Saturday, July 19, 2014

Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Book Review

Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics
©2013 by Mike Madrid
Forward by Maria Elena Buszek, Ph.D.
ISBN: 978-1-935259-23-7 (print)
978-1-935259-24-4 (ebook)
Exterminating Angel Press

Madrid's first book, The Supergirls (reviewed here) is a wonderful overview of the women of comics. This book takes a closer look at some of the heroines time has mostly forgotten from the Golden Age*, and includes complete black and white† reprinted stories from some of them.

In the introduction, Madrid confesses his own geeky and nostalgic love of Golden Age comics, and how reader response to The Supergirls made him feel like he'd inspired readers of his book the way some of the '70s nostalgia writers had inspired him as a kid. I know it inspired me to want to learn more about those lesser-known heroines! 

He also gives a brief history of Golden Age comics, but here's a bit that nearly jumped off the page for me:
In these very early days of comic books, there weren't as many established rules about how women characters should or shouldn't act. As a result, many of these Golden Age heroines feel bold and modern as we read them today. They are presented as fearless and unapologetic about their strength. 
(If that doesn't fill your heart with excitement about Golden Age heroines, I don't understand why you're even here, because this is the wrong blog for you...) When comics were young, the art and stories were simpler, but they weren't strictly for kids. This was inexpensive entertainment in a troubled world, and "a time when comics were fun."
  • In the section Women at War, Madrid paints a vivid picture of how American comic book heroes and heroines entered WWII before Pearl Harbor; they backed the war effort before the U.S. entered the war! 
  • In Mystery Women, he talks about the concept of the masked vigilante, something we're quite used to today, but cautions "these women are tough."
  • Daring Dames introduces us a different kind of heroine, ones who didn't wear masks but fought bad guys just the same. 
  • The section 20th Century Goddesses contains superheroines more like we're accustomed to now, super-powered humans who can do extraordinary things.
  • The final section is Warriors & Queens, and according to Madrid, "[t]he heroes of comic book fantasy tales were often women." It's probably just as well this is the last section, because it's just getting depressing to consider all these awesome heroines that just... slipped away, vanishing into history.
I have encountered few people who write with the passion and enthusiasm for these characters as Mike Madrid does. His notes and commentary on the characters he's selected (some of them had 5 or fewer appearance in comics), the history, and the artists are pure gold. The brief biographies he provides for each of the heroines just whets the appetite for more, encouraging his readers once more to seek them out. Plus, of course you should buy this book for the amazing comics inside. But if you're expecting camp, you're in for a surprise. These Divas, Dames & Daredevils don't mess around!

This is more than just an homage to "lost heroines," it's a time capsule§. Crack it open and look inside at what heroines used to be like. Then go look at what they're doing today and tell me he's wrong when he says "how far comics of today still need to go."

I'm really excited and pleased to note that there's a companion book to this one due out very soon. Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of the Golden Age is due out in October 2014! Since I love bad girls more than anything, I can't wait!

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* The Golden Age is generally considered to have been from the late 1930s through the mid 1950s. The debut of Superman in Action Comic #1 is what most enthusiasts and historians see as the catalyst that started this "golden age" of comics.
† Yes, black and white, no whining. The book would have been at least twice the cost if it had been printed in full color. Seek out color Golden Age comics at the Digital Comics Museum.
§ A note on the comics themselves: they do contain some pretty bad ethnic stereotypes. The comics of the 1940s were not known for their kindness to Asian people especially, so keep that in mind while you’re reading. It was a different time and place. The world was at war, and xenophobia was rampant. (Not that it has entirely vanished today…)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Brilliant Idea (Or, "Why I Hate My Brain")

A while back, I read about someone who had artwork of a superheroine that she loved that she took and asked for various creators to autograph not because they created the work but because their work had meaning to her, too. *wince* I'm recalling this poorly, I know, and I wish I could remember where I'd seen it, so I could link to it properly. (If you have any idea what I'm talking about, please let me know in the comments so I can have that properly referenced -- thanks!)

In any event, I had a similar idea, but naturally one that makes me hate my brain that much more, because it means more work. Way more work. But it's so perfect (for me) that I don't think there's any way I can't follow through with it. What I'd love to do is create an altered book, one that includes quotes and biographies and images of amazing women. And then I'd like to leave it up to the various creators where they'd like to sign their names inside. It will be loud and colorful and full of the most amazing women... and then it will be even more full. Bursting with inspiration and touched by genius, quite literally.

At least, that's what I see in my head, the reality is something else. Great ideas require the right materials. The base book will be something that I'll "know it when I see it." The other things will have to be gathered over time, and won't be completed quickly, even though I'd like to have it done in time for the next convention I attend. Especially considering I still have a costume to fabricate...

