Archive for the ‘women in fiction’ Category
Filed Under clive cussler, pirates, ted bell, women in fiction
This one didn’t even make the 100 Page Rule. And I so wanted to like it too.
I had to go to the DMV not too long ago and realized as I was out running errands beforehand that I’d brought nothing to read. So I popped into a Barnes & Noble and browsed until I found Ted Bell. Hawke, the first novel in his Alex Hawke series, looked promising. There’s a picture of a boat, a reference to “high adventure,” a comparison to Clive Cussler (whom I’ve never read, but have always meant to), and a romantic, swashbuckling name for the hero.
Turning the book over I saw that the hero is the direct descendant of a legendary privateer and a decorated Naval hero himself. There’s also something about a top secret assignment in the Caribbean. I bought the book right away. Unfortunately, I only made it to page seventy-two.
It began promisingly enough. Young Alex Hawke is on a yacht trip with his parents when modern-day pirates board the boat and orphan the boy. Bell writes the scene convincingly and horrifyingly. I felt real fear and sorrow for the poor kid. It’s only when we flash forward to years later that things start to come apart.
Alex overcomes his adversity to join the British Navy and not only better himself, but to become annoyingly perfect. He’s rich, he’s charming, he’s adventurous. The only flaws I could find in him before I gave up are that he’s no good at golf and that he doesn’t know how to break up with women very well.
I could’ve stuck it out if that’s all that was wrong, but I was already irritated by the time I got to page sixty-eight, which is where I started questioning my commitment to the book. Four pages later, I closed it for good.
What’s happening on page sixty-eight is that Alex is trying to track down a lead on a missing submarine and is in a Caribbean bar interviewing a couple of former Soviets who now traffic in high-end military equipment like hovercrafts, helicopters, scud missiles, and – hopefully – submarines. Alex has heard that the men had recently been arguing over a girl (the argument makes them late for their meeting with him) and that one of them had abused her.
The knowledge doesn’t seem to affect his attitude towards the men; in fact, he sort of feels sorry for them at first. Bell writes:
Looking at them, Hawke felt a twinge of pity. At one time, these two cold warriors had surely been formidable men, accustomed to a sense of purpose, power, and command. Now they had a dissolute air about them, stemming no doubt from too much sun, too much rum, too little self-respect. It was more than a little humbling, Hawke imagined, to be peddling the arsenal of your once vaingloriously evil empire.
But Hawke’s empathy for the Russians quickly changes when he realizes that the waitress serving them is actually the girl the men were fighting over. Seeing abrasions on her wrists and ankles, he becomes a different man.
Now, I get the difference between “hearing” that someone got rough with a girl and seeing the results of it for yourself. It’s now how I’d react, but I understand that maybe Alex is the kind of guy who’d let it go until he was confronted with the evidence. In fact, it would make him a more interesting character if he was that kind of guy. It would be a significant flaw that I’d be interested in watching him overcome. But that’s not the case here.
On page sixty-eight (aka Chapter Five), Bell retroactively paints Alex as the kind of guy who brooks no tolerance for anyone who would abuse a woman. Words like “unbridled loathing” and “sodden degenerates” are used. Bell tells us, “In Alex’s world there was right and there was wrong. And there were no shades of gray.”
First of all, my worldview doesn’t leave me very patient with folks who see everything in black and white. Abusing someone weaker than you is always wrong, but I’d want to hear the whole story before passing final judgment. Was the girl armed? Was she threatening one of the men in some other way? Did she have information they needed? This new Alex of Chapter Five doesn’t care about those questions. His “no shades of gray” policy immediately makes me question whether or not I want to keep reading about him.
But more than that is the sloppiness in the storytelling. Alex already knew that at least one of these guys had beat up a girl. And he felt badly for them; related to them even. Turn the page and now he’s outraged. He quickly adjourns the meeting, invites the men back to his boat for further discussion, and when they leave he promises the grateful, gleaming-eyed waitress that he’ll take care of them and they’ll never bother her again. She all but folds her hands and says, “My hero!”
The inconsistency between the nonchalant, businesslike Alex of Chapter Four and this vengeful Alex of Chapter Five is what made me throw up my hands and put the book away. And it’s too bad really, because a series of books about a pirate’s descendent who travels the world fixing unfixable problems sounded awesome to me.
Publishers Weekly’s review of it (on the Amazon page in the link above) makes me glad I quit now though. It calls Alex “a cartoon” and the book itself “a pirate book for adult boys (that) … tips over into unintentional parody more often than it should.” Maybe instead of reading “the new Clive Cussler” I should try some actual Clive Cussler instead.
