Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winding Down.

Every time I've come up with a post idea in the past few days I've put it aside until after the New Year, because around this time of year everyone else is doing an end of year wrap-up or something about resolutions.

This is a fairly ridiculous impulse, because I never do an end of the year wrap-up. My memory is geared towards things like the exact wording that was used on the phone, a national stock number, or the name of an obscure Wonder Woman villain. I'm not particularly good with dates, as my family (who have seen their birthdays forgotten nearly every year for the past decade) would attest. A year-end wrap-up would require me to remember things from earlier in the year, and even more dauntingly, remember just when in the year they happened.

In the meantime, I don't place much stock in New Year's Resolutions, because anything that requires more than a couple weeks is planning too far ahead for me. I hate planning. I went out of my way to form a lifestyle which excuses long-term planning, I'm not going to muck that up with New Year's Resolutions. Instead, I do End of Year Resolutions and this year I have busted all but one of them.

Still, if anyone is interested in a snapshot of this point in my life:

I have work this weekend, so I'm spending a quiet evening at home rather than going out.

I finished a Dispatches from the Fridge post, and am feeling rather satisfied that I've managed to post most of the weekends since starting it. We've managed 93 posts this year, nearly two per weekend.

I'm sitting in the middle of my uncleaned living (broken resolution number one), watching episodes from the old Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett. Lately, that series has been something of an obsession for me, and I'm getting a great deal of enjoyment out of it. I'm chatting with Kalinara about Sherlock Holmes inspectors.

I live in the middle of the village, rather than on the edge this year, so I'm surrounded by people setting off fireworks. I can see them from my window, but I hadn't noticed last year how much like artillery they sound. I didn't have any particularly interesting experiences in Afghanistan, but the sound is a bit unsettling.

I managed to beat the 50-book mark this year again. I used to keep track of every year I tried on Librarything, but sometime in 2011 I decided to delete all of my tags and start over. I wish I hadn't done that. Here is this year's list if you're interested.

The one strange end of year resolution I completed was to read through all of the comments on this post. (Warning: it gets pretty transphobic around the 700s.) Basically, one of the old and rather irritating personalities in the mainstream feminist community, Hugo, was interviewed for that blog. Hugo is quite disliked by a number of readers, and so they discussed that. Hugo's whiny, patronizing, and uninteresting so those who dislike him have ignored his blog for several years, and missed the post where he confessed to attempting to murder his ex-girlfriend and got out of being arrested because the police got the idea that she was suicidal from someone he chooses not to name. (Safe bet it rhymes with Lugo.) Someone who had been paying attention brings this up in the thread, and it is promptly shut down. Begin shitstorm. A post about the virtues of forgiveness follows this, with closed comments. Then an apology post that had reached 956 comments by the time I finished it went up.

I felt compelled to read through the entire thing to get links and elaboration on the murder thing, because it couldn't have been what it sounded like. But yeah, got high, saw her sleeping there, decided he needed to put her and himself out of his misery, tried to gas her. So, what it sounds like. Then it was a matter of disbelief that people were actually defending him. In the end I posted a comment siding with the "Are you kidding me?" faction and left.

On the bright side, through the tangents I read about some interesting comments and found out about some interesting books.

I was also duly reminded why I dislike the main political feminist blogs, and why I stopped reading them, and stopped reading and linking to a lot of the "Big Name Feminists" out there. I ducked out a few years over the whole mess about the tasteless illustrations chosen for Marcotte's book, but I'd been softening since so many of my newer friends who weren't around back then seem to be linking these guys. Much trouble as I've caused, I really don't like to be the one who constantly brings up old shit, especially if the people have finally recanted in the meantime and I just missed it. Based on these events, I'm going to guess nothing has improved.

Anyway, my apologies for the dim tone of this post. I had a long day at work and look forward to a long workday tomorrow. For 2012, I intend to exercise more (for the sake of my job), clear out some of the squalor in which I am living, shoot for the 75 book challenge, and use less profanity in day to day speech.

Those are only intentions, though. I resolve to drink a little wine and finally write that post about Irene Adler.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: The House of Silk

Because the true canon of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries ceased around 84 years ago, and it was limited to a mere 60 tales plus apocrypha, even fans like me who feel no particular need to seek out fanfiction for other properties have a ravenous appetite for even terrible new stories. Mere faithful film adaptations aren't enough, we crave new tales. We want those stories Watson hinted at. We long for the stories that were too shocking and too entangled with the news of the day to publish. We seek out the confrontation with Jack the Ripper. We need the build-up to The Final Problem. We demand The Giant Rat of Sumatra and the other stories for which the world was not yet prepared.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of writers willing to give us new mysteries. Though the quality varies from time to time. (Do not read any take on The Giant Rat of Sumatra. It is no fault of the ambitious writer who tackles that tantalizing title that it is too much to live up to, but it is simply a fact that no rational explanation could live up to it.)

I've read some truly awful Sherlock Holmes fanfic in my day. And I don't mean awful because we found it on some poor young person's unprotected tumblr, I don't mean the sort of awful that was dashed off in an hour in response to a kinkmeme. I mean stuff people actually got professionals to publish and stock in bookstores.

But I've read some pretty good stuff. I've read some stuff that is pretty good despite falling to the perilous tropes of fanfiction, where the writer's style is aped awkwrdly and there is fanservice thrown in to the detriment of the story momentum.

And I've read some pretty great stuff too, some great stuff that no one has been willing to publish even. (Why is Marcia Wilson's You Buy Bones self-published when the first half is better than most of the stuff put out in the last 84 years?)

So even when I saw that little sticker saying that ACD's descendants have put their stamp of approval on the story, I still consider it fanfiction and I donn't mean that to diminish it. It was professional published by an bestselling writer, so I expected one of the better works I'd seen but I didn't expect it to succeed in capturing the style of the original sixty stories. But to that end, the House of Silk may be one of the finest pieces of fanfiction ever written.

This is probably due to his conscientious avoidance of the habits that annoy me the most about contemporary Sherlock Holmes writers. The mysteries are completely original plots that do not erase any of the canon stories. (Contradictions are okay, ACD did that all the time and we just blamed it on Watson being a bad notetaker, but I can think of a number of works that exist on the premise that entire stories were inventions of Dr. Watson.) All of the dialogue is new, no seeing Sherlock reuse his old phrasing in order to make him sound like himself, but it effectively captures the voice of the original writer. He alludes to other stories, but in a way that seems natural to Watson's train of thought. The characters are true to the original stories, while fitting the nicely into the trends of modern fiction. Horowitz's Watson is familiar and strong enough to carry the plot when Sherlock is out of sight. His female characters live up to modern expectations of character without being unrealistically enlightened for the era. New characters fit nicely into the traditional roles allotted for new characters: clients, villains, and victims, and he doesn't try to introduce a new detective or partner to tag alongside the main attraction. The appearances of fan-favorites like Inspector Lestrade and Mycroft Holmes aren't just a favor for the fans, their presence is logical and important to moving the plot along.

That's not to say there aren't continuity errors, contradictions, odd reasonings and other little problems. Thing is, all the little errors in this book are along the same lines of the sorts of errors ACD made back in the day. The real triumph of this work is that he manages to capture the voice so well. I suspect there was meticulous editing and rewriting to make the style match without just copying it. When you read this, you are reading something written in Dr. Watson's voice.

And he does that without sacrificing any of the other necessary elements in the book, the characterization and plotting are all up to par.

I only have one word of warning at the risk of spoilers, and that is that when the promotional materials state that this is a story too shocking to have published a hundred years ago, they aren't exaggerating. The book captures the Watson voice so well I just blew that off because that character has a very different idea of lurid that I do. The events depicted could easily have happened in the 1890s but would never have been published. I recommend this book, but with a trigger warning for sexual assault. True to the Watson voice, though, Horowitz doesn't linger over the details. It's referenced, not explicit, and not against a major character.

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
Mulholland Books
304 Pages

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A moment to brag

I've been quiet all month, mainly due to lack of internet, but I wanted to take a moment to brag.

I’ve done this before, but never had anything serious come of it. It was mainly a “get used to writing fiction and/or every day” thing. This year due to work I basically only wrote in large spurts once a week. (Another reason I wasn’t constantly posting wordcounts and angst about writing.) But I managed something surprisingly coherent.

It is not anything worth reading at the moment, and is loaded with typos and ridiculous ideas.

Nor is it a well-crafted plot with in-depth characters. That wordcount? I actually ended before the 50K and added another subplot with a minor character to drag out the ending.

