Saturday, May 20, 2006

Weekly Women's Geek-Out #1

For those of you who missed the Great Larsen Debacle, I'm getting sick and tired of male geeks freaking when they see a girl in the Clubhouse. I don't appreciate the assumption in fandom that everyone's male, and the subsequent doubting of my gender when I correct them. I am not a unicorn. I am not some variety of Bigfoot. There is no need to stare when I come in. I'm just there to look in the quarter bins for back issues of Warrior, Blue Devil, or other hard to find old books. Put your camera away.

Anyway, because I really don't think we're all that rare a phenomenon, I've stolen borrowed a Weekly feature (HatTip to Philobiblon's Friday Femme Fatales) to demonstrate just how normal (well, relatively normal) a femine geekery can be. So, here it is, the first five females on the Weekly Women's Geek-Out (Because Fan Fatale and Fangirl Rampage were taken, which alone makes me wonder how people got the impression women were rare in Geekdom)

First up is Sarah at Great Hera! and Alert Nerd. If you haven't heard Sarah's answer to the infamous column that spawned this feature, here you go. Once you're done with that, here's a clue that should tell you what she, I, and Beau Smith all have in common.

I don't follow horror much, except when Lovecraft is involved (Vote Cthulu 2008!), so I never would have found Pretty Scary (For Women in Horror by Women in Horror) if I hadn't been following Alert Nerd. Which is a shame, because I would have missed this ingenius review of Slithers.

Then we have a Canton at Exercise in Futility, the self-described Comics Blog with an Inferiority Complex (We're going to have to work on that). When brave enough to post, she is insightful and intelligent. And we can always count on her weekly reviews. She's new to fandom, though, so go say "Hi" to her and rag on her to post more often. (Let it never be said the name Ragnell the Foul is indicative of a gentle heart.)

Okay, I've known about Metrokitty for a while now. Actually, I've known about this one since before I even started my blog (I was searching for essays about the Shade and found this), but I haven't gotten around to putting her on the sidebar. I do, however, keep sending her posts into the Carnival of Feminists, so I have been sending some traffic there. She does her own comics!

Resplendant Beard probably doesn't need my traffic (as she is immensely popular), but she's where I look first for my DC news. She's worth checking daily (even for the little stuff), but I especially look forward to her on solicitation day. And just like you, she wanted to shoot the damned dog.

Anyway, that's just the first five. They'll be added to the blogroll. I'm not sure how long I'll keep this up, but I am entirely open for nominations. Feel free to comment below.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Maximum Audience Participation Requested

Jenn at Reappropriate has been blogging her head off about Asian-American Heritage Month, and I've been following along silently (though, sadly, the comment threads are too intense for me in this subject). I meant to link more often, even join in a bit even on the comics side. But unfortunately, I got angry at Erik Larsen (Third-largest comics publisher in the country, he's a bigwig there, and he says that crap?!) and sidetracked for a few weeks. For that, I'm really sorry, Jenn, and would like to give you an apology present before the month is over with.

Now, for that present, I need everybody's help. Feel free to comment anonymously if you're shy.

Off the tops of your heads, how many Asian characters in American comics can you name?

Don't worry if there's just one or two, or they happen to be obscure (or just supporting characters), I'd like to hear them if they haven't already been listed. I'm trying for a long list (links to lists will be appreciated, but along with who's prominent in your mind). No Manga-affiliated characters, though, I'm looking at the American companies here.

Spoilers! My Real-Time Reactions to 52: Week 2

So, wait... After sitting out his wife's murder, his teammate Ted's disappearance, the villainization of his old boss, and the biggest crossover of the decade -- Ralph's going to actually act like detective again?

It's nice to see that there's might be a reason for all the super-geniuses disappearing.

Wow, Renee's so butch she even gets to be drawn in the "male character sleeping position." Good for her. I'm starting to notice a trend, though. DC tends towards the stereotype for it's Lesbian characters (Except for Holly Go-Nightly). On the bright side, that's the least sexualized scene of a woman sleeping in her underwear I've ever seen.

