Saturday, January 15, 2011

This can't be said enough.

Brian Clevinger (emphasis mine):
Power Girl, Emma Frost, Psylocke, Wonder Woman's bikini, every softcore porno cover, these are all messages saying, "This is not for you GO AWAY." They're active barriers keep women out of the club house.

Meanwhile the print industry tries to attract lady readers with all the grace of a seal solving a Rubik's Cube.

And when these half-hearted, ill-conceived projects invariably fail -- because they manage to say, "This is not for you GO AWAY," to both men ("too girly") and women ("what the gently caress is this bullshit?") -- publishers get to shrug and say, "BIFF! POW! Comics just aren't for girls I guess!" and they have an excuse to keep producing "mature" content instead of actually being mature about their content.

With Atomic Robo, we've made, quite literally, the barest minimal effort, i.e. "Hey, if there's no reason to draw this lady sexy, then how about we don't," and it's paying off like wild. Judging by our email, convention appearances, and Twitter, women make up about 20% of our readers. In this industry 5% would be pretty high, especially for a comic all about punching.

That's what's so sad about it. You don't have to try to get women readers. All you have to do is let your lady characters have some goddamn dignity. Cheesecake-y poses and panels designed to focus on them don't draw themselves. Someone makes the conscious decision to produce that specific image. Hours are spent on it. Lines are erased and re-drawn to get it "just right." You have to go out of your way to overly sexualize a character.

Or you could just, y'know, not.

Some publishers, editors, and artists will tell you they have to draw sexy ladies. Sex sells! It's what the fans want! No, it's what a sub-section of man-children the industry has spent decades culling from the mainstream has been trained to expect.

Here's the crazy thing: they can be trained to expect different things.

But no, "Boo hoo some creepy shut-ins might not buy Spider-Man" is the go-to defense of the industry. Yeah, that'd be a real shame.

Sorry if I posted a bunch of words that don't really add new ideas, I'm just continually astounded by the American mainstream print comic industry's Herculean resistance to increasing their sales.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My History of Internet Haunts

So Magnetgirl's got a question:
The internet, it is vast and busy, and as I attempt to navigate it I wonder — how do YOU do it? I know I am not the only one out here in netspace with accounts every which where and I am curious: which do you really use, how do you use them and why do you use them that way?

Tony Stark isn’t available to explain social media to me. Can you?

I've been thinking about posting on that anyway, because my Internet habits have morphed a bit over the years. When I was a teenager, my first online outlet was ranting on message boards. I started because I'd read posts by people that made me think, and made me want to put things out there. I made a habit of it because I fit in fairly well, there was a group of people who encouraged me to post more, and it gave me a space to think through ideas, work them out with feedback, and come up with more and more ways to seem clever and have people tell me I'm clever.

After a few years meeting fans on message boards, I spent an evening searching the internet for comic character background for a series I was reading and stumbled across my first personal blogs. Just like with the message boards, I saw people who got me thinking and made me want to put those thoughts out there. I started up this blog and have been so happy with the format I always come back to it. This is a great place to just spit out my thoughts and refine them through followup posts, cross-blog interaction and the comment section.

A few years back I also kept a livejournal for non-comics thought and fandom interaction, but I found that the format was simply too safe for me. I had a false sense of security with the friends-lock, which made me think I could write anything and not expect it to go back to anyone. I found myself doing two bad things there: 1) ranting excessively about coworkers and family, and 2) complaining about other people on the internet in my cozy little spot where I could expect not to be challenged rather than confronting them directly. When the ads got to be too much and it changed hands and terms of service, a lot of my friendslist migrated to other journal services. I just deleted my journal and decided not to go with anything that locked again.

That's when I made Twitter my primary outlet on the internet. I picked the option to be entirely public, making it the exact opposite of my livejournal. Twitter back then had no delete button, and the ease and shortness of the format made me more likely to shoot my mouth off and have to immediately deal with the reaction. I like it because it is so very unsafe that way. It sharpens me in the way that livejournal dulled me.

