Thursday, December 13, 2007

Initial reactions to Green Lantern #25 (Vague Spoilers)

(This is your best chance for a happy post this week.)

Hey, is that Arkiss?

Ooo... Pretty Colors...

Are all the violet ones girls? Dammit! Okay, its in character for the Zamarons but still pretty-groanworthy given what purple equals.

Ooo, but Kyle's mask is drawn properly.

Hey, that sappy sequence kind of worked.


Hey, cool, his partner's a girl.

Her uniform is not completely ugly. Exploitive and impractical (no possibilities for a bra at all), but it does not make you want to throw up from the hideousness in addition to the exploitiveness as the last two Reis-designed female costumes did. Maybe its just because she's Apokoliptian and that dominatrix shit is kind of the style there.

(Yes, I do think about these things on the first reading.)

Aww, John and Guy look so cute.

Holy shit, someone remembered Leezle Pon.

And that Guy is good with kids.

(I'm sure this particular sappy sequence is meant to state that this is Hal's extended family.)

Ahhh.. Like any good superhero story there's a feeling of accomplishment and the hint that things are going to worsen considerably by the time anyone notices that the problems still exist.

No, seriously, I consider that a good thing. Its traditional for serialized storytelling. The most important part, though, is that feeling of accomplishment so that the reader believes the heroes can handle the little bit louder and little bit worse of the next time around.

And... No, I wasn't expecting those last four pages. I should have seen that coming, because that really is about the worst way for that new rule to backfire, but I didn't.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


From Paul Kidby's website:


I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news. I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's phantom "stroke".

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism. For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet :o)

Terry Pratchett

PS I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Oh, here's where we differ.

I got linked on Tamora Pierce's blog as a rebuttal to her previous post, and yet another comment got my attention. This one from Tintin about female superhero fansites:
Ah, all right, I think, to be more precise- ironic considering my earlier choice of words- I'm tired of the sense of embattlement I get from these sites. To have to constantly fight to be able enjoy something...I don't understand it.
I'm answering this one here because I think I've zeroed in on the thing people can't seem to understand about feminist superhero fans, and its important enough that I need everyone to read this one:

Enjoyment is the default state.

Once again, I really really like superhero comics. (Particularly Green Lantern.) I get a lot of joy out of them that I don't bother to blog about because I'm too busy enjoying my comics to do so.

And most of the feminist fan bloggers I know feel the same way. When things are good, they are happy and you get one-line posts saying "This is SO AWESOME!" and some incoherent giggling if someone bothers to look up from the issue.

The problem comes when you are reading along, enjoying your comic, and something interferes with that.

That something being a disgusting new costume, a looming refrigerator, a sexist joke, an out-of-character scene, a really fucking stupid editorial direction, the inclusion (often creation) of a character who is nothing but a sexist caricature, a professional saying something unbelievably stupid, a butt/boob/crotch/leg/open-mouth shot that is totally unnecessary and interrupts the flow of a story, an awesome character getting shit on to make a male character look better and so on and so forth.

And when that happens, I stop reading and I fume for a bit. Then I boot up my computer, write about what bothered me, say a few rude things about the professionals, unload a bit and go back to the parts I like. Sometimes the bad outweighs the good in a particular book and I drop it, but on the whole there's usually a lot I like. That is why I keep reading.

Sometimes it takes a bit longer to go back to the parts I like. A day or two. A week. Until the next issue of something else I enjoy comes out. Until a certain creative team change occurs. I know a few people who are waiting on Editor-in-Chief changes to get back to what they like. Usually I just need to unload and analyze a bit, maybe rearrange my purchases or write a letter. (I have to write a letter or email or make sure I post in a place the creator'll find it, because I go into Happy Mode at a convention and know I'll never think of anything that pisses me off there.)

Sometimes I'll enjoy something incredibly on the first reading, and see a problem on reflection of the work or on the second reading, so I'll write about that when it occurs to me. Sometimes I will greatly enjoy something, but criticize a weakness of it anyway because the weakness exists and the story would go from pretty good to FUCKING AWESOME if not for that weakness.

And all superhero fans are like this, to a point. It just gets worse when the complaint or weakness is sexism, though, because that brings a whole bunch of people with stock answers of "Of course you're annoyed by that, superheroes are for guys", "That's the way things are, have been, and always will be," "I LIKE it that way so get lost" "Who invited the GIRL?!" and the ever popular "Sergeant? Throw this smelly little lesbian over the side."

That's where the battle comes in. We want to rant like all fans do. We want to write to the publisher like all fans do and let them know what's going on. But because of the nature of our complaints, that certain things are offensive to women, our opinions get invalidated by a culture that claims that superhero comics are male power fantasies.