I'm thinking Skeets might be some variety of Evil Robot now.

Hehehe... Superboy.



Man, Ralph is so cool now.

And of course, in the backup feature -- Donna Troy is still a Wuss.

Anyway, worth the price of admission.

Huh. How does this backup feature manage to be more cheesecakey than the four pages of the two lesbians in their underwear?

When you Speak Up...

So I come home from work today and immediately Chris IMs me and asks "Do you read Conan?"

I answer in the negative, so he starts in about the lettercolumn. According to Barbarian-Fan Supreme Chris Sims, the entire lettercol to Conan the Libertarian Barbarian #28 was about rape.

Specifically that used during the origin of Janissa the Widowmaker.

Now this puzzled him since that story was over a year ago. What could have brought this story to mind?

I couldn't answer him for sure. I'd only just heard of Janissa the Widowmaker a scant two months ago when I listened to Show #20 of I Read Comics, which happens to feature a hell of a rant on Janissa's origin story, about twenty minutes in.

I guess I wasn't the only one listening.

Way to go, LT!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


How many of you have actually noticed when I post something, realize it sounds insane (well, more insane than usual), and then delete it?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Comments? But I haven't even read my comics today...

Man, the comments are getting away from me here. I'm sorry about that, I hope no one's feeling ignored or snubbed, I just fret over answering comments. I think about what I want to say carefully, then return to them to see the conversation moved beyond me, and then I have to stop and think again. I should post a Comment Catch-up on the big threads, and will when I actually answer the threads in the Feminist post, the Monday Misogyny, the Wynonna Review (althogh, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to this comment) and the Manhunter post. Until then, if you have something to say, please keep commenting. I love hearing your stuff.

(Oh, and totally unrelated but there's a video at Dorian's everyone should watch. It's heavy stuff.)

Carnival Time

The Carnival of Feminists XV is up at Self-Portrait as, and she's got a whole section of posts on women and comics, including one of mine and one of Kalinara's. (And while you're at the host blog, check this post on Perspectives from yesterday)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Shortly After Monday Misogyny

From the Imageboards (all captured in this handy post through quote boxes, in response to a female fan coming in to tell the Writer (of this column) where to get off.

Fan #1: Um, maybe I missed it buried in all that sarcasm, but what the hell are you talking about, and what does it have to do with Erik's column this week? If there was a point to this post, it sailed right over my head.....

Writer: What do you mean? She (if she is a "she"--kind of difficult to tell via a computer) illustrated beautifully my point about "hearing" only bits of a message and taking isolated comments out of context. The point WAS missed because the point didn't fill her agenda, which was to pick a fight over a point that I didn't make.

Fan #2: She is a she, trust me....

Fan #3: Seeing how the gf always does the same, yeah I trust ye

Wonder Woman Writer Interviewed

An interview with Allan Heinburg (Via Prism) that I had to share.

"Basically, in order to save the earth, [Wonder Woman] had to essentially commit murder," Heinberg said. "And so the world at large and the superhero community at large are very ambivalent about her."

Her gods "have retreated from the astral plane, as have the Amazons," he said. "She's left all by herself, sort of orphaned and trying to decide whether or not she's going to continue."

He mentions that he finds her relatable as an outsider, then it veers into pointless stuff about Marvel books before returning to the important issues.

When Heinberg takes on the print comic in June, the visuals may be completely new as well. Heinberg will work with the popular artist Terry Dodson, known for his sexy women and fluid action scenes.

"I think we're trying to make the book as smart and as entertaining and as sexy as we can," Heinberg said. "There's an element of sexual tension that hasn't been there for a while, some romance. A lot of action."

The story "goes out of its way to honor the character's history, but we're really forcing her and the book into new territory," he said. "I think it will be a treat for fans of the TV show, but also, longtime fans will not feel alienated in any way."

Is it June yet?

So, do I lose my membership for this?

