Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Short Note to a Stupid Columnist

Dear Erik Larsen,

I sadly regret to inform you that your latest column is based on overreaction and an apparent inability to accept criticism. Questioning how a female character's bra size adds to the story does not amount to censorship. Yes, comic book writers, artists and publishers have every right to design their characters how they see fit. I have yet to hear any feminists calling for legal restrictions on the cup size of fictional characters. I am also well aware of the existence of big breasted women, and small waisted women, and women of any size and shape possible.

However, as consumers we have the right to examine the product that we are buying. We have the right to question the value of superfluous physical traits, and we have the right to question the motives of the creators who designed those physical traits. We also have the right to spread our findings to other consumers, so that they may consider them when making purchases.

A Rabid Feminist

Wonder Woman Preview Art

I was worried when they announced the Wonder Woman relaunch artist. I've seen Dodson's other work, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Black Cat... All pinup girls. All the same body type, all the same face. Another cheesecake artist on Wonder Woman. Same old objectification and disrespect, shameless pandering to adolescent boys, and "sex sells" mentality. Seeing the cover in June's solicits relieved some of my fears. I was aware now that he could draw a different body type. But still, the poses, the potential for disrespect, the possible clothing... There was so much that could go wrong.

So when Melchior linked to the Terry Doson interview on Newsarama, I waited until I was ready to read his post and the interview. Of course, I went through and looked at the preview pages first.

May I draw your attention to the fourth panel? Here, let me isolate it.

Did you recognize those breasts?


Well, I'm not surprised, seeing as they are actually covered by the Wonder Woman emblem for once.

I daresay we can set our anxieties aside for now.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Maybe it's Just Me This Time

(I'm just posting this to see if anyone else had the same first thought I did)

Behind the Blog

Tonight, an exclusive look into how Chris Sims of the Invincible Super-Blog tests his jokes...

Chris: Hrm. Is it wrong to refer to Freedom Ring as "Marvel's newest and gayest action hero?"
Ragnell: *Thinks carefully* Nah
Chris: Darn. Then I'm not trying hard enough. *Pause* What if I go with "sodomite"...
Ragnell: Ack!!
Chris: There we go!


I was putting off the linkblogging until I had a chance to read through everything, but it'll be a while. In the meantime, here's some intensive reading:

While I was out, I missed a few theme days:
Blog Against Disablism Day
Blog Against Heteronormativity Day
Blog To Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence Day

I missed a lot of Frank Miller hate and male objectification, both of which I greatly would have enjoyed participating in. T

I missed the Carnival of Feminists 13 but on the bright side, I made it back just in time to send my Making Assumptions post to Carnival of Feminists 14. 14's up right now, check it out (MetroKitty and the post about objectifying men made it too). Next one's at Self-Portraits if anyone's up for it.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Girls and Green Lantern in Infinite Crisis

Why yes, I did get the Jim Lee cover.

Aside from the obvious goodies featured in this cover (Mmmm... Green Lantern Uniform Pants...), I want you to note 3 things here.

1) G'nort.

2) Wolverine.

3) This orange person.

Hmm... Shaped like and Hourglass, Bare Midriff, what appears to be Breasts... That looks like a woman.

Holy Cats! They let wimmens in the Green Lantern Corps? Who knew?

Yes, There's MoreMild Infinite Crisis #7 Spoilers Below (But you'll barely notice them)

Seriously, I was a little disappointed at the end of Green Lantern Corps: Recharge Remember that big spread with everyone in the Corps by the Central Power Battery on it, the one that had Elvis?

I looked carefully. There were three females -- Brik, Soranik, and this unidentified woman.

And I can hear it now. But Raaaaagnuuulll, they're aaaaaliens! They won't have the same sex characteristics as humans. A lot of those people could be female, and you just can't see it.

Okay, well, then, explain Brik. Brik is a rock-type person, from one of two stone-races on the planet Dryad. She is not an animal, she is a mineral. See the blocky shape and the gray coloring. That is how the artist indicates this.

So why the hell does she have breasts?

Easy, so that we know that she's a female.

You see, in our society, for reasons that remain a mystery to me, males are considered the default. If you see a person who is not obviously female (Breasts, Long Hair, Hourglass Shape, Pink Accessories of some sort are various ways of indicating this) then they are assumed to be male. In a book like Green Lantern Corps, where there is an unnamed background cast of 7200, all you have to go on is visual clues is for most of them. Even being generous, and not making assumptions, there's still a number of humanoid races. These can be obviously male or obviously female. In my experience, most have been obviously male. Male is likely the default to the writers and artists, otherwise why bother to give a rock creature a D-Cup Rack to emphasize her femininity?