So what it all comes down to is not constantly fighting to enjoy something. What it all comes down to is fighting constantly in order to be able to express our opinions about why we didn't enjoy something we should. Its fighting to have those opinions listened to so that our natural enjoyment of the genre will not need to be interrupted again.

That's an important distinction.

Its probably one that someone who doesn't automatically like these stories and characters may find hard to understand. Its definitely one that someone who only knows me through this blog -- my place of venting -- may find hard to understand (though I think I've thrown enough love at Green Lantern that it should be clear). But that's the base of it.


FemWatch Episode 1

No, not a superhero video. Its a selection of choice interesting surprising horrifying fucking incredible comments found in the feminist blogosphere.


A comic book for which I feel nothing.

I got a comment that I wasn't expecting:
BTW, could you please pass on the comics that you picked up at Wizardworld on to someone who actually does care about female comics creators? If you stated you absolutely hated and loathed the independent comics I write and publish but linked my website to let people decide for themselves, it'd least get some server hits, but it's been over a year now. Thank you.
For starters, I do remember Stephanie. I bought her comic at Wizardworld in 2006. I did not like her comics. I thought I was being nice by not reviewing them at this site, because there wasn't much to say. I'd made sure to pay for them so she wouldn't lose money because she was very nice in Artist's Alley, but I didn't have the heart to give it a bad review. I didn't really have the inclination to give them a bad review.

See, I didn't loathe or hate them either. I usually hate something because it is remarkable in its horribleness or something that could be awesome but was ruined by incompetence. But instead I found 21st Centurions bland and unimpressive.

The story was unmemorable. I didn't care about it. It certainly seems like something I should like. But I can't get into it. I start to read and lose interest halfway through the page. I put it down, distract myself and wait for a moment I might like to read it. The same thing happened again. I forced myself to continue and resented the book for bring forced to continue reading something that doesn't capture my interest. I can't even remember the character's names, and there's nothing I found remarkable about any of their personalities.

I'd say I needed recognizable characters, but I never saw Omega the Unknown before I picked that book up and was instantly hooked. I devoured Dynamo 5 with the first issue. I've read tons of teambooks with no prior emotional investment in any of the characters. All they have to do is hook you early enough.

This did not.

And it didn't hook me later on, either.

It is possible that the artwork is distracting me. This isn't unskilled or untalented artwork (which would definitely be noteworthy) but there is a generic and uninteresting quality to it. It tries to be dynamic artwork. It doesn't fail spectacularly at being dynamic artwork. It merely doesn't succeed at being dynamic artwork.

The first time I read it, I placed it to the side after getting to the last page and found I couldn't remember what I'd just read when I finally finished it. I promptly forgot about the entire book. I went to next thing I'd gotten at that convention, which didn't impress me either. I'd bought several interesting-looking indie works, thinking I'd just do a post with one or two sentence reviews of all of them. I optimistically thought I might find something like Pop Gun War there. I was wrong. I didn't find anything worth writing about when I got home, so I gave up on that idea and spent my money on toys at the next convention. I went back to the advice of indie-saavy bloggers and the guy at the comic book store for what non-mainstream comics are worth checking out. Such people are more adventurous than I.

Here is Stephanie and Mark Heike's website, in case you see something you like. If you feel I have no taste in art, or constantly find yourself uninterested in what excites me (in which case I have no idea why you are reading this blog) you may enjoy 21st Centurions.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

An Open Letter to the Comics Blogging Community That Anyone Can Respond To But Probably Shouldn't Bother

Please stop with the open letter format before it gets too old. I know that it is the nature of the internet to take a joke, stretch it beyond recognition and run it into the ground over the course of a decade but we should think about nipping this one in the bud. I also know this joke hasn't spread to too many blogs, but I've seen at least four posts with the title which means its probably time to put it to rest.

I'm all for cross-blog talk, but it would be nice if we got back to a little variety.

While we're at it, the phrase "hive vagina" finished running its course a little over a year ago. It was inhumane to force it to do the first extra lap, let alone pushing it so far beyond that. This phrase is wheezing rather pathetically and needs to be allowed to pass to the other side now.

And before anyone makes an anonymous comment, I know the irony of complaining about this format in a blog post using this format. That is the joke. Thank you.

19th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans

Where: Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed)
When: January 5th
Deadline for Submissions: January 3rd
Contact: ten[dot]karen[at]gmail[dot]com and submission form

Submission Call

Notice: Accepting Volunteers to Host the 20th Carnival. Email Ragnellthefoul[at]hotmail[dot]com if interested.