Filed Under blog, sea adventures, women in fiction
I’m narrowing the focus of the blog. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I think it’s the right thing to do for four reasons:
1. You don’t need another Star Wars blog.
Seriously, I keep seeing the same information and news all over the Internet and very often it pops up here too just because I think it’s cool or whatever. You don’t need me to tell you that John Favreau has been signed to direct Iron Man 2 or to link to Clone Wars and Spirit trailers or to say that Fringe looks exciting. There are a ton of sites that do that so much better than I do.
In fact, the only reason I’ve been doing it as long as I have is because I know there are some friends of mine who read my blog, but don’t read the major entertainment news blogs. But the rest of you don’t need that and besides, I just can’t keep up with it anymore. Which leads me to my second reason.
2. I just can’t keep up with it anymore.
Reading and filtering through a couple of hundred blog posts everyday is fun, but it’s way time-consuming. I don’t plan on dropping any of my reading, but not having to share every little tidbit that I find interesting is going to save me a lot of time that I could use writing my novel, following up on comics projects, or even just improving the content here. Narrowing my focus will limit the amount of link-blogging I do, and I think that’s a good thing.
3. Less link-blogging means better content.
I hope it does anyway. I’ve got a folder full of ideas for honest-to-goodness articles I’ve been wanting to post, but keeping up with the links has been distracting me from that. And recently I read a couple of things from other Internet writers that have made that clear to me.
At the end of June, Tom Spurgeon questioned his own site-strategy and the amount of link-blogging he was doing. He was just thinking out loud and repented of it the next day, but while mulling it over he said something that hit home to me:
…I feel that link-blogging is becoming less and less valuable, more a way for people to fake content than provide a service.
While I’d never presume to tell Tom Spurgeon how to run his incredibly successful blog, he got me thinking about my own blogging and whether or not I’m “faking content.” I certainly don’t thing that all link-blogging is useless. My day isn’t complete without going through both Tom’s blog and Dirk Deppey’s with a fine-toothed comb. But I don’t think it’s what I want Adventureblog to be.
And while I was considering that, Warren Ellis sent out one of his email newsletters that reminded me about this post with the following thoughts in it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stand up now and say, okay, these are the post-curation years? The world does not need another linkblog. What is required, frankly, is what we’re supposed to call “content” these days. When I were a lad, back in the age of steam, we called this “original material.” Put another way: we like it when Cory and Xeni are the copy/paste editors for the internet, but we like it better when Cory writes a book and Xeni makes an episode of BoingBoingTV.
…And, frankly, no-one’s going to do a better job of being the internet’s copy/paste editors than the BB crew anyway. They have the time, they have the money, they have the setup, they have the audience and they have the momentum of nearly a decade in the job. Nobody needs another linkblog like that. There are already thousands of them. The job of curation is being taken care of. Look ahead.
I’m challenged by that. And while I doubt that reviews are exactly what Ellis had in mind, I’m not going to be able to improve by continuing to let linking eat up most of my time.
4. I’ll be able to get out more.
Right now, when I read something nifty on someone else’s blog, my initial instinct isn’t to comment on it. It’s to save the link so I can write about it later. I think it would be nicer to provide feedback directly on other people’s blogs, so I’m going to try to do that more.
So, what’s the focus going to be?
Like I said, I’m cutting out all the Star Wars and Star Trek stuff. In fact, I’m cutting out most of the scifi stuff altogether. There are a ton of great scifi blogs already covering that. I’ll probably still geek out on some new TV show or movie enough that I’ll want to talk about it, but I’ll try to keep that to my Off Topic blog when that’s the case.
What I want to keep talking about here are two things. One is sea adventure. That includes pirates, fish-people, Atlantis, mad scientists in submarines, sea monsters, all that stuff. I said earlier that I’ve really been drawn to that lately, but it’s not just lately. Anyone who knows me knows what a sucker I am for this stuff and always have been. Especially pirates.
It also includes jungle islands filled with loin-cloth wearing heroes (male and female), lost cities, giant gorillas, and dinosaurs. That may not be what most people think of when they hear “sea adventure,” but it’s what I think about. So I’ll keep talking about all that too.
The other thing I’m going to keep talking about could go by the hoity toity label “women in heroic fiction,” but I prefer to call them Action Girls. Meaning nothing disrespectful by the use of the word “girl;” it just flows better and I don’t think it’s really a diminutive term anyway. Anyway, I’m far too fascinated by strong, heroic women to quit talking about them, so you’ll still be hearing much more about Wonder Woman and Black Canary and the others than you want to.
