Sunday, December 27, 2009

Recommendation Request

Since there's only one book coming out this week (and I order from a retailer that keeps to his agreements), I'm looking at the possibilities of waiting an extra week or paying more for postage than for my order. I like to avoid either if at all possible, so I'm thinking about filling out the order a bit with things I've been meaning to try out but haven't gotten around to buying.

Now, I already have a list of interesting things and I don't plan to go overboard here, but I'm open for recommendations right now.  So I ask you--the three or four people who haven't cleared this blog from your feedreaders--what single issue, story-arc, or miniseries should I order this Wednesday?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Girl Comics

Jeanine Schaefer in the interview:
It’s actually comics BY women—and I mean, top to bottom: written, penciled, inked, colored, lettered. The logo is by a woman, all the interior design, production, proof-reading and editing is all by women.

Although some creators have gravitated towards their favorite female super hero, it’s not specifically focused on our female characters, and I’m not trying to generate content that I think will appeal to more women. I don’t want to give away all the stories, but we’re really running the gamut of Marvel characters, from Punisher to the FF to Mary Jane. We’re making great comics by great women, period—when given the opportunity to create a story about whatever they wanted, the pitches I got back from everyone have been hugely diverse in tone and characters.

And check out the list:
Contributors include Kathryn Immonen, Marjorie Liu, Devin Grayson, Ann Nocenti, Trina Robbins, G. Willow Wilson, Stephanie Buscema, Amanda Conner, Jill Thompson, Louise Simonson, Valerie D’Orazio, Colleen Coover, Molly Crabapple, Nikki Cook, Ming Doyle, Abby Denson, and Carla Speed McNeil.

Louise Simonson? Ann Nocenti? Ming Doyle? Jill Thompson? AMANDA CONNER?!

She-Hulk on the cover. Bucky-Cap and Black Widow in the background. (Are we going to get a story with those two? Please!)

All female creators, writing about superheroes. There's no pushing towards female characters or girly stories, just the stories female creators wanted to make. With a stupid name, yes, but someone's even found a historical reference there.

This... might actually be a good idea... come up with by Marvel.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Marvel Catchup Reactions

Not all the Marvel I read lately, but the stuff that stuck out at me from the last two shipments:

Black Widow: Deadly Origin #1 -- I knew we were off to a good start when she went into the casino, because I've always argued Tasha was the James Bond of the superhero genre. Also, the artist does not spend the first scene lovingly rendering Natasha's breasts and butt. That may signal low expectations, but this IS the book about the redhead who runs around in the vinyl catsuit, and this IS a Marvel comic. We were at least as likely as not to start out on the wrong foot.

The story tells Tasha's background in flashbacks, with really stylized Russian art. As of this, her most recent origin story she is a lost Romanoff, a baby in 1928. She was active in World War II as a teenager partnered with an older soldier, and it seems like she was a pretty successful agent before being juiced with the Widowserum. All things I like.

I love how Raney draws Tasha's face (his waspwaists could use a little work, so could his Bucky). She's incredibly expressive, and she has a girlishness that pulls the rug out from under the ultra-sexy spy-girl concept. She doesn't have that predatory look that goes with the female Russian secret agent archetype. She looks innocent and fresh. There's a set of expressions when Ivan calls her that just seemed so human to me, even in Raney's cartoonish style. Raney captures the same quality that we see in the Captain America series. We see the softer side of Natasha. She's a warm person that you empathize with, not a slick, sexy construct.

I really freaking like that face for the same reason I like Ross and Epting's Black Widow. They draw expressions and posture that imply an open, caring person. She has a face that people trust, which when you think about it would make her a hundred times more effective than if she looked like she walked out of a 60s spy flick. Someone with that kind of icy, dignified, seductive demeanor--someone like Emma Frost--would be suspect immediately. But a woman like this? She has a variety of social tools at her disposal, a far better operative than someone who only has the option to intimidate or have sex.

Dark Avengers #11 -- Oh my god! They killed Kenny Sentry!

In all seriousness, this issue surprised the hell out of me with two things. First, it features a scene with a lesbian couple that just seemed to me like a couple rather than a porn scene, only they were drawn by Mike Deodato (which is why the girlfriend had such huge breasts, I imagine) and written by Brian Michael Bendis. Of course, I might be overlooking incredibly exploitative parts of the scenes simply because I would expect any flashback to a lesbian love affair done by the aforementioned creative team to be utterly shameless, but this could be any relationship except both characters were female and drawn with large, perky breasts instead of just one character being drawn with large perky breasts.

But I think it had the same sexualization that we would get from any two female characters boxing and drawn by Mike Deodato, and I'm not sure if that expectation says something about me, Mike Deodato, or genre.

Second, it made me empathize with Victoria Hand. This is the first time we go beyond her normal role as Normie's punk-streaked personal assistant, and her situation is surprisingly understandable. I wouldn't call her a "good guy" based on the decisions she's been making, but she displays some admirable qualities. She's certainly got guts.

Also every story arc of this series has involved the gratuitously violent death of a character I hate. Hell, if they were to simply put out a Sentry comic that was nothing but Bob being killed in horribly painful ways and returning the next scene with no explanation so he could die again, I would be on that thing no matter WHO wrote it. (But especially if they gave it to someone like Garth Ennis, because he could get creative.)

Invincible Iron-Man #20 -- That was perfect. Each of those characters reacted in exactly the right way. Bucky and Don just got involved, they're motivated by their own personal moral codes to even listen to the message in the first place. They're certainly not going to leave a man in Tony's situation when they can save him, even if he is a prick. Bucky won't because he's too much the hero, and Don won't because he's too much the healer. Maria and Natasha got through the last storyline by focusing on a mission, and they want to complete the damned thing. Neither woman is the sort to leave anything unfinished, they get too much satisfaction from a victory. None of these four characters should have a second thought.

Pepper, though. Being the only doubter in the room is supposed to surprise us, I think, but it makes so much sense storywise. Pepper just had her superhero origin finish up last storyarc. She's the closest in the room to Tony personally, and she's the only one of the group who spent any time with him after he lost his memory. She watched him deteriorate, she dealt with the fact that the man she cared about was fading away and there was nothing she could do about it. And now she finds out he manipulated an escape? And put her through all that shit without telling her? And her husband is dead and never (welll, as she knows) coming back but this guy who FORGOT her husband existed got out of it? Suddenly that tender time in the bunker is made meaningless because he wasn't really going to disappear, and only she will ever know it happened? She has to be pissed off, but how can you be pissed off at someone you just saw brought so low who now lies in a sickbed? So she's just plain upset.

She understands better than the rest of them that Tony's a good man, but also an amazingly selfish bastard. She'll say yes, but needs some time to be pissed off and upset.

Mighty Avengers #31 -- I've never been one for fridging, but they did something interesting here by stepping him into her shoes. As Kalinara is fond of pointing out, male characters almost NEVER take on the mantles of female characters even though the reverse is common. This in itself is transgressive, and it puts Jan at a higher respect level than the usual dead girlfriend. She's not a tragically lost innocent, she's a role model. She's his hero. She's important for her life, not her death. Other fridgings? They're the mistake, the tragic loss, the event the hero wants to prevent from ever happening to anyone. Hank lost Janet a long time ago. As he remembered it, she went on to be the hero and he became a failure. Now he's invested in living up to the standards she set. He know that even if she returned or hadn't died, he'd never have a happy life with her but he wants to follow her as an example anyway. He wants to make up for her loss to the world not just to him.

And I'd say the message board fanboy discomfort at it, the calling it creepy that he patterned his costume after his ex-wife supports the idea that this is a gusty move and the right move for working on Hank's particular insecurities.

Slott's taken this move and used it to start work on Hank's serious issues. (Eternity was not a bad move either, though the Scientist Supreme title sounds silly to me, having Eternity beat the shit out of Hank and tell him he's not only a valuable and unique individual, but vital to the continuation of existence was entertaining.) For the first time it seems like Hank Pym has some genuine self-respect. The Wasp identity is good for him. It's like he's shed all of his unnecessary ego and posturing in order to don those wings. Because he can take that step and let go of some of that petty ego shit, he's been able to uncover some of his real strength, the purpose he was too busy being insecure to realize he had. He IS a supergenius, and there's no reason he should feel inferior to Tony or Reed because there's plenty of fucking work out there to do and they have their own focuses.

I love Janet, and want her back, but I think when she does come back she should get to be Giant-Woman for a little bit and Hank can hold onto the wings a few more years. It works for him right now, to have an identity that's small but packs a decent sting and can still soar to great heights. Plus, this is the first time he's had a halfway decent costume, and he looks pretty handsome with those goggles.

I liked the little Bucky pat on the back moment he had. He gave his approval to Bucky without being written as an arrogant ass. Bucky managed in a few words to let him know that he always had that founder status and that much of his poor reputation is in his head.