But I am proud of myself. I did a "realistic" fiction story (it is still an adventure/detective genre book, though) the whole way through. I don't have five bazillion pointless subplots. Even the one I added at the end could easily be retrofitted to go with the rest of the plot (and it has a ready made pivotal point for my main character that didn't suit her at the end but would definitely make sense earlier.) I did not have aliens land at any point. The premise is totally absurd, and I took some leeway with probability, genetics and demolitions but that's all within the genre. The plotlines actually fit with each other. And I avoided padding. There are some nice in-depth descriptive scenes, and a few points where it gets redundant but really I just wrote plot the whole way through. If I did rewrite and edit it, it would actually get a lot longer.

All-in-all I put out something I could clean up and still shop around as a novel this time. It's not as funny as the last one, but it's there.

I am now officially an "Unedited novel the desk drawer" writer. Go me.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

100 words on my personal life and over 1700 words on Wallander.

Now that I'm settled in at work and have time to pursue home internet, I can't find the landlord. So yeah, will probably still be scarce for a bit. In the meantime I have plenty to preoccupy me without net access. I'm doing a low stress Nanowrimo (trying to write the requirement each day but not focusing my entire November and every interaction on making the damned wordcount), I've got loads and loads of beautiful (non-comic) books to read. I have books I've read I mean to review so I can sit and write reviews. I have a cluttered apartment to clean and the German trash system to navigate. Arts. Crafts. Comics. Sorting. Oh, and a new fandom.

Those of you who watch me on Twitter'll know this one. I ordered a DVD based solely on a preview and boy am I glad I did. It is AMAZING and so far the books I've gotten through are AMAZING too.

For those of you who skipped the post title, it was Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh, based on novels by Henning Mankell, and rated EW, MC and AM for Extremely White Cast, High Body Count, and Abject Misery.

(Slight spoilers below)

So let's go over the amazing in increasing order from unsettling to excellent.

I admit first of all that the opening episode--Sidetracked--left me confused. Not because of any clumsiness with the filming or the writing, the story was good and the characters made sense. Just, as an American, it left me baffled. It's set in Sweden. Produced by the BBC. So, it's a British show about a Swedish cast based on a Swedish book. And in the British show about the Swedish cast based on the Swedish book there is a serial killer (Who is not the good guy.) that is appropriating Native American culture.

With no Native American characters around to comment on how fucked up that is.

It kinda overloaded my brain there. I wasn't sure exactly how to process that setup. My initial impulse--even in enjoyment--is to analyze that sort of thing when I notice it, and it's hard to analyze a culture that's not yours first off. Then it's a culture that's not yours interpreted through the lens that's not yours. Then it's about cultural appropriation, which is not my strong point.

However, if you are offended by what the villain is doing and how they're perpetuating stereotypes... You'll probably at least get some satisfaction over what happens to them.

Outside of that one, there's another episode that deals with actual racial violence. (Faceless Killers.) It's not perfect. The core cast of the show is all white, and pretty much all the POC characters in this episode are there as a plot point. (And I know someone out there is about to tell me I'm being unfair to even discuss the racial makeup of the cast because the UK and Sweden are in Europe, the homecontinent of all white people. So before you do that A--open a god-damned almanac and B--if there were nothing but white people in Sweden this episode would not work.) It's complex, though, and covers the interlacing problems of individual everyday prejudice, nativism, and public hysteria against the backdrop of a murder investigation. That's quite a bite for a 90-minute story and like with Sidetracked I still want the book to see how differently it's handled in the longform.

While the other episodes don't overtly address inter-racial interactions, there's definitely a heavy examination of Swedish xenophobia going on in all six episodes and in the one book (The Fifth Woman) I've managed to obtain. I'm not qualified to comment on Swedish culture, but I think I can safely recognize a theme. Watch whenever anyone mentions having been to Africa or being interested in America. Most of the time they will either be evil or get killed. Or both, in some cases. Thing is, while the surface problem might SEEM to be that the outside world is encroaching in on Sweden... in the end, the source of violence is usually something that's been below the surface in the Swedish countryside all along. And even when the initial crime is actually from outside Sweden, it's overwhelmed by the potential for violence that's present in the country already. The big challenges in the stories are problems that originated inside the culture that are covered up with anxieties about the rest of the world. The scalping killer in Sidetracked is not from the Western Hemisphere, it's a Swede who'd be fucked up either way. The real cause of the events in Fifth Woman is not the act of violence on another continent, it's violence that had been occurring in Sweden for decades.

While this is going on, though, there's another amazing thing. There's backstories of sexual violence in the first, second, and sixth episodes. And the way the cops handle this is fucking incredible.

They take the reports as the truth, and don't question the victim's histories, motives, or behavior.

And the way the writers handle this is incredible. They don't come up with a stupid twist later on that so and so is lying to get revenge or manipulate the characters (*middle finger to Season 2 Dexter*) or some shit. There's no "this is a story about sexual violence, with a twist that perpetuates the myth that this sort of crime gets falsely reported more than it actually does", it's more that a sexual assault happened in someone's past and THAT is why this event, this event, and this event happened. It's never the big crime of the story but it's never trivialized. And it's not every female character you see, just some characters.

And the way the director handles these revelations is incredible. It's not shot graphicly or sexualized or brought out as the big titillating revelation. It's part of some character's history, part of the horrible shit that happens in the world that leads to other horrible shit and in particular the horrible shit that lands on Kurt Wallander's desk.

I wish these were the guys in charge Law & Order: SVU, honestly. I hate that it's so rare to see a police show handle sexual violence in a way that doesn't make me ragequit it.

Thirdly, and this I can demonstrate with math, Wallander is uniquely suited to my own appetite for brutality. This series is a bloodbath. It is a tastefully subtle bloodbath (they don't go overboard with the onscreen deaths), but a bloodbath nonetheless.

They rarely show the body directly or linger for long on the grotesque stuff when they do, but in the cold open to the first episode a teenager sets herself on fire and things just get worse from there.

While recounting how much I love this series, I did a body count for one of my coworkers. There are no less than six deaths in each episode of the first season. In the second season, it dips down to four for one episode but there is a violent and traumatic shootout. The other episodes are up to par, at least six people meet gruesome ends over the course of events.

6 deaths over 90 minutes. That's a higher average than Dexter, folks.

Oh, and the first novel I got my hands on? I tried to count to compare. Mankell offs five people in the prologue. And sometime around the fifth chapter he sinks a boat and several hundred people die. (Also, the villain does much more damage to the cops in the climax of the novel than the climax of TV adaption.) Really, after 11 books I'm not sure how there's anyone left alive in Ystad.

Also, even though Wallander is consistantly portrayed as overweight, out of shape, forgetful, racked with insecurities, and reluctant to kill even the most horrible murderers he runs up against... He still manages to be a fearless badass in the big confrontations. I suspect he's just one "I'm getting too old for this shit" away from superpowers.

And finally, there's the most amazing thing and this one is done better in the book not because of any failing of the television series but simply because a novel is better set up to handle it: Kurt Wallander's sad, sad life.

Which really is something that needs to be examined episode by episode and book by book. It is so bleak it's actually absurdly amusing at some points. Each episode ends with a moment of quiet where the sun shines and the murders have stopped and everything is well with Southern Sweden but that's cinematography set against things like funerals. The ending to each episode reinforces that Kurt can only connect emotionally with another human by sharing mutual feelings of despair and convincing themselves to forget them for just a moment of sunlight on their faces.

It's kinda awesome, and I think I love him.

My amusement at misery aside, this goes beyond being chronically unlucky and mostly pessimistic. Wallander is a genuine man of constant sorrow type, and while the depressed cop stereotype in fiction can be excessively melodramatic, he's pretty relatable in his despondency. Sure, he cries more than any other TV cop I've seen, but it's usually at a point in the episode where you'd expect someone to be stressed to tears. Though really, when you take into account the disaster area that is his personal life and the job that is slowly killing his soul and his complete lack of hobbies (and for this character, not having outside interests from his work is a major character trait and not an oversight of the writer), he should be crying a lot more than just after an intense scene. If he were to start his day by weeping it would be perfectly understandable and natural, just because he's Kurt Wallander and he has to start his day. He is soaked in anguish, and every way I look at him he doesn't deserve to be. (Yet he's convinced he does.)

Basically, the world is built to a point where if you watch from outside the world and take into account what's going on, you watch this poor hapless bastard in disbelief and may even find yourself laughing at points like when Kurt's late for a date, the lady tells him off/storms out, and then--while he's standing dejectedly in the middle of the pub--the lights turn out. (This indicates a dead body at the power station, by the way, that Kurt gets called in to investigate) but at the same time you really sympathize with this guy's suffering because it's not a result of selfishness, or brooding over his bad luck. He definitely causes some of his own problems, but where I can be hard on characters I tend to naturally side with "You need to lay off yourself" a bit for this guy.

