Saturday, September 02, 2006


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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Green Lanterns Can't Joust

Wow, I'm too tired to post, or reply to your comments tonight. Rough day at work.

Instead, I have something for Sleestak's Hal Jordan Head Injury Project. From Super-Team Family, Vol 3. #12...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On a happier note...

I was the fill-in blogger for 52 Pickup this week.

It seems I spent much of the post ranting about the colorist, though.

Okay, I'll have an actual happier note sometime later this week, I'm sure.

DC Owes Us Another Green Lantern Collection

As solicited by DC Comics: "The greatest adventures of the Emerald Gladiator, collected in one volume! Thrill to the exploits of several Green Lanterns in stories from GREEN LANTERN ('40s) #1; ALL-AMERICAN COMICS #89; GREEN LANTERN ('60s-70s) #1, 9, 87, 172; SUPERMAN #257, TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #3, GREEN LANTERN ('90s) #3, 0; GREEN LANTERN: MOSAIC #5; GREEN LANTERN GALLERY and GREEN LANTERN SECRET FILES 2005."

What was in the actual trade?

Showcase (60s) #22; Green Lantern (60s,70s, 80s) #1, 31, 74, 87, 172; Green Lantern (90s) #3; Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold (1999) #2 , DC First: Green Lantern/Green Lantern (2002), and Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins 2005 -- The Flight story.

I'd hardly call the Brave and Bold miniseries or the DC First special one of "The Greatest Green Lantern Stories Ever Told."

You know what are some of the Greatest Green Lantern Stories Ever Told? Well, the Elliost S Maggin story about Tomar Re (Superman #257) that was originally solicited for one; and some of the issues from Mosaic -- not just #5, but some whole storylines there; Green Lantern (Volume II) #30, the introduction of Katma Tui; and maybe, just maybe, some of the Golden Age stories (all of which were cut) that I've never read.

I want that Tomar Re story from Superman #257. I've only found it online. You know how shitty reading comics over a computer is. I only know how awesome it is by reading over a computer. I want to hold that story. I want it in my hands. I want to run my fingers over the paper. And I was all excited that it would be reprinted until I actually got the trade.

Where is it? Where's my Tomar Re story?

Damn you, DC!!! First you make Hal crazy, then you take away Kyle's face, then you put the wrong Lantern in JLA and now this!!!!

And this one, this one is not just my crazy fan entitlement speaking, you promised me this one.

Guess what my question is at every panel next convention.

You'll be sick of seeing my face, Levitz.

(Crossposted to Zamaron)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thoughts on Current Events

I've seen this everywhere...

Harlan Ellison groped Connie Willis at the Hugos. (Point #3)

..and I should say something about it, but.. Ach.. I'm too disgusted about it.

But one blogger (found through Lis) brings up the best point, something to be addressed.
It makes me wonder–how must a woman just entering the field feel about this? Younger female readers? What could they possibly think about this? Could they possiblly think anything good about SF/F? As a field? A community? I tend and like to think as a field we have our shit together. But, much as we have the “digital divide” on the Internet, we have the “sanity divide” or “asshole divide” in science fiction! I’m sure shit like this happens in other fields–but in such a public arena? Where the award-winner gets treated like shit?
And he naturally has me thinking about comics. When the stories about female professionals and the behavior they face at cons get out -- hell, when stuff like Miller's ASBAR SCRIPT gets out -- and we see the harassment and unprofessionalism and general disregard for women behind the often defended as harmless surface material, what do you think we think?

I was nervous going to Chicago. The last con I'd been to was GenCon and that was when I was a teenager, with my sister and two friends (one of whom was such a HUGE guy that only an idiot would threaten him or the little 15 year old talking to him). Here I was a grown woman, nervous that I'd run into trouble there. Making "Group" plans to avoid it.

I've spoken to a number of other young female fans online, and they expressed the same trepidation. Worried that the fanboys at Wizardworld were as bad as they heard. And who wouldn't be? It's sponsored by Wizard Magazine, notorious for pandering to the adolescent male mentality -- we've all seen the cover and the contents.

It turned out to be an enjoyable experience, but Wizardworld Texas (which is far closer to my home) is rounding the corner and I can go there alone. So, of course, the same nervousness is rearing its head. I won't be backed up by three girls in matching shirts. I'll be a single woman. I've told other women not to worry, to just go. If I can get the time off, I will just go, but still... Most of us would rather stay home than risk it.