Now, the reason I started picking up this series was for Quicksilver. I think he came off pretty well in this story, it seems like he's accepted the rest of the team. I like that it restored him socially with the Inhumans, but still kept him isolated. That moment between him and Luna? Heartbreaking. Pietro is one of those characters who is never allowed to be really happy at the end, though. His own past behavior keeps haunting him. He can't outrun the consequences of the poor decisions he's made, so he's always a little angsty and arrogant. He's resilient so he keeps coming back to the good side and trying to build a strong home and social circle for himself, but he can never quite get there. He's capable of doing this, but he cuts a corner or loses his patience/temper or panics over something and screws himself up most times.

I like how Pietro contrasts Hank here. Hank is his own worse enemy, and this storyline was him trying to move past that. He gets kicked around a bit and comes out in the end. It doesn't seem like a superficial change, it seems like actual character growth. At the same time, Pietro tries to move past the incredible fuckup of the Silent War storyarc, but it's all superficial. He gets his name cleared, but loses respect where it counts. Two characters with the same problem, themselves, moving in the opposite direction. Hank has some problems ahead, but he's strong enough here after this to move through them. Pietro ends this story shaken to the core, and he has at least one heartbreak ahead and probably more beyond it that will just batter him until he has another breakdown.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Current Events

Let me level with you guys who bother to look beyond the other post, I came out on the offense with a certain Hyenaboy because I have honestly watched him in flamewars before and I've seen how he argues. Dishonestly and weaselly. He runs you around in circles and splits hairs until you're too exhausted to do anything but say "You were right, my King" or just give up dealing with him. He gets a little self-satisfaction and you get a little headache.

He does this by deflection (turning your attacks towards targets you didn't aim for or even think of; seizing on an insignificant weak spot and trying to destroy you through it) and deception (implying something completely wrong, then blaming you for the misinterpretation; outright misrepresentation of your original argument). He employs these tactics mercilessly, and does so under a thin veneer of civility. This way, when you get sick of the dishonestly and lose your temper, you look bad.

I don't have the time or energy for it, myself. So I threw insults out specifically to avoid an argument with him. I preemptively spewed fire at the first sight of him, and decided against going into anything specific because I refuse to spend hours of my life reading someone's smarmy defense of how he spends his. (My predictions were validated here, by the way.)

He did surprise me during this by IMing me personally and obsessing over me a bit. I mean, seriously, the guy has enough fame he should be secure enough to ignore someone who won't deal with him right? He'll go away after a few days, right? Wrong. Seems that when the King finds himself unable to faze his opponent by lobbing bullshit he whines to his vassals about the big meanie in his weekly roundup.

And he has a decent sized holding.

Now I was--in the beginning--willing to discuss it with anyone except Rich but since we've reached the point where the King sends his knights to fight the big bad dragon I'm just going to go into burn mode.

Because the goal of the vast majority of traffic here is to shame me for daring to insult the sovereign of bleeding cool, not to have an honest discussion. So I might as well have as much fun as possible with the sudden attention.

If you're a regular reader and disappointed, my apologies. I'm not swayed by your pleas, though, so don't bother. I'm in a pointless brutal fight where civility would be a waste of effort. Serious blogging might resume when one side or the other gets bored, or I finally get the latest installment of Blackest Night in the post.

My apologies also for cluttering your feeds with this idiocy, but it is the holiday mailing season and I'm avoiding spoilers during the delay so I'm even more behind on community events than usual.

If you're looking for an honest discussion on the subject, steer clear of that post, this one... and well, me for a few weeks because King Rich's latest tactic makes it impossible for me to take any arguments seriously at the moment. Try one of the other places or do your own blog post and hold a discussion there.

If you wanna be an ass in either direction, feel free to use this thread or the other.

If you came here from the man's website to call me a meanie, you're a poopyhead.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bra Update

Those of you who remember my earliest request for assistance identifying this sports bra might be interested to know that I received an order in the mail today from X-Chrom, the company my father insists was the label.  Neither of the bras that seemed close to mine were the same bra.  (The Moving Comfort model does fit rather well, though.)

Nothing from X-Static yet.

I do ask that you please tell me if you have any new insights as to what that label actually says.  Thank you all for the help so far!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Clear Communication

UPDATE 10 Dec 09: For some reason most of those twitterlinks in the first update have been deleted, and since I wasn't screencapping apologies the best I got was my screengrab of Larry's entire twitter feed from when it was public. You can easily figure out what I meant to link there in the image.

UPDATE 9 Dec 09: For fairness, Larry himself has presented a counter to my opinion in the comments--Comment One and Comment Two--and an apology on Twitter. (After a few tries and before a few other statements) My own personal interaction with the man hasn't changed my opinion, but you may think twice about agreeing me after you've read his own words. Mr. Johnston is also in the comments contesting my personal opinion of him, most of the thread is directed towards that so I don't need to link any specific comment.

Original Entry:
The ever-tasteful Rich Johnston chose to begin his scumsheet (I wouldn't click that link at work) with an image of hands wearing all 8 of the Blackest Night promotional rings holding a set of bare breasts. The image was apparently sent out by known idiot (don't call him a Neanderthal, because that shames an innocent species) Larry of Larry's Comics.

On the message boards, someone expresses embarrassment, sparking this defense from Larry himself:
Interwebs are the best,
somebodys wrong on em, you can snipe away.

Ran a fun promo in the shop. Got some creative pics. Figured this one was Rich's speed.

I know its sophmoric, and the problem with the industry today.
I know its insulting to women in some way, and the reason they are not flocking to comic shops.
I know, I'm the shop owner that hurts the industry. Whatever..

Customers got a kick out of the promo, got creative and had fun. I sold a shitload of product. That's all I really give a rats ass about.

Always anonymous fuck!
At least he's not wondering why there aren't any women in his sad little shop.

I just can't believe that a man like Larry only cares about making money, because if he truly believed that sexualized material was the easiest route to a quick buck he could just run a straight-up porn shop. But no, he clings to comics. Like most retailers, he wants to share his childhood joys with others. His approach and rejection of any thought towards women says that unlike most sensible retailers, he only wants to share his childhood joys with like-minded bottom feeders. He just wants to sell to boys, and maybe the sort of women who capitulate to the whims of little boys. Men like this are actively investing in making their own little "No Girls Allowed" spaces with their childhood toys. This isn't even just a guy who didn't stop to think before he crossed a line. This is a boy drawing a line in the sand and trying to disgust the girls.

The rest of the forumdwellers at the link can fawn over him all they like, and say that anyone offended is simply jealous or oversensitive or just an internet griper, but here's the thing: we have a retailer who knows that what he's communicating may turn off potential customers. There's no misunderstanding, he made a judgment about who he would rather take money from. This man has outright decided that he doesn't value any customer who might be interested in the material but could be offended by sexist antics that have nothing to do with it. He only wants to sell to his crowd. He's sending a very clear message, and being offended simply means it was received.

Fuck you too, Larry.

Friday, November 20, 2009

On the Power Girl Cut-Out Costume

Yeah, Esther's right on the money here. Quit with the stupid justifications. No one buys it.

That said? I like Power Girl's cut-out ("boob window") costume. It was stylish when she was introduced, and now it's retro. It's actually very classic looking and when originally designed it was actually pretty classy looking too. The design is just plain good. The design is actually great, I'd say. I'd wear it if I could pull off white myself.

That's why they keep going back to it, because it's a good basic costume and as it was originally just a small cut-out on an invulnerable character it's not inherently lewd/impractical. (Unlike the midriff-baring Huntress, or the monstrosity Carol Ferris is parading around in--though my hat's off to Mahnke for making it less eyesearing.) All the attempts to change it have had her going to worse costumes. (The one with the normal neckline actually tends to show even MORE boob than the cut-out.) And it doesn't need a reason any more than she liked the look better than any emblem she tried to put there, and now she's just used to it. Anything beyond that is downright insulting, like you're trying to fool us into thinking there's something inherently empowering about baring your breasts. There isn't.

(We all know good fashion isn't dependent on the amount of fabric. Different cuts do different things for different bodies. And that's not even getting into color. Aesthetics are complicated in this area.)

Now, if DC feels guilty enough that they feel a need to justify this costume, maybe rather than offer us some bullshit they can have the artists draw it tastefully. A cut-out is ideally supposed to offer just a hint of cleavage, not go down to or below one's nipples. Just a guess, but that and the annoying high-cut bikini bottoms might be where all that guilt and disgust originates.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seriously Spoilery Green Lantern Corps #42 Reaction

I did get the comics shipment with Green Lantern Corps #42 today. And I actually got it in time to review with a spoiler warning.


My interest in this crossover is completely renewed, and all of my earlier worries about Kyle being sidelined for the Hal, Carol and Sinestro show have disappeared.

That's right. I am a Kyle-fan, and I say that this was AWESOME.

Seriously, if you're going to do that, THAT is how you do that.