Maybe that's because of Kurt's motivations. He's not trying to prove himself, or aching to put away bad guys, or working off a history of personal trauma in his job. He's more personally invested in the people around--not just the victims, but he feels for the witnesses and the villains. He sees himself really clearly in everyone else, even the most monstrous people. Like he's missing a protective filter a lot of others have, something that lets them look at a killer and go "That's an inhuman monster I have nothing in common with" and instead has him being reminded by their crimes of his own actions. And while he's doing that, while he's getting tunnel vision and focusing on the killer and the victims he ends up completely missing the emotional cues from people he sees every day (Svedberg, Linda, his father) and he avoids them while chasing the monster. He's more guilt than self-pity and he's very introverted and empathetic at the same time. And I get a real impression that it's clinical, that his brain is set up to see things this way. If the viewpoint character were Linda rather than Kurt, I imagine things wouldn't seem quite so horrible all that time.

And there's just little moments in the novel and in the series that seem to me like something I could see a real person doing when they are operating under this level of crushing desolation every day of their lives. There's something deeply compelling about a character who gets that across and still manages to accomplish the stuff he accomplishes in these stories.

Also, Rupert Graves plays a bearded character in the 5th episode, which convinces me we're one "Oh, that's the name of Lestrade's identical Swedish cousin" away from a crossover.

Come on, BBC. You know you want to.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Womanthology listed on previews!

It's right there at the end:

Y'know, if you want to order it or stock a few copies.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Okay, now you're starting to piss me off.

Scott Lobdell--who was actually responsible for 90s X-Men books that I liked (That I liked a lot)--did an interview with Newsarama recently. He had some words to say about the Starfire complains:
What surprised me was that it almost caused the Internet to melt.

 Mostly, what has surprised me has been the very vulgar way that people believe they are coming to the defense of Kori: they hurl words like "slut" and "whore" and expressions too disgusting to repeat here that are only used to demean women. 

Lets consider an imaginary woman who has more than one or two lovers. Is it fair to label her with dismissive and derogatory language? Because we disagree with the choices she makes, to do what she wants with her own body? Are we still at a place in society where we're going to call a woman — any woman — names that reinforce gender inequality?

See what he did there?

This guy made a creative work that portrayed a woman. Someone criticized their portrayal of those women, and they caught it. They turned the criticism around, changed it, and then lobbed it at the subject of their work.

Most people would call that a Strawman (or Strawfeminist) argument, but what they did here was much more specific. They positioned themselves not as the defenders of their own artistic visions, but as the True Defenders of Womanhood. In their new narrative, they are knights in shining armor defending attractive women from jealous, judgmental catty witches.

But really, they are doing exactly the opposite. They're defending themselves. They're pulling the subject of their work in between them and their critic and using them like a shield.

Now, I won't deny that there are some critics who go into slutshaming. Ridiculous judgments about real-life women who get their photos taken, who sign on for racy videos, or who dress a certain way that come out when criticizing a fictional portrayal of a woman or when discussing the appropriateness of a piece of art. (A protest video, for example, or a racy poster hung up in a place of work.) This does happen.

Thing is this defense gets pulled out when there's legitimate complaints going around to address. (But oddly, never does this defense get pulled out when straight men are gathered and making "hurr hurr" comments about the subject of the work.) It's pulled out to ignore those complaints, and position the creator/artist as the truly enlightened lover of women, and anyone made uncomfortable by this as a shrill fairy tale villain. We see it again and again, and you know what? It works.

It freaking works, because it puts the critic on the defensive. If the critic has a legitimate complaint, it's usually because they recognize that women are people and that real women are hurt by terms like "Slut" or "whore" and by encouraging a culture that judges based on clothing and appearance even if the work in question is entirely fictional.

Of course, with fiction we can always say "You WROTE every word she said and created every pose!" and continue the same way. But if the work in question features a real woman, a model or an actress or a girl who may or may not have agreed to the video? Oh, it's an effective defense right there. And it may just shut down the conversation.

Except, if the creator in question really had such a thoughtful attitude about what he was putting out, wouldn't he engage the actual complaints in a thoughtful manner? There's differences in taking a picture of yourself in a low cut dress, taking a picture of yourself in a low cut dress that focuses on your cleavage, a woman in a low cut dress with her consent, taking a picture of a woman in a low cut dress with her consent that focuses on her cleavage, taking a picture of a woman in a low cut dress without her consent and taking a picture of a woman in low cut dress without her consent that focuses on her cleavage without even getting INTO the politics of putting "Hey, Dudez! BOOBIES!!!" in glitter across the top (and who may have done this with who's knowledge). An intelligent man who had really considered the implications of his art would be ready to discuss it without directing criticism of his actions (the angle of the photo, the intent of the project itself) towards his model (who could be completely onboard, but that doesn't magically make the work feminist, or of any artistic value).

He could at least address his own actions, if his own actions are so defensible, before he tries to direct all attention towards the morality of his subject or women in general.

There's just something weasely about the whole tactic, and we see it ALL the time, from comics to commercials, to what sort of images are displayed at work, to just calling out a guy for leering at a stranger on the street. ("What's your problem with showing a little boob?" Nothing, my problem is with showing your eyes so far out of their sockets.) The default for some men seems to be to remove yourself from the equation and point all the complaints at the woman, rather than answer for your own behavior.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Accentuate the Positive

Lest you think I'm nothing but angry at DC right now, I've coem to comment on good news. The truth of the matter is, I enjoyed almost (not Voodoo) all the books I bought from DC this month. (I did not even bother with Suicide Squad, Red Hood, or Catwoman.) In general, I think the relaunch/reboot was a success and I'm going back for second issues on everything. (Except Voodoo.) So I am optimistic about some things, and good news keeps coming. Ann Nocenti might get me to pick up Green Arrow. Azzarello has apparently hinted that Steve Trevor will be back. And of course, there's this:

Grant Morrison's Wonder Woman series could debut in 2012.

Now, you all know I'm a Morrison fan and a Wonder Woman fan who will give any writer a shot at her, but I'm actually especially excited for one reason.
Wonder Woman needs sex definitely because, you know, again as I said in the book [Supergods], they kind of transformed her into a cross between the Virgin Mary and Mary Tyler Moore,” he said. “This Girl Scout who had no sexuality at all and the character’s never quite worked since then. In the way that Superman’s supposed to stand for men but at least he’s allowed to have some kind of element of sexuality, Wonder Woman is expected to stand for women without any element of sexuality, and that seems wrong.

And this is the part where the fans are freaking out, especially after Voodoo and Red Hood and Catwoman. But here's the thing, Morrison is not Marz, Lobdell, or Winick. Morrison has actually addressed female sexuality in a thoughtful way back in Seven Soldiers. In fact, in that series he managed to delve deeply into the personalities and growth of varied and distinctive female characters, creating complex stories about women at different times in their lives that varied widely in tone and theme. If you have doubts that Morrison can handle sexuality with respect and complexity, check out Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer, Seven Soldiers: Zatanna and Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight.

This is not Judd Winick's sexy, sexy Catwoman.

The other thing is... he's absolutely fucking right. They are so terrified to delve into sexuality with Wonder Woman that they wrote out her love interest in the 80s reboot.. They insist she's a virgin at conventions.

Cheryl Lynn has said in the past that Marvel has no equivalent to Wonder Woman because there's not character that fanboys would freak out about if it was established they'd had sex in the past.

And for real, if you went ahead and had Diana casually mention that since arriving on Man's World and meeting men for the first time she experimented with sleeping with some of them, fandom would melt down.

If you established that back on Paradise Island there were female characters that were age appropriate and not foster mothers to Diana, and she sleep with them OR that since arrive in Man's World and meeting all these new women Diana had gone all the way with a couple... fandom would melt down.

If you established that Wonder Woman had had sex, the Internet would break in half.

And no, Kingdom Come and other Elseworlds don't count because they are AUs where she fucking married Superman or was enslaved by crazy Victorian misogynistics, and it's pretty much always in the bounds of marriage in those anyway.

And that is why no love interest has lasted since Steve left. Not because he's inherently better than the replacements (even though he is), but because writers are so fucking scared to address the sexuality of a truly liberated woman... because editors are so afraid that she'll be degraded by not being the purest woman possible.. because our society prizes chastity so fucking much that they are reluctant to even hint or explore the POSSIBILITY that she might someday have sex with someone.

And this is a character who was sexual when she was first introduced. A character inextricably associated in all incarnations with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Sexuality and Love. As long as this aspect of her personality is ignored? She will NEVER have the appeal she originally had, she will ALWAYS be a shell of her former self.