Twitter is also good because I'm so naturally long-winded. The 140 character format forces me to shrink and streamline my thoughts. That improves my communication skills all around.

Lately I've found myself using Tumblr a lot. I started because it is simply easy to do, but it became my primary blogging method during my deployment because it loaded more easily than Twitter or Blogger on the base network. I keep with it now because it's easier.

I'm generally willing to try most social networking sites for at least a little bit and see if they offer me anything. There's a few services I keep coming back to:

Stumbleupon, which is just freaking brilliant. You load a toolbar onto your browser and pick topics you like. Then you press a button and it takes you to a random webpage you can rate or review. You can submit new websites to the pool, too. I leave this inactive for months at a time but I still come back. I love it for days when you just want to wander around the Internet aimlessly, and for just putting a website into the ether because I think people should read it.

LibraryThing: I have a lifetime membership and every book I own loaded into this. I sometimes check the boards, I sometimes review, but mostly I just use it to catalog my books.

Goodreads: I never thought I'd get into this, but it loaded well when I was deployed so I used it to keep track of my reading (previously I'd been tagging by year on LibraryThing) and put some of my thoughts on the page. My reviews still suck, but I've found it to be a useful service.

My latest playgound is GetGlue, which is a fairly unique site. It offers lists of books, authors, musicians, topics, movies and TV shows and you mark which ones you like. Then it gives you suggestions based on that, and you can like or dislike those. And more suggestions. And the option to stop on an item and write a review or just "check-in" with a thought about it. And there you interact with others. And you get little stickers as rewards. And you can become a "guru" and make suggestions and it is just so weirdly addicting.

As with all things, I can't tell how long I'll stay on it. It could be my new Twitter, or it could be like Newsvine which I loved for a few months and just got sick of.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stuck on a moment

Girls Read Comics Too is putting together a Women of Marvel Memorable Moments poll (which is still accepting nominations until Sunday), and the list is pretty good. I want to make that clear before we go on. I like this list, I like this idea, I think you shoudl all go nominate stuff and vote.

But as with all fanlists, there's a couple in there that some fans loved but that make other fans cringe because everyone has different tastes. I'm pretty sure you all know which one I'm talking about:
NO MORE MUTANTS. Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch changed the lives of every person on the planet in House of M
What really got me was the sheer number of people suggesting it in the first post. I'm sure there's a number of Wanda-fans looking at that list and going "Oh HELL no, what's WRONG with people?"

See, House of M and Avengers: Disassembled are two of the absolute worst things to ever come out of Marvel for those of us who like Wanda. It's like Emerald Twilight and Zero Hour for Hal Jordan fans, two books that are fucking based around taking a hero we love and making her fucking crazy for no reason other than someone wants to change the franchise. Wanda Maximoff is the Parallax of the last decade (a comparison I've been on about in chat that I really must elaborate on in the future), and this is basically nominating Scarlet Twilight (No, we won't be going with Crimson or Ruby Twilight, it is going to be Scarlet Twilight) for an award while Scarlet Witch: Rebirth is experiencing shipping delays.

There is something distasteful just about seeing the storyline mentioned and driving home the point that everyone read her losing her mind, every book in the entire Marvel universe was affected, and every fan and writer has had "Womb Crazy Wanda" and the results shoved down their throats for the past six years.

And of course, the first defense of nominating this storyline is, like Zatanna in Identity Crisis (another nomination I complained endless about on Twitter) it was a major decision made by a woman that changed the world. It also underscored the sheer power the character contained, and the weight of their decisions. And in this case, perhaps because I favor the Scarlet Witch over Zatanna as a character, that might actually turn me a bit.

It is also the moment most fresh in fan minds about Wanda, being her last notable appearance prior to Children's Crusade (as an amnesiac guest star she is just a shadow of her true self, and flashback/AU appearances were far under the radar), so that has an effect.

But I don't think any of that is the real reason this sticks in our minds, the real reason it won't go away even after Children's Crusade brings her back and M-Day is undone. I think the real reason is the "I've had just about as much of this shit as I can stand" effect.