This gives us three gender options when looking at the background of Green Lantern stories. 1) Male-Shaped, 2) Female-Shaped, and 3) Funky Alien-Shaped (Assumed to be Male by Default).

I got into a big argument on Comic-Bloc about this one. (And I remember who with this time, his name is associated with Hector Hammond, prison, and showers) All I said was "I'm disappointed we didn't get more new female Green Lanterns during Recharge." I mean, that's an opinion. How can you argue an opinion? I should have known better with Green Lantern fans. We can argue about anything.

It didn't get violent, to our credit. But we did end up listing all of the new Green Lanterns who had lines in the miniseries and the regular series. All of the returned vets. All of the projected returning vets in the upcoming Green Lantern arc (that starts this month). And then working out the ratios. We decided that the Golden Age magic Lanterns shouldn't count. We came up with 5 to 20, a 1:4 ratio, which we estimated to be near what the active duty military gender ratio is. Still, I figure, with Green Lantern, where the concept is warriors chosen specifically on strength of will, the gender ratio should be closer to 1:1, which led to the actual argument. Hammond's bath-giver told me I was putting my hopes too high and we'd never see that. He seemed to find this unreasonable. I didn't. Eventually we started talking about Raker or G'nort and peace came to the Green Lantern chatroom once again.

It weighed on my mind afterwards, so I decided to re-tally it. Going by speaking parts and named people.

Established Male/Male-Shaped/Masculine Characteristics
Hal Jordan
John Stewart
Kyle Rayner
Guy Gardner
Green Man
Isamot Kol
Vath Sarn
Mogo (although assigning gender to a sentient planet makes no sense to me, they refer to Mogo as "He")

Xudarian Male (GL#4)
H'lvenese Apparently Male (GL#4, GLC:R#1, GLC:R#5)
Goblin Female's Rocky Apparently Male Partner (GL#6)
Injured Primate Apparent Male (GLC:R#5)

3 Injured Masculine-Appearing Humanoids (GLC:R#5)

Established Female/Female Shaped
Soranik Natu
Goblin Apprently Female (GL#6)

This gives us a 3:20 Female:Male ratio. 13% Female.

Foreshadowed in Green Lantern #3
Graf Toren
Jack T. Chance


5:26 now. Roughly 24% Female. A little better, but still not at the 50% it should be at.

So, why did I feel a need to do this? Well, because of the crowdscenes in GLC: Recharge. Aside from the two named Females (Soranik and Brik), I saw two other apparent females in the crowdscenes.

In the Crowdscenes:
Apparently Butterfly-type Female (GLC:R#2 Morning Briefing)
Female with the Funky Hat (GL:R#5 Crowdscene)

The rest were all either Male-Shaped or Funky-Alien Shaped and therefore assumed as male by default. It must be the default again, because why else give Brik Bouncy Breasts?

In light of the recent Green Lantern resurrections (Hal, Kilowog), and who had not been resurrected (Katma, Arisia), these background problems jumped out at me. Green Lantern is my favorite franchise you see, and I found it immensely annoying when the only prominent female is there not because she is chosen (like virtually every male character there, now that Johns has retconned out the randomness) for her courage and honesty, but because she was born into the business. In fact, because the heroes in this book are specifically chosen for courage and honesty, I think its even more important to have visible female characters here than in other superhero franchises. All men and no women in this mess sends me a message I am sick of hearing.

This was downright annoying me until I read Infinite Crisis #7 today. From the point where I saw the Lady pictured above, this issue could do no wrong. Inside the issue, when they have the first panel showing the Corps, there are at least four very obviously female characters there. There's more as the book continues. Quite a few, actually. Enough that I still don't feel the need to count and figure out the percentages (maybe later).

Even now, I find myself incapable of giving an objective review, overwhelmed by the pure joy of finally seeing some gender-diversity in my favorite franchise.

Even if background characters are cannon-fodder, it's still pretty damned cool to see a decent number of women there.

Levitz Got Something Right...

Mild JSA #85 spoilers

I'm still mad about his earlier portrayal of Dr. Midnite.

But I have to say, the Glowing Green Ghost of Jade who guest-starred in this issue was more likeable than I've ever seen Jade.

