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.