And he's right earlier. Batman can be sexual. Superman can be a symbol of sexual power. But Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman can't be sexually powerful. A strong dominant woman must be a virgin, married to a more powerful man, or subjugated in order to be acceptable.

Someone has to go there. Someone has to address her sexual nature from a position of agency and not objectification. It's how she was originally written. And here we have a writer who actuallly has the ability to do so. I acknowledge that it could suck, but I am beyond cautiously optimistic here. I want to read this and I think it could be just what the character needs.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Coming Soon: Daddy Issues

I read Wonder Woman #1 and thought it was a lovely dark take on the character, and Brian Azzarello's gods have such incredibly potential. Apollo has never been so interesting in this franchise, Hera is foreboding, Zeus sounds clever, and Hermes is... well, poor Hermes gets beat up a lot in this franchise, doesn't he?

Either way, it showed a lot of promise and I was looking forward to the next installment.

Until I saw (Caution: Spoiler in the article TITLE, and from this point on in the post) this.

Bastards can't let me be happy.

Okay, two things:

1) Wonder Woman had a dad in the Silver Age. It was an unnamed Prince Hippolyta had been married to. He's referenced like, twice, and mostly for Hippolyta's angst.

2) This is a terrible idea.

Even if Azzarello does it brilliant, in the end it is a terrible idea.

Not as terrible an idea as Hercules, mind you (this was the rumor for the Crisis reboot), unless they decide Zeus also raped Hippolyta. But on the whole, it is probably a mucg worse idea than Hades as her dad in that damned animated movie. And a considerably worse idea than Hermes, a character who could technically be argued to be her father from the Perez reboot.

Really, any of them suck. I'll give you, Azzarello's a good writer and can pull this off, but it opens a couple nasty doors. It leaves Diana's story open to being able Daddy issues, thus letting a male character become the central focus of Wonder Woman for a while, and it sends a message that doesn't suit Wonder Woman.

And I don't mean the icky message that Diana a product of sexual assault, though that is a terrible message and I hope Azzarello does not go there. He was doing so well with a first issue that didn't have all the Amazons being raped.

It sends the message that Wonder Woman, the embodiment of female hope and strength did not get her strength from her mother or the cooperative all-female culture that produced her, or the goddesses. It came from her ultra-powerful male parent, the very god of the patriarchy himself.

And while there's ways of turning that on itself, making it symbolic of the Patriarchy creating it's own downfall... in the end, it's just too far from how she started, and the core of what Wonder Woman is.

Friday, September 16, 2011

DC, what are you doing to me?

I'm still home internet-less, but I had to pay a bit to mention this. The GLC preview is up. Check it out.

You did not just dream that.

That's a beheading, followed by cutting a woman in half, followed by the loss of a finger, followed by a reference to an infamous Leni Riefenstahl film.

For those of you who are new to the Internet and it's population of history snobs, Leni Riefenstahl was an early 20th Century pioneer who made inroads for women in the field of Evil. She did a Nazi propaganda film called "Triumph of the Will" which to this day is still inspiring horror of authoritarian power in film classes and museums.

It is probably not the best choice of titles for a book where the main heroes are fueled by willpower.

Not that it couldn't be done. With a delicate eye for history and a gentle handling of the subject--keeping in mind that there are still people alive who fell for this propaganda and there are still people alive who were persecuted by the makers and followers of this propaganda--you could use that title and not be horribly offensive. Provided it's meaningful, respectful, and subtle.

Thing is.. and I say this as someone who's enjoyed a lot of Green Lantern since Rebirth... This isn't a subtle franchise.

And I'd say the over the top violence in the opening scene justifies my pessimism here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


So I've moved into a lovely German apartment that doesn't have phone or internet or my household goods yet.

It does, however, have a full kitchen and a full bathroom. Also, light fixtures. You guys back in the states are wondering at why that's so important but... trust me. Germans move in and out of apartments and take the lights and toilets with them. It's a Thing to find an apartment will built-in lights and toilets, not to mention a full kitchen.

So even without my hosuehold goods, it's livable, and my obsessive book-buying has combined with my e-book buying to give me plenty to read while I have no internet access at home. (I have it at work, but... there's a limit on what you can do at work.)

I also have a copy of the first season of BBC's Sherlock, which I would have watched a hell of a lot sooner had I known it was a successful adaptation of Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century. It's freaking awesome, and I may even get cable if I can get BBC out here in time for the second season. It's only flaw is that it is too damned short.

In the meantime, I've watched it repeatedly in between reading wonderful books and it's even gotten me looking back at my old Sherlock Holmes stuff because I'd never really paid attention to Inspector Lestrade before.

Rupert Graves just freaking makes that character.

The commentary calls him remarkably inconsistent in the canon, but I have to disagree with them there. The problem isn't that Lestrade changes from story to story. The problem is that Lestrade has three conflicting characterizations: Sherlock's dismissal of Lestrade, Watson's descripton of Lestrade, and Arthur Conan Doyle's actual portrayal of Lestrade.

Sherlock Holmes is only too happy to describe him as stupid and ambitious in between allowing that he's a quick, energetic and conscientious policeman. This is where we get the idea that he's stupid and vain, even as Sherlock explains that he's the best person at Scotland Yard. That neglects that everyone is stupid in Sherlock's eyes, of course, and that Sherlock always has to insist that Lestrade leave his name out of reports.

John Watson seems to have decided before ever getting to know him that his physical appearance was shifty and sly, so each time the character shows up, he says that he's furtive, sly-looking, lean, sallow and rat-faced. This gives us the impression Lestrade is kind of sneaky and possibly untrustworthy. Watson KNOWS better when he describes his behavior, but it's hard to get away from the words used in his description.

When you look at how Lestrade actually talks and acts, though, you get more of the sort of person Graves is portraying (though a lot less likely to yell at Sherlock Holmes when he's being a dick and needs to be yelled at), but I'm running out of time on the computer. Let's just say that when Sherlock and Watson were so surprised at his praise in The Six Napoleans, I think that was Arthur Conan Doyle doing his normal characterization of them as both not really knowing Lestrade as well as they thought they did.

When I get Internet, we will discuss what a dick Sherlock Holmes was to him in Hound of the Baskervilles. You'll love it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Checking In

I've been mainly keeping to tumblr and twitter since my last post because I've spent the last two weeks in complete moving frenzy. My new assignment is still in Germany, but closing up your house and getting prepared to move is still exhausting and I was knee-deep in work stuff up until last week. I haven't been able to focus on anything serious. That's why I haven't really commented on the Batgirl of San Diego (though really, what is there so say now but "Thumbs up, Batgirl"?) or Womanthology's funding frenzy (though I got my script in and have even seen some character sketches! Yee!) or anything but Green Lantern on Tumblr.

Green Lantern requires very little energy to ramble on about right now, because I am back in full-on Green Lantern obsession mode. Rambling about Kyle Rayner on Tumblr and Twitter is actually a form a relaxation right now.

I wasn't quite up to a serious blogpost here on the subject, though.

In the meantime, I and my illustrious companions have been keeping up with Dispatches From the Fridge, so if you missed the commentary on the Batgirl of San Diego, Womanthology, or the loss of the Supermarriage I have lots of links from the past couple weekends there.

In the meantime, I did the Fangirl Friday interview over at Fantastic Fangirls. It has a short (for me) rundown of my recommendations for new fans just getting into Green Lantern.

I've finally gotten out of the apartment, out of the base, and have mailed/shipped everything but a few books that'll fit in my trunk. Now it's a few weeks experiencing the horror of family togetherness and then it's back to Germany. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to get back to serious blogging again during the trip. I've got some thoughts on Aida I need to share.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Green Lantern is Readable Again

The Green Lantern solicits are up. Be careful before you click because there is a major "War of the Green Lanterns" spoiler on the cover of the mainbook.

Spoiler: It is the least surprising of the surprise endings we all thought of. It is also the one that's the least likely to last past the next movie.

But really I've brought you all here today to spoil Kyle's book. Because they show the actual team, and they show the Star Sapphire.

Most importantly, they show the Star Sapphire's outfit.

It has been improved.

And for once, that means actually improved.

No floating white collar.

No glowing vagina.

No incredibly odd cutaways.

Yeah, there's still cleavage to forever and it looks like she's going to an aerobics class in the 80s, but it's so much better than this:

Thank you, DC, for doing the one thing I needed you to do with Green Lantern for me to get back on board. I love you, and I will come back to you.

PS: Having what looks like my beloved Sheriff Mardin unconscious on the Green Lantern Corps cover helps, even if it is the ultra-glam white-coded makeover of her.