Maybe I'm just getting soft lately.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Got a Laugh Out of This

Minor Supergirl #6 Spoilers

I read Supergirl #6 and one of my hopes was dashed. The 16-year-old girl is still being heavily sexualized.

To think those cover costumes had given me heart.

However, the art is much more reasonable -- if still cheesecakey -- and the writing is infinitely better now. We're not universally expected to like her, but to understand that she's a hotheaded teenager and that's not a positive trait. As such, I like her a lot better. Rucka does indeed have skill.

And I did get a laugh from this issue.

You know how, even when the solicits have revealed something like a mystery identity or someone's death months in advance they still treat it as a surprise in the actual book? So, even when we know who Nightwing (Wow, yet another Nightwing in the DCU!) in Kandor is, they'll still have a big reveal where she shows up, is mysteriously clad in the uniform for a page or two and her identity is then revealed in a surprise manner.

Which we got, below:

Did you recognize those breasts?

A full page before they show her face, and it serves to identify Power Girl.

I laughed for ten minutes.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Had to Share

Chris worked this banner up for me a few weeks ago. He based it on a story he reviewed for Prism Comics here.

(Do I really come off as this militant?)

Who's Responsible?

All right, who did this?

Who put that poor confused boy in a gray body suit and then gave him a yellow cape?

Dick Dillon was the penciller, but I'm not sure he's responsible for the design.

Was it Kirby? It was a crime what Kirby did to Sandman. Did he do this to Robin?

Or maybe Wally Wood. I think the guy who'd take DC's personification of seventies feminism and put a huge hole in the chest of her costume in her character design is capable of anything.

Neal Adams was the cover artist here. I saw the atrocity he put the Earth-1 Robin in, I wouldn't put this past him.

Whoever did it, it was cruel beyond measure and they should be ashamed of themselves.

May Second

Rambling, not really comic-related and a bit depressingMy calendar was still on April, so one of the first things I did when I woke up was flip the page. I stared at today's date. Yesterday was May Day, or Beltane for the Celtic Reconstructionists. It was listed as the submission deadline for the next Carnival of Feminists. Cinco De Mayo is on Friday. I go back to work on Thursday. There's a party on the Thirteenth that I'm not sure I'll go to attend. The thirteenth is a Buddhist Holiday called Wesak, which I know absolutely nothing about. Mother's Day is on the Fourteenth -- Don't want to forget again this year. The Twenty-fifth is listed as Ascension (Christian) which I imagine means forty days since Easter. There's two US Federal Holidays (Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day) and Victoria Day on the twenty-second for Canada.

It's too hot in my apartment, a high in the 80s in Oklahoma City. I'd left the Argonaut off, because the cat's sick. He's wheezing and sneezing while I'm coughing and blowing my nose like a foghorn. The climate change always gets me when I travel. It's 70 degrees in Eden today when they bury my grandfather.

I couldn't get a flight. There's information at the bottom of the calendar about the symbolism of doves. It makes me glance at May's picture. A circle, an inscription in seven different languages on the boarder, containing three circles that each contain three spirals with three doves with beaks in the center. The knotwork points towards the center, three images converge.

My apartment's too messy. No one in my family lives in this kind of a mess. Grandpa's children live across the country. New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, California -- they're all in New York today for the funeral. I think I'm missing something important. My brother tried to get ahold of me, I was driving back from Mississippi. The landscape is dark and moody, with twisted trees and dark forests. There's still hurricane damage It rained on the way home, gray skies over Oklahoma. It was the third time I'd been to school in Mississippi (My USAF training was there) and the third time a relative died while I was there. I don't think I'll be going back to the Gulf Coast. Patterns.

The flights out of Oklahoma City were booked up, but I took a few days off. I need to clean, even my keyboard's dusty. I still have presents from December I haven't mailed, and souvenirs from Las Vegas and now Peach Syrup from the drive to Georgia for Mom. I can't find my the Harry Chapin CD with Corey's Coming on it. Junk Mail is piling up. I haven't sorted my new comics in half a year now. So, naturally, I found myself on the computer the last few days. A little escapism.

Things keep converging. My Aunt from New York commented on the Italian rant. She's from the Irish side of the family, and a few comments above they talk about the O'Dares being stereotyped. I never had a problem with them, does that mean I connect more with my father's side of the family than my mother's? Or is it just that there's more Irish-American in the South and less Italian-American? The stereotype seems less harmful because it's more normal to be Irish. It didn't make me think "They're making fun of me." Didn't make me think "They really believe it." I used to argue, when I was stationed in Texas, with Aunt Marilee about vermicelli pasta.

