Saturday, January 01, 2011


Last year was reasonably uneventful. The first half of the year was dominated by work, testing for promotion (no one in the office made it) and preparing to go to Afghanistan. Then, Afghanistan. I read a lot while there. A lot of old genre fiction I found on sites like Munseys, trades I ordered online, digital comics and religious materials. I started a Goodreads there, since the website was accessible, if anyone'sinterested in my books and thoughts about them most of what I read it on it. Didn't count most of the digital short fiction though, so there is a lot of REHoward, Leigh Brackett and PK Dick that's listed that I really enjoyed.

In the few months since I got back I've been blogging more often, which translates to writing more often which is a fairly good thing. I'm not much for New Year's resolutions, I tend to make mine at the end of the year. One was to post every day in December, and that worked out nicely. Sadly, I did not enter the new year with a clean house, my comic book backlog all read, the laundry all done and the dishes all done... But I had some decent food New Year's and a snow day on the solstice so all in all it was a pretty good month.

I do have some left over items. I still need to read some items that I wasn't in the mood for last month (I hate to force myself to read or watch anything, it makes me uncharitable towards the work and often leads to not enjoying something I normally would), and finish a few books. So I'm going to give myself an entire year for these:

The Kalevala (English translation)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Wiccan Mystic: Exploring a Magickal Spiritual Path (Almost halfway done with this)
Guardian of the Dead
Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars
Lorelei of the Red Mist
The Supergirls
Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors
Trickster Makes the World
Beyond Good and Evil (I have been a third of the way through this for a long time)
Legend of the King
No Good From a Corpse

Plus a bazillion superhero comics and anything else that catches my eye.

No promises, though. I have a criminally short attention span.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

This was my personal favorite cover from 2010. It's got 3 of my favorites and that fairy tale motif I love. I know some people don't like it because Wanda's in the wicked witch role in the back, but part of the appeal for me with Wanda is that she's the Fairy Tale Witch as a good guy. Since I was a kid I've had a fascination with the Witch archetype on either side of the moral divide, but especially as good guys. (And as cover artist Jill Thompson also created Scary Godmother, it's safe to say I'm not alone in that fascination.) For some reason, I just want it to turn out to be a misunderstanding, and for the fairy tale heroine to get trained as a witch after befriending her. Wanda's history is that of a fairy tale heroine (she and Pietro are very Hansel and Gretel and the Brother and the Sister to me) and her powers are that of a fairy tale witch. She's ideal for exploring feminine roles in fairy tales, as well as the overlap between folklore and modern superheroes.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Recommended Reading and Food for Thought on Silver Age Nostalgia

David's got a post up today on race and comics that's damned good reading.

Lately, I've been trying to put to words my problem with the assumption that "Silver Age Nostalgia" is what's wrong with comics (and I'll probably continue to), and a few paragraphs from that post really resonated there:
I don’t think that DC is working of nostalgia at all, especially not for the Silver Age. The Silver Age, running from the ’50s up to the early ’70s at the latest, was a time when superhero comics turned soft and transient. Characters changed shape, gimmick, and styles issue to issue. The Silver Age is generally viewed online as being wacky and out-there, super weird and goofy. It isn’t known for Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, and Ray Palmer so much as for that time Superman had an ant head and Jimmy Olsen married a gorilla. Jordan, Allen, and Palmer date from those times, yes, but they aren’t emblematic of those times.

If you skip across the street to Marvel, there’s an interesting parallel. Over the past ten years, several characters from the ’70s have made a return. They haven’t replaced anyone, but Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Werewolf by Night, Moon Knight, Spider-Woman, Nova, Iron Fist, Ghost Rider, Shang-Chi, and even Howard the Duck have made returns, no matter how completely unmarketable they may be. Does that count as nostalgia for the ’70s?

I don’t think that either situation counts as nostalgia. There is certainly someone’s fond memories of a character involved in the process, but nostalgia is a yearning for, and sometimes emulation of, the past. Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is a love letter to blaxploitation films. The casting of Pam Grier, the soundtrack, and all the overt references to blaxploitation is proof positive.