Give up all this?

Karen Healey:
I fully support any woman who turns her back on the Big Two and makes her own comics, and I sympathise entirely with the frustration and rage that engender that "If you won't change these comics, I am willing and eager to make my own" decision.

The thing is, as a reader, I'm not prepared to cede that territory. White Tiger is *mine*. Power Pack is *mine*. Rogue and Storm and Emma Frost are *mine*. Insofar as they belong to any fan, they belong to me, just as much as to those protesting feminist activism in the comics. And I don't want to write them. I want to read them without being disgusted or wearied or saddened by the sexism with which they are portrayed.

I can't believe that nothing will ever change, when so much has changed already. I have to believe in a future where sexism in artworks, like sexism in general, is considered as outdated and bizarre as a "democracy" where women aren't entitled to vote - superhero comics included. It won't be in my lifetime, but I can do what I can now.

I can support indy creators *and* work for change in the Big Two. Because I won't be satisfied with less.

Karen's answering Tamora Pierce, the latest person to chime in and second Elizabeth Bear's Dear Patriarchy as a call to leave the mainstream and create more entertainment free of the stresses of mainstream gender-based assumptions.

The people who roll up their sleeves and say "Lets just do our own" are people who would probably be inclined to make their way in the published world whether they were satisfied with the entertainment out there or not. They are writers who have stories to tell. That is awesome.

However, even those of us who like to tell stories like to listen sometimes. And a lot of us have our favorite characters and settings that we grew up with, that we learned to love, and that we are very very attached to. We like those characters and settings. We want to escape with them.

Those characters and settings are legally owned by someone else. That's all right. We want to give those people who own the characters money for stories with them. We want to support them and keep the stories coming.

And there's things that fans love and hate, little directions and fannish things and characters. And then there's the stuff that's bad for everybody. There's the insulting messages, the confining cliches and stereotypes that are nearly everywhere in the world and that slip into these stories with these favorite characters. They piss us off too.

But we would like to give the owners of these characters money. And we know they would like money. So we, as readers and fans and customers tell them what needs to happen in order to keep that money coming.

And sometimes it is ignored. And sometimes it is listened to. Sometimes we shout. Sometimes we whisper. Sometimes they insult us. Sometimes we get pissed off. Sometimes we don't realize we were insulted. Sometimes they try to pander to us. Sometimes we love that. Sometimes we get angry anyway. Sometimes they laugh with us. Sometimes they make us so happy we can't write anything but nonsensical little fangirlish words. Sometimes they piss us off and we can only write obscenities when describing what they did. Sometimes they play on our insecurities and fears and anger to get more money anyway.

And some of us give up and go off to make their own stories.

But some of us stay and keep complaining and reading and talking and buying. We stay because we remember when we are listened to. We remember when they at least tried to pander to us for a change. We remember when they laughed and joked with us. We remember putting down the issue and dancing. We remember when we were so happy we could feel the joy and excitement rise in our chests and stop our vocal chords from forming the words to describe it. We remember being so excited after reading a first issue just to try something out that we went straight back to the comic book store to catch up on the entire series. We remember when they played on our insecurities and fears and angers but understood why we felt that way and wrote what they did because they felt that way too. We remember when we cried because the story was just so good and it was that good because we went in knowing the character and caring for them already.

Some of us remember all of that even though we get pissed off at times. And so while we drop series and follow writers and try to minimize the bad as much as possible we don't truly leave. We don't leave because we know the good things will happen again.

And we complain because we know those things would be happening more often, but the company forgets that women are reading too. The company forgets that there's a lot of shit out there in the entertainment world and the real world that's getting called up by the writing and the art that's interfering with the story. Writers and artists forget that when we point that out, we're telling them a better way to communicate with us and get those good moments that keep us shelling our money.

So every once in a while someone tells the mainstream to "Fuck off" because they can write a better story themselves. Good for them. The bad outweighs the good for them, and they feel they're better off working on their own stuff.

Good for us, because we can read their stuff and grow to love it too.

Still, for some of us the good does outweigh the bad. Its just the bad is so pervasive and distracting and just plain wrong that we have to talk about it if we want to have any way of keeping sight of the good.

So yeah, go off and write good stuff. I'll read some of it. I may even try and write some of my own. (I wouldn't hold your breath, but its an idle fantasy many of us have.) But give up reading the stuff I love completely? No, fuck that. I'll continue to enjoy what I enjoy and complain about what interrupts that enjoyment.

And sometimes the industry won't listen, but sometimes it will.