...And that is why I hate my brain, because I needed another project like I need a hole in my head.


Monday, June 23, 2014

My Love/Hate Relationship with Collecting

Collections require some care and maintenance or else they're just hoards. If they aren't organized in such a way that they can be enjoyed or pieces found easily, you're in danger of being one of Those People they turn into zoo attractions on reality television. In our old house, we were pretty cramped but still had stuff, so it was pretty borderline there for a while. Now that we have the space to organize and display the things we love, there's the responsibility to maintain it. Since I'm the one who's home all day, and I'm the one who's a little obsessively completist, that task falls to me.

For the action figures, I maintain an inventory at DASH, which is more than just a database, there's also the ability to buy/sell/trade (I haven't done any of that myself, however). Sometimes I have to add a figure myself if no one else has yet, like the Justice League War Wonder Woman I got yesterday, so there are a few figures in my collection that aren't in the inventory database because I haven't added them yet. It's imperfect, but it's the best thing I've found so far.

For the libraries (main and children's*), I keep track of our collection with LibraryThing, which is an online database. It took a few months for me to get all the books put in (over three thousand), so now a trip to the bookstore means books go to my desk for entry first.

For the comic books, I purchased Comic Collector, from Collectorz.com, which also has an app (not a stand-alone app, you have to have purchased the program first!) that runs on my phone so I can double-check the collection when I'm rummaging in the old comics bins. They have various versions to suit your needs, it runs on Macs or Windows computers, and I love it. The same company also has inventory software for games, music, movies and books. They run sales every once in a while, and it's tempting to get some of the others, but I have covered, our movie collection that extensive, and our music is just weird... Anyway, new comics are dealt with the same way new books are dealt with: they go to my desk first and are entered into the database, and then they are read.

Once all this reading material has been dutifully entered into the computer, it gets read, or goes into a pile to-be-read. Read books often end up in piles in the library, to-be-shelved. Read comics go into a box to be bagged, then once bagged into a box to be taken downstairs to be filed with the others. Since I am the one who's home, once again I am the sensible choice for being the one to shelve and file, put away and straighten... and I hate that part.

Right now, I am procrastinating from doing the laundry. I don't actually mind the sorting/washing/drying part. I loathe the folding/putting away part. And socks. I bloody well hate socks. So laundry goes upstairs to be folded on the guest bed, where it usually sits in a wrinkled heap until I guilt myself into dealing with it... usually about the time I have to do laundry again.

Months ago, I organized our comics. I got all of them entered into the database, put them all in order, put out a few accidental duplicates that I found, left room in the boxes for new comics to be filed... and since then, have taken down new comic, laid them on top of the lids of those boxes, or taken them down in other boxes and just left them there, waiting to be filed. *sigh* I hate filing. I don't mind data-entry, but filing is awful.

Part of the issue (ha!) is that when I take the boxes off the bottom shelves, I'm going to cause an action figure avalanche. Then I'm going to cause another one when I put them back. Every. Time. Having the boxes on the bottom shelves of the figure display is awesome, because the bottom shelf is no good for display (plus dog temptation risk), but I suspect that once I take all the comics we have right now and file them, we're going to have full boxes, with no room for more. That means a new home is needed, and soon. But that's a task to procrastinate another day...


_________________

* We turned the formal living room into a library, but there was no room for children's books. We bought a bunch of bookcases for the guest room, adjacent to our daughter's room, and put the kids books there.

Friday, May 16, 2014

"Action Figures for Girls"

The Twitter account for Geek Girl Con shared this IAmElemental Kickstarter campaign. I didn't hesitate.


Much as I love my girls (and I really do love them, run-through-a-burning-house-to-save-them love), I completely recognize that many of them were made with the adult male collector in mind. "More hooters than heroines," indeed. So, where are the action figures for girls?

Well, Mattel gave us the marvelous She-Ra line... in 1985. Galoob had the equally wonderful "copycat" line of Golden Girls, and there were several other knock-offs at the time. Ten years later, Mattel tried again with a much more insipid line Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic, and Kenner with Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders. Japanese author/artist Naoko Takeuchi gave us Sailor Moon in 1992. The toys that went with Sailor Moon were never called action figures; they were "adventure dolls."

The paucity of adventuring toys for girls is pretty apparent. The gender gap in the toy aisles is pretty immense. If you're a girl, you get dolls -- fluffy, pretty, pink dolls. Boys get to have the adventures. Action figures reflect the art in the comics; most of it is pretty sexy, and some of it is salacious. I like sexy -- in its place. Kids don't need sexy toys or comics.

This Kickstarter campaign was already funded when I clicked through, with 26 days to go! That's exciting! It tells me, and I'm sure it tells the creators, that there is demand for this. I look forward to everything this creative team has to share.