I was linked in Beau Smith's latest column, so I suspect they'll be taking away my Feminist Card any day now, as I've sold out the movement. Nah, he's not anti-feminist. Too many writers pay us lip-service when we complain, then turn around and keep portraying women as lesser characters and sex objects. This guy can actually deliver a book with thoughtful, strong, and diverse female characters. If I had the power I'd have him writing Wonder Woman (and I'd like to thank the juvenile friend who convinced me to go for less suggestive phrasing there. Yeah, you all know who it was.)

Anyway, I e-mailed him to ask him if he had any future Earp projects in the work, and sent links to Kalinara's Awesome Women of Warrior Post and my Complete Wynonna Earp Review. In return, he linked us in his column with some lovely comments, and posted some Wynonna Earp art (He promised me he was working on a new miniseries). I'll keep my ears open and let you know when it hits production.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Fess Up!

(From Newsarama)

Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco
Cover by Jesus Saiz
The solo adventures of Kate Spencer come to a stunning conclusion - but her new life as a dark hero has only just begun! Final issue.
On sale August 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Okay, come clean. Who wasn't buying? Who murdered this book?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Kate Spencer and the Mama-Thon ReCap

(And here I go, associating the Manhunter with endings again.) Manhunter is one of two books DC Comics puts out that features a mother as the main character. But unlike Selina's devoted protective motherhood that causes her to withdraw from the costumed world, Kate's inclined to join up with the rest of them. She's a workaholic, a public prosecutor for her day job who considers superheroics overtime. Kate doesn't have primary custody of her son, only visitation rights, but that doesn't mean her choices and decisions don't affect him, or that being a mother doesn't have a major impact on her life.

One year later, I have to admit, Kate's parenting skills have certainly improved. She's learned to put up the dangerous weapons, she's making more time for her son to visit, and she's on good terms with the ex's new wife. She's not exactly Mother of the Year yet, but she's not out of the running either.

Yes, there's more.Come to think of it, she made up for her huge mistake last year. Yes, she left the staff where Ramsey could find it. He got injured. This is a pretty big strike. However, when he was kidnapped by his grandfather and separated from his father, -- who was it who pulled strings to track them down, snuck into the enemy's compound in the dead of night, fought off three villains (killing two) and rescuing Ramsey and his dad?

It was Mommy, that's who. This should at least have put her back in the running. Might've even swept it, if only she hadn't been up against KT21 and Sue Storm.

Okay, maybe that's pushing it. She's not a nuturing personality. She's not really even a compassionate person. But she tries, and she's been learning and growing -- like a real parent tries, learns, and grows as a person. And most of all, she is someone her son can look up to. She's independant, successful, brave, and aggressive. Ramsey can follow in his mother's footsteps if he wants, and still be a valuable, important, heroic person in the future. If anything, he's probably inclined to take up the Manhunter mantle when he grows up. I think this is a huge part of being a mother, being someone your children can look up to and emulate as they try, learn, and grow.

All in all, I'd say, Kate's a positive portrayal of motherhood. So many comic book characters have completely absent (through death or abandonment), or even extremely negative maternal influences. Most of the DC heroes are defined through their father's. A number of them have mothers who are supervillains.

Aside from that, most heroes have been a traditional mother in the background. Martha Kent. You don't see much of her because she's assumed to be like every mother in a fifties sitcom. Practically perfect in every way. It seemed unnatural to me. My own picture of motherhood involves a professional woman, because my own mother worked outside the home. Most of my friends had professional mothers and to be perfectly honest until I joined the military I thought staying home was something women only did on TV and in comic books. No offense to women who can afford to stay at home, but it's just not how I picture a family. So, if you'll notice, most of my choices this year are mothers who are actively superheroes, or else notable for their occupation.

Also, what bothered me was just the notion of the background mother. Like women can't have lives once they start a family, and if they do it's because their selfish evil people (all those villainess moms). Like their story is over then, and the rest is just baking cookies and kissing boo-boos. I like when a mother headlines the book, or is at least an active participant. I also like when a mother, even one who does spend a significant amount of time in the background, shows a certain amount of personality.