If you look at Bendis’s Cage or Geoff Johns’s Hal Jordan, and I mean really look at them, you’d see how they aren’t really fueled by nostalgia at all. The stories aren’t even remotely the same. They star the same characters, sure, but casting Pam Grier alone does not a blaxploitation movie make. Johns’s Green Lantern is deadly serious and never boring. The goofy ring structures, the giant boxing gloves and baseball bats, have largely given way to airplanes and detailed rifles. It’s realistic, rather than whimsical. His Flash comes a little closer to emulating the Silver Age style, but even then, he’s taking one part of the past (the Flash Facts/science) and applying it to something new (giving us stories that let Francis Manapul show us how cool superspeed is). The characters are old. The stories aren’t.
I've been all about that when I'm complaining. The "Silver Age Nostalgia" is all cosmetic, and some of the best stuff out has been a revival of the spirit of the Silver Age, while some of the worst shit is just the Silver Age characters written in a modern age story.

I know I have more to say about that when it percolates a bit, but that's a tangent that doesn't even touch on a fraction of David's post.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Amendment to the Last Post

Yeah, I know there are comics fans who like Roy Harper. I don't particularly care either way about him, but here's the big thing: Nothing is more infuriating about Young Justice to me than using Roy. It's not because I absolutely hate Roy, or because I'm a fan of Mia (I really don't like Mia at all). It's because all the promos and the plot hints point to the idea that Roy Harper will leave the team and be replaced by a girl.

Roy Harper is the sidekick character who is the most easily replaced by a female character from the outset. There have been two Arrowettes and there is CURRENTLY one female Speedy.

Speedy is not an iconic character. Roy Harper fans are already knee-deep in comics culture. He's no more notable than Aqualad, who was judged unknown enough that they could swap him out for diversity. I actually think it was a good idea to swap out Aqualad, and would have been a better idea to swap out both Speedy and Aqualad.

Instead, because a conscious choice was made to start this cartoon series as a boy's club, we have Roy from the outset. And he is a jerk. And he is going to be replaced down the line, but because of Tradition we need to start out with a boy's club and women are not important enough to bring in at the start.

You know how the Tradition of starting with none or just one female character on teambooks started? Because they didn't think it was important to have women on the team at first. So in the Golden Age it took them 5 issues from the formation of the Justice Society to even have a backup of Wonder Woman. (Red Tornado was in the first issue, but she was laughed at by the boys and didn't formally join.) In the Silver Age, every team started with one girl (Wonder Woman in Justice League, Jean in X-men, Sue in Fantastic 4, Jan in Avengers) and it often took several issues to give her a good part (Okay, Jan was pretty cool from the outset but Wanda took the prize when she came in; poor Sue took forever to get some real cool moments) and years to add a second girl (Polaris was introduced in issue 50, I think, of Uncanny). Young Justice itself, as late as the 90s, took 4 issues to add girls even though it was launched as part of the Grrlfrenzy event.

This is not because it is good, or right, or "organic" for things to start out all-men and then add girls later. This is because the creators made a mistake early on, and acted to correct it later. The Boy's Club was a BAD thing, and they were trying to undo it. NOW we know better. We can start things on the right path. Continuing this silliness and calling it "Tradition" is wrong-headed and totally misses the point of expanding female roles as time went on.

And saying you're trying to lure boys in and "reeducate them" "organically" is bullshit.

New Young Justice Trailer.

After being bored out of my skull by the premiere, I briefly considered checking in on the next few episodes of Young Justice in case the new characters are interesting and they manage to hammer out the kinks.

That might not work out for me now.


Let's see, still no Miss Martian. To the Creators of Young Justice: I'm sure you consider yourselves progressive for including a physical powerhouse female character, but this is the 21st Century and we would like someone who speaks, and says something of substance when they do. Now, this is difficult if you haven't ever stopped to listen to a girl speak before but I have a solution until you can find a writer who has. Just think of what a boy would say, and have someone with a higher voice say it. It'll be a little rough, and probably not sound entirely right but it'll be a start while you do some research.