(A third topic that’s being grandfathered in is giant monsters and giant robots because Jason and I are still hard at work on Kill All Monsters! and it’s a subject of interest. But I’m going to be more exclusive about which monster/robot links I post.)
Not that I’m cutting out the link-blogging cold turkey, you understand. As they relate to the topics of Sea Adventure and Action Girls, I’ll still be sharing plenty of links (and art and videos). It’s just that in cutting out everything else, I hope to be able to write more “original material” about those topics, in the form of both blog essays and my novel.
So, hopefully everyone’s down with the new direction. I really think it’s going to make this place more fun.
Filed Under women in fiction, wonder woman
Former Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka is upset about the most recent Playboy’s featuring Tiffany Fallon in a painted-on Wonder Woman costume. According to Rucka, “You’ve no idea the damage you’ve done. No idea at all.”
And he may be right. But not according to Steven Grant who writes, “We’re talking about Wonder Woman, right? Bazoongas out to here, skintight costume, high heels, bare legs and emphasized crotch, slave bracelets on her wrists Wonder Woman. Right? The Wonder Woman whose creator intended her to warm girls up to the joys of freedom via bondage and submission, right? If you think Wonder Woman is a role model, bodypainted nudes are about the least of your problems… “
My take on it is falls somewhere between the two. I think Wonder Woman is a role model for girls. That doesn’t mean I think little girls should go out and start dressing like her; it’s Wonder Woman’s attitude and confidence that I wish more girls — heck, more people – would try to mimic. It’s that same confidence that allows her to wear that costume without giving a crap about what anyone else thinks about it.
But in response to Rucka’s post title, I guess I kind of don’t get it. Someone explain to me how a Playboy Playmate’s imitating Wonder Woman hurts Wonder Woman’s image or impact as a role model. Yes, it’s sexist. Yes, it’s completely focused on Wonder Woman’s attractiveness.
But to Grant’s point, Wonder Woman has always been attractive. That’s an undeniable aspect of her character. And as far as her being the perfect role model for girls goes, it’s a flaw. Sure, it’s a lot easier for Wonder Woman to be as confident as she is. Just look at her. I don’t see how the Playboy pictorial changes that. It overemphasizes one aspect of her character to the neglect of the rest, but it doesn’t ruin her effectiveness as a role model any more than her unchanging attractiveness already does.
Filed Under big barda, gilmore girls, power girl, women in fiction, wonder woman
Today’s Warrior Woman is Big Barda — or, more accurately, “Lil’ Big Barda” — from Darryl Young’s blog, which is chock full of good stuff.
But speaking of Barda, I’m sorry that Big Barda & Scott Free Week at Scans Daily never really took off.
“I want to have the kind of run I had on Birds of Prey“
The Dallas Morning News has a small, fluffy interview with Gail Simone in which she says she hopes to remain on Wonder Woman for at least five years. She wants to “have the room and time to really tell a megastory, made up of satisfying smaller chunks.” Sounds good to me.
Who it doesn’t sound good to: people who don’t really seem to care about Wonder Woman in the first place.
JLA movie on hold
From a Hollywood Reporter article on how the WGA strike is affecting movie production: “At Warner Bros., Justice League of America finds itself without a shooting script and has options expiring on potential actors who recently were screen tested. As a result, it might have to postpone production.” Sucks for me, but I’m still with the writers.
“I would frigging love to be Wonder Woman!”
So, with no chance of seeing an actual, big screen Wonder Woman any time soon, let’s go back to fantasizing about who we’d like to see. I’ll second the Lorelai Gilmore nomination. Not because she’s the first person I’d think of for the role, but because she rules in general.
I haven’t been into DC Direct’s anime-inspired statues so far, but I actually kinda like the Wonder Woman one. The face is goofy in it’s cutesy grimaciness, but I really like the costume design.
Added to my Wish List
DC’s Power Girl collection.
Feminist Icon vs. Sex Object: Where’s the line?
Former (I think) DC editor Steve Bunche has an interesting review of the ’70s grindhouse sexploitation flick ‘Gator Bait. It’s interesting because while Bunche isn’t necessarily a feminist, he’s clearly hip to feminist concerns when he writes stuff like, “Lemme tell ya, buddy, the makers of this film simply set out make a movie about a scantily clad hottie who kicks ass on the people who fucked with her and her family, but I strongly doubt that capital F feminism was intentionally involved in the creative process.
“Think about it: you have fine-ass Claudia Jennings, a woman for whom the wearing of clothing should have been a capital offense, traipsing about the fen in gear that shows off her priapism-inducing assets for all they’re worth, despite the fact that such gear is in no way conducive to the rigors of marshland hunting and trapping. Desiree is not so much a feminist role model as she is a fantasy wild woman/jungle girl updated and transplanted to a sweltering southern bayou, and as a lifelong fan of such characters I have no problem with that. But don’t hand me that feminist overanalysis horseshit; Desiree’s a forest spirit fantasy made flesh — hell, she even looks like an anthropomorphic fox — and to say otherwise is a tad disingenuous.”