I also like anything that helps put the evil, selfish mother/stepmother folklore standard to rest.

Anyway, here's the Mama-Thon Recap (Intentional and Unintentional Participants):
KT-21, Green Lantern of Jerome (Green Lantern)
Liandra/"Lee" (Fallen Angel)
Stephanie Brown, The Spoiler (Robin)
Mary Jane Watson-Parker (Spider-Girl)
Abigail Hunkle, The Red Tornado (JSA)
Mama Reyes (Blue Beetle)
Selina Kyle/Irena Dubrovna (Catwoman)
Lara of Krypton (Superman)
A Mother's Day Poem (Avengers)
Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman (Fantastic Four)
Boodika of Bellatrix's Mother (Green Lantern)
Martha Wayne (Batman)
Mary West (The Flash)

And some tangential Mother's Day Posts:
Mother's Day: Enter -- The Matriarch!
RAB's Mother (Reality)

Honorable Mentions -- Moms who came up, but who we didn't get around to (this year):
Martha Kent (Superman)
May Parker (Spider-Man) (Yes, the adoptive Aunt counts)
Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman)
Iris Allen (The Flash)
Black Canary I (JSA)
Bonnie King (Young Justice)
Helena Sandsmark (Wonder Woman/Young Justice)
Huntress/Tigress (JSA)
Rocket (Icon)

I'm not the best when it comes to writing about motherhood, but I'm really glad I did this, it helped work out some of my frustrations with comic book depictions of Mothers. I'd like to thank everyone who participated, and encourage everyone reading this to visit their sites.

(Oh, and if anyone has a late Mama-Thon addition, feel free to comment and I'll add it to the list.)

My New Favorite Panel

A friend saw this, and knew I'd want it. Called it the "Ragnellest" Panel ever! He said that because of the presence of the Golden-Age Flash, Power Girl, and the snappy dialogue I'd love it.

I do!

(Oh! And there's also the Freaky Green Frog-People from Outer Spaaaace!!!)
(Gotta love that)

Because I Know You Read This, Ma...

(Click on the picture to make it readable)




(Did you get your flowers?)

Mama-Thon: Catwoman and Child

I promised myself I wouldn't bring villainesses into it, one of my pet peeves is that the hero/villain relationship tends to be a heroic father and a villainous mother, but I couldn't leave this one alone. Catwoman is one of only two DC books staring a mother as the lead right now, and she's on good terms with the father and semi-heroic anyway.

Plus, I just like this picture. She seems a far cry from the svelte leather-suited thief she was last year. Everything seems softer, more maternal now (it's the coloring here that does that, soft greens and blues) that she's retired to raise a family. But here's the thing, it's still Catwoman. Somehow, I think it's the eyes, and the smile, and the pointyness of the nose in the profile, that give the impression. Catlike, but still gentle and loving. She's like a mother lion with a cub here.

I had my doubts about this story idea, but I have to say, so far it's worked really well. It's given Holly a step up in the book, it's given Selina a brand-new set of lessons to learn, and it's even softened Bruce. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of this unfold.

The Complete Wynonna Earp

By all expectations, I should hate Beau Smith. I should be his mortal enemy, dogging his every word and analyzing his every motive. I mean, you've all seen his column, right? You'd think all of that venom aimed at certain other people right now would long ago have been turned on this man. He seems to embody every stereotype of masculinity worship in existence. By all rights, I should be a fan of someone with a more liberal, enlightened bent -- like Judd Winick.

And if people were all they said they were, that's how things would be. But no, the world's more complicated than that and your plots and characters speak louder than your press releases. And as it stands, I find Judd Winick an unbearable misogynist and Beau Smith a name to make me check out a book.

Because of Kalinara's raving reviews about Warrior (a comic that is rare in Oklahoma City), I read The Complete Wynonna Earp (which was conveniently on the shelves at my LCS) while I was away. To get a feel for the writer.