And it comes back to the horror stories online about how we're treated in male-dominated fan communities, and comic book stores, in addition to conventions. We've all heard them and gone "so that's how it is," and it makes sense, because of the "Sex sells" attitude that actually translates to "Sexy Women sell" in comic book marketing. What are we supposed to think? What kind of message does it send? It all combines to tell us that we are not welcome there.

If you guys wonder why you never see many female fans in person, this may have something to do with it.

Oh, no...

(Via Johanna)
Please note that beginning now, WONDER WOMAN will be published on a bimonthly schedule.

WONDER WOMAN #3 (JUN060222) is available for advance reorder and is scheduled to arrive in stores on October 11.

All orders on WONDER WOMAN #4 (JUL060198) have been cancelled. This issue will be resolicited in the October Previews (Volume XVI #10), scheduled to arrive in stores in December.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Good Guy Hierarchy of Superhero Comics

Icon -- Icons have been headliners for decades by this point, and have recognition outside of comic books due to enough exposure through movies and cartoons that a person who hasn't read comics for a number of years, or who has never read comics can name them. They are known by their civilian identities almost as well as their superhero identities. They often have multiple books, and a number of headliners as satellites. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and Robin (Dick Grayson) are all Icons. There are varying degrees of Iconism (Hal Jordan's status is arguable, for example, as DC is making the push for Iconic status, and he has recognition for Superfriends, but John Stewart has more recent recognition for JLU. However, John Stewart is not a Headliner, like Hal is, and is rarely used as more than a supporting cast member in the comics) but it's safe to say that an Icon naturally leads a Franchise. A Franchise consists of more than one book, and some exposure outside of the insulated comics community in the form of merchandising or alternate media. An Icon is the sort of character that will be proclaimed the "The REAL ____" by people who have never actually read more than a couple isolated issues of a franchise (Kalinara has a story about this one for you).

Headliner -- Headliners come in two basic forms. Independent Heroes with their own ongoing solo books (such as Firestorm, Manhunter, Black Panther, Iron Man) who do not have Icon status, or Franchise members who are not dependant on an Icon's or Team's constant presence for the storylines (though sporadic guest appearances will occur). A Franchise will often have several Headliners who receive occasional guest help from their Icons. Supergirl, Catwoman, and Kyle Rayner are Headliner members of Franchises. They get guest appearances from the other Franchise members, but the Icon's presence is not in every issue, and their plots do not revolve around their relationship to that Icon (other than, he is the lead of the Franchise).

Team Player -- Members of a teambook who do not have solo ongoing series. If a member of a teambook has their own ongoing series, they are promoted to Headliners or Icons. Team Player is the status of a character who has no home other than the teambook itself (Stargirl, Power Girl), and guest appearances or supporting roles in other Headliners's books (Jay Garrick, Alan Scott). Team Players will often have their own miniseries once they gain enough popularity, or need a storyline away from the rest of a group, but their ultimate home is the teambook itself. The Team Player works in shared spotlight, though internal group dynamics do often make some characters outshine others (You have your Leader, your Peacemaker, your Anchor for the audience to play into, your Token Characters, and your Useless Romantic Soap Character, just to throw some examples out). Team Dynamics are a post for another day.

Backup Feature -- This is a now defunct status, as most comics no longer have backup stories, but some characters were created for solo stories in the backup features of Headliner and Icon books. They had their own plots and the stories were centered on them. They have pretty much all been demoted to Professional Guest Star or Heroic Support.

Professional Guest Star -- Usually a Headliner after her book's been cancelled, or a Team Player who is no longer on the team (or the Team Book is cancelled), but sometimes someone is created specifically for this role. This is a Hero, not a Civilian, who shows up to help the Headliner or the Team. They have no home, they are a nomadic people. They do have fans, and they do show up from time to time in various books. Sometimes this is just an excuse for a writer to use a character they like. Sometimes this leads to a promotion to Team Player or Headliner as it serves as buildup for the character's new role. Sometimes it leads to a demotion to Heroic or Civilian Support. Sometimes, they die.