In the set of stories that would fall under the umbrella of "Scarlet Twilight" (West Coast Avengers: Darker than Scarlet, Avengers: Disassembled, House of M) Wanda has been fucked over severely from all sides. Her kids have been erased from existence, and she's been told by a demon, her fellow Avengers, and now her father and her "therapist" (Yeah, I'm sure Xavier has a degree but the bastard probably mind controlled his teachers into passing him) that not only were they not what they appeared, but they didn't exist. Her trusted Mentor Agatha Harkness has meddled with her memory. The Marvel Authority on Magic, Dr. Strange, contradicted all of his prior statements about Wanda and stated that she has no magic and it's been her freaky powers all along. The Avengers take him at his word, and do nothing to investigate whether or not her behavior was caused by an external force (such as that demon that took away her children). Captain America turns her over to a father who has a history of manipulating and using his children. Her father turns her over to the world's worst therapist. She's removed from her friends (Magneto's reaction to finding Pietro at her side implies he wasn't even allowed to visit), imprisoned, drugged and subjected to invasive telepathic therapy. The X-men, a team created to protect mutants from a society that feels they are too dangerous to live because of their powers, says that she is too dangerous to live because of her powers. Her friends in the Avengers have chosen to discuss this with them. Her father tells her brother that nothing can be done to stop it. (She was watching that.) And to top it off her sense of reality, her memory, and her powers--her very genes--are rebelling against her, tearing her in different directions and have caused her to kill several teammates--including her close friend Clint and her own husband.

Through all this, all she has left is her brother--who cannot obtain an ally to help save her life--who sacrifices his own independence (as well as his relationship to his wife and daughter--both of whom where absent in M-World) to hide her in a world. For this, for giving everything that their father could possibly want to him and finding a way to do this without destroying all their friends, her brother--bringing to life a nightmare she's had since they first met Magneto--becomes a victim of her father's violent temper.

I hate House of M and the effect it had, but I honestly can't make a case that it was Bendis hating on Wanda. She is the most sympathetic character in the story, the most put-upon woman in the universe. She has gone from having a full SUPERHERO family and friends to just having one person left in the universe who is willing to fight to save her life and sanity, and when she almost loses him... she loses it.

"No More Mutants" was a horrible moment. It was sheer rage and misery. It nearly destroyed the Marvel Universe. But unlike the previous two stories (the first of which was just cruel and the second of which made NO sense and totally ignored the resolution of the first), it was a logical continuation of her story. It was born of grief, anger, pain, abandonment, disillusionment horribly out-of-character actions by the rest of the cast, and kneeling in the blood of her twin brother after her father had beaten the life out of him.

It was not a heroic moment, though you could argue that after her experience with her own powers she honestly thought everyone would be better off. It was more of a "Fuck you, I'm leaving" to her father, to the hypocritical X-men, to the New Avengers, to the world, and to whatever cruel deity had given her those awful powers. It was Wanda, after being jerked around by EVERYONE for two crossovers, finally putting her foot down.

It was not a heroic moment. It was not a positive moment. It was, however, a powerful moment.

And while we're all betting on the Phoenix as the final winner, I have to wonder what it means if it wins. Because this moment is the one that classifies the Scarlet Witch as her father's daughter. It is a very Magneto thing to react to being hurt and betrayed by taking it out on an entire species. It is a very Magneto thing to think you are doing good when you act that way. It is a very Magneto action, the sort of action that allows him to be a compelling villain that can be allied with heroes from time to time. But... it is not an action that you can attributed to someone and classify them as a hero. It's defining moment of villainy and in order to use the Scarlet Witch as a hero it will need to be undone somehow. The effects will need to be reversed, and it will likely be attributed to lingering mind control (though sadly not hair-graying mind control because that would have looked pretty cool).