It's really hard to kill off a character I adore and fill me with unbelievable joy as you do this, but they managed just that. I may just be unfazed because of the nature of the crossover, being that the dead are rising from the grave and there is almost certainly going to be resurrections at the end, or maybe because Kyle is on the cover of an upcoming issue (though that could be a red herring, or a figurative image). Plus I'm thrilled because they use this as the final page of an issue in the middle of a huge crossover, so anything can happen next issue be it horrific (Kyle as a Black Lantern, or something worse), miraculous (weird effect of that energy mix or stuffing one of the color critters inside him--Ion and Parallax are both accounted for, but I imagine the blue one would suit Kyle), or heroic (you can't tell me Soranik doesn't know something along the lines of CPR).

I might also be desensitized. They have been fucking with us since the RUMOR of Hal Jordan coming back came out, and they know just the threat of killing Kyle always sends the fanbase into a complete frenzy. It doesn't offer the mainstream press of killing off Captain America, but this is a good way to catch the community's attention. Still, this doesn't feel like a stunt. It was unexpected, but suitable. A stunt gets hyped to death beforehand, and ends up not being very emotionally effective after all the press. A stunt is something your roll your eyes at and yawn about. A stunt tends to be a disruption in the narrative. This? This was a surprise, because they hadn't breathed a word of it, but still a natural step in the story.

It suits the character. This is the way that Kyle Rayner is supposed to die. Trying to save the Central Power Battery and all the lanterns on Oa, in an explosion of green, destroying a large number of enemies, with a splash page of his fallen body lying in the snow (or ash?) at the end. To boot, his death itself is a refrigerator death and is going to throw the other two main characters into a cycle of angst.

It suits the franchise. This was thematically perfect. The Torchbearer, the guy who kept everything going after Emerald Twilight and relit the fucking battery and brought Hal back, dies in the middle of the Blackest Night--the prophesied end of the Green Lantern Corps? It had to occur during this. And like when he was the target at the start of the Sinestro Corps War, it underscores his in-story prominence. Hell, it cements his role in the whole mythos as the King piece on the Guardians' chessboard. This is twice now where Kyle getting checked (once again, death is not necessarily a checkmate when the name of the show is Zombies... in... SPAAAACE) marks going over the edge on Oa. This means morale is toast, and the hero you follow in the plot is the one who has to keep things together and get the King out of check.

(It occurs to me that this analogy puts Hal in the Queen position, because he can move as far as he likes in any direction without penalty. It also occurs to me that there's innuendo in there somewhere, but I'm too wired to pinpoint exactly where.)

And even though half of the teamup I've been wanting since the buildup to this crossover started is at the moment dead, I'm more convinced than ever I'm going to see it.

I had my doubts when I heard Tomasi was leaving editing to take over as a writer, but damned if he hasn't made this the best book of the franchise. This is seriously impressive, I would think I'd be turning red with rage but instead I'm rambling happily on my blog about how suitable it all is and how it relates to chess. And I'm dying for the next freaking installment because this Green Lantern Corps plotline is just kicking the asses of both the Green Lantern and Blackest Night mainbook plotlines.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Can you identify this piece of underwear?

Prior to moving to Germany, I bought the most wonderful sports bra that I have ever worn off the rack in a cheap chain megastore. After several months of picking through European sidestreet stores and AAFES stock I am unable to find anything that fits quite like it. I'm forced to search online stores and mail-order catalogs for the same model of bra.

Here I get into difficulty, because there is no little embroidered manufacturer's logo on the bra itself. To further complicate things, the label that tells you the model name, manufacturer, and size for the bra is faded beyond recognition. It (and I'm not sure if "It" is a manufacterer, model name, or size) begins with an "X". I know the care instructions, and the material, but I don't know who makes the bra or what it would be called. I also don't remember which cheap megastore stocked it on the rack. I have only two of these bras, and neither label is decipherable. They are beginning to show signs of wear, so in my hour of need I turn to the wilds of the internet.

With pictures.



Here is a close-up of the label:
Pardon the lens flare, but this was the best I could manage. I'm no catalog photographer. You can at least make out what I can: an X and space for maybe five letters after.

The material is 88% polyester and 12% spandex. The non-mesh parts are double-layered solid fabric, white on the exterior and black on the interior. The black exterior parts are mesh.

Please, if you recognize this bra, contact me in the comments. Any information that can lead to the purchase of another one of these sports bras would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nostalgiapost 2009: I hardly considered myself a troublemaker at that age...

What's Wrong With 'Meep'?
DANVERS — It's no surprise that using bad language in school can get you into hot water. But "meep"?

Danvers High parents recently got an automated call from the principal warning them that if students say or display the word "meep" at school, they could face suspension.
Apparently, there was some sort planned disruption using the word so the reaction was to ban the word itself. Fair enough, a study hall full of teenagers repeating "Meep" over an over again would be quite annoying. They could do the same this with 'Yip if they liked, or any word that sounded sufficiently stupid so I don't see how banning a specific word works any better than simply punishing people for the actual annoyance once they get their disruption over with--but hey, I'm not an educator.

What really got me thinking was the end of the article:
Murray said the matter should be a wake-up call to parents about how kids are using social networking sites.

"I'm not sure parents are aware of what students are getting into on the Facebook sites," Murray said.

In the near future, Murray is planning a student-and-parent forum on the pitfalls of Facebook.
This whole thing made me think of an incident when I was in grade school. We had a kid in the class, Danny, who was there for gym/art/music and extracurricular events, but was homeschooled for all the academic subjects. He and I used to play after school, until roughly about the time I started teaching him joke songs. You remember the ones from elementary school? When little kids replaced the lyrics of traditional songs with silly, sometimes gross or even violent lyrics just to be bad. We'd sing them at recess and after school, whenever the adults were out of earshot, and giggle to each other about how bad we were. In many cases, I knew the bad lyrics before I ever learned the real lyrics or the name of the actual song.

I was humming the tune to one of them as Danny and I were playing one afternoon, and he starts to sing "Oh my eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord..." which took me by surprise. The song I'd been humming was about violently murdering your teacher in response to corporal punishment.

Danny, having been the homeschooled kid and not attending recess or summer camp (Indeed, his father was so strictly religious he didn't attend Vacation Bible Camp, which was the summer day camp in which I learned many sinful facts between scripture lessons. We didn't get up to anything naughty, but damned if we didn't talk about it when the teacher wasn't looking), was completely unaware of any other version of the song. I was one of few children who played with him, and I was also one of the last people I knew to find out the naughty version of anything so I was only too happy to enlighten him.

I'd learned the song myself on the sidelines of a dozen cub scout gatherings to which I'd been dragged because of my mother's commitment to an active role in raising her children. The loaded forty-four song, as I'd come to think of it, was just one of many nuggets of Dark Wisdom gleaned from my brother and his friends. I also learned that Little Girls are effectively invisible when they sit down and pretend to focus all of their attention on combing doll hair.

But I digress. As it happened, Danny was only too happy to sing the new song he learned near where his father could hear. The next thing I know Danny's father is talking to either me or my mother (it's not quite clear in my memory, though his face is) about the kind of violence his children can pick up from other children, and that that is why he homeschools.

I believe that was the last time I ever saw Danny outside of school until he went to college.

It was the first time I ever stopped to think about the other lyrics, and the first time I realized that what I'd been singing for a long time about a teacher beating one of her students, and the student plotting her murder as revenge. I was never a violent child (I just liked to sing and make the older children laugh) so this realization was like being splashed with cold water in the face. I don't think I sang it as much after thinking about it.

It would be years before I realized just how violent the actual Battle Hymn of the Republic lyrics were.

Just food for thought. Something I'd learned from eavesdropping on Boy Scouts, without touching the Internet, through channels monitored carefully by my puritanical mother, is still several hundred times more sinister than what is now cause for a forum on the dangers of Facebook. Maybe this is a sign kids really are getting less violent as we go on. Or adults are getting more skittish.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Marvel Reviews (Yes, Marvel Reviews)

Yesterday's mail held treasures beyond my expectations. Not just one, but two orders of comics awaited my perusal when the work day was over.

I devoured the Marvel books, particularly the Wolverine List special. I'll admit, I'm one of those people annoyed to see Marvel Boy disappear from Dark Avengers. I like the character, even as written by Bendis. He's clearly a hero, but his bitterness is directed externally. That's usually a villain thing (heroes with angst tend to hate themselves most of all, or be hated by everyone else), but in Noh-varr's case the misunderstanding is perfectly understandable. The way in which he approaches and discards revenge in favor for actually helping the planet he hates tells us he has an incredibly strong moral backbone. He knows the solution to his problems with Earth are to solve Earth's problems, but his youth, his poor intel, and his astronomically bad first impression of the planet make this a pretty tough prescription. So we get to see him get angry, attack, help, and slowly learn that humans don't necessarily match his assumptions. He's like a teenaged Namor, updated for the 21st Century. I like this, and I like that they're integrating him into the mainstream universe.