Heroic Support -- The hero here is a regularly occurring member of the Headliner/Icon's cast, rather than a guest star. This is lower on the hierarchy than a Professional Guest Star because you have less independance. Heroic Support is completely subordinate to the Headliner. Their character development depends entirely on how it affects/reflects/leads into the Headliner's plot. Like a Professional Guest Star, Heroic Support is often a character rescued from Limbo (when their home book was cancelled), but sometimes they are a reformed bad guy or actually created for this purpose (Sidekicks?). Yes, a Heroic Support can become an Icon through exposure (Dick Grayson), but this leads to a promotion to Headliner. You can get a miniseries, but usually not an ongoing. Oftentimes they are captured/injured/in over their head and need to be rescued by the hero, who will solve the plot themselves. Sometimes they rescue the hero (this is usually so that the hero can come back stronger next plot, or so that the next storyline the hero can reflect on their weakness and relationship with the Heroic Support who rescued them). Black Canary (Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Green Arrow) Shade (Starman), Pied Piper (The Flash), Donna Troy (Green Lantern), and Jade (Green Lantern) have all been Heroic Support in the past. Todd Rice/Obsidian (Manhunter), Nemesis (Wonder Woman), John Stewart (Green Lantern), and Storm (Black Panther) are currently Heroic Support. Most Law Enforcement professionals count as Heroic Support, because if they get names and recurring roles they are usually badass enough to pull their weight (Jim Gordon, Cameron Chase, the O'Dares, Chyre and Morillo).

Note About Villains: Villains exist in their own hierarchy, though I would say that when a hero is turned into a villain, they would fall about here on the Good Guy Hierarchy of Superhero Comics, between Heroic and Civilian Support.

Civilian Support -- The lowest level of Character Status in Superhero Comics where you can actually have a name. Yes, some civilian supporting cast members are infinitely cool (Lois Lane, Alfred) but ultimately they are Civilian Support. It's a perfectly respectable position, for a civilian. For a hero, its the pits. And usually, when a hero loses their powers, this is where they end up (Mark Shaw in Manhunter, Mikaal Tomas in early Starman -- he was promoted to Heroic Support by the end) unless they have such impressive non-super abilities they can pull their weight like a member of the Batclan. While even Civilian Support can get a miniseries or even historically an ongoing (Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen), their entire storyline revolves around the Icon to which they are attached and their relationship to the Icon is announced in the book title. Everything about Heroic Support applies, except you don't get a costume and you aren't expected to pull your weight, which makes it all the more impressive when you do get to do something.

Background Hero -- You get to fight in the background. Pretty much every unnamed Green Lantern is on this level. If they were ever named, they are Professional Guest Stars (Former Backup Features, msot likely), Heroic Support (Green Lantern and Ion), or Team Players (in Green Lantern Corps)

Background Civilian -- "Look! Up in the Sky!"

Kirby Day

In honor of the Anniversary of Jack Kirby's Birth, an image from Kirby's run on Jimmy Olsen. There were far more innovative and interesting panels, but I'm particularly fond of this one as it, unlike the other Jimmy faces (the inkers were redrawing Superman and Jimmy's faces to match Curt Swan's interpretation), is done in Kirby's style. I guess they let this one go because it was a monster.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Looks like this does need to be said.

Everyone does realize that taking Character A, when Character A is one of the major players in a teambook, and putting her into the supporting cast of Character B's solo book is a demotion, right?

It makes Character A subordinate to Character B's story. Character A will be hurt, maimed and writtne out of character in roder to advance Character B's story.

This happened with Black Canary as Green Arrow's girlfriend. In Green Lantern/Green Arrow she showed up, and was immediately put under mind control, so that Ollie would rescue her. I cannot recall any point in the O'Neil/Adams run where Ollie was put in danger so that Dinah would have something to do. In The Longbow Hunters she was captured and tortured so that Ollie would rescue her. Again, can't recall a comparable story where Ollie was put in danger so Dinah would have something to do.

So, you all realize, this is very, very likely to happen to Storm in Black Panther? Which is why I'm so damned pissed about this pairing, right?

Should Oracle and Nightwing actually get together... Well, you can't have Nightwing in Birds of Prey, he'd take over. Guess where our beloved Babs goes. And guess what would happen to her?

You Dick and Babs fans do realize you are cheering for a demotion of Oracle, right?

Couldn't Resist This One