At least, I sincerely hope it will be undone. I liked the X-books better with the expansive attitude of the Morrison era, and the optimism of the 90s or the Silver Age. I don't like this dying race angle. I don't like it all being Wanda's fault. I don't like Wanda as a villain, or in limbo. And honestly? I hope next time we do a poll like this it doesn't even pass the agency rule.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If you want a character back, there's really only one way to do it...

They've got a petition up on Tumblr, and I would sign but it's married to Facebook and I don't like to give profile rights to anything I suggest you sign now that it's not Facebook, but that you also send in a letter.

I don't really believe that a petition has an effect. Fan petitions are the bare minimum effort for fans online, and everyone knows it. I think the only thing that has effect when you DON'T have the option to vote with your dollars (such in the case where there character is not appearing regularly and the few places she does appear aren't advertised--and any loss of revenue to the current Batgirl probably wouldn't be attributed to the change without massive feedback to that effect) is the mail.

To this end, DC has given us an opportunity by opening the letter columns:
To submit a letter go to:

Letters may be sent by regular mail to this address:
Letters to the Editor
DC Comics
1700 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

Please include your full name, and address, for confirmation purposes. Letters should be no longer than 500 words and should not include attachments.
Letters may be edited for length or clarity and may be published in any medium. Letters become the property of DC Comics.

Unpublished letters will not be returned or acknowledged. Published letters may identify the writer by first name, hometown, state or country.
Imagine how strong a message it would be if next month's columns were filled with requests to see Cass Cain?

Now I don't have the time, energy or money to organize a planned letter campaign like did, but until we find someone who does the best thing to do is to flood them with Cass Cain letters. Come on, take a few minutes and write out why you like Cass Cain and would read a book starring her again. Send an email, send a postcard, send a short note, send a long note. Then read the lettercolumns next month... and answer back if the answer isn't "You will see her here."

Now, I wasn't going to mention it because I figured I implied we'd want to send publishable letters in, but there is a certain decorum needed. I understand not wanting to but we should keep it positive, y'know?
As annoying as it is, it's also worth noting that Gail Simone recently said that tone is important when sending letters about Cass.

I know we have every right to be snarky and rude at this point, but she said sending a bunch of "FUCK YOU. BRING BACK CASS!" messages is only going to make editors think that they'll get screamed at no matter what, and make it less likely for her to ever come out of limbo.
So stick with what you like about her and, more importantly, that you would pay to see her back.

Especially write in if you're not reading Batgirl, and let them know you're not really feeling this other book but you'd try one with Cass Cain.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I have another Tumblr.

Rachel and I got together to start a really specialized Tumblr: A Nice Cup of Comics.

We accept submissions.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Go Vote

DCWKA has the final Memorable Moments poll up, voting is open until noon (I'd assume EST) Tuesday. Here are the contenders:
VOTE HERE. As a reminder, this list was developed out of a series of ballots consisting of 130 moments submitted by readers and participants in comics forums and sites. Those moment were voted on in a series of ballots. The winners in pollwere named as the 30 nominees. The only caveat for the moment is that the female character(s) had to have agency.

  1. Wonder Woman beheading Medusa in Wonder Woman #210

  2. Lois Lane and Wonder spend the day together in Wonder Woman #170

  3. Lois Lane makes her debut in Action Comics #1

  4. Stephanie Brown becomes Robin in Robin #126

  5. Kate Kane resigns West Point because of DADT in Detective Comics #859

  6. Huntress/Helena Wayne makes her debut in Secret Origins of Super-Heroes #17

  7. Black Canary and past and current BoP operatives stare down Katrina Armstrong in Birds of Prey #106

  8. Wonder Woman tells Superman, “there’s the door, Spaceman” in the New Frontier

  9. Supergirl gives up her life to save the world in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7

  10. Shiva and Cass fight in Batgirl #25

  11. Stephanie Browns slaps Batman in Bruce Wayne the Road Home: Batgirl #1

  12. Barbara Gordon/Oracle and Dinah Lance/Black Canary meet in-person for the first time in Birds of Prey #21

  13. Renee Montoya realizes she’s going to become the next Question in 52 #42.

  14. Batgirl/Barbara Gordon makes her first appearance and saves Bruce Wayne in Detective Comics #359

  15. Lois Lane risks her life to save a soldier in Adventures of Superman #6311

  16. Barbara Gordon becomes Oracle in the Batman Chronicles #5

  17. Diana, after killing Ares with an axe, punches Zeus in Wonder Woman #33

  18. Zatanna mindwipes Dr. Light and then Batman in Identity Crisis

  19. Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress, stands her ground against the Joker in Detective Comics #741