Which makes me wonder: is it possible for a character to be a feminist role model and an object of lust at the same time? Certainly there are scantily clad superheroines who have plenty of female fans, but who are also ogled by male fans. Does the fact that some fanboys drool over these characters diminish them as role models for the fangirls? Does it depend entirely on the number of gratuitous butt, boob, and crotch shots the artist indulges in? What decides if an image is gratuitous or not? I’m asking. Where’s the line?
Filed Under women in fiction, wonder woman
The illustration du jour is by the muy talented Victor Santos, who’s been drawing lots of jungle girls lately.
pHilippos adds to the “Who is Wonder Woman?” discussion with a link to… the DC Message Board? Holy Crap. I’d given up on that place as a source of intelligent thought a long time ago, but damn if jv2000 didn’t come up with something smart to say:
WW should NOT be a title about a woman who feels bad about herself or her mother or her upbringing. She should not have to go around apologizing ad naseum. Nor should she be looked upon as the pariah of DCU. Its time for someone to put the COMIC back in this comic book. And while they are at it, please remind the rest of the writers at DC that good writing doesn’t equal depressing writing or killing off a character every third issue or scripting the bloodiest fight scene ever.
I would challenge the writers to write GOOD stories where our heroes feel GOOD about themselves. Or is that beyond the ability of the caliber of writer who writes for the serial form? Or is it some sick form of dealing with their own inferiority complexes? “Look, how great I am. I can make Superman and Wonder Woman feel bad. I can bring them down a notch.” Or is it just a bad formula? “Issue 1- Superhero feels good. Issues 2 through 5 – Make superhero feel bad. Issue 6 – Superhero wins, but somebody close to him/her dies. Superhero feels bad.”
When was the last time that WW actually used her mind to figure out a solution to a problem? When was the last time she actually outsmarted an opponent? As opposed to just beating them up.
There’s more smart stuff in the linked post, but those are the parts that struck me as being important to who Wonder Woman is: smart and not at all angsty.
Oh, well. Gail’s coming.
On writing women
Speaking of Wonder Woman, one of the writers who seemed to really get her, Greg Rucka, talked on his LJ about accusations that he’s sexist because he makes bad things happen to female characters:
Seems there’s a tirade over my treatment of Sasha on scans_daily coming out of the “CheckOut” storyline, and including her behavior in Checkmate 16. Apparently I’ve turned into a sexist bastard and didn’t get the memo. “This would never happen to Batman.” No shit. Batman isn’t infested by nanobots and being examined by a madman vivisectionist. Doctor Mid-Nite asks if she was sexually assaulted, and that’s a problem? Why, because it acknowledges that rape is a crime that happens? Would it have been more honest to simply pretend it wasn’t a possibility, rather than treat the scene with maturity, and have Sasha answer and confirm that, no, she wasn’t? Or is the problem that I dared broach it at all, that “there’s no room in comics for that kind of thing”? Or is it because the fact that women are the victims of rape far more often than men are is something that we’d rather just all ignore? People read for what they want to read, I guess, rather than reading what was written.
David Welsh responds:
Super-heroic fantasy is at least partly about portraying a better world than the one we live in. There are lots of societal trends, positive and negative, that aren’t proportionately represented in comics, and arguing that you’re just being honest by folding in some of the fouler ones strikes me as specious.
I’ve unfairly boiled their arguments down to a paragraph each, so if you’re interested you should definitely click through and read the rest of their thoughts. Because I like both of these guys and believe that each of them has given their opinion plenty of thought, I’m inclined to think that they’re both right. Rucka has always pursued honesty in the comics of his that I’ve read and hasn’t been shy about including some brutal stuff if that’s what he thought the story called for. On the other hand, David is exactly right that those kinds of comics stories aren’t for everyone. Some folks want lighter, escapist tales and there’s nothing wrong with that. Rucka’s comics aren’t for those folks though, as Rucka himself points out in his post.
Still, I can’t fault David for seeing Rucka’s work in the broader context of the way women heroes have traditionally been portrayed in superhero books.
Filed Under burn notice, women in fiction
I had a huge crush on Gabrielle Anwar after seeing her in The Three Musketeers and For Love or Money in the early ’90s, but I lost track of her after that. When she popped up on Burn Notice, I recognized her name, but barely the actress. In the ’90s she was all fresh-faced and girl-next-door. Obviously she’s matured in the last fifteen years, but on Burn Notice – although she’s still hot — she looks worn and haggard. Like she’s had a rough life.