While I respect Kalinara's tastes, and enjoyed the few issues of Warrior I did have access to, I never actually expected to like it this much. For one thing, the art was terrible. I mean, seriously. After the origin story, you find yourself in Nineties Art Hell for at least half the book (And I'm going to spare you the samples until I criticize them), then a tale with fairly decent cheescake, and finally some really good art. I promise, I'll do a Feminist Critique of the art in this series one day, and it's not going to be pretty for the first few issues.

I'm not going to lie to you. There's cheesecake. Lots of it. Even with the good art, Wynonna bares her belly, and we see more of her cleavage than is accidental. In the beginning part of the book, my posture peeve is in full force. She's arching her back to stick out her breasts and her butt even as she swordfights. There's skimpy clothing and any excuse to tear at it. The art steadily improves, though, and by Home on the Strange she has a decent wardobe and stands like a hero not a sex toy. The best art is in the very last story. Even then, we get those little cleavage shots -- of course, that story was so damned good I didn't notice them until the second read-through, but they are indeed there.

We could have a field day analyzing the objectification in much of the art of this book. But I only tell you this so you won't go out and buy it when you're sensitive to the artwork, and then be disappointed or even angry about it based on the artwork. I want people to read it, but it's pretty bad in the second two stories (and the fourth story, while drawn by a more talented artist, does have a number of iffy conventions in the artwork)

Writing-wise, I really had fun with the comic. The character was just that enjoyable. Part of it's the Buffy-appeal. She looks like the woman who, in a stock horror movie, would end up running away from the monsters and screaming a lot. Instead, she gets to be an Action Hero, make pithy remarks and roll her eyes at the situations she's in. Everywhere in the story, no matter what's happening, she's self-posessed, calm, and seems in complete control of the situation.

He writes her like a male action hero situation-wise. I saw one instance of being captured and tied up, and guess what -- there was a guy that happened to also. It was the second story (the Mummy one), and she got rescued by her ex-boyfriend (a mobbed up Italian guy I by no means should have liked, but did) in a sequence that reminded me of the girlfriend of a hero rescuing her captured boyfriend. I mean, she's on the table about to be ritually sacrified, he busts in and saves her (and, of course, when he undoes the mummy-wrap he leaves her mostly naked, because we're not quite that enlightened yet. It annoys the crap out of her, and becomes sort of an in-joke on Nineties Image heroines). As they escape, he keeps nagging her, bringing up the past relationship, taking everything she says as a personal jab, while she is all business. How can you not love when they do that?!

As a result, I actually got to read a book with a female main character who was never beated up in a sexualized manner (although yes, she was beaten up and captured a couple of times, it wasn't drawn out or handled in a worse manner than a similar situation in Warrior with Guy Gardner would be), or victimized, or made to seem the least bit weaker because she was female. I got to put aside feminist analysis of the story in favor of enjoying the action, the cheesy jokes, and yes, even the ridiculously over-the-top Nineties Art (my pet peeve about the posture was in full force for most of this trade, only the very first and very last stories -- by Luis Diaz and Manuel Vidal respectively -- had her posed like a proper fighter). It was like being a kid again.

And I really do like this type of female hero -- the aggressive, rough around the edges, active, and practical type, armed with a pair of guns, a tough attitude, and loads of experience hunting monsters. Add to that the non-gendered plotting, and the helpful presence of Redneck Vampires, Hillbilly Gremlins, and Mobbed-Up Mummies and you get an incredibly fun story that women can enjoy -- even when Pat Lee draws it.

Oh, and the Random Background Female Characters Phenomenon that Kalinara mentioned? I saw that too! There was a female US Marshal in Home on the Strange. And she was just there! Just standing there shaking Wynonna's hand. There was no male character to crush over, no dangerously sexualized situation to put her in, she was Just There! I was surprised.

Sometime in the next few years, I'll sit down, and reread it critically from an all-out Feminist perspective, and maybe share my thoughts then, but for now I'm really, really glad I bought this trade. And I hope he writes another Wynonna Earp story (and that the art continues to get progressively better). We need more female characters like this.