I was so happy someone used him that I was willing to overlook the art that made him seem way too old. (I hate to admit I prefer anything of Deodato's, but he can draw a teenager to look like a teenager.)

It was nice to see Fantomex too. I would never read Fantomex in a starring role (He is a show up and annoy the hero sort of guest star, really), but he's got this obnoxious blase` that's fun to play off someone uptight like Noh-varr. And I like characters like Fantomex and Wolverine trying to outjade each other.

I hope this is a sign that Marvels willing to play with all those wonderful presents that Morrison left in their toybox. I absolutely loved New X-Men (for the same reasons David Brothers outlines here I've had trouble getting back into the X-Men franchise since Morrison left) and it was disappointed when they tried to roll everything back right after he left. The only thing that survived was Scott and Emma, which was the only thing I was hoping they'd roll back (or at least just make it the counterpart to the Logan and Jean thing, where Scott comes back to Jean always but there's this mutual attraction between him and Emma that comes up from time to time.)

New Avengers finally had a really good Bucky moment. (I guarantee there are people online complaining about it, but with the element of surprise it makes sense.) Ares really can't seem to get Bucky, can he? He got floored here, and in Reborn he needed a distraction. I wonder if this means we'll see a third fight from them.

Dark Avengers has me seriously thinking of Kenny McCormick. I could swear that the Sentry has died at least once per storyline, and it looks like they're even past commenting on it by this point.

Ms. Marvel and Fantastic Four ended their storylines neatly. The take on Karla in the former was seriously unexpected, the take on Reed in the latter was not but I still liked it.

Iron Man #19 was impressive. I'd been reading the Twitter reaction, and while I really got a kick out of what they pulled during the fight with Osborn. The reveal of who had Tony's Power of Attorney was hilarious. Dark Reign is fun simply for Osborn's reactions sometimes.

I haven't read the DC stuff yet. Mainly because the top of my reading list there is Blackest Night and Green Lantern, and I have this weird impulse to save them. This is like when I'm reading a book I'm really absorbed in and have to put it down between chapters, just because I know the author is going to introduce a twist soon and I'm comfortable with the line of thought I have about the story. There's a chance that it will go the way I expect, a chance it'll disappoint me a little, a chance that it'll open new and beautiful paths for my mind to explore, and a chance it'll go somewhere I don't like at all. I can keep the line of thought that I'm enjoying only until I read the twist. So right now, Blackest Night is sitting on my read pile until I'm ready for a change.

It may seem weird, but that break is part of the appeal of serialized fiction for me.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Strange Mental Phenomenon

There's this Conservative Christian Dude at work. We're more apt to run into conservative Christian dudes where I work than if I worked in a comic book store in Boston, it's true, but this guy stands out a bit even in the military community. When he first got to the shop and we all went out to lunch together, he changed seats when I sat down. This preyed on my childhood lunchroom anxieties, so I tried to joke it off.

"What? Do I smell or something?"

"Oh, it's not you. I just don't sit next to women."

"What's wrong with women?"

"Nothing. It's just a thing to avoid temptation."

"You find ME a temptation?" This incredulity was not an indication of low self-esteem. I was wearing the baggy camouflage work uniform, not a touch of makeup, and my hair is a dull brown color with flyaway strands in every direction. I do not really present an attractive appearance at work, nor do I bother with it. I do confess enjoying how nervous the question made him.

"Well, it's not like a thing with you. Just all women who aren't my wife."

"Or your daughter."

"Yeah, I'll sit next to my daughter too. It's a perception thing. I don't sit next to women who aren't my wife, so that no one perceives wrongdoing."

The rest of the shop thought it was a strange habit, but we shrugged it off as Conservative Christian Dude's personal weirdness. We're a fairly tolerant and accepting shop, led by an ex-recruiter with impressive social skills. (Our boss has the playful humor of Guy Gardner, including the willingness and ability to escalate or defuse any conflict at will.) Fortunately, Conservative Christian Dude was not the sort to shake a Bible in your face and tell you you're going to Hell even if you have just told him you can't attend that Church potluck he invited you to because it's the night of the Full Moon Ritual and you promised to bring the cake. As he tolerated our strangeness, we got used to the occasional oddity like not saying cursewords and a shockingly puritan attitude towards sex.

Today was notable, though.

Two seconds after I walked in the door for my shift Conservative Christian Dude turns to me and asks if I see anything wrong with the image on his computer. He's been doing a computerized lesson and there's an image of a woman in a pink blouse leaning forward to point at her monitor. The two men on either side are in suits and ties. I examine the image for any indication she's using the computer wrong. I look at the expressions. I look for obvious photoshoppery.

After about 3 minutes of intense inspection while Conservative Christian Dude stood smugly behind me, I realize what he thought constituted a problem.

"Is this because you can see cleavage?"

The pink blouse is unbuttoned and the woman is wearing a tank top underneath. There is a sliver of view of her breast. (I wish I had a copy of the image to show you how innocuous it is.)

"Yeah? Do you think that's appropriate?"

The ensuing discussion in the office was about whether the tank top is a tank top, a bra, or a tank top with a piece of bra showing. I've considering buying these outfits, so I'm absolutely certain it was just a normal tank top or a low v-cut shirt. Nothing a woman wouldn't wear normally. And I have the entire history of this blog analyzing comic book artwork to support me when I say I don't believe for a second the photographer or the model intended anything sexual about the image.

"She probably didn't see it at all when she dressed, and they told her to act natural for the pictures so she leaned forward and her top slipped down and molded to her chest. It's barely noticeable. Hell, it took me three minutes LOOKING for something to see it so you'd have to be a pervert to notice in the first place."

The whole office burst out laughing. Conservative Christian Dude paled a bit.

What was most amusing is how many time he'll think I'll side with him on stuff like this, because I go after the rest of the office over casual sexism. Sometimes I get the impression he thinks that because he follows so many rules about how men should treat women that he actually treats women better than the rest of the office. He doesn't realize that those old-fashioned attitudes are in many ways worse than the usual macho maintenance mindset.

See, out of that entire office of juvenile military manly men that get into discussions about actresses and download dirty movies and curse and joke about cheating on their wives, only one person saw cleavage on that slide when they took that lesson.

It was the guy who refuses to sit next to a woman, use swear words, or even discuss dirty movies. The old-fashioned gentleman white knight.

Not only that, as the discussion about proper workplace attire went on (kept smooth and casual by Guy Gardner-Type Boss--who at one point rolled up his sleeve to expose the upper arm, took a handful of armflab and told Conservative Christian Dude "This is basically what you're offended by here"), there was only one person in the office who didn't understand the concept of being responsible for your own thoughts and eyes. Only one guy who had trouble understanding that women don't dress for the sole purpose of provocation, and that it is not their responsibility to dress like nuns in order to avoid causing impure thoughts in the guy.

He also didn't know the word "misogynist" (which surprises me, because I could swear I use it several times a week) and understand why it applied when he suggested that women in offices only wear long skirts and tights. We didn't so much get this point across as simply give up on Conservative Christian Dude and start listening to Guy Gardner-Type Boss's old recruiter stories.

Now Conservative Christian Dude has never given me any indication in how he treats me that he thinks women are inferior in any way. I've never felt the slightest bit threatened by him (but that may be because he is approximately half my size). I'd say I actually get along with him better than many of the men in office do. But there's the occasional weirdness like this. Weirdness that passes the point where with anyone else in the office, I know they're just messing with me. He's serious the whole way through, and caught off guard when successfully challenged on it. It strikes me more as naivete than malice. A bit like those people who mistake chivalry for respect. Just another person out there following his step-by-step directions to the letter without realizing that they lead him away from where everyone needs to be.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why Soranik Natu Should Survive Dating Kyle

Back when they first introduced Soranik Natu, I was one of the crowd of people begging them not to make her into Kyle's girlfriend. It was right around the time Jade got killed and The Curse was in full height.

Now that they've actually done it, though, I'm finding myself pretty happy with the couple. This took a bit. I was adamantly opposed to this as of the end of Recharge, she was already a hundred times more fun than anyone they'd set Kyle up with and I worried I'd be upset about them killing this one. After the Star Sapphire storyline I was more open to it, but still cautious because we all know what happens to anyone who gets near Kyle's bed. It grew a bit on me when the two approached each other in the aftermath, mainly because Soranik said she'd never been open to love and it looked like it would be a decent story for her. Most female characters are really developed on the side of love and family, and so get neglected with storylines that aren't about relationships. Soranik up until then had been a career-centric character, we'd never seen a boyfriend or a family member. She was established as a hero to be reckoned with already, so this was genuine character growth on her part. Plus, I wasn't expecting it to last.

Now that they've revealed Sinestro is her father, I'm completely in love with this idea. I really do believe it makes her less likely to be casually killed off. Sure, being Alan's daughter didn't save Jade but on this end the father is already so filled with fear and angst and misery that he's a bad guy on a massive cosmic scale. They don't really need to give Sinestro anything else to be freaked out about, Johns is setting him up quite well with the tragic past. Soranik's death would be an even more unnecessary character death than usual on that point.