Which, of course, she has. Or her character has, I mean.
I didn’t like Fiona for a while. Like most of the other characters on the show, she seemed placed there merely to give Michael a hard time. She felt like a generic ex-girlfriend who could still fit in with the show because she also had a similarly shady past. But as the show’s gone on, I’m loving her more and more.
Lately she’s been pressuring Michael to talk about their relationship. That could get annoying fast, but it hasn’t been thanks to the writing and Gabrielle’s acting. Oh, she’s nagging him, but underneath that is the knowledge that she’s a fiesty, former IRA-member who could not only kill Michael thirty-five different ways, she’d do it while eating an ice-cream cone and listening to her iPod. Fi’s got a streak in her that may not be sadistic, but it’s close to sociopathic. Gabrielle plays her very calmly and dispassionately, but with a sad loneliness that’s beautifully painful to watch.
It’s like Fi knows that she’s in a dark place and she’s pretty much okay with that, except that she likes the way Michael makes her feel. I don’t get the feeling that she wants Michael to “redeem” her or anything. He seems unequipped to do that even if she did. It’s just that she loves the guy, so she flirts and teases and nags and tests, because Michael can’t get past how bad their relationship was last time. But because she’s so nearly unhinged, her nagging and testing carry a huge sense of danger with them. In last week’s episode, she put Michael in harm’s way a couple of times just to see if he’d support her.
Since he’s Michael though, he can handle himself in those situations, so you never get angry with her. That’s why they’re such a hot couple. They’d totally kill anyone else they’d ever try a relationship with, which is why they’re both so lonely. But they can survive each other. They’re the only people in the world who they can survive. If only Michael would realize it.
Their relationship will always be rocky though. Michael’s right to be nervous about her. Fi is to Burn Notice what Wolverine is to X-Men. She’s unpredictable and deadly. Michael can take care of himself, but Fi is a monster in the way she deals with opponents. Michael’s badass, but Fi’s fifty times more. As capable as he is, Fi’s the one he calls in when he needs super-muscle. It’s a really good thing that she’s so fiercely loyal to him. I’d be worried about his eventually pissing her off and making an enemy of her, but that’s not the way things are going. Michael obviously cares about her and is loyal to her too; he’s just not sure he can go where she wants him to romantically.
The result is a fascinating relationship between two characters I absolutely love. I started watching the show for Bruce Campbell (and he’s great, don’t get me wrong), but Fi’s my new favorite. Not just on Burn Notice, but in genre fiction in general.
Filed Under black canary, superheroes, women in fiction
So, Black Canary #2 came out yesterday and my comics shop had restocked their supply of #1, which I’d missed thanks to not picking up my stash the week of July 4th. I’m all caught up now, and apart from a couple of weird lines of dialogue, I’m liking the mini-series.
I’m not saying that Batman would never say, “I was here the whole time, in case you rookies couldn’t hack it,” but it felt off. Or maybe it was the idea that Batman could actually sit patiently and watch a couple of young superheroes prove themselves without just stepping in himself and taking over.
The really strange line though was Kobra, not usually a great humorist that guy, telling Green Arrow, “I sssaid you hit like a girl.” The joking made for interesting juxtaposition with his seemingly un-ironic hiss-talking, but it’s still weird.
But, like I said, I’m liking it. I like the flashbacks that track Black Canary and Green Arrow’s relationship, and I like the adventures of Sin trying to fit in with other kids. But I especially like that Black Canary’s taking her time and thinking through Green Arrow’s proposal. Even though we already know what her answer will be, it’s good that she’s mulling it over first. ‘Cause honestly, Green Arrow’s not good enough for her.
Not that anyone is or that marriage is about finding someone who “deserves” you, but Green Arrow’s history with Black Canary is especially troubled. And that sounds odd for me to say since I became a Black Canary fan through Green Arrow.
I was a huge Robin Hood fan as a kid (still am), so it was a pretty easy transition for me to start digging Green Arrow once I heard of him. Then when I eventually discovered the “Hard Traveling Heroes” stories with him and Green Lantern, I was smitten by his dedication to the Little Guy and social justice issues. Before long, I was not only collecting his appearances in comics, but those of his “family” too: Speedy/Arsenal and Black Canary.
I eventually got tired of Arsenal. Too much baggage; too big a chip on his shoulder. But Black Canary I liked. I didn’t think about it in these terms back then, but I think the reason I dug her was that she was an interesting combination of Wonder Woman’s confidence and Rogue’s neediness, both traits that I find attractive in a cognitively dissonant sort of way.