Friday, July 08, 2011


I was going to, when I got a breather, promote the Womanthology's kickstarter. I'm on the writer's list. (I also had a hand in picking the theme, if I may brag.)

Then a funny thing happened. The Kickstarter went live last night after I went to bed and by the time I reached the computer after work we were within $2K of our minimum $25K goal.

And then we blew it away.

Donations are still being accepted, because the more money there is the more books can be printed. All the profit is going to charity, so production costs are dependent on readers like you.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Green Lantern Pet Peeve: The Accepted Common Knowledge that Humans Suck.

I snagged the Abin Sur movie prequel on Comixology for the lovely Patrick Gleason art, plus I'm one of those suckers who can't resist and Abin Sur solo story.

I think I have a thing for doomed men.

Anyway, I'm glad I bought it. The art is lovely and we get a surprise Amanda Waller story to boot.

Unfortunately, there is a convention in this book that annoys the shit out of me and it's been popping up all over the place in Green Lantern in the past few years.

There's this idea that humans are looked down upon by every sentient being in the universe, because we're violent, primitive, warlike, and just generally awful. It's a way for the writer to make a point about what's wrong with our society and how far we have to go. It's also an easy way to for the writer to set up a strawman in the sneers of aliens so that they can defend human society.

It's also really fucking arrogant.

We're to accept a universe with countless star systems that produce sentient and often humanoid life. We're to accept that the majority of these star systems have developed interstellar travel and trade with each other. We're to accept that interstellar communities have sprung up across the vast cosmos. I can handle all this, I think it's awesome.

We're also to accept that Abin Sur is responsible for 1/3600th of this universe. Inside his sector is every type of life imaginable, from bacteria to primitive peoples who haven't developed writing yet to full civilizations that have been developing for millenia and that cross the stars regularly enough to build communities inside that sector. I can handle this too, I think it's awesome.

But I'm sorry, I have to stop at the idea that a large number of these advanced beings give enough of a shit to comment on how much Earth sucks.

I have to stop at the idea that a large number of these advanced beings know anything about humans beyond us having not developed enough space travel to come out and say "Hi" yet.

I mean, it's one thing for the Guardians to keep tabs on Earth and be a little funny about it. There's lots of stuff on Earth.

And yeah, I can give the writer (Michael Green) some credit to the idea that maybe Earth is considered enough of a hotspot that Abin Sur was briefed on it when he took over. It is in his sector, and it is home to a species that gets super-powers when they are exposed to well... anything! Yeah, that might be important for old Abin to know. (Hell, between the Last Kryptonians, the Last Martians and the general weirdness of humanity, it's entirely possible that the Solar System is considered a Wildlife Preserve by Oa.)

I don't think this is the case, though. There's something off about what he said in this comic. And his attitude in the Flashpoint series. And just generally every notable appearance since someone retconned his last words to be "An Earthman... never thought I'd live to see the day."

And there's just this trend all across the franchise to having aliens bash humans, especially hypocritically, because they are traveling the spaceways without having achieved World Peace or a Warp Drive or what-have-you. And because humans aren't as scary to tease about this sort of behavior than Khunds are or any of the myriad hyper-violent species in the DCU that HAVE achieved unity of purpose on their homeworlds and interstellar travel so that they can make war on their neighbors.

I kinda forgave it in the movie because it was explained away as just a general look at how young the species is. There's some sort of taxonomy involved, I imagined, and humans fell into a group that was only so advanced and Hal wasn't just the first human but the very first person from that taxonomic classification.

And I get parts where they make monkey jokes, because it implies that these species are as advanced to us as we are to chimps, so we just look animalistic to them.

My brain rebels, though, when it's specifically about humans and specifically about Earth.

It just doesn't make any sense.

I mean, it's one thing to have Brainiac and Brainiac II copping an attitude because they have dealt with humans, but generally it seems like everybody in the Green Lantern Corps except Tomar Re and every idiot in a Mos Eisley Cantina rip-off scene has to make a comment about it. And none of them would have met a human before.

Only Abin Sur was in a position to have met a human besides Adam Strange or Captain Comet (both of whom are pretty damned awesome, so a negative opinion should not be formed based upon them), and he's played off as having had some pre-existing prejudice that goes away when he sees the Wall in action.

And yeah, I do remember the Legends of the DC Universe story where Abin Sur goes to the Old West and all the cowboys think he's a Native American. That's clearly not happened here, because if he'd had that adventure he wouldn't need the Wall to make him rethink how much humans suck.

If he'd had any horrible adventure there, he'd have said "It was my hope I would never to have to breach the orbit of that backward little world again." The implication is this is his first visit, and he wants it to be his last.

In the absence of any reference to a past experience and any reference to a prophecy foretelling his death on the world, we only have one explanation for Abin Sur's personal prejudice. There is a widespread dislike of humans among aliens. That's what every narrative clue in this book is telling me to conclude, that Abin Sur dislikes humans because he's been taught to dislike humans.

It seems absurd to me that we're so prominent in the minds of extraterrestrials that so many of them would bother to hate us. Abin's reaction on going to Earth should be much more matter of fact. It shouldn't imply that he's been dreading the idea of going to that planet his whole career. Really, he should either think of the specific items that the sector Lantern would be briefed on ("Last Kryptonian, Portal to Qward, Strange energy beasts sleeping within the planet that absolutely should not be disturbed, Queen Hippolyta and her Fleet of Invisible Jets...") or have to consult his ring and then pass judgement about how much Earth sucks.

If we're really a little backwater, primitive world... nobody should have heard of us.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Saturday, July 02, 2011

On Hal

I've gotten back on my Green Lantern kick in the past couple weeks, mainly because of that movie. I saw it last weekend, and have been meaning to review it but keep putting it off.

See, I think it was chopped to pieces and there were some cheesy parts. I want to see the Director's Cut because I can just tell that scene with Hal talking to the Guardians had some groundwork laid earlier that we all missed.

Thing is, even for it's weaknesses, I freaking loved it and there's one big reason.

One big, dumb, reckless reason.

The movie Green Lantern featured Hal Jordan in a way that's seemed missing from the comics to me. The guy who is reckless, wild, and often thoughtless to the point that it is destroying his personal life. A man who lives in complete denial of his fears and the trouble he's caused by his carelessness. The guy who destroys jets just to prove he can, who can't keep a steady girlfriend, and who doesn't even stock his fridge. A man who is a complete jerk, with a complete and utter mess of a life because of this.

But for some reason, he's actually likable, has a decent heart, and steps up to be a hero when he needs to be.

I've been fond of this guy since the 90s, when we saw him being pretty reckless and stupid in flashbacks. He was completely unaware he had this horrible fate hanging over his head. I became a fan with Marz's time-travelling Hal in Emerald Knights, who finds out that he went bad but somehow is able to work through it. That Hal was the sweetest thing ever. I've found I really like Broome's clueless doofus, and other sporadic uses of the character from time to time. I think my absolute favorite might be Neil Gaiman's take in Superman/Green Lantern: Legend of the Green Flame, where Hal's stupidity nearly damns both heroes for all eternity.

And I really like that just post-Rebirth period where Hal showed up and had to apologize to everybody in every guest appearance. After that, my favorite storyline with him is Agent Orange, where he can't think of a happy thought to use the blue ring. I think Johns understands that, at heart, Hal is not very happy with his life and his behavior.

Thing is, in recent years that take just hasn't come across very often. There's a real emphasis on how awesome Hal's job flying jets is, and how often he gets laid, that we miss just how crappy his personal life is supposed to be.

Hal Jordan, as a character, is simply too built up from his concept. He's too cocky, too reckless, and too privileged to begin with. Then he gets the Most Powerful Weapon In The Universe that gives him the power of flight in addition to the opportunity to travel in outer freaking space. He's pretty hard to feel sympathetic towards when you hear him described.

He's pretty hard to feel sympathetic towards as written recently. They're even downplaying the Parallax thing.

But Hal, at his heart, is an underdog. Broome sets him up with girlfriend troubles, Carol dumps him when she gets promoted over him. From the very first adventure, he's clumsy as all hell. We're not exaggerating the head injuries, he trips and falls and gets bashed on the head a lot. He also has Silver Age superhero personal life problems, and is a little bit dense in comparison to the other Lanterns. Later writers have him going from job to job, and give us some fallout from his stupid behavior.

Emerald Dawn is entirely about Hal's recklessness and willingness to do the right thing when he needs to.

In what's probably the best 21st Century Hal setup, Cooke's New Frontier introduces him as a man who has dreams of being an astronaut that he can't achieve. Becoming a Green Lantern makes that possible for him.

It always helps Hal when the audience gets a feeling all of his opportunities have passed him by and the ring is saving him. It helps us relate to him.