I gripe about the sexism in comics and in toys, and I put my money where my mouth is when I can. I'm clearly not alone.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Free Comic Book Day Crawl

Last week, The Kid indicated that she wanted to go to Free Comic Book Day. She'd never indicated any desire for comics before, so I was pretty enthusiastic about taking her. We got a call that her glasses were in, so we ran to pick them up before we began our odyssey. She wore her She-Ra t-shirt, and I made her a last-minute sword to carry with it. (Painted cardboard.)

For the honor of Grayskull...
(before glasses)

Glasses obtained, we headed to Dreamland Comics for the beginning of our crawl. We hadn't picked up our pulls for the week, so we got those in addition to the free comics plus a little Sailor Moon blind box figurine and Daenerys. Dreamland is long and narrow, so new people were allowed in as others left, looping around the store.

Photo doesn't include our weekly pulls.

The Kid and I were starving and she wanted Burger King, so lunch was had before we headed to Keith's Komix, where I found a zillion figures that I didn't have, a few back issues and some new releases. (And a very savvy Girl Scout was there selling cookies. Score!)

Doesn't include the back issues/new books.

Our last stop was Modern Age Comics, and a couple more figures, and a few more free comics. I had planned to get Silver Surfer #2, but he was sold out. (Apparently, that was a popular issue, because Keith's had it when we were there, but later also sold out.)

Only a few FCBD comics, because we mostly had the ones we wanted.

We definitely spread the wealth around yesterday, which is important to do. If we want to keep comic book shops in business, they need to be supported. Confession: This was the first Free Comic Book Day I participated in because I really don't like crowds, but since our daughter indicated that she wanted to go, we went. (ANYthing that encourages her to read is a good thing.) Every shop we went to was orderly and organized. Everyone was friendly. The crowds weren't what I expected, but perhaps we had good timing. Then again, Illinois is not one of the nerdiest states in the union (at #26), more's the pity... (but at least it's not Mississippi, at #50).

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Semi-Annual Chicago Toy Show

Once again, this show ran concurrently with C2E2, but unlike last year, I decided not to go downtown to the con. There were panels I'm really sorry I missed, but the crowds are just unendurable for me.

This year is the 41st for the Chicago Toy Show, taking place at the Kane County Fairgrounds, in St. Charles, IL. It took me three hours to get though the buildings I wanted to (I skipped the "doll" building, partly because it's a little creepy). I still haven't found the Borg Queen, but I did come home with:
  • Classic Silk Spectre (The Watchmen)
  • Aspen Matthews (Fathom)
  • Kim Arashikage (GI Joe, AKA Jinx; according to the seller, Hasbro lost her name copyright)
  • Dr. Elsa Schneider (Last Crusade)
  • Black Queen (Marvel Legends, TRU exclusive)
  • Jade (Golden Girl and the Guardians of the Gemstones)
  • Plaster of Paris (from The Spirit)
  • Arsia (Green Lantern)
  • Boodikka (Green Lantern) 
So a good haul, really! And three hours all to myself, even if it was a little crowded. (People were queuing up to get in a half-hour before the gate even opened.) I got a little warm-up the day before, finding the Aliens: Resurrection Ripley and Walking Dead's Maggie Greene at Half Price Books, so my weekend total was eleven new figs.

The next show is October 26th, so mark your calendars!









Friday, April 18, 2014

Call (Alien: Resurrection) and Crime Syndicate Superwoman

I recently found Call, portrayed by Winona Rider in Alien: Resurrection (1997), at a Half Price Books store. Made by Hasbro (still with the Kenner brand on the box -- Hasbro bought Kenner and its licenses in 1991), this was from Hasbro's "Signature Series." Unfortunately, they didn't also have Ripley, so the only Lt. Ripley I have is the small 1992 Kenner figure that looks nothing like Sigourney Weaver. Rider's likeness in this figure isn't bad, and I much prefer the larger size. The box is pretty beat up, but since she won't be in it for long, who cares?


I'll be on the lookout for the Ripley figure from this series that has a much better likeness to Weaver (and is taller).

Last Wednesday, I also picked up Crime Syndicate Superwoman at my local comics shop. This DC Collectibles figure is quite an attractive sculpt and paint. The face in particular is awesome. Her blue eyes are rather piercing, and they and her mouth were painted with a glossy paint so they have a wet shine. She's also wearing high-heeled boots, so it should be interesting to see how well she stands up out of the box. Which poses the question: as (essentially) Wonder Woman's evil twin from an alternate dimension, does she go on the Wonder Woman shelf, or with the other DC figures? Leaning strongly toward "other."


There's another female figure in with the Super-Villains Crime Syndicate set. Atomica, a small unarticulated figure, comes with Johnny Quick, but I am not paying $25 for Quick when all I want is the little 2-inch Atomica.