  20. Lois Lane refuses to believe Superman is dead in All-Star Superman

  21. Batgirl tells Batman not to talk down to her in Secret Origins #20

  22. Cassandra Cain saves Jim Gordon’s life in Batman #567

  23. Wonder Woman puts her foot down with Batman in The Hiketeia

  24. Wonder Woman wins the contest to go to “mans world.” in All-Star Comics #8

  25. Barda Free stops a tank in Justice League International Annual #4

  26. Wonder Woman snaps Max Lord’s neck in Wonder Woman #219

  27. Barbara Gordon/Oracle hires Dinah Lance/Black Canary as her operative in the first one-shot of Birds of Prey

  28. Amanda Waller fights Granny Goodness in Suicide Squad #34

  29. Wonder Woman sacrifices the restoration of her eyesight for the life of Martin Garibaldi in Wonder Woman

  30. Oracle defeats Braniac in Birds of Prey #73

Sunday, January 09, 2011


So Kalinara and I have this thing. There will be a position that I plant myself in, something that I say there is no way in Hell that I will ever accept this, and she starts to see it as a creativity challenge to get me to budge. In this case, it was my last post.

And once again, Kalinara wins by coming up with an idea that I would read the living shit out of:
Picture it: Green Arrow's in like China. Or Brazil. Some place cool like that and gets into a fight. And then suddenly, the old woman in the corner throws off her hat and it's Cassandra Cain! She'd be there for her own reasons of course, and Green Arrow could decide to help or not. But either way, awesome fight scenes commence!

She could be DC's answer to Daughters of the Dragon. She wouldn't even need a codename. She could just be "Cain." It's snappy. And could totally be used for Kung-Fu/Kung-Fu the Legend Continues type homages.

Cass Cain as your wandering martial artist do-gooder, a mix of Jonah Hex and Richard Dragon. I would fucking love that. Hell, I think it's infinitely better suited to getting her on TV than the Batgirl gig. An A-Team (with wacky supporting cast!) or Kung Fu: The Legend Continues style setup where the drifting hero rolls into town, finds the trouble, beats the crap out of it and then moves on.

Thing is, in order for it to work, DC would have to fucking commit to taking her BEYOND the Batbooks. They'd have to launch it out of a guest shot in something like Green Arrow, let it go at least a year before she hits Gotham again (but they totally need flashbacks to Oracle's tutelage as well as her relationships with Bruce and her parents) have her guest star in high profile books like Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, and make her prominent in your crossovers. Make her a DC UNIVERSE character, not just a Batcharacter.

And after she's built herself a brand, a supporting cast and has an identity that's not dependent on being a Bat, that's not a supprtimg cast member, that's got ties beyond Gotham... Then you can have her buddy-cop team up with Steph-Batgirl because she won't have her place in the DCU dependent on the musical identities played by the Batfamily anymore.

I certainly don't trust DC to do this right at this point, but if they are married to Steph-Batgirl then Cass would have a better chance this way than as the back-up Batgirl. If they tried this angle, I'd read it. And if they put some effort into it and really tried to build in what they have rather than just letting her pop up as an ex-Batgirl now and then... I'd cheer it.

But she can't be Lady Shiva. That's her mom's name. Richard Dragon, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing all use their own names. Cassandra Cain is full of mystery and symbolism, it's perfect for this sort of character, and in this case a play off of Kathy Kane becomes a reference to Kwai Chang Caine.