In her earliest appearances in Flash Comics, she was a femme fatale: bold, confident, and deadly. She was initially a guest-star in Johnny Thunder stories and since he was a doof, she got to be the hero. Eventually though she got to star in her own stories, but she was still the confident hero. In her secret identity as Dinah Drake, she ran a flower shop and pretended to be as mild-mannered as Clark Kent, but that was a disguise. In reality, she always saved the day for Larry Lance, a private eye who frequently ran his business out of her shop.
She got to be popular enough that she joined the Justice Society of America, but that unfortunately meant that she had to play second-string to more powerful (more male?) heroes like Green Lantern and the Flash. It’s nice to see her participating in such a prominent team, but I much preferred seeing her solo in her own adventures. It’s too bad that Flash Comics was cancelled shortly after she started appearing in the JSA’s All-Star Comics.
She stayed with the JSA for three years until All-Star was cancelled and was mostly unheard from again until the JSA started appearing in yearly Justice League of America events. During that time we learn that Dinah and Larry got married. When Larry is killed during one of the team-ups, Black Canary decides to avoid memories of him by leaving the JSA (and Earth-2 where the JSA lives) and join the JLA on Earth-1. That’s where she meets Green Arrow.
There’s a huge gap in my collection right there, so I don’t know what Black Canary and Green Arrow were like back then, but the sense that I get is that she was sad a lot (though I may have formed that impression after reading retcon tales, so take it for what it’s worth). So — at least in my perception — she went from being this very confident character to being this emotionally vulnerable character and it was during this time of vulnerability that she started her relationship with Green Arrow. Not that he took advantage of her. I don’t know that. But even if she was completely into him, it’s not the healthiest way for a relationship to begin.
After Crisis on Infinite Earths merged the two Earths into one, DC explained that there were actually two Black Canaries. Dinah Drake Lance was a member of the JSA and her daughter Dinah Laurel Lance was in the JLA and had the relationship with Green Arrow. Eventually though, both Dinah Laurel and Green Arrow quit the JLA and moved to Seattle from which Mike Grell launched the Green Arrow ongoing.
I don’t have many issues of Grell’s GA, but it’s common knowledge that he really put Black Canary through the ringer. She was tortured and as a result lost her Canary Cry superpower and her ability to have children. Green Arrow stole money from her florist shop and the final straw was when she caught him in a kiss with her shop assistant. Fans have hugely differing opinions about that kiss and who was at fault, but based on what I’ve heard (not having tracked down the issue for myself yet), Green Arrow wasn’t as much of a lech as he later got a reputation for.
But he did get the reputation and it eventually came to be accepted by Green Arrow writers after Grell. As Black Canary was climbing out of her funk and becoming a cool, confident character again in Birds of Prey and JSA, Green Arrow seemed to be slowly winning her back under the writing of Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer, but there was a general acknowledment that he’d screwed up at some point in the past and needed to regain Black Canary’s trust.
And I was okay with that. Especially since I hadn’t read the actual kissing scene back in the day, but also: even if he was more innocent than his reputation deserved, he wouldn’t be the first guy to accept responsibility for something he didn’t do just to give in and let the fight blow over. I was rooting for Green Arrow and Black Canary to get back together again. They didn’t have a perfect relationship, but it felt like a real relationship and I wanted to see it continue. Until Judd Winick ruined it anyway.
Winick took over the Green Arrow series after Brad Meltzer and in his second story arc he had Green Arrow, who was supposedly still trying to woo Black Canary and prove his trustworthiness, fall for a completely new character and do things with her that in no way allowed room for a misunderstanding or any innocence on his part. At that point, I lost interest in him, threw my allegiance completely over to Black Canary who was apparently right about him all along, and dropped the Green Arrow series.
So, here’s what I like about Black Canary. Wonder Woman is the ideal, confident woman. Rogue is the poster-girl for “damaged and vulnerable.” Both are attractive in those ways, but Black Canary is a mixture of both, sometimes all at once, and that makes her real. She’s one of the most real, complex women I’ve ever read about and that’s why I love that DC and Tony Bedard are giving her some time to think over Green Arrow’s proposal. It’s what a real woman in her position should do. I don’t know that she should accept, but I certainly buy that she would. I’d also buy that she wouldn’t, if that was the direction DC wanted to take her. Where the heart and all her history with Green Arrow are concerned though, it makes sense that she might be willing to take a chance that he really has changed. And I’m excited to learn along with her if her taking that chance will pay off.
Except that after the wedding, Judd Winick will be her primary writer and that makes me exceedingly nervous.