Of course, Kyle already has enough death and misery in his past and that's never stopped anyone from offing a relative for him.

Still, I think her place in the relationship arc between Kyle and Sinestro is a potentially safe one. She hates her father, but from the position of a person who cherishes life in all forms. As it is Kyle now has a very tense reason to keep Sinestro alive (beyond his usual moral objections), and Sinestro has yet another reason to hate and target Kyle, but new consequences for it. If Soranik were to die and they were to blame each other, that dynamic would be fundamentally less interesting and both characters would lose a dimension of angst.

Beyond being comfortable with Soranik's chances of survival, I have to say she is the first girlfriend of Kyle's that I've actually liked. Part of that is how she was established before she got involved with him. Donna and Jade were both well-established heroes from teambooks before Kyle was even created, but neither were properly rooted anywhere.

Donna had been bounced around from Teen Titans to various identities and power sets and even personality changes when she was pulled into Green Lantern and depowered. She fulfilled a joint girlfriend/mentor role where she was wise, experienced in heroics, and more emotionally mature than Kyle, but she was still insecure and jealous of other women. She also didn't properly belong in Green Lantern so she walked out on him in as soon as someone wanted to pull her. (The "lost all memory of why she loved him" explanation was brilliant, though. I wish he'd whine about that more.) She's considerably more likable as the Ex-Girlfriend who is still friendly but will never likely be involved with him again.

Jade was arguably a Green Lantern character, but not Kyle's sort of Green Lantern. She was one of those Infinity Inc characters that DC didn't know what to do with, so she never really got a proper fit outside of Green Lantern. I don't think she got a proper fit insider of Green Lantern. It always came off as a rather clumsy attempt to mash the Golden Age mystic legacy with the current space-opera version. Don't get me wrong, I like the explanation that the Starheart is the same sort of energy (it may even be a Parallax-style entity), and it comes from outer space so Jenny and Alan are connected, and friendly, but not really a part of the GLC. But the relationship between Kyle and Jade just seemed like an arranged marriage to join the earthbound and spacefaring Green Lantern families together. Every time they got together, I cringed. It seemed inorganic. As a result, I suspect I hated Jade more than she deserved. She just didn't fit the parts of the franchise that appealed to me. She ended up filling the same role as Donna, only a little less competent, a lot less openly jealous and a lot more insecure.

Careerwise, both women were said to be photographers but never seen holding a camera. Both women were professional heroes, but both were depowered. The one that was repowered during the relationship (Jade), was normally shown to be simply not as a good a hero as Kyle was. Not a bad hero, just not as good as Kyle. And since she had the same power set and more experience, one could only conclude that she was either inherently inferior or just wasn't putting in the necessary effort. (I suspect its the latter.) Ultimately, the career didn't matter because their primary role in the book was "love interest" from the moment of introduction, and their primary occupation was "girlfriend/nursemaid."

Soranik is different. She is pretty firmly established as a space-faring Green Lantern character. If Green Lantern Corps were to end next month, it is possible that she would surface as a member of the Global Guardians or a contestant on a reality TV show, but as of the start of this relationship she doesn't have a history of being traded from office to office as writers try to figure out what to do with her. (Neither does Kyle, even though he switches books a lot. He's still in the same franchise.) She's in the franchise that she belongs in, and no other editor or writer will have a claim.

In-story-wise, she fits Kyle's world better than the other two. People argue that in Marz's run Kyle was an earthbound character, but I read that run too. He spends the second storyline lost in space. Every other storyline, he goes to outer space. He spends one-shots in space. In Morrison's JLA, where he most shined as a character, he was on a team based on the moon and a large number of the threats he was called in for were space-based. He has always been a space Green Lantern, even when he was living in New York. He's where he's best suited to be right now, in outer space turning the beauty and weirdness of the universe into something relatable. Yes, Kyle has a very down-to-earth temperament, but that's part of why he and Guy suit the wider universe best. They bring Earth to Oa for us, and their interactions and insights during adventures highlight the humanity in all of these strange alien characters.

Jade was never a good fit for outer space (this may have something to do with her mother being a plant-based villainess), and one of the few good things Winick did was have her realize that and go home. One of the really unsettling things about Jade's death was that it happened in outer space rather than on Earth. That just wasn't her arena, and the fact that she died out there just underscored it. Come to think of it, that may be why I so despise Jade as the primary female Lantern in the DCU. Because she's ultimately an earthly character, and the things I love about Green Lantern aren't even in orbit. She inadvertently sends the message that girls don't really belong there because the only female character obviously doesn't belong in outer space. Katma Tui, Arisia, Brik, Boodika, Soranik Natu, Iolande, even Carol Ferris (she has the same hook Hal does, an Earth pilot who gets hired by aliens) are all preferable because they suit the setting better. I wish I could explain just what it was, maybe its just that all of Jade's legacy ties are earthbound Infinity Inc and JSA matters, or maybe it was that no writer ever took her out to space on her own (she only ever seemed to go when Kyle went), or that she just didn't do well against space-based baddies, but Jade just didn't work in space.

Donna does considerably better in outer space, but she's still a freaking Amazon. I don't care how many times they send the Titans to outer space, or how desperately they tie the Olympians to the Source. It's like Wonder Woman in outer space. It's pretty cool if you write it right, and she can handle it, but ultimately she's just visiting. She's not at home there either.

Soranik is a space alien and a space-faring Green Lantern, and the daughter of a well-established space-alien villain. In temperament she bears a striking resemblance to Bones McCoy. She definitely suits outer space.

Careerwise, Soranik is already established as a Doctor first and everything else second. In speculative fiction, medicine seems to be a safe female niche but that doesn't erase the respectability and importance of Natu's position. She's instantly valuable in every adventure for her professional skill set. She will never be relegated to the background position of "supportive girlfriend" simply because she's dating Kyle. Her job is too damned useful. If she's there and just standing around while he takes charge of the situation, a male character who was not dating Kyle would be there and simply standing around waiting for someone to get hurt so he could be useful. If she breaks up with Kyle so that he can go to his old girlfriend, she'll still be useful to the team because she can do things like deliver a baby in the middle of a battlefield. If in the brainstorming session a writer suggests killing off Soranik, someone can argue that they don't want to kill off the character with all the healing skill and then have to introduce another doctor. (I haven't the slightest idea what happens in brainstorming sessions, but you have to admit that argument couldn't be used to save Jade or Katma.) Hell, if it does get public that they're dating, and Kyle selects Soranik for an important mission there's a very obvious reason for it besides they're sleeping together -- because he wants someone around who can jumpstart his heart more than just figuratively. Just in case, y'know. She's never going to just be the girlfriend, and that's because of something that was set up from her very first appearance over two years before she started dating Kyle Rayner. Something that makes her character unique among Green Lanterns, and valuable beyond just her emotional impact.

Personality-wise, she's a pleasant break from the pattern. Jade and Donna both seemed to have same sunny, friendly attitude. Jade got passive-aggressive and Donna would start snapping at people when under stress. They fought when actually threatened, but tended to be conciliatory otherwise. They would only pull out the arrogance when someone was being a jackass and needed to be put in their place. They were sweet girls with highly developed social skills. They were both more emotionally mature than Kyle, and mentored him in both heroism and love.

Soranik has a short fuse and a surgeon's ego. She's insecure about a lot of things but hides it behind a very harsh demeanor. Her default attitude is arrogance, even though she fights less with the other Lanterns (Guy, Isamot, Iolande) now she still carries a cold arrogance when dealing with them. She softens when treating patients or talking to Kyle. She's confrontational even when there's no threat of violence. She's not a friendly person by nature, and social skill isn't really a priority for her. She's never sweet, even with Kyle. She's never, ever passive about anything.

In emotional maturity, I'd put her maybe at the same level as Kyle, probably a bit behind the curve in some aspects, but a bit ahead of him in others. She strikes me as physically older, and definitely more scholarly which offsets his greater experience in love and heroism. She helps him with a major emotional problem right after they get together, but the way she approaches the problem (his drawings of dead lanterns) is unusual. She's caring but keeps a clinical distance the other women wouldn't have been able to pull off. Jade and Donna's heart to hearts with Kyle always struck me as having a strange half-patronizing/half-pleading tone to them, where the girlfriend would protest that she cares for and loves Kyle but to listen to her because she knows better. Soranik doesn't plead that she loves Kyle, she tells him she cares about him as a way of shifting the debate away from her position as a medical expert who can just dole out orders to that of a friend who wants to understand him but might not necessarily know better. She actually acknowledges that the drawings themselves are a positive step in working through his traumas, which is something I can't see his previous girlfriends having done. (I've no doubt I'll be corrected if I'm wrong in this area.) In the end she offers a solution as a suggestion rather than a prescription, which is a pretty impressive feat for a Doctor.