"It's in the Ethnic Foods section."

"It's not an Ethnic food. Everybody eats it."

"It's Italian, Italian's Ethnic."

"It's not! Italian's normal."

Did I really think like that?

This isn't making any sense. Grandpa died, I'm thinking about me. I never make the funeral. I was too young when Grandma died. When my grandmother on the Italian side died, I was on the plane when they buried her. I sometimes don't get told until after the funeral.

The whole thing looks like the picture. Incongruous when it's supposed to be a continuous, repeating pattern that you can see spiraling in, but it's disconnected because these little spirals are separated by bright, off-setting blue paint that keep them from blending into the picture properly, the knotwork is trying to make it to the rest of the picture, it points in towards the center but is isolated to little icicles hugging the border where is completely disconnected from everything trapping the awkward, misshapen doves who try to touch beaks in a wreath. There's nothing in the center. There should be something in the center, not empty blue.

I think I'm missing something important.

The cat's sick, he's trying to sit behind me and clean himself in the computer chair and I should give him his medicine. I'm going back to work soon. I need to take my dry cleaning but I don't feel like it. I think I'll order in. Mazzio's delivers.

I'll post something funny later.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Flash is Starting to Scare Me IV

I found this blurred and aged panel flipping not through the pages of a Lovecraft adaptation, the comic book version of Children of the Corn or some other horror movie, or even a PSA announcement on the dangers of cults.

No, this image was in DC Super Stars #5. The redheaded child is Wally West, better known in those days as the teenaged sidekick fo the Flash -- Kid Flash.

Doomed Before the First Issue Shipped

While I was away, Kalinara had some ideas for redeeming Jade (and I have to say I liked some fo them. The conversation really got fun in the comments when they started to reimagine her as a Fairy-Tale Princess Adventurer. After reading it, I'm still not fond of her personality, but I will admit to wanting a Green Barbie now.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I found something on Fortress of Fortitude (finally found the original post, I'd mixed it up with another blog wtih a similar template) that convinced me that Jade was doomed from conception. I don't even mean the mother/daughter symbolism I'm always harping on. No, I mean the very attitude that DC had when they first marketed spelled "Weak Character."

Please note how everyone else is notable because of their really cool and useful powers or talents, and Jade is notable for "Green Skin."

They couldn't say "Energy Manipulation," "Power Pulse," "Light Powers" or "Green Light" -- they went with "Green Skin."

If Brainiac 5 or another Coluan character were featured in an ad like this, we all know it would say "Super Intelligence" or something like that.

If Alan Scott, or Hal Jordan, or John or Guy or Kyle or Katman or Kilowog or freaking Saakk were in this, it would say "Power Ring" or something referring to the energy.

If She-Hulk, the goddess of cheesecake, were a DC character and she were featured in this ad, it would say something about her enhanced strength or toughness.

But since it's Jade, it says "Green Skin."

I'd feel bad for her, if she hadn't made a habit of wasting the coolest powers known to comicdom.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Making Assumptions

Store owners and clerks take note, because nothing cheeses me off more than this.

I walked into a store in Georgia. I got a few of what I call "It's a stranger" stares, and no one said a word.

Behind me are the two men who rode with me to the store, Joe and Max. The man behind the counter greets them as they walk in together. After we left the store, I asked Joe if he'd ever been in the store before. It was possible, though I sincerely doubted it because a) he'd driven us to two other now closed stores before this one, b) Joe reads very little that isn't Manga and there wasn't any Manga or Anime there, and c) the comics Joe does read are the ones I buy, think are cool, and send him for his birthday or Christmas.

"Not for a few months," he replies. So I ask him why I wasn't greeted and he verifies my suspicions about the clerk. I actually felt better, because I'd almost walked right out.

Because it's the only store in the town and I insisted on visiting here in my neverending search for back issues, I actually did bother to take a look at the boxes, though. I find a few from the seventies but almost put them down because I'm pissed off that he greeted Joe and not me. Then I see them.

Quarter bins.

There aren't many quarter bins in Oklahoma City, you understand.

There are even fewer I haven't already picked through on Saturday afternoons.

I couldn't just pass them by. I was in town for a single day to visit Joe. We had to be back the next day to get ready for class. There were six quarter bins.