Filed Under jungle, sheena, women in fiction
I hate variant covers.
Not for any moral, “they’re-ruining-comics” reasons; just because I sometimes have a hard time choosing which to buy. When I was reading Dynamite’s Red Sonja series, it was especially difficult because I’d usually like two or three of the covers every issue (but I refuse to buy more than one copy of the same book). That’s what ultimately led to my dropping the monthly Red Sonja issues in favor of picking up the eventual collections with their complete cover galleries.
That’s not why I’m not going to buy any more of Devil’s Due’s Sheena, but I’ll get to that in a second. I’m just bringing it up because I had a hard time picking between these two covers.
I love Joe Jusko’s work in general, and the lush background in that top image is gorgeous, and exactly what a cool, jungle setting should look like. His Sheena is stunning, but not overly sexualized. Still, she’s just standing there.
Nicola Scott’s cover in the second image is sparse on setting, but Sheena is so kick-butt in it. That’s the one I ended up with.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the story turned me off enough that I won’t have to make that decision again. Rather than having cool, jungle adventures, Sheena gets to join up with some environmentalists to defeat an evil corporation that’s destroying the rainforest. Not that saving rainforests isn’t a noble effort, but “yawn.”
Sheena doesn’t even fight anyone in this issue. Her panther does, but just a corporate lackey with a handgun. Who, by the way, feels the need to offer a long explanation of why he’s justified killing Sheena before he actually does it. And she just stands there and let’s him finish.
Once Sheena does decide to take action, she’s shot with a tranquelizer dart before she can do anything. How exciting.
You’ll notice that there’s also a strong focus on Sheena’s butt. I’m not actually complaining about that. I don’t have a problem with her being sexy or scantily clad; those are requirements of the genre, whether you’re talking about Sheena or Tarzan. And dadgummit, they’re fun requirements.
Althought this picture is pushing it:
Johanna at Comics Worth Reading expresses her concerns with this panel: “I don’t think a human body can do that — isn’t there a scary amount of torso hidden behind that giant thigh? gotta make sure we don’t block the boobies — but it does present an in-your-face crotch shot.”
I’m going to argue that she might be wrong about the anatomy and that it’s an improbable, but not impossible pose. But she’s right about the purpose of the shot. It’s completely gratuitious and unsubtle, even for a jungle girl book.
Johanna’s being too harsh with her next comment though: “Speaking of face, who cares about that? Hair means not having to draw features or cheekbones.” From her comment about “idly checking out” the book, I’m guessing that she didn’t actually read it (not that I necessarily blame her), but it becomes obvious later on that keeping Sheena’s face obscured for a while is intentional. And not because Matt Merhoff can’t draw faces. When she lands after being tranquelized, there are several shots of her like this:
I’m not sure why they went that way. I think maybe they were trying to get us to think that maybe Sheena was someone we’d recognize, but she’s not, so the big “reveal” — while proving that Merhoff’s not hiding an inability to draw features and cheekbones — is a letdown. Sadly, just like the rest of the book.
Filed Under comics, horror, kill all monsters, vampires, women in fiction, writing is hard
There are a couple of Lady Bathory movies in the works.
Heavy metal monster-costume band Lordi is doing a horror movie. And did you know that there are Lordi comics in Finland, written and drawn by Mr. Lordi himself? Me either.
John Rozum and Kody Chamberlain’s The Foundation comic, about a group who’s trying to stop the prophecies of Nostradamus from coming to pass, has been optioned for a film by Paramount.
Kill All Monsters! editor Jason Rodriguez has a fantastic post up at Blogarama about comic book cliffhangers and that crazy desire comics nerds get for next month’s issue right now.
Women in Fiction
A while back, I was invited to share one of my posts at the POWER in Comics Community. Unfortunately, I couldn’t access the site at the time, but it looks like I can now. The group’s mission statement is to Promote Ownership of stores and publishing houses, Writing & drawing of comics, Editing of comics & Reading of comics and graphic novels for women and minorities. I’m having trouble signing up for it, but once I can I’ll be sure to take them up on their invitation.
Writing (and making comics) is Hard
The Beat has a great summary of the recent MoCCa (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) Festival. I especially like her thoughts on alleged “classism” in the indie comics community and the need to pay one’s dues.
Alas, even in a world as egalitarian as indie comics, where almost everyone wants the kids to do alright, the reality is that not everything is created equal … But it takes a while to become a Paul Pope or Adrian Tomine, let alone a Kim Deitch. Maybe you have to pay your dues by sitting there behind a table wishing someone would stop by. Maybe being more selective and having to pay your dues is part of the process.