Kyle's got a very friendly, approachable attitude. As Green Lanterns go he's pretty short on arrogance. He can be sweet, and passive aggressive. He was very much like his last two girlfriends, except he wasn't as mature as they were. Soranik has a completely different personality. She and Kyle share a common set of values, so the differences complement each other rather than clash.

Some of those common values come from just fitting the same part of the DCU. From the first time Kyle fought Parallax, he was tied to the betterment universe above all other things, above self, above family, above even his own species. Jade was always a personal-level hero, who would show up and do her duty during the giant crossover but ultimately be focused on her own loved ones. That's not bad, it's just earthly. Soranik Natu has the same calling Kyle does, for the universe above your own comfort, your own ambitions, your own planet. After the universe itself, Soranik and Kyle share a dedication to the sanctity of life, to the Green Lantern Corps (the people, not the rules or the bosses of the Green Lantern Corps), and to stopping the spread of fear across the universe.

Even before that awesome scene in Green Lantern Corps #41 (though it was nice to see dating Kyle didn't make her suddenly suck), she was considerably better than any girl Rayner's ever dated. Her career cushions her from falling into the "just a girlfriend" trap, her personality makes the relationship more interesting than the previous ones, and her connection to the franchise's major bad guy adds a layer of protection against being casually tossed into a refrigerator. So I have to say I'm pretty happy with what I've seen so far, despite worrying a bit about Kyle's Curse.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Blackest Night

Note: Please bear in mind when I read these thoughts that I am still two installments (Blackest Night #4 and Green Lantern #47) behind in Blackest Night so if the situation has changed that dramatically, you don't need to spoil it in the comments.

I hate to admit this, but as a Kyle fan Blackest Night has me worried.

Rebirth didn't really worry me because it started with his narration, and he was the first Lantern seen in the miniseries. It turned out to be a pretty damned good portrayal of Kyle, even though it sadly signalled the end of him narrating every appearance he makes. I still miss Kyle's narration a bit. I'm convinced he's still completely neurotic underneath the Model Lantern exterior. Some of the interaction with Guy (He was shocked to actually be respected by Captain Comet and only shows this when talking to Guy; He's overthinking what he saw in the Star Sapphire and only lets Guy know this) supports this, and if you reread Kyle as written by Ron Marz or Grant Morrison without looking at the narration you can see the behavior is the same.

The Sinestro Corps War didn't worry me at all because it started with him getting kidnapped and possessed by Parallax. This was not only living what was arguably his worst fear (after years of being cautioned not to let power go to his head and go bad like Hal, the exact same thing that happens to Hal happens to him), but it was the beginning of a story that was definitely going to end with him freed in some way and returned back to a regular Green Lantern and not some silly creature with near omniscience who can't really do anything effective. I gave Ion a shot, but he's preferrable this way. And since then Tomasi's written of the best Kyle stuff I've seen in a long time.

Blackest Night worries me. I don't think for a second they'll kill Kyle off or even turn him a different color. Hell, I'd lay down money that if every other Green Lantern turns color once during this crossover, Kyle will remain green unless the entire multicolor company turns white at once--in which case he'll go green-white-back to green at the end. I wouldn't be very surprised (but I would be greatly amused) if there was a point where he was actually the Very Last Green Lantern again, after everyone else (including Hal, because there's a good chance he's turning yellow before this thing ends just to give Indigo-1 a headache) has ended up involuntarily switching colors due to all the chaos being thrown around here.

But I'm worried I'm not going to get what I like best out of a Green Lantern crossover here. I'm looking at the storylines in Green Lantern Corps and Blackest Night/Green Lantern, and I see two storylines that aren't going to merge before the climax. The other two? Both Kyle and Hal were set on a collision course from the get-go, because part of the plot was one had to find the other. This one? Hal's gone questing while Kyle defends Oa against the Ex-Girlfriend from Hell (and the other forces of Death and Destruction, but really she's pretty imposing here). Hal's teaming up with other emotionally scarred Silver Age alumni like Carol Ferris and Sinestro in adventure therapy. The climax there is Hal and company getting enough understanding to work together. One that's done, returning to Oa and teaming up with Kyle and Guy will be a formality and part of the resolution. In the other two crossovers, saving one of those two was the climax and everything after that (after Hal's return in Rebirth and Kyle's rescue in SCW) was the formality and part of the resolution.

Really, what I like best about Geoff Johns' Green Lantern crossovers is the Hal and Kyle teamup. We very rarely see these two fight side-by-side apart because that's something saved for special occasions. And it's not the same if its just them in a big battle scene with everyone involved. It's not the same quality of interaction we had in the first two installments of this huge megastory Johns has been writing. As awesome as it is to have Carol back as a major character (and holding her own against Sinestro, and being the wisecracker in the questing party), I'll be a bit disappointed if the mainbook's storyline doesn't merge with Oa's at least in time to get a moment between my two favorites.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

From what was once the cutting edge

Wednesday I got my bundle of comics with Green Lantern Corps #41 in it. It was awesome, and I wanted to blog my reactions but reviews seem rather pointless when the next two chapters of the story come out the day you can do the review. I hate being so far behind. I loved blogging and reading other blogs when I was up to date, but some of the joy is lost in being so far behind. That's why I was never a "wait for the trade" person, because part of the fun in serial storylines is talking with other people about the storyline as the chapters come out.

When it came to comics discussion, I felt like I had to be at the forefront back then. Never was that way with fashion or tech or real life gossip, but I always had to be the first to know which character changed their costume to what and which artist created that monstrosity before anyone else even saw the picture. And if I wasn't the first to see it, by heaven I'd be the first to link the first person who saw it.

That's what made When Fangirls Attack such a good gig for me back when I still had the time. It enabled me to be the one on the cutting edge of the latest major discussion. It was my role. I was the scout who explored the great wide wilderness of the Internet and let the rest of us know what was out there. I took a great deal of joy in it, knowing that people looked at me to know things. I even got resentful at the people who were even just half a step ahead of me when it came to finding links.

It was an extremely pleasant time for me, despite my continual rants. Life happens, though. I found myself no longer able to be in the first wave on the Internet, so I doubled my efforts to be the first to know at the office. I'm now one of the first people the boss asks when he needs to know where a project is. I threw myself into work, and as a result am doing better careerwise than ever before in my life. I might even make Tech this year if I can get into studying.

I don't do things halfway. My writing's almost completely stopped as a result of this focus. Even more sadly, I've drifted away from the people I only connected to because I was part of a community of writers. Everytime I catch up on my RSS feeds I think out it. There's people I used to spend hours talking to on IM or livejournal or blog comments that I only read now. And slowly I trim just a few more people off the reader each month. I've gone from an active participant in a thriving community to a passive participant in a quiet community. And that's not really a bad thing. It's just change.

You always miss the past a bit, especially on long Sunday afternoons when you're catching up on comic books and the lives of old friends.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween
Originally uploaded by Ragnell
About two weeks ago I picked up a pumpkin on impulse, but I didn't get around to carving it until today. A little sloppy, but I don't think this is too bad for someone who hasn't carved a pumpkin since she was 12.

I know, I should've used the Orange emblem, but that seemed a bit ambitious. Maybe next year after I've polished up a bit. I did use a green candle, at least.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Free to Good Home: The Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans

Remember this?

Even today, some fandoms seem to have a “No Girls Allowed” sign. Created by men and for men, and populated with men who don’t realize that women also dream of telepathic communication, traveling to the stars, dragon-slaying and x-ray vision, it can get stifling for a female fan. Often a search for positive female portrayals is answered by “This is not for you, so go read Harlequinn romance,” “CENSORSHIP!! She’s crying for CENSORSHIP!!” “I know at least two women who like [simpering, annoying female stereotype "character"]” or even “If you are actually a woman, online its hard to tell.”

(At least, that’s how it seems in superhero fandom.)

But there are female-friendly stories out there. There are female-friendly sites and communities. There are female-friendly fans out there. And yes, there are even feminists out there! Which brings us here.

The Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans periodically collects posts from the hazy side-reality where feminist social consciousness meets the outer limits of the imagination. This is to draw attention to lesser known bloggers, to bring individuals of like-minded (or at least, understanding) interests together, and to foster the growth of feminist fan communities.

I used to take great pride in keeping the Feminist SF Carnival going. Not just keeping my friends connected, but also being able to sustain meaningful conversation about such a niche subject as feminist analysis of genre fiction. That's not easy to do.

Unfortunately, over the last couple years I've let it slide as my career's become more and more demanding. Since at least January I've fully intended to ask around for another organizer to take over, but even that's fallen by the wayside. I only really read a select few blogs anymore, so I don't even know if there's been drama and splits in the community. I don't even know if I've been replaced in the meantime or if we're going through an odd period of quiet or if the old gang has simply self-destructed while I wasn't watching. As a result, I've been reticent about offering this up. I used to keep my finger on the pulse of the community--at least the comics portion--and it's very weird to be so disconnected from everyone that I don't know who would be able to do this, and would have the social skills/connections to keep everything together.