Not that the rest of this is doing very well. Prior to this preview I really only hated Speedy because he was a jerk, everyone else was just boring. In less than two minutes, Kid Flash has been promoted to hateful. You might have gotten away with the hormone-driven teenaged boy shit if the girl had been seen enough to counteract the idea that she's little more than a sex object, but she's not so you don't. He's a jerk. Also, the other boys are jerks because they didn't even roll their eyes at him. And I don't care that a villain prevented that, because who wrote the fucking villain?

Robin's been promoted to irritating. That giggle is stupid. He's like a video game character. A+LEFT to hide in the shadows, B to snicker. It's annoying as fuck, and Dick Grayson shouldn't annoy me until he's Nightwing and being overtaken by angst.

Aqualad... is actually okay in this... possibly because he doesn't have enough lines to piss me off. He's doing a little better than Miss Martian in that he actually gets to fight, though.

And Speedy's still here, oh joy. Oh seriously, why the fuck is Roy hanging out here? Is Tradition really that fucking important? We ALL see Artemis in all the fucking promos, we know that very soon the archer is going to be a girl and this asshole will be gone. Why are we watching him? Why does he need to be here in the first three episodes? Is anyone REALLY going to say "Where's Speedy?" FUCK NO! He's just as worthless as the original Aqualad, and the only reason Roy didn't get switched out from the start like Garth did is because someone on that writing staff inexplicably adores Green Arrow. No one outside of comics fandom gives a shit about Speedy, and this jackass we see on screen isn't going to change that! You could have used any reckless teen archer there! You guys just badly wanted to use Roy when Mia or Cissie would've done fine, and now you're doing some stupid story about him leaving or dying because it's "traditional" when you could have started out with this Artemis character in the opening instead. If you're gonna kill him off tragically, you could have done it in the first ten minutes of the pilot, and had room for the girls you left out.

Look, I'm a Silver Age nostalgia fan. I love the Silver Age, I read the old comics, I actually feel a lot of my favorite characters could do with a revival of their Silver Age personalities and elements... and I can't fucking stand what you've put on screen. You have the perfect place to play with the mythos here--a cartoon series where you can streamline major comics stories and can blend the best of the Silver Age, the 90s comics, and whatever new stuff you want to throw in--but you INSISTED on launching this with Roy Harper, Dick Grayson, and Wally West because it's traditional? Stop treating childhood wonder like something you can recreate with a fucking checklist!

Fucking nerds, I swear.

ETA: Addendum.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Allegory and the Amazon

I complain a lot about the the portrayal of the gods in Wonder Woman, and while the "Rise of the Olympian" storyline by Gail Simone has some openings for discussion and possibly complaint (I'm not sure how the Hawaiian culture views death for their gods, myself I'm generally against killing off gods but maybe Hawaii is like Scandanavia and gods die cyclically) she did one big thing right:

She used Zeus as her big antagonist, and she kept him in character.

I've blogged this before, but I was incredibly disappointed and pissed off by how Perez handled the Zeus-Hera relationship. He's always been a trickster when it came to sleeping around, and she's always been reactive and quick to blame the woman involved. In the Perez run, Zeus just comes down to Themiscyra AS HIMSELF and asks Diana for a roll in the hay, and when she refuses he makes her fight a whole bunch of monsters. Hera goes to her room and cries until Athena and Co talk her into standing up to him. (Oh, and if I recall correctly this mess leads to going to the center of Paradise Island where rapist Heracles is holding up the Island as penance, and Diana's gotta help him out and Hippolyta forgives him and suddenly he's a nice guy because even Perez after MAKING a rapist Heracles portrayal can't stand to have Heracles be a bad guy.)

