardon my structure.

This is a tricky one to start, because the comment that got me thinking, was a slight misstatement on the part of the commenter. However, there's sometimes truth in tired miswritings, and the misreadings in them. Especially when they echo vague ideas we've seen before. Retraction aside, this quote has me thinking about writers, and how they market characters to women, and how they market female characters to men.
Guy resonates with people because his problems are our problems, well .. except brain damage maybe.. Fiancee stolen by someone he thought was a friend who lied to him, left for dead, taken advantage of. Guy wasn’t feminine.. he was innocent. As in young and idealistic. Eventually he got hurt badly enough that it fractured his mind and put him into a Coma that the Guardians had to heal him from. Girls just like Guy because at least he’s upfront and is really a nice guy deep down.

What gets me, and again I'm not personally going after the commenter, but it says a great deal that the two thoughts are separate.

Here it is again, the first thought:
Guy resonates with people because his problems are our problems.
And the second:
Girls just like Guy because at least he’s upfront and is really a nice guy deep down.

And no, I'm not about to take someone's head off over "People" and "Girls." I just find it interesting that the commenter felt a need to bring up a "girl reason" for liking Guy in his comment. I think this attitude about fans of opposite sex characters needs closer examination.

We already talk, all the time, about how female characters suffer when written as objects rather than people. They are written that way, at times, because the writer is writing a character as a person the reader "wants to be with" rather than someone the reader "wants to be."

I've seen the "excuse" for this, that most writers are male, most readers are male.

The idea that, to write for a female audience, women will be categtorized as "want to be" personalities and men as "want to be with" personalities is along the same lines as the one where female characters get objectified. Without even getting into the heteronormativity of the matter, it bothers me on the front because it pretty much says that a man cannot identify with a woman, and vice versa. It really bugs me because that's not how I, personally, pick my favorites.

Oh, you've all seen this site. You all know I like to get down to the jokes about Green Lanterns and their assets. The first thing Chris Sims said back when I mentioned I was making a list for Tom Bondurant's 50 Greatest DC Characters Survey was "Lemme guess, 1) Kyle Rayner's Ass, 2) Hal Jordan's..." and to this day I'm sure he'd still claim I only put Kyle on that list by virtue of his hindquarters.

He'd be wrong, though, because I don't pick my favorites based on "hawtness." Rather, I am insistent that certain characters are "hawt" because I like them so much.

And while I have mentioned the appeal of Kyle as "The artistic guy who actually does have a core of strength" that's not why I enjoy reading him. I enjoy reading him, particularly when Marz writes him, because it's very easy -- with Kyle's attitude and narrative voice -- to place myself in the story through Kyle. That's why in JLA Kyle was such an anchor early on, because he was an easy character that way.

That's also why, when it changed to Winick, many of the Kyle fans through Marz despised the character changes (Kyle's narrative voice was traded in for moral superiority), and why now, fans who got into Kyle through Winick think he's gone "backwards" with the new writer.

That is an entire other series of posts, though.

My point is, though, that while I can see the appeal of Kyle as a romantic interest, and make cracks about his appearance, I wouldn't really give a shit for the character if I didn't have a personal connection to him. Kyle's a character who thrives on relatability.

While the idea of the fantasy man who never occurs in real life is appealing, I believe that that's more of a reason to like them if you prefer the character's love interest to the character themself. I think people as a whole tend to gravitate towards characters because they see something of themselves in them -- either a character trait they have and identify with, or a character trait they would like to emulate.

That's not to say every character I enjoy needs to be a carbon copy of myself, there only needs to be a spark there. A sliver of personality. A trait I can step into, or a trait I would like to step into.

John Stewart, for example, would be a favorite for idealism. I never thought much of John until I read his origin story by Denny O'Neil. The first page, where he stands up to that policeman for picking on those kids really resonated with me, and I've been completely mad about the character ever since. Because it's a compulsion that I, in my best moments, act on, and I wish I was able to do something so courageous as effortlessly as John does.

That's just a little something that gets to me when I see a "Girls like character X because..." statement about a male character (or a "Guys like X" about a female character). It usually describes a reason for a a fan who doesn't really like the character, but has a fetish for whatever trait. Not that there's anything wrong with that, in theory, it's just not a line of thinking that leads to solid writing that will appeal to a wide audience. In my experience, I, and most readers of both genders, prefer to follow a character they personally relate to as opposed to one that they would just like to fuck.