But I figure after reading that guy yesterday, and the reaction of disgust he got, and the idiocy responding to that disgust... There'll be enough activity soon for a blog carnival on this subject.

I won't be able to host or organize, though, and I don't want to be the one occupying a slot that can be filled by an active person.

The organizer job involves finding a host, giving the host guidance on running a blog carnival, and promotion promotion promotion. You need to be diplomatic, attentive, passionate, obsessive, and on decent terms with the crew of Feminist SF -- The Blog! because they're associated.

So if someone wants to take this thing and run with it, email me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Even the Title Screams Hopelessness

Several of my so-called friends this evening took it upon themselves to remind me that Trina Robbins once wrote Wonder Woman. To be fair, they were thinking of a charming miniseries she helped illustrate, but the first thing that came to my mind upon broaching this best-forgotten subject was a little known one-shot from the 90s entitled Wonder Woman: The Once and Future Story.

If you are interested in viewing Colleen Doran's beautiful depiction of the iconic female superhero, this is the book to purchase. But I would advise you to flip through and view the artwork without actually paying attention to the plot or dialogue, because you greatly risk exposing yourself to a display of feminine powerlessness singularly unsuited to the concept of Wonder Woman.

It's been years since I looked at this miserable pamphlet, but the pertinent details are still clear in my memory. Wonder Woman befriends a female archaeologist (a coworker of Julia's, I think) who is being abused by her husband. Diana's feeble and flailing attempts to understand and improve the situation culminate in the drunken husband holding a gun to his hapless wife's head. Despite Wonder Woman having super-speed, and super-strength, and the Eye of the Huntress, and the ability to communicate with animals, and the ability to force people to see the truth with a nifty golden rope she carries, and a nifty golden rope that can be used to humanely restrain crazy people, and talent in negotiation/social strategy gifted to her by ATHENA AND APHRODITE THEMSELVES; the woman (and I believe her husband) is killed because Diana is too late to prevent the tragedy and too naive to see it coming.

Every once in a while, a well-meaning writer chooses to touch upon serious issues in superhero comics. Now, I'm all for a little real-world awareness raising. But there's a danger, when touching on certain issues, of stripping the superhero of the very thing that draws readers to superheroes--the fantasy that you have power to affect your world. Hell, what makes them heroes is not only that they have direct power over the world and use that power to better it, but that when they come across a situation their powers can't fix they go about fixing it through wit or by seeking help from a hero who can fix it. It is absolutely vital to the story that writers find the fine line between treating the chosen issue too flippantly, and robbing the hero of their heroic appeal.

Different characters are better for this than others. Some characters are just win-some, lose-some heroes so they can be helpless in the situation without losing too much for the reader. Some characters only suit certain situations. Some are so ridiculously powerful in certain realms that being unable to affect certain lives positively is not a huge blow to the hero's appeal. And some characters are Batman, and will be awesome even though no one's life can really be improved in their traditional setting.

And some characters are like Wonder Woman, specifically packaged as an icon for a disenfranchised portion of the population. Custom-made and marketed as someone who teaches little girls that they are important and able to make a difference in the world.

Some issues are personal issues, things the writer can deal with directly. Things where one person's life can be improved but everyone's can't so it's a win-one, lose-the-rest or lose-one but maybe-save-the-next resolution. Some issues (such as ongoing genocides) are so fucking huge that they can only be handled in a metaphor, because it would just suck to have the heroes lose. Some issues are close to home, and some are far away and distorted.

And some issues are like domestic violence against women, immediate and personal and directly tied to the core concept and appeal of a character like Wonder Woman. This issue is specifically a matter of women losing their power to direct their own lives. This is an issue that hits close to home for a large number of women, whether they were directly affected or watched a friend or relative suffer through it. This issue is the very definition of powerlessness for many women.

Of course, any well-meaning writer is going to handle it delicately. A good many writers are inclined to end stories of domestic violence in tragedy, so that they can show how a naive girl learns a lesson, raise awareness, or even just vent some of their own helpless feeling a bit. And a number of writers would probably see any victory, however small, against domestic violence as betraying the seriousness of the issue. I can understand why any writer would hold these positions.

But why any writer would think that the Portrait of Feminine Power and Agency completely unable to help a friend suffering from domestic violence would make a good Wonder Woman story, I don't know.

The "Once and Future Story" is the perfect example of where writers go wrong with serious issues and Wonder Woman stories. The problems facing women in the world are overwhelming and quite depressing, and it seems most natural that a character who was raised free of these problems would be unable to effectively wade through the morass of misogyny she encounters. It probably seems most respectful to these problems that a magical princess from an island out of time is unable to make any true headway with them. But that angle strips Wonder Woman of her power, and turns her from a symbol of hope into just another helpless woman pushed around by a cold world

This nicely illustrated piece of shit grated on my nerves more than any stale Greg Horn cover could, because this kind of plot gives a very specific message to readers. Even if you get wisdom and wit as a gift from the goddesses themselves, you can't resolve a conflict peacefully. Even if you have the help of the gods themselves and all the animals of the forest, you're still getting tripped up by the mundane stuff. Even if you can fly high enough to skim the clouds and run faster than a cheetah, you'll never make any headway where it really matters. Even if you can pick up a Mack truck, throw it at a target two miles away and hit exactly what you aimed for, you can't ever fix things.

That's not the message we're supposed to get from Wonder Woman.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cry for Justice #3

I'm quite a bit behind the curve since I went overseas, and I'm only paying slight attention to the rest of the Blogosphere.  That's the way my life is now.  Even I couldn't miss the Cry for Justice thing, in no small part because Chris was IMing me for my righteous Hal Jordan defense.

I know, in the past couple weeks this subject has been covered ad nauseum and probably better, but I've let it stew too long.

When I first heard the complaints assumed we were witnessing a case of what I like to call "Civil War Syndrome".  Basically, the phenomenon where they attempt to do a political argument between a character on the Left and a character on the Right, but really end up with a character behaving sanely and a character behaving insanely.   This is because in the past decade American discourse has been skewed so absurdly towards the right on certain issues that people quoting Ronald Reagan's views on torture are considered liberal.  I suspect this is because of the different ways in which both the political parties and the media handles Right-wing and Left-wing crazies in the 21st Century.  The Democrats disavow and distance, the media ignores the Truthers and the wilder sides of the Anti-War movement.  This is to the detriment of the Left because the general public adores the middle of the road, and a little exposure to crazy goes a long way in making your slightly left-of-center view palatable.   On the Right, the Republicans embrace and pander, and the media spotlights the Calhoun Club.  This is to the detriment of the Right because the reasonable viewpoints that are just slightly right of center are glossed over, and never discussed as the centrists and the leftists can only see the dark cloud of madness devouring the landscape and defend themselves accordingly.  And so a proper compromise is never reached.

But that's just me doing my periodic tangent into my Personal Grand Unified Theory of Fiction, the Media and Politics, as required by Paragraph 2(c) subsection 7 of the Universal Blogger's Code.

How does this translate to Civil War and Cry for Justice?  Well, the writer of a story looks at an issue in the media and marks down what the conservative character would do and say, and what the liberal character would do and say.  This way, the writer can have a big relevant story.

This is my Grand Theory of how we get the behavior of Tony "We can totally circumvent the justice system and still be good guys" Stark in Civil War, and more recently Oliver "Are you sure you wanna do this horrible thing?  Okie-dokie, Hal" Queen in Cry for Justice.

When I initially heard of the torture sequence in Cry for Justice, I assumed this was how Robinson placed Hal Fucking Jordan--the guy who was basically the conscience of the Green Lantern Corps up until Emerald Twilight Which Was Recently Proven to Be Not His Fault--in the position of defending the torture of a suspect.

Being quite a fan of the O'Neill/Adams run, I had some expectations about the scene.  I pictured Oliver Queen pitching a fit and Hal having a grief-induced breakdown.  I expected that Oliver Queen would be proven right in the end when, as Mr. Sims informed me on the dark day this issue was released, the suspect was revealed not to be the person they intended to torture after all.

I was outraged and angry that my favorite character would be put in the position of rolling back on his principles to make such an obvious point as "torture is bad" simply because once again the O'Neill/Adams run had been misunderstood, and Hal was needed to play the conservative character when there were plenty of other characters who would canonically be in favor of beating/scaring information out of a prisoner.  Didn't this man understand that there are certain characters that you just don't do that with?   I was fired up and ready to rant but stopped myself until I'd had a chance to read the whole cursed issue, even thought I had already completely made up my mind about just how James Robinson had fucked up the character.

Then I read the issue in question.  And was shocked into silence.

It appeared, on first and second reading, that Robinson was condoning the use of torture on a suspect.  And I'm still not quite sure what to say about that.