Not only that, he's a deeply flawed character, but if we don't see that his flaws are actively hurting him it looks like an endorsement of his behavior. That actually turns a lot of readers off of the character, who is basically a big jerk with a heart of silver. (Because gold isn't really that great in this franchise.)

The other option is to whitewash the flaws away, but that also removes the main theme of the character. Hal's human, and flawed, but he's still good enough to save the universe and he wants to because he is human and flawed. That's always been the underlying difference between him and Sinestro (who is introduced as a power-mad Lantern who took over as absolute dictator long before he was retconned to Hal's mentor), Sinestro feels the universe has to live up to his standards. Hal--on a subconscious level--understands the universe and feels it has the right to exist, warts and all. Because Hal's got his bad points too, and recognizes that.

The great thing about the movie as a character study of Hal is that this is the setup. Hal's character flaws are engaging in a nonstop assault on his personal and professional life. There's a sequence at the beginning that's dedicated into showing how no one else appreciates this, how he's hurting his friends and family and coworkers. It shows that while Hal seems to have the coolest possible life on paper, he is a complete wreck, from the empty state of his kitchen to his inability to get to work on time. He's one mistake away from being unemployed, one more insensitive act from his brothers never speaking to him away, and one lane change away from death.

We also learn that he's screwed up an Air Force career, a relationship with Carol, and god knows what else in the past. We learn he's a serial quitter.

And the beauty of this is in casting Ryan Reynolds, one of those actors who just makes you happy to watch him. He's just plain likable, so while you watch that Hal's an idiot and a jerk, you still empathize with and root for him.

That was pretty impressive, and that's the Hal I've been missing in recent Green Lantern. Like I said before, from Agent Orange, that Green Arrow teamup with the Black Mercy, the just post-Rebirth stuff, and the producer credit, I think that Geoff Johns understands that these are the necessary parts of Hal's concept. His personal life must be absolutely chaotic and he has to be, on some level, pretty miserable about the situation he's made for himself. Johns certainly does have a lot of moments where Hal is shown to be in complete denial, or at least very dissatisfied with his lifestyle.

But more often than not, he seems too focused on showing how good he is with women, how good he is at fighting, and how awesome his day job is (even though Hal really is the shittiest Air Force officer possible and oh god I want the proper Maj. Steve Trevor back so someone can chew Hal out for his conduct) to really drive home just how much of a mess Hal makes of his life. It's there, and you see it sometimes, but usually it's really subtle or completely shoved aside so we can focus on the crossovers instead.

It was nice to see that guy in the movie, though. Fingers crossed we'll see him again in September. I mean, the same writer did do Agent Orange.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Tell me you did not, in the same month you killed off my favorite Captain America supporting character in a boring stupid crossover that I'm not interested in reading, kill off my second-favorite Captain America supporting character in a boring stupid mini-series which is a sequel to a boring stupid 90s crossover?

Because if you did that, we may not be on speaking terms for a little while.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ragnell's Guide to Golden Age Wonder Woman

They're doing a weekend-long 99 cent Wonder Woman sale on Comixology and the DC iPad app today, and they're offering a selection of Golden Age Wonder Woman stories. I am going to be totally upfront here, despite all their flaws I love this Wonder Woman run. It has the tone and creativity that I want from Wonder Woman again. More than anything I want them to re-establish the classic setup so that they have all of these things to play with.

Still, there's some flaws and people have limited funds so I'd like to offer this succinct shopping guide.

All-Star Comics #8
Introducing: Diana/Wonder Woman, Queen Hippolyta, Steve Trevor, Steve's gun
Featuring: The Story So Far

Recommendation: Buy it! It's the first appearance of Diana by her original creator, and it's the best place to find the original intentions for the series.

(ETA: It's free right now, don't pass it up.)

Sensation Comics #1
Diana's first few days on Man's World.
Introducing: Diana Prince, the Invisible Jet, Steve's exasperated modesty
Featuring: A lot of off-hand comments about how weird Man's World is.

Recommendation: Buy this! This is the other half of her origin story and still one of the best Wonder Woman stories ever written.

Sensation Comics #2
Diana meets her very first super-villain.
First appearances: Dr. Poison, Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls, Steve's uncanny ability to get in trouble even when he's asleep.
Featuring: Dancing! Breaking through doors! Steve giving orders and waving a gun around while being carried by Diana!

Racism: Maru falls under the dragon lady stereotype, but the art isn't as punch in the face horrifying as a lot of the other propaganda comics (including this one later on) of the era.

Recommendation: Buy. Give this one a shot.

Sensation Comics #3
Diana gets a job working for Gen Darnell at military intelligence.
Introducing: The Military Intelligence office environment, Lila and Eve Brown
Featuring: A glimpse at Pledge Week at Holliday College.

Recommendation: Consider it. I have a fondness for Steve in embarrassing situations, so I'd advise on this one.

Sensation Comics #4

Introducing: Paula Von Gunther, the Bondage weakness, and Col Darnell's crush on Diana Prince.
Featuring: The Fire Squad Feat, one of my favorite Wonder Woman moments.

Recommendation: Buy this.

Sensation Comics #5
Featuring: I only really remember this one because it's one of only two stories I've read from the whole of Vol 1 that involve a male friend of Steve's. (The other is the guy in O'Neil's run.) Every other friend of Steve's seems to be either a guy at work or a woman he knows through Wonder Woman.
It also has a couple great "Wonder Woman tells a bunch of men what to do and they listen" moments.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Sensation Comics #6
The Return of Baroness Von Gunther.
Introducing: The Lasso
Featuring: Weird Amazon Sports. It totally went over my heard the first few times I read this one, but this is where he really starts messing around with bondage jokes. We see an Amazon rodeo, and Baroness von Gunther is always pretty kinky, even as Wonder Woman villainesses go.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Sensation Comics #7
This is the Milk story.

Buy it.

Sensation Comics #8
Introducing: Steve's amazing ability to pick the absolute worst time to ask Diana Prince to dinner.
Featuring: "Great girdle of Aphrodite! Am I tired of being tied up!"

Racism: I've actually got two copies of this story, and that's where I first noticed the cleaning. There's a panel with two pretty bad black caricatures in my archives. The WW Chronicles has cleaned up the picture and the dialogue. I'm willing to bet it's been downplayed for the digital, and that this is actually why it's been taking them so long to release Golden Age Wonder Woman.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Sensation Comics #9
First Appearance: Dan White, the real Diana Prince's complete asshole of a husband
Featuring: Heavy-handed symbolism

Racism: One panel of a Japanese dude, and this artist never does a flattering portrayal of anyone who isn't white.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Wonder Woman #1
Introducing: There is seriously a large strawberry blonde wrestling Amazon named "Fatsis" who nearly takes out Mala. It is also her last appearance, I believe. (Funny how the tournament retellings always give us the most Amazon body diversity, Diana and Mala both tend to get opponents who are bigger than them. Elsewhere, the Amazons are often just a stock body shape.)
Featuring: Steve pronounced dead by a medical professional. It doesn't take.

This circus-based story is fairly unimpressive unless you like elephants.
Racism: Superstitious Indian (South Asian Indian) dudes as villains.

Introducing: Little boys dressed as cowboys that idolize WW, and half-page guest victim Captain Loyal (I wish they'd bring him back just for the name.)

First Appearance: Pepita the Matador, Etta's brother Mint
Racism: Stepin Fetchit porter character, Pepita's horrible accent, and a guy named Pancho who is both a Mexican and a black stereotype at once. Also, caricatures of Japanese soldiers. All of this in the art is downplayed in the edited Chronicles reprint.

Recommendation: Skip it if you're going to skip any of these. It's possible that they will only reprint the A and C story here. In that case, I'd say pick it up. But really, it's not so good as to bother with the B and D story unless you're making a study of the era's racism.

Wonder Woman #2
Wonder Woman goes to Mars!
Steve sort of dies and his soul gets stolen by Mars to be put to work creating war and strife on Earth. Aided by Aphrodite, Diana goes to Mars, rescues him, and faces his three generals over a set of 5 stories.
Introducing: The Citadel of the God of War on Mars, the Duke of Deception, the Lord of Conquest, the Earl of Greed and Marta (Lord Conquest's wife)
Featuring: Stolen souls, Hitler, Hirohito, Moussolini and the second time Steve Trevor has died in as many issues.

Racism: The fourth story, where she fights the Duke of Deception, includes a lot of Asian stereotypes and caricatures. I only have this in the Archives where nothing is changed, so they might alter them.

Recommandation: The first story alone is one of the best and most imaginative stories in WW history, but it's tough to recommend it for the fourth story. It's creative and amazing, so I would buy it based on plot alone, but I don't blame you if you skip it.