Anyway, it fucks up the Zeus and Hera relationship in a way that strips Zeus of his trickster aspect (which is actually vital to his realm of patriarchal power, because this entire marriage is representative of how institutionalized sexism in the way women are raised and related to deceives women into supporting the patriarchal order against other women) and Hera of her personality. This is done in order to set up something that could be EASILY set up with having them act in character: Zeus just nods at the refusal, then comes back to annoy Diana in some sort of animal disguise. Hera catches him, blames Diana, orders her to fight monsters and Zeus and Hera have a giant fight on Olympus that leads to the goddesses offering their support to Hera when she stands against Zeus's violence, and convincing her to take back her rage at Diana (who by now has gotten to the climax of her quest because this sort of thing takes a while even when you have Hermes on your side), because really the whole thing is Zeus' fault.

That "Challenge of the Gods" storyline was also, I believe, where they established Pan was killed for the Millenium crossover, and it had a lot of brooding Hermes. Damn, the more I think back on it, the more I hate Perez's run.

I'm digressing again. Sorry. (I just really hate how Perez handled the gods.) So Gail Simone decides to use Zeus as a bad guy in "Rise of the Olympian" and the subsequent storyline. To this end, she has him decide that he's going to reward the Amazons and Diana by creating a race of equal men to replace them. That way they can retire, marry, and have lots of babies. Because that is seriously what Zeus thinks all women aspire to. He makes them in much the same way, animating clay using the souls of deceased warriors, with one exception. In a scene that occupies a strange gray area between a duel and a mugging, he kills a deity from another pantheon (who is the father of Pele, who is described as the goddess of violence when this particular shit hits the fan) and uses the heart to create Diana's equal: Achilles.

This is the aspect of her run I'm having trouble getting over. Surely a god can survive without a heart, but later Pele is very upset he's dead. And Simone never brought the guy back! Still, it's vital for how Achilles turned out and it does not seem, what with the stakes they had, like something Zeus would sweat over. It's got really good symbolism, because we have misguided Power embarking on needless destruction (of someone who seems to represent pure goodness and creation) and all the rationalization involved, with both the good and the bad results played out in the next couple storylines.

We also have an old white god killing a Pacific Island god and using his heart to make a blonde white dude. Which is in that area of horrible racial implications and colonization symbolism that I'm not really qualified to examine. This is brilliant or problematic, or both. The text certainly underlines that it is a horribly wrong thing, and the consequences of this action are visited on Diana rather than Zeus. I'm still against killing gods, but I'd say this is a correct portrayal of Zeus as a bad guy. He doesn't murder other gods much in classical stories, because gods don't die in those stories, but he does a lot of casting gods into Tartarus and gods trade body parts like MRE components.

What I find so incredible and compelling about this story is that throughout the whole thing Zeus is attempting to be benevolent, and missing the point completely. This is perfectly in character with the old time Zeus who considered himself the father and patron of all heroes, and it really supports his role as the personification of power and male-dominated establishment. He's convinced himself that acting in a sexist way is doing women a favor, much like chivalrous sexists do. When Diana and the Amazons react badly to this, he gets angry that his gift is unappreciated and out comes the pushiness.

Right about now Perez fans are asking how this is different from what Perez wrote. Well, back then he was dealing with Diana as a love interest and acting as the philandering husband. His relationship with Hera changes everything there. It activates the Trickster aspect, because 1) he does want to avoid a fight with her, and b) he doesn't want to ever piss her off to the point that she'll leave again. (There's a story where she does and he stages a fake wedding to attract her back. When she goes to the ceremony out of curiosity, she sees he's marrying a lifeless statue of her and is humored back into the relationship.) Perez wrote Zeus as the personification of patriarchal power in a way that minimized Hera's influence in the pantheon.

Simone wrote a story where Zeus approaches Diana as a hero, but a female one that he thinks will want to retire and have lots of babies. She weaves sexism into the assumption in a way that avoids contorting Hera's relationship with Zeus (by having Zeus perform an action that won't piss off his wife) and shows that Zeus does see Diana as a valued hero rather than just a potential fucktoy. She tells a tale about how a powerful sexist man can acknowledge an individual woman's accomplishments and claim to value femininity while still screwing over women with his assumptions.

She also tells the reconciliation story between men and women with Achilles, who is actually a pretty damned noble guy at heart from the beginning. He gets his position as the leader through Zeus's sexism, but eventually this gets reconciled and they all team up in the end. I actually really miss Achilles, he was a really good male counterpart for Diana. Fucking reboot.