I can say that the sequence takes place with three characters acting so far out of character they might be their Crime Syndicate counterparts.  Hal Jordan, who has the role of stopping this sort of thing when it occurs in the Green Lantern Corps is observing as Ray Palmer, who is aware of this technique being used to murder one of his dearest friends, is inside what is apparently the head of Prometheus, tap-dancing.

Oliver Queen, who has the role of stopping this sort of thing anytime it happens anywhere, was timidly asking Hal if this qualified as torture.  The Real Oliver Queen would be standing between Ray and the Prisoner making comparisons to Hitler, but this person wearing Green Arrow's beard and costume was standing slightly behind Hal was asking ever so quietly if they should consider human rights.

And the torture itself.  It was a "clean" torture.  You're supposed to read this and think it's not so bad thing.  This is not watching them argue about getting their hands dirty with something that gets relegated in drama to the
basements of Nazi criminals.  This is something that is designed to say to people "See, this causing pain to other people to get them to talk? That's not bad, that's not really evil.  It's not even a risk to his life."  Just a little headache.  Using the same technique that killed Sue Dibny.

And, even though it turned out to be Clayface rather than Prometheus, the torture worked.  The guy spilled his guts and gave them information.

I was angry before I read it because Hal Jordan is what you'd call a "High Road" character.  I thought that he was being dragged through the mud to present a conservative foil to a moral rant. But no, this doesn't seem like that at all.  This seems like the writer thought it was a perfectly okay way to have them go about.  Edgy.

And yeah, this worked for the Shade, but you know what?  Not every character is the fucking Shade and they shouldn't be.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney wins Marvel, but do women still lose?

Disney buys Marvel

Of course, the question all over my Twitterfeed is "will this make things better for female fans?" There's some people dreaming of a bright future where X-women marketed side by side with Cinderella and superhero comics aimed for teenaged girls are sold as well as illustrated fairytale classics, but I find myself pessimistic.

Yeah, Disney's good with girls, but a) the word is they acquired Marvel to attract male customers and b) they're the producers of the ultra-feminine Disney Princess line, the long-standing keepers of traditional gender roles. I wouldn't hold out hope that Disney will make Marvel somehow more girl-friendly, when what they want is a boy's club under their banner and they aren't exactly into kickass women themselves.

I suppose there's some hope after the Tinkerbell movie, where Tink was remade based on strength of her name into a complete gadget-geek. The Fairies stuff suggests they're branching out to girls beyond the Princess line, so maybe they'll use some of the superhero characters for that.

At best, we get a court above Judge Joe Q to appeal to when we see something truly heinous. We may even see them pass on the more disgusting ideas for the mainstream titles. But I just don't expect female superheroes to suddenly get better billing and treatment out of this, or that they'll be seen as more than just candy to entice a pubescent male audience.

Aside from the gender-worries, I'm happy for Marvel. Big company, more stable than Marvel on its own. Better resources, more movies and support. Possibly some Uncle Scrooge reprints under the Marvel banner. And a few hours coming up with silly jokes (as well as some inspiring realizations about existing stories.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby

It's about six to midnight my time, and I know that my readership has dwindled to those who have subscribed and never unsubscribed but I'd be remiss if I allowed the 92d anniversary of Jack Kirby's birth go by without saying something.  I'd like to post panels and write essays, but I put it off too much.

So instead, let me just call attention to three things:

24 Hours with Jack Kirby -- Bully's Kirbyathon, currenlty ongoing because the day hasn't slipped away in his timezone yet.

Kirby Facts -- This meme on Twitter.

Stan's Vs. Jack's Sue Storm -- This two-year old livejournal post that I still absolutely love that contrasts Sue Storm as drawn with Sue Storm as written.  Judging by her posture and actions, Kirby envisioned the Invisible Woman as a full and valuable member of the team--the kind of kickass woman that little girls in the 60s could admire. I get a strong impression that pictures spoke louder than dialogue and that's why we have the Sue we have today.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Ryan Reynolds will be Hal Jordan.

That is all.

Oh, and the cat came back. So did Captain America, which you probably already knew but since I'm listing happy thoughts I figured I'd throw that out there.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Part of the usefulness of Twitter is that I can find out pretty quickly if something has happened to my beloved cat (previously referred to as Knight, Hak, Mordred, That Furry Bastard, Buttbrain, Bucky...etc... Generally whatever strikes me as a fun thing to yell at the beginning of GET OFF MY UNIFORM) through my sister's feed. She catblogs via Twitter, and of course is too impulsive to stop herself from bleeting out that the male cat escaped last night.

This after she urged me to give the cat to her because my mother would assuredly let the little beast slip to his dangerous freedom within the first week. My mother kept saying he'd try to find his way back to Oklahoma when I dropped him off there last summer. Since Ma was being a defeatist I agreed.

I figured he'd be fine since I had him for three years in a tiny apartment and he never once tried to bolt, despite my holding the door open while I paid the pizza guy. Should have known he wouldn't like my sister as much as me.

I'm not mad at her. Yet.

Hunger might set in still. He might come scratching around the screen door soon. I hope he does. He might be okay on his own, but I can't replace him. He's too perfect for me. Friendly, likes to be picked up and carried around, enjoys chasing pacing people, talkative, adventurous, dumb, amusingly clumsy... All the best cat traits.

Anyway, if you're in the Endless Mountains area and you see a big black cat that's wandering around (probably bumping into things) wearing a green collar (it had better still be green) and an expression on his face like Kyle Rayner's first week in outer space, be nice to him. He's a sweetheart.

EDIT: He's back.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hopefully that long break has finally cleared out all of the remaining comic book fans in the audience. Now I can finally blog about 17th Century teacup handles like I always wanted.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't Panic

Okay, so I found out on Twitter (via various) last night that Tom Brevoort dropped a fun Captain America image in our laps. A female Bucky.

I'd like to smack the guys who say that Natasha and Sharon are the obvious choices over the head, and not for lack of continuity knowledge. It's an insult. Natasha and Sharon have identities. Damned good ones, at that. Sharon may arguably be the sidekick-girlfriend (which works for her, she's as very cool sidekick/girlfriend and right-hand woman to Nick Fury--they really should've kept her that way in the Ultimate Avengers movie rather than trying to put her personality on Natasha), but she is a well-established as a superspy and a sidekick/girlfriend under the name Agent 13. Black Widow is commonly a partner and love interest, but she's one of the leading female Avenger characters, and of all the supporting cast roles she's had she's never changed identities to suit her boyfriend. Switching to be a female Bucky would be a serious downgrade from their own well-rooted identities.

And nothing that these women have done, and nothing in their plotlines suggests that taking on Bucky's costume would be natural. If Tasha wants to hide her connection to the New Captain America, it's too late. Sharon's emotional connections are to Steve. She may have a lot in common with Bucky, but she's got no reason to emulate him. It could be pulled off--as part of some temporary trick--but the assumption is horrible. It just doesn't fit either woman.

Not to mention they have the Spy vs. Spy theme going on with their current costumes and we've yet to see an artist play with that.

My own first thought on just reading about the picture was that Bucky had a long-lost daughter or granddaughter surface because there is ample opportunity for him to have had children. And grandchildren. (I still fully expect some day he'll run into Rick Jones and ask if his grandmother was a Red Cross volunteer named Katherine Jones who was in London during 1943. It explains nicely why there was a perfect Bucky lookalike around when Steve defrosted.)

Then I saw the picture.

Admittedly, she does look like Natasha (its the red shading), and if Natasha ever had any kids it would have been pre-Widow treatment (I've been informed she's sterile since getting that Russian serum). A writer who wanted a Black Widow/Winter Soldier story would be easily able to fit the affair with Bucky in while she could still have kids, and get a baby or a set of twins out of it. Especially with Tasha's messed up memory. Perfect soap opera/superhero baby setup. They could bring them in at any age they want and do their motherhood story with Tasha without taking her out of action for nine-plus months of storytime.

But it's almost certainly not a new character. It's also certainly not Natasha or Sharon. She's wearing goggles. I adore goggles on a superhero costume, but they are like leather jackets -- a 90s thing. Tasha or Sharon would have been given a more 21st Century look for a new costume. Same with a new character.

It's the Heroes Reborn character (Yes, that's all the poor girl gets on Wikipedia), and I'm really happy about that. I always liked the idea of a female sidekick for Cap, but the art was just too horrible to try out. I've been wanting a chance to read this character without really dreadful art.

I'll be happy as long as she doesn't die horribly. (Yes, I'm looking at you DC and your female Robin stunt.) I sincerely hope this is not just killing an "excess character" off. It's one thing if she's just a ten-page backup story that ends with her retiring from superheroics to have a normal life, it's another if she gets horribly killed off as a way of illustrating the dark nature of the world and brushing that whole Onslaught/Heroes Reborn craziness under the rug. Way too often cleaning house in a franchise involves getting rid of young female derivative characters in really shitty ways.

But that's a really awesome picture, so I intend to be optimistic.