Wonder Woman #3
Featuring: Amazon religious festivals and the untold story of Baroness Paula von Gunther.

Racism: Two with men of color (a Japanese soldier and an African-American elevator operator) that will likely be edited for modern audience sensibilities.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Wonder Woman #4
Featuring: A disease that makes women lose their minds, Col Darnell's crush on Diana, male bondage, and Etta coming on to Steve.

Racism: The first story is about a Chinese girl who comes to the US to raise awareness of what the Japanese are doing to her people. Lots of stilting accents and Japanese caricatures.

Recommendation: Consider it

Wonder Woman #5
Introducing: Dr. Psycho!
Featuring: The first real and permanent death among the regular cast.

Recommendation: Buy it!

Wonder Woman #6
Introducing: Cheetah!
Featuring: the Hair Salon of Creative Restraint

Racism: Caricatured Japanese sailors in the second half of the beauty salon story.

Recommendation: Consider it. Grab it if you're a big Cheetah fan, I guess.

Wonder Woman #7
Queen Hippolyta uses the Magic Sphere to show Diana a future world where women run the US.
Introducing: The Future!

Recommendation: Consider it

(ETA: I made this based off the DC comics press release, and didn't realize most of the Sensation Comics issues are bundled together in groups of two. That's much better bang for your buck, because these are only a quarter of the length of the Wonder Woman story. I added links to the Comixology parts, but haven't had a chance to look at any of these and how they've been changed. Comment if there's something worth mentioning that I missed.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

I'm sure you've all heard about Gene Colan by now.

His tumblr tag is really active and diverse today, if you'd like to take a moment to look at his art.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wonder Woman Digital Sale

On a better note, whoever is in charge of digital comics at DC is finally doing something I've been wanting them to for ages. They're putting up a Wonder Woman sale. 48 hours starting Saturday, 99 cents a piece.
Beginning this Saturday at 12:01 am The WONDER WOMAN 101 digital comics will be on sale for only $0.99 each. Offering a comprehensive digital collection of all things WONDER WOMAN, the sale event covers her storied beginnings to her reimagination in the 80s to the most recent critically-acclaimed storylines ENDS OF THE EARTH, RISE OF THE OLYMPIAN, WARKILLER and CONTAGION. Don’t miss out on stories from WONDER WOMAN creator Dr. William Moulton Marston and writers and artists including George PĂ©rez, Adam Hughes, Greg Rucka and Roy Thomas - after 48 hours all titles will go back to their regular price.

Check out her classic early appearances!

All-Star Comics #8
Sensation Comics #1-9
Wonder Woman Volume 1 #1-7

Discover how she was reimagined in the 1980s!

Wonder Woman Volume 2
• Gods and Mortals (issues #1-7)
• Challenge of the Gods (issues #8-14)
• Beauty and the Beasts (issues #15-19)
• Destiny Calling (issues #20-24)

Read her critically-acclaimed recent adventures!

Wonder Woman Volume 3
• Who is Wonder Woman? (issues #1-4)
• Love and Murder (issues #5-10)
• Amazons Attack (issues #11-13)
• The Circle (issues #14-19)
• Ends of the Earth (issues #20-25)
• Rise of the Olympian (issues #26-33)
• Warkiller (issues #34-39)
• Contagion (issues #40-44)
Wonder Woman #219
Wonder Woman #600-602

Explore her adventures with the Justice League!

JLA #1
Kingdom Come #1
DC: The New Frontier #1-6
Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman: Trinity #1-3

The listed items may not be everything.

I advise everyone to at least check it out. I'm going to go through my archives again and see if I can get out a decent guide to the Marston issues available. Stuff like basic plots, first appearances, racism warnings, and my own personal rating on the story.

If I can't do this by Saturday, I still recommend you check out the Marston run, particularly All-Star Comics #8, Sensation Comics #1, Wonder Woman #1, and Wonder Woman #2

Kittens and cowards

DC pulled an act of desperate cowardice this week, a number of people hae weighed in but I'd like to draw your attention to Chris and David in particular.

The piss-poor excuse DC leaked to Johnston is that it was over a scene of Superman saving a kitten from a tree. (I'd rather link you to Dave than any retelling of this inanity. You can search it.) I have now downgraded Johnston on the insult scale from hyena to block of wood, because he actually seemed to lend this bullshit an ounce of credibility. This does not display the intelligence necessary to hang out waiting for scraps of attention, out of context quotes and press releases disguised as juicy gossip.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm not angry.


So, they came out and said it, the target is 18-34 year old males.

We all knew this. This is why what they say and some of the business decisions they make seem so stupid. However, I have to note some things:

1) This doesn't really make me want to drop anything. I liked stuff they thought wasn't for girls before, I'll continue to. They know about women like me, and will continue to rationalize us away as off and not significant enough to market to, but their sexism ultimately doesn't change that I'm into the genre and sometimes stuff I like comes out of it.

2) If that's the end of their plans, this is a stupid idea. It's the same demographic they've always marketed to, it's the safe demographic. If they think they can just make everything look sexy and exciting to bring them back to comics when their problems run much more deeply into distribution and pricing, they are taking a serious risk.

3) If this is the beginning of their plans, that's understandable but still cowardly. The culture believes this is the comic reading demographic, and they are trying to expand outside of insular fandom to the larger culture. So, they're gonna start with the safe demographic. Maybe if they get enough and get a foothold they'll go for a different gender or age grouping, but I have my doubts.

2 vs 3 all depends on whether this is a smart WB exec's master plan or if this is the corporate leadership giving the comics division leadership one last chance to get it right before they fire everyone and bring in their own people. If it's the former, I'd say they plan to expand. If it's the latter, I'd say they have no idea how to market outside the 18-34 male demo and don't have the imagination to do so. They'll fail spectacularly, and I'll point and laugh.

4) And this is the important thing. This changes nothing about what they should consider in their writing.

Men and women, boys and girls all need a decent representation of all kinds of people from all aspects of the media. Our culture is pushing a poisonous gender binary, where everything strong is male and everything weak is female. Our culture is pushing suffocating assumptions about race and class and sexuality. These ideas get into our heads early on and the only way to fight them is with thought.

You need to think about what you say, what you do, what you read and what you write. You need to think about the images you see and the images you show. You need to think about what these things say, and teach, and mean overall in the context of our culture.

The context of our culture doesn't ever go away, and upholding bigoted stereotypes because your intended audience is the majority just reinforces those bigoted stereotypes and all the social ills that come with them.

So, no... I don't care if it's for the boys. They're still accountable for what they write.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad's Day Greetings

Since I am once again in another time zone and having to keep a dayshift schedule, I'm going to leave my greeting card on the blog:

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I still say that Guardian was right about Hal.

The Green Lantern movie has stirred up a number of old issues in the fandom. I've been avoiding these, of course, but even I have run across the disdain for John Stewart shown by those who can't be bothered to pick up anything prior to Rebirth. (Philistines!)

This naturally has put me back in a defensive mode for my darling John, and had me rereading old books to put together a recommendation list. As I believe a strong first appearance is the foundation of any decent character, the first place I went to was "Beware My Power", the backup story in Green Lantern #87 that introduced John. (It's reprinted in the second Green Lantern/Green Arrow trade and has the distinct honor of being one of the few collected in Green Lantern: The Greatest Stories Ever Told that deserves the title.)

And that's where I got myself into trouble, because I found myself staring at that first page with John again.

Longtime readers will recall my extraordinary affection for this first page John appears on. It's a masterful set up of the character traits that will put Hal and John at odds in this story.

The first page of John actually establishes quite a bit about his character and the upcoming conflict with Hal. John first shows up confronting a possibly crooked cop. The cop's harassing a couple of domino players on the sidewalk, and John actually walks up behind the police officer, touches his shoulder, and tells him they aren't really bothering anyone. The cop threatens him with the nightstick, and John holds his ground.

On the rooftop above, Hal and a Guardian watch. John is being hand-picked by the Guardians as Hal's new backup now that Guy is on the injured list. Hal argues with the Guardian that John shouldn't be trusted with a power ring.

About four or five years ago I became obsessed with this page and started blogging it panel by panel. And I don't mean I posted a panel with a sentence or two. I mean I posted a panel with five to twelve paragraphs of text commenting on the symbolism in the panel. I was saved by the very last panel on the page.

It's a very simple panel, and follows the Guardian chastising Hal for racism. Once again, I remind you that the Guardians of Oa are telepathic, so there's some basis for this accusation. I added back then that Hal's defensiveness supported that.

Hal continues to question the Guardian's wisdom by pointing out that John questioning the policeman's wisdom means he has a chip on his shoulder.