Still, the real topper to all this divine symbolism is Diana standing up to Zeus, punching Patriarchal Power directly in the face. Funny thing about that essay, I really hate when the gods are made petty and bad for no good reason other than the writer wants to make Diana better than them. (And it happens all the time, see Perez and even Rucka's self-hating Athena.) Thing is, Simone did some great staging here when she picked just which gods Diana would tell off. Ares is the personification of needless violent conflict and Zeus is the personification of patriarchal power so it makes SENSE that Wonder Woman would conflict with them. They represent the exact energies that she is created to combat. She reveres Wisdom (Athena), Motherhood (Demeter), Sisterhood (Artemis), Inner Peace/Truth (Hestia), Diplomacy (Hermes), and Love (Aphrodite), but she rejects War (Ares) and she has some serious problems with Power (Zeus) from time to time. I think if Simone's run had gone on without a time fuckup, we'd have seen some very interesting things come from pledging herself to the Violence of Nature (Pele).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Character I Can't See Enough Of: Squire

I read Knight and Squire #1-3 and I can't say I was too impressed with the plot of any of the issues, but I'm going to buy it more. Why? Because there was one really enjoyable element to this mini, and she gets a lot of panel time.

No matter how weak the rest of the book is, Beryl just makes me smile whenever she does anything. This is a really great, really bright character and Cornell is capturing that in all her scenes, even if the rest of the book isn't really his best.

Squire's one of those characters that got a really solid start, though. She was the viewpoint hero in the first JLA: Classified arc, and I think she's meant to be a young teen in that. Certainly she's got a childish quality to her, though that could be the incredibly over the top situation or just her role in the story.

She's playing Kyle Rayner for this storyline. See, the first arc of JLA: Classified was after they switched out Lanterns, and John Stewart is no wide-eyed newbie so Morrison had to bring in a younger character so he could keep his team formula. So he tied it to the plot, and gave us Batman and Squire scenes with a classic "sidekick escapes" setup. Beryl's own superteam, the Ultramarine Corps, have been taken out by Gorilla Grodd. She's the youngest, least powerful team member and used to being paired with an older hero and she's all they have to get help. She contacts the JLA for help only to find that everyone but Batman is in another universe. It's an overwhelming situation, and she has just the right amount of concern and awed wonder without coming across as out of her depth. She has the smartass teen role, but it never devolves into obnoxious whining or losing her cheer.

I pretty much decided the second she landed on the UFO that she was going to be one of my favorites.

I'm not sure exactly what trait makes her so appealing, there's just something in her personality combined with her skills and concept. I love how Beryl is extremely low-powered (she seems to have gone from a communications expert to having communications powers), but still manages to succeed in the end. She's so bright and optimistic and gets along with anyone she deals with. She's just plain delightful. AND she can save England from Evil using social networking.

Also, there is something about that costume. I hate yellow, but on her? That whole Robin color scheme works.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

If anyone's looking for a fight, I'm up for it.

So much of female comics fandom has migrated from livejournal to Tumblr, which is a service which makes it damned near impossible to anonymously troll someone because the basic conversation revolves around reblogging and posting your statements on your own blog, and they reply on theirs unless they have a special plug-in. Like cloned dinosaurs and challenged misogynists, the Trolls will always find a way, and items from that troll-fallen tumblr account keep making their way via reblogs to my own dashboard. I know one person who's been trolled at least three times this week from there.

In the meantime, there's stuff that doesn't seem so much like trouble-making as it just seems like someone is scared to be the one person in their circle who doesn't agree with the rest, but does want to see if there's a circle where their opinion is the dominant one. It seems very... weak-willed, perhaps?

Either way, I find the whole thing disgusting and made the above image for an email joke. The text is small, but I had a lot to say. And now that I can no longer ruin Christmas, it's the best time vent in public: with my Fan ID attached, on my own blog, in my own space on the internet, where anyone who wants a fight can come get one.