As someone who’s done a fair share of “sitting there behind a table wishing someone would stop by,” I certainly think so.
Stuff Nobody Cares About But Me
I could smooch Steve Jobs right now.
Filed Under pirates, women in fiction, writing is hard
I discovered Henry Jenkins’ blog via this post about At World’s End and how it’s a better movie than critics are giving it credit for (thanks to the Disney blog for the link). I thought it was a worthy second look to this discussion. He begins with the following assertion: “As a rule, one should never trust the opinion of an established film critic about a movie with a number after its title — and one should multiply the level of distrust for each number over 2. The whole concept of franchise entertainment seems to bring out the worst high culture assumptions in the bulk of American film critics…”
He goes on to quote from several critics who can all be summed up in this review by Chris Vognar of The Dallas Morning News: “Unlike, say, Shrek the Third, which works perfectly fine as a mediocre stand-alone sequel, At World’s End relies heavily on viewers’ knowledge of the previous film, Dead Man’s Chest. Seems fair enough, given how many moviegoers were willing to pony up for that one. Still, all the curses, vendettas, double-crosses, reconciliations, trinkets, negotiations and sea monsters longing to be human again gave me severe tired head before the two-hour mark. Summer blockbusters may have many goals, but tired head should not be among them … So yeah, At World’s End has some fun stuff. If only it weren’t so stuffed to the gills with moving parts. “
At World’s End should’ve been more like Shrek the Third? Is that really what you meant to say, Chris? Way to shoot your credibility in the head.
Jenkins argues, “At the World’s End (sic) … gets no credit for its ambitions here, no recognition for placing new kinds of conceptual demands on its spectators, and no praise for its craftmanship. Rather, it is being forced back into the box where critics place any and all popular entertainment. The perception that summer movies are mindless and motivated purely by commercial considerations is being forced onto this film; At the World’s End is being whacked for every step it takes outside of the confines of a totally classically constructed film.”
In other words, it’s too smart. And while I still wish parts had been made clearer, I completely agree. It’s what got me back to the theater to see it again a couple of times, and the reason I’ve got the first two movies queued up on my DVD player in anticipation of seeing it yet again. As Jenkins says, “I can only imagine the pleasures that await us when we watch all three films back to back in a DVD marathon or all of the telling details I will pick up on during a second or third viewing — and that’s part of the point. The modes by which we consume these films have shifted. Most films don’t warrant a first look, let alone a second viewing, but for those films that do satisfy and engage us, a much higher percentage of the audience is engaged in what might once have seemed like cult viewing practices.”
He makes a brilliant observation about the way movie franchises have changed recently from being character-based to being world-based: “Hollywood has moved from a primary focus on stories as the generators of film pitches to a focus on characters that will sustain sequels to a focus on worlds that can be played out across multiple media platforms. This shift accommodates a much more active spectator who wants to watch favorite movies again and again, making new discoveries each time, and who enjoys gathering online and comparing notes within a larger knowledge culture.” He cites the Matrix franchise as an example and Pirates as another. To one critic’s gripe about there not being enough Jack Sparrow in At World’s End, Jenkins replies that Jack’s not the selling point for the franchise (though he may have been the initial draw for a lot of folks); the Pirates world is. He gives tons of examples of how the trilogy supports that, but I’ll leave those for you to read when you click through. It’s fascinating stuff.
Jenkins argues that the critic’s job, by its very nature, interferes with critics’ abilities to enjoy world-focused franchises to their full potential. “(Critics) went into the film expecting a certain kind of experience,” he says. “They hadn’t successfully learned how to take pleasure from its world-building; they don’t want to dig into the film more deeply after the fact, comparing notes online with other viewers, because their trade demands constant movement to the next film and a focus on their own private, individualized thoughts.”
He goes on to say, “Watch a film with a group of critics and it is a rather chilly experience, each trying to suppress signs of their emotional response for fear of tipping their hands to their competition. They don’t laugh at comedy; they don’t cry at melodrama; and they don’t know how to engage in fannish conversation around film franchises, which means that their professional conduct cuts them off from the shared emotional pleasures that are so much a part of how popular culture works its magic on us. For that reason, I trust film critics far more when they are writing about art films which demand distanced contemplation than popular films which desire an immediate emotional reaction.”
Like I said, fascinating stuff. And it ought to be since Jenkins is the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, which sounds like the coolest job in the world to me. He’s also written and/or edited nine books on various aspects of media and popular culture, so he knows what he’s talking about.
That’s what took me to Jenkins’ blog in the first place. What’s going to keep me going back is that he’s got a series of posts on Gender and Fan Studies. So I’ll definitely be talking more about that.