Let me rephrase that again for emphasis, he's being insubordinate to an authority figure on the rooftop, and is justifying his insubordination by saying that John is being insubordinate to an authority figure on the street below. That's... that takes a special kind of denial.

Anyway, in addition to a sudden desire to actually finish out the page on this feature, I just wanted to point out the angle of Hal's head. His head is bowed so much at the moment that he's reaching into the next panel. He was leaning back before. The Guardian hit a nerve, and Hal realizes his own hypocrisy as he's stating it.

So he's bowing his head and acquiescing to the Guardian's wishes even as he voices his final concerns. Look at his eyes and his posture. He's wincing. He knows he doesn't have a leg to stand on, that in fact a guy who'd back off from a bullying policeman wouldn't be qualified at all. He knows that he'd probably butt in too, and that his friend Ollie would butt in and shake his finger in the cop's face while calling him a Nazi. (To be fair, I sure as hell wouldn't give Ollie a power ring but Hal should have a bit of perspective on John after dealing with the blonde idiot for so many issues.)

Not only that, my old commenter Steven points out that he's shaded in yellow by some odd chance. He goes on to make a yellow space-bug joke, but he's right that it "literally puts Hal's disingenuous response in an off-putting light." Likelier than not that's a coloring mistake, but it's a pretty cool one and supports the effect of the panel.

I love Hal, and I especially love him in the O'Neil run where he's a flawed human being learning to open his mind to the rest of humanity for the first time. Part of this story is about Hal overcoming prejudice, and it's right there in those last two panels on that page.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And now, a lesson in avoiding the question.

Comic Alliance interview with Bob Harras and Eddie Berganza:
CA: I had heard a rumor that after the relaunch that all the female characters would involve pants, although the recent Supergirl costume change seems to debunk that. Was there any consideration given to changing the costumes, particularly in terms of the disproportionately large amount of skin exposed on female characters in comparison with male characters?

EB: We looked at every hero, analyzing what's realistic within the realm of wearing a costume. Now, more and more people are being exposed to them on film. Look at what Green Lantern's wearing. Really, the sky's the limit. And that's not limited to gender. It's about what makes practical sense for a hero to put on.

CA: Sure, but I think that we all know that costumes for female heroes are significantly more revealing in terms of skin. Was there ever a conversation about have a more equal and proportionate approach to men and women's costumes?

BH: All the characters were looked at... That was across the board for all the 52 [new comics]. So I don't know where the pants thing came from because it was a very comprehensive look at what we were doing in September.

EB: And for Hawkman, we kept the shirt off.

They do the same dancing when it comes to the timeline too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wonder Woman, Architecture and Mortality

Full September solicits are up:

Art and cover by CLIFF CHIANG
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Gods walk among us. To them, our lives are playthings. Only one woman would dare to protect humanity from the wrath of such strange and powerful forces. But is she one of us – or one of them?

As I said on Tumblr, this makes me feel a lot better. Remember the opening to the 90s Kevin Sorbo Hercules? That's what this sounds like, and that's what Wonder Woman is supposed to me. She's supposed to be a modern Hercules in female form.

Not only that? No man-hating. Nothing about fearing Diana's wrath. Nothing about having to learn how men aren't evil. Nothing about the Amazons making war on humanity. Even the fluff on the end for the new readers to be intrigued about her origins doesn't imply anything bad about her personally, just puts her origins in question. Basically, a complete departure from the past year of "Will Wonder Woman be evil?" and the whole Flashpoint angle of "How did Wonder Woman go evil?" Hell, there's not even anything about having to adjust to men or teach the isolationist Amazons that men don't suck. She is straight up presented as a protector of humanity from the wrath of the Gods.

After the trajectory of the past year? I'm elated.

They'll emphasize the warrior, I'm sure. Azzarello doesn't shy from violence, and his portrayal of Diana in Superman #210-211 was heavy on the warrior side with a extra helping of cold restraint. It didn't bother me there, because of the stress of the "You really have to fight your best friend Superman and stop him from hurting a lot of people" setup on her side. It also didn't present Diana as a danger to humanity, just an opponent that would be able to defeat Superman. He gets her away from him by asking her to save two lives. If that's Azzarello's take here? If she's a dangerous woman, but not to humanity and her primary focus is saving lives? It's a lot better than what we've seen lately, and this solicit suggests that's what we'll get.

Really, the only solicit that could make me happier would be "Grant Morrison contacted WM Marston and Elizabeth Holloway with a Oujia Board, and will be presenting his masterpiece once Greg Rucka is finished editing all the inadvertant sexism out of it. See you in September!"

The other thing that has me optimistic is that I got Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality in the mail today. I am shocked that no one has ever recommended this to me. This is a story where the DCU's most stubborn skeptic, his daughter, and a crew of unused comic book characters team up to battle the combined might of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid. Inside, Azzarello writes an argument for the reboot 4 years before the reboot.

It's also a great story that uses first-person narration to maximum effect. You get a look at how Dr. Thirteen sees himself and the people around him, and a sense of what he's in denial about and what he feels but won't narrate. You also sympathize with someone who is a wholly stubborn and often rude character, and want him to succeed and survive. That takes a little skill. The rest of the cast is peppered with people who are, at their concepts, completely ridiculous. They are the silliness DC often tries to sweep under the rug, and Azzarello digs them up for a meta-commentary made for adults. He uses them as characters with natural emotions and complex reactions without losing that commentary, and puts them in a serious situation where we actually worry about them without dropping the innocence or charm inherent in the characters. Chiang's simple, classic style is a big part of this, because we get an old comic book feel with modern artistic techniques.

This is very good sign for a Wonder Woman reboot team, because that's actually exactly what the Wonder Woman franchise needs. It needs someone to take some of the old silly concepts and bring them into the modern era without dropping the innocence or charm to them. It needs someone who can present Diana as a serious hero, and even emphasize the aggressive and active parts of her nature, without losing her humanity. And make no mistake, that is what we constantly lose in the endless rush to badassify Wonder Woman. We lose the little touches of her as a person, the impulsive young woman who lept into the ocean because someone needed her, the healer who worked tirelessly to save a sick man, the daughter who went behind her mother's back in order to earn her place in society, the hopeful explorer that was the first person to leave home for three thousand years, the woman who doesn't quite understand how men work, the visitor to a foreign land... All of these traits that surface off of the battlefield that are increasingly lost as writers emphasize the warrior in Diana. They tell us they do this because it makes her more flawed, more human, but really every time they take her from those soft moments they take her a little further away from her humanity and her relatability.

I'm not going to pin my hopes on seeing all of the potential in Diana's character in this reboot, but the subtle and complex characterization of Dr. Thirteen in this book tells me that this creative team has the skill to write her on the battlefield without completely abandoning the softer facets of her personality. And the use of the other characters in this book tell me that they can take franchise elements that aren't often taken seriously and use them as story elements with enough humor that they aren't warped but don't detract from the seriousness of the story. All with some obvious metacommentary because Wonder Woman is built on metacommentary about the genre and adventure stories in general.

If anything, this little book may have set the bar a bit high for this team. Still, this is more optimistic than I've felt about a Wonder Woman comic all year.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

September Green Lantern Covers

They've released the cover for the John and Guy book. Look at all the Lanterns who made it through the reboot:

I'm pleased to see Soranik, Brik, and Arisia still around. Less pleased to see Arisia's costume still around, but what can you do?

And I can't remember all the names for the guys on Kyle's new team but I've narrowed down everyone but the Star Sapphire. (Because the Star Sapphires all conveniently look alike in silhouette.)

Spiraling from Kyle in the center, we have the reptilian yellow lantern who fought Kilowog in Sinestro Corps War climax (Akrillo, thank you!), Bleez (thankfully, she avoids being drawn by Ed Benes), the Indigo Lantern who showed up on Oa during Blackest Night, Glomulus the orange lantern, a Star Sapphire and Saint Walker.

The Star Sapphire silhouette does not look like Miri, unless her redesign has really lengthened her hair and changed her headdress. Because Kyle is the sort of person who puts together a team of people he knows and trusts, Miri would be his most likely pick. Second most likely? Actually Fatality, since he knows her and can predict her and is kind of a sucker. That would also make the best drama. Then Carol, based on Hal's recommendation.

It doesn't look like Miri, and I don't think Johns is giving up Carol Ferris to Tony Bedard. Silhouette-wise, that character looks like Dela Pharon (the blonde version) to me. But again, all of the Star Sapphires are nearly impossible to tell apart in silhouette. If I wanted the most volatile team possible? Fatality, so she's probably the one there.

Either way, this book just went up on my want list from this image alone.