I looked through the first one. Volume 2 Starmans, written by James Robinson, in good condition, for a quarter. Five for a dollar! They cost two-fifty back in Oklahoma! Clearly the owner was insane and I needed to take advantage of this. When I walked back to the register, with nearly sixteen dollars worth of project, I found Joe and Max sitting by the door, looking very bored. They hadn't bought a thing and had found nothing to chat with the clerk about. While the clerk, who was actually a fairly nice person who I hope will know better than to make assumptions next time around, rang up my purchases, Max made the joke.

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"I said, some women shop for shoes, some women shop for clothes..."

I look at my watch and rolled my eyes. Forty minutes for picking through six full long-boxes. That was not bad at all and I don't know a male comic book fan who wouldn't do it either. I said so.

They bitched about the time. I politely reminded them that they had spent longer in the video game store, which I had no interest in, the night before. They pointed out that I had spent my time looking for Lovecraft games and making fun of the Tomb Raider intro (it's actually pretty funny, she seems to realize that guys are staring at her breasts and fidgets nervously) they were showing.

Like they couldn't have made the most of being in the comic book store. But no, they only like Manga!

That's when I made the decision. Back in Mississippi there was a comic book store that was a close walk to our hotel, twenty minutes, thirty at Max's horrificly slow shuffle. There was another store ten minutes (fifteen by Max's pacing) beyond that that I hadn't felt a need to visit. Well, suddenly I did. My passive-aggressive vindictive energy was now focused on marching his sexist ass to that store and back. Sure, he could have said no, but that would have meant he had to stay home alone all night and study. He was going to have to do that after I left Friday. So on Wednesday, Max agreed to go.

He whined the whole damned way there, and dragged his feet.

Then he humiliated me by reading the product off the shelves.

But it was worth it. There were no quarter bins, but there were dollar back-issues. From the seventies. I loaded up, and headed home with whiny guy in tow.

I did get more than vengeance out of the walk, though. One of the dollar-issues I found contained the three most awesome Power Girl Panels I have ever seen. You see, I'm a King Arthur buff. I think medieval clothes look cool. Swordfighting is fun to watch, and horseback-riding has a charm cars just can't replace. I'd never live in Arthurian times, though. Because I'm not just a casual movie-goer, or a TH White (short for White-wash) reader. I'm an obsessive researcher of Arthurian Lore -- particularly the grim and gritty pre-Malory legends. I have had periods where I've thrown all of the intense fervor currently directed into Green Lantern fandom into King Arthur Stories (especially the ones about Gawain, my favorite knight) or Sherlock Holmes pastiches. As such, I'm well-acquainted with the odious rules of chivalry, particularly the ones about ladies left alone. Much as I love these legends, there are days when I really wished Morgan Le Fey would just up and kick all of their asses for their rampant stupidity regarding women.

Which brings me to Power Girl.

Anyway, my point is that I really, really love Power Girl.

Oh, and that you should greet both genders of customers when they walk into the store, whether you think they'll buy or not because stereotypes are utter bullshit.

Green Lanterns

Green Lantern fans have a reputation for rabidity. The infamous Hal Jordan fans vs. Kyle Rayner fans feud raged for well over a decade. The writer of the issues where Kyle replaced Hal recieved death threats and still gets regularly trashed by the most extreme readers. The writer who wrote Rebirth gets similarly trashed by Kyle fans now. Before Hal came back, we had little Kyle fan vs. John Stewart fan fights on message boards and even now, with three series and five major Lanterns there's still little skirmishes on the internet.

Why? What inspires such fierce fan loyalty?

It's really very simple actually. Green Lanterns are like us.

And I don't mean regular-joe type characters. The traditional appeal where the fans viacariously get the power of instant wish fulfillment. No, that's obvious.

They are like us because each one, no matter the species or gender, is a geek, a dweeb, or a nerd.

Kyle's dweebiosity is well documented every Wednesday on Seven Hells.

Guy Gardner broke up with a girl over an argument about 2001: A Space Odyssey.

John Stewart reputedly listens to Abba and Barabara Streisand. I've never seen this, but multiple people have stated it so I'll take their word for it. He's also an architect, which is a reasonably nerdy job.

In her first appearance, Katma Tui built a machine specifically to measure the amount of love she felt for her boyfriend before she accepted his marriage proposal.

And then, there's Hal Jordan. Hal's test pilot on fight jets, he has no trouble getting an overnight dance partner when his girlfriend turns into a naughty supervillainess, he gets to just punch out whoever disagrees with him without every getting assault charges or a broken wrist. Hal was never a dweeb, right?

Well, here's Hal reminiscing about his childhood: