Monday, December 2, 2013

The Thrill of the Hunt

On November 28th, Thanksgiving Day, a friend of mine emailed me a link reviewing Walgreens-exclusive DC Super Hero Dolls, and asked me if I could get my hands on them for his daughter. (This was in the middle of me cooking the family feast and trying to get a book published. Hey, no big. I am Mighty.) What with one thing and another, I wasn't able to get out to look for them until Sunday evening. Six Walgreens stores later... I have two complete sets; one for my friend's daughter, one for me. It's been ages since I went on a hunt like this, and I had honestly forgotten how much fun it was.

The box says Series 1, but I don't hold out much hope that there will be a Series 2. (However, if anyone at The Marketing Store is listening, I would love to see Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Huntress and Black Canary. For starters.) The box also says these are "posable" dolls, but that's a bit of a stretch.

The 5-inch dolls have enormously oversized heads and tiny little bodies. Different costumes are molded for each doll, with a fair amount of detail, particularly for such small bodies. The arms are articulated at the shoulders, their heads move at the neck, and their eyes open and shut -- that's it for articulation. The forearms are a little "Popeye." Oddly, they are also bow-legged and pigeon-toed. They will stand up on their own, despite being top-heavy. They're a little creepy, to be frank. They're rated for children 4 and up.

• Wonder Woman's cape and tiara are removable, and she has a molded lasso. Her eyes are bright blue.
• Batgirl's cape and mask are removable. Her eyes are bright blue.

• Catwoman's mask and goggles are removable, and she has a belt molded to look like a whip that is a separate piece. Her eyes are lime green. 
• Supergirl's cape is removable. Her eyes are bright blue.

Catwoman has serious hat-hair.
The heads, being hollow, have seams that are a little too obvious. But these are $5 dolls ($4.79, to be exact), so a little imprecision is expected. The hair only covers the tops of their heads, making it really thin on the back. Since they all have long hair, it doesn't really show. The accessories are interchangeable since the heads are all the same.  I am amused by the painted eyebrows, which give each doll a slightly different expression. Batgirl has the mildest expression, with no cocked brow. The plastic eyelids don't match the plastic faces on any of my dolls but Catwoman, but since I don't plan to display them lying down, it won't matter.

For scale, that's Mortal Kombat Sonya Blade (1994), 3-3/4" tall.
Would I buy more of these, if given the opportunity? Yes. Hell, yes. At this price? They're weird and creepy, but still my ladies, so yes. Rather than display them with the rest of the collection, I might need to make a shadowbox vignette for them all to be in, comic book style. (But after the holidays... I still have to make 13 Sesame Street dolls, decorate the house, bake cookies, plus all the other housewifey stuff.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Action Figures, Tattoos, and Becoming a Superheroine

I had the totally brilliant idea for a new tattoo, something that would be meaningful, empowering and unique. Unfortunately, my husband failed to exhibit the appropriate levels of enthusiasm for my idea, but I'm forging ahead anyway because I think it's perfect. At Geek Girl Con, artist/writer Alina Pete of Weregeek had a sign on her booth that she does commissions. I told her my idea, asked her what she'd need for that, and she told me photos, and some ideas what I want to be wearing.

I think I'm going to have to create the whole alter-ego persona in order to give Pete the info she needs to do this. And I think it's going to be trickier than I thought...

I sketched the basic idea at the airport waiting for my flight to Seattle. After getting pretty discouraged with my ability to create a properly-proportioned figure, I gave up. Seeing Pete's sign was just the flash I needed, but now I still need to communicate to her clearly what I want. 

And this is why I need to commission an artist...
because that is wrong on so many levels.
A friend suggested I make a list of things I don't want. (For instance, I don't want a magic lasso, or the ability to stretch.) Narrowing it down that way might help.

But for now, I'm holiday-leveling lowbies in WoW while the laundry dries. Cheap and easy XP.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Geek Girl Con '13 Debriefing

In some ways, GGC was my first con. I've been to Chicago Comic Con (before it was Wizard World, and after), been to C2E2, ChamBana Con, Duckon, and maybe a couple others I don't recall... but this one was the one I was fully invested in. Hell, I packed 4 pairs of shoes to wear with different outfits (and wore only 2 of them, opting on Sunday for the comfy shoes I flew in wearing). This was my first time cosplaying, and I went on Saturday as Rosie the Riveter (though I skipped the costume contest, because I loathe being on stage).

My arm is up so high... I have no idea what I'm doing.
Photo taken by one of the con photographers, with my phone.
Friday night was the kickoff party, the burlesque show, and the after-party at the coffeehouse with the Doubleclicks. After I picked up my pass, I went to the Tap House for dinner because my clock was on Chicago time and I was starved. Exhaustion and a blistered heel sent me back to the hotel after I ate, and straight to bed. I'm sorry I missed the festivities, but I was so damn tired...

Saturday, I got into my Rosie gear and went down to breakfast. A woman actually stopped at my table and thanked me for dressing up as Rosie. :) Then I trekked down about 30 minutes before the con opened. We weren't allowed into the Conference Center yet, so we were queuing up outside. The dude in front of me (loud, annoying), commented at about 9:05 (5 minutes late) that it figured a "con run by chicks" wouldn't run on time. I said nothing but wanted to smash him with my backpack (he had loudly commented on a few minutes earlier as something that shouldn't be allowed at cons). Whatever, dude. You're an ass.

Anyway, after we filed in, I headed up to level 3, and did a little shopping, picking up Mike Madrid's new book, Divas, Dames & Daredevilsas well as Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1941-1944. (In hindsight, Miss Fury was a bad idea -- it's a coffee table book, hardcover, and I had to carry it around all day; on the other hand, I got it for half price, and it was their last one. Who am I kidding? It was totally not a bad idea!)

I went down to level 2, where some folks from EMP were set up in a dim corner with Margaret Hamilton's hat from The Wizard of Oz. One of the hats, anyway, but it was one of the ones she wore in the film.
I didn't get a very good picture, no flash photography was allowed, but I should have
stepped back more, to show the egg-shaped case it was in, so the chiffon drape
was more visible.

While I was queued up for Madrid's panel and talking with a really nice girl in line with me, he walked past and asked "Are you Rosie the Riveter?" "Yes... you're Mike Madrid!" He waved off my acknowledgement and asked if he could get a picture. A couple others got photos, too, since I was posing. But I was enormously flattered, and had my first fangirl moment of the con.

His panel was about the new book, and it was so interesting to hear about some of these long-gone Golden Age heroines, largely forgotten today. I was able to ask if he could see any of these heroines revitalized and brought to film, who would it be? (see below)

The Woman in Red, art by George Mandel.
A lot of the time, it feels like I'm the only one who cares about these forgotten heroines. I know I'm not, but I've never met anyone else who is interested in them and doesn't want to see their legacy fade... until now. It was a real pleasure to meet him. Mike Madrid is a very nice guy, and anyone who loves these ladies as much as he does is clearly a person of superior taste and sophistication. (Next on my list of people to meet who love these heroines: Trina Robbins.)

The SuperMOOC panel was the next panel I didn't want to miss, mainly because I wanted to meet Christina Blanch in person. I took that class, and it was a pretty amazing experience; I wanted to be able to tell her in person how important it had been to me. There were a few others of us in the room who'd taken the class, but we didn't manage to connect. Afterward, I was able to get my husband's Kingdom Come books signed by Mark Waid (who is also an incredibly nice guy), and told him how much I enjoyed the MOOC and his participation in it.

When I went down to Wild Rye for lunch, I got in line, and checked with Bane and Catwoman if they were also in line. They weren't, but it turned out that Bane was the dudebro from that morning. He commented about me not recognizing him, even though I was behind him in line, and I said that I recognized his voice, and that the con didn't open a little late because it was run by chicks. His friend laughed when he said "thanks for callin' me out!" "You said it, and you said you were going to tweet it." "He doesn't even have Twitter," she said. Oh well, too late, I called him out that morning after he said it. Ass.

I was originally going to go to another panel, Fat Girl: Fan Girl, but I was so tired... I ended up skipping it in favor of going back to the hotel to decompress and change for the concert. I also decided to be comfy for the show, and didn't wear the outfit I'd planned on. I didn't want to fool with public transportation and caught a cab to the EMP. I heard wonderful music from Unwoman and Marian Call, and LMAO at Bri Pruett -- it was pretty awesome. Bought CDs, chatted briefly with Pruett (who I kinda wanna adopt; I wonder if she needs a sister?), and when I happened to look up when I went outside, I saw this:

Ha! I totally didn't realize that the EMP was right next to the Space Needle. I didn't see it on the ride in, but we came from the other direction. So that was kinda cool. At night, kinda misty, all lit up -- I think it was better seeing it like this than in the daylight. Anyway, once I got back to the hotel, I was just keyed up enough that I had trouble getting off to sleep. Which did not stop me from waking up way too early Sunday morning...

The panel Romance Is a Feminist Genre was really interesting, and I had never considered it that way before. "Shipping" (short for relation"ship") in fan fiction was discussed, as well as how romance is still sneered at by book reviewers even though it's the #1 selling genre of fiction. The panelists were outspoken and interesting; I wish the panel had been longer.

The Spotlight on Kelly Sue DeConnick was the next panel I attended, and I pretty much needed to get in line for that as soon as I left Romance. (OK, it wasn't quite that bad, but it was a very well-attended panel, because KSD rocks.) After the panel, she was signing books, and that line was unbelievable. She have her time to each person -- this was no assembly-line autographing. I stood in line for an hour (and actually had to ask a con agent to please have Jennifer Stuller sign my copy of Ink-Stained Amazons, because I didn't want to get out of line -- which she she did, and I am grateful!). After I got Captain Marvel signed, Hope Larson was at the table and I was able to get my copy of her graphic version of A Wrinkle in Time. In all, I ended up with nine signed books and a signed CD (because I messed up and didn't ask for the two others to be signed as well).

The last panel I attended was (Re)Creating Female Sexuality in Comics, and it was a little disappointing. The description read
"examine how woman-created comics simultaneously subvert existing representations and celebrate women's sexuality. The goal is to engage in a community discussion of the role of female comic book creators in the industry, and inspire attendees to produce their own works."
For me, it seemed more like a PowerPoint presentation giving a few examples of how sexuality exists in Wonder Woman and a few select webcomics. There was very little discussion, and I didn't hear any inspiring words for creating my own work. *shrug* Perhaps others had a different experience.

After that, I sat in on the last half of the 80s singalong (I'd've had more fun if I skipped the sexuality panel and gone straight to that), then stayed for the closing celebration. Two of the organizers (Stuller, and I completely forget the other woman's name) spoke briefly, and The Doubleclicks performed "Nothing to Prove"... and it was over.

Exhausted, I walked back to the hotel, ordered a pizza and watched the last half of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

What a weekend.

There were many other panels I would have liked to have attended, but it was a little overwhelming. The girl I met had blocked out most of her con with panels she wanted to see, and I almost did the same... maybe next year I will.

SO MANY talent artists and craftspeople! I came home with wonderful loot. But I think that needs to be its own post. In part because I'm still so tired I can't hardly think straight.

Summary: Geek Girl Con rocked, and I can't wait for next year!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Skirt of Evil

This is going to be really brief, because I didn't get nearly enough sleep. Then I think I might have to take a nap before dinner...

I finally got the Skirt of Evil cut out and sewn up. I finished the skirt at midnight, and got up this morning to make an overskirt. (It's the same simple pattern as the Skirt of Awesome, but this time I sewed the seams down.)

I saw the fabric at Joann's, but it was pricey, then they had an internet-only 24-hour sale, and I caved. Unfortunately, one of the styles (the dark grey in the top row) sold out, but I was able to buy some in the store (not on super-sale).
Purchased at Joann's. If you love it, go get it; they're sold out online.
I need 13 wedges to make my skirt. To figure out how I wanted to use the fabric, I used a triskaidecagon* with the wedges marked out, and the Photoshop "define pattern" and "fill" tools, and played with it until I got this:

Top of the image is the front of the skirt.
That enabled me to play with the colors and patterns until I got the look I wanted. Then I knew how many wedges of each color I needed, and could cut them out. Pinning it together took nearly as long as sewing. Then I turned in all the exposed edges, stiched them down, turned the waistband and added bias tape to the hem. There are no exposed edges, none.

Comfortable, floaty... and evil!

The overskirt is shimmer tulle petals attached to an elastic band using half hitch knots. It's longer in the back.

The overskirt isn't supposed to look like a tutu, or a petticoat (worn on top); it's supposed to look like a cloud of malevolence, stalking toward you. Mwahahahahaaaaaaa!

More craziness: e.l.f. makeup featuring palettes for four Disney villains, found at Walgreens. Bought 'em. Had to. All four of those ladies (Evil Queen, Maleficent, Cruella and Ursula) are all on my skirt! 

* triskaidecagon = 13-sided polygon

Friday, October 4, 2013

Nelvana of the Northern Lights!

What do you mean, "Who's Nelvana*?" Nelvana, simply put, is Canada's first superheroine, and Hope Nicholson and Rachel Richey are working on a Kickstarter campaign to restore and reprint her old comics.

Why is this important, and why should you care? Because Golden Age comics are awesome, superheroines are awesome, and Golden Age superheroines are freakin' critical to the history of women in comics! If you've read The Supergirls, by Mike Madrid, you've seen how comics have changed, and some of the reasons why. Nelvana's appearance in 1941 makes her one of the earliest superheroines, period. It's important to know about these early heroines, and reprinting Nelvana's comics is an important piece of comics history.

Anyone who isn't Canadian may regard Canadian heroes as minor footnotes, but I do not, and certainly Hope and Rachel do not! Nelvana helped to fill a gap when American comics couldn't be imported to Canada during WWII. She is an important and interesting part of comics history, not just Canadian comics history. She was also Inuit, which makes her part of the First Nations (a "Native Canadian"), and considering how rare it is for non-white people to appear in American comics, people who want to see more diversity in comics should also appreciate Nelvana.

I feel a bit like an evangelist here, but I really really believe that knowing about these vintage heroines is hugely important when we study both women in comics, and the history of comics in general. Please, watch the video, visit the Kickstarter campaign page, and consider offering your support to this project.

* You can read a bit more about her on ComicVine's page for her here.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Geek Chic

I found a vest and tie that I want to wear at Geek Girl Con next month. The vest had plain black buttons, and I replaced them with crystal-looking plastic ones in pale lilac. The tie is purple with a subtle pattern and texture, silk. But it's not plain anymore...

I got a screen capture of my Night Elf druid (my first toon) emoting a /roar, sized it to fit on my tie (it's about 5.5 inches tall, and 3 inches wide). I deleted out all the background, lightened it to increase the contrast in Photoshop and printed it out on an iron-on transfer sheet (Jolee's Boutique Easy Image for dark fabrics, glitter). Once trimmed, I peeled it off the backing, which was tricky. The film is actually fairly thick, but it's like anything else you have to peel: you have to catch a corner and try not to damage it in the process.

The instructions are for ironing on cotton. I couldn't find anything to tell me how to do it for silk, so I just proceeded as if it was cotton. *shrug* I was a thrift store tie; if I screwed it up, I was out $4 but gained the knowledge that it doesn't work on silk.

It actually worked quite well. The texture of the material shows through the transfer, which makes it look better than if it was essentially a big sticker. If I had to do it over, I would lighten the printed image even more, because the printer laid down quite a bit of ink. I would have preferred to put a couple layers of paper towel in the tie, to avoid the back seam showing through when I ironed it, but it was sewn in a way that I couldn't do that.

"You roar with bestial vigor. So fierce!"
I might do a whole series of these, because I can. My only other 90 is a Tauren druid (love the class), so I think I'll limit myself to the upper-level toons. That way I won't end up with a couple dozen ties... >_>

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Geek/Grrl Power Playlist

I am not a music-obsessed person. I don't even listen to the radio, instead choosing mix CDs I've burnt from my odd collection of music, and then usually only when I'm driving. (I like the quiet at home.) But sometimes the urge to create the perfect soundtrack for a mood or event forces me to go hunting. The event that was my inspiration this time is Geek Girl Con.

I've got 33 songs, for 2+ hours of music. I have a 4 hour flight. If I can't find other music, I might leave it at that. Anyway, this is what I've got so far (not in order yet):
  • I Am Woman, Helen Reddy
  • (I'm the One That's) Cool, The Guild*
  • Nothing to Prove, The Doubleclicks
  • All I Really Want, Alanis Morissette
  • Rock This Joint, Alannah Myles
  • What I Am, Edi Brickell & the New Bohemians
  • Call Me, Blondie
  • Control, Janet Jackson
  • These Boots Are Made for Walkin', Nancy Sinatra
  • We Got the Beat, The Go-Go's
  • The Warrior, Scandal (Patty Smyth)
  • Redneck Woman, Gretchen Wilson
  • Goodbye Earl, The Dixie Chicks
  • Respect, Aretha Franklin
  • Bad Reputation, Joan Jett
  • Bitch, Meredith Brooks
  • Just a Girl, No Doubt
  • Man! I Feel Like a Woman!, Shania Twain
  • You Gotta Be, Des'ree
  • All I Wanna Do, Sheryl Crow
  • Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves, Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin
  • Independent Women Part 1, Destiny's Child
  • U.N.I.T.Y, Queen Latifah
  • One Girl Revolution, Saving Jane
  • Rebel Girl, Bikini Kill
  • Can't Hold Us Down, Christina Aguilera w/ Lil' Kim
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper
  • I Am Woman, Jordin Sparks
  • I'm Every Woman, Chaka Khan
  • Superwoman, Alicia Keys
  • Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Sista Monica
  • Never Underestimate a Girl, Vanessa Hudgens
  • You Don't Own Me, Rasputina†
There may be more to come; this is just the work of an evening and morning. The con isn't for another month (squeeee!), so I have time. I also have to put them in order so things aren't lumped together. (I Am Woman and I'm Every Woman cannot be together, that's obnoxious.)

* Not a female-empowerment song as such, but I love Felicia Day, and the reference to "prom queen bitches" is fierce. Who doesn't remember those girls?

† You wouldn't believe the frustration this song caused. The original version is by Leslie Gore, and frankly, I find it incredibly draggy. These lyrics need to be sung with defiance and fire! In the end, I chose the cover by Rasputina that is even more draggy than the original. Why? Because I couldn't find what I wanted so I went in the opposite direction. :P

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sexism, Rape Culture, Media and the Real World

I just read an article about "6 Sexist Video Game Problems Even Bigger Than Breasts;" a few of those problems are applicable elsewhere, like comic books, or real life. (If you haven't already, I recommend reading it.)

The issues that the Cracked staff raise in the article are a lot of the same issues that critics have raised about sexist issues in comics. Women are sometimes reduced to the nurturing background character, not the dynamic one who saves the day. They are used as tools to further someone else's (a male character) story, particularly when they are killed. Rape is a tool used to show how bad a villain is (at least according to Mark Millar). Sometimes a team has a single female member, just to have a female on the team.

If I could, I would make every man read points #3 and #1 of that article, over and over again, until they fully understood it: Sexualized Violence (with an excellent explanation of rape culture) and The Real World. Those, to me, were the key points.

screen shots from the F-P website
When we present media that has so much sexism, whether it's in movies or comic books or video games, that message gets internalized. Girls see it, and feel disenfranchised. Boys see it, and learn girls are commodities. Those kids grow up with those attitudes, and see even more media that gets reinforced over and over. T-shirts that say "Boys are Better Than Books", mottos like "bros before hos", et cetera, ad nauseum. And who can forget the cricitism that Mattel received when they released a talking Barbie that said "math class is tough"? Even the "simple" gendering of toys (girls are princesses that get saved, boys are heroes that save princesses), that starts with replaying the same pink/blue message over and ever, teaches young children "the way things are."

Here's an example of how we teach our kids early: A pink/purple diamond ring for a "precious baby girl", and a blue hammer for a "busy baby boy." This is what Fisher-Price wants your 3 month old child to learn! Now, those babies don't care that one is a ring and one is a hammer; they care that it makes noise and they can chew on it. But thus begins the pink/blue split between toys. It starts that young... and the marketing never relents. (I can't watch tv without being bombarded with messages that I am imperfect and must fix it. Nearly every ad is about the way I look, and that it isn't good enough. FFS, Dove, now even my pits need to look pretty?!)

In another article that addresses solutions to real-world situations, "How to Design a City for Women," the criticism was baffling. Vienna, Austria took a look at how women used public spaces and made changes, like more lighting and wider sidewalks.
"Gender can be an emotional issue," Bauer [a city administrator] adds. "When you tell people that up until now they haven’t taken the women’s perspective into account they feel attacked. We still have people asking, ‘Is this really necessary?'"
I have to admit, the pushback on this really did surprise me. Some of the changes the city made were to the benefit of everyone. The thing I find most puzzling about this culture of sexism and male privilege is that nearly all men have a mother, wife, sister or daughter in their lives. Why would they not want to make the streets safer for their mother, walking home from the market? Why would they not want to make parks more girl-friendly for their daughters? This is the thing I really, honestly do not understand. Are women so overlooked, so disregarded, that making things better for them is seen as a threat?

The jerks who will make comments in-game like "Tits or GTFO*" and make "your mom" jokes, would they say those things to their mother? Some might, it's true. But all this is learned behavior. They have no incentive not to act the way they do, and there are no consequences. So when this vile behavior they learned in video games (and other media) spills out into the real world, now we have such a deeply-ingrained sexist attitude that produces situations like Stuebenville, Ohio.

Excuses of "it's just a game" or "they're comic book characters, not real people" lead to comments like "she shouldn't have been drunk at the party." It's all a slice of the same rotten pie. Without teaching boys to respect girls, and girls to respect themselves, we're only going to keep playing this same song over and over again. (And by song, you can take that literally with that misogynist masterpiece, "Blurred Lines," by Robin Thicke.)

* Get the fuck off -- basically show us your boobs or leave; one of many things said to female gamers, and why many female gamers choose not to disclose their gender.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Supergirls: Book Review

The Supergirls: Fashion, feminism, fantasy, and the history of comic book heroines
©2009* by Mike Madrid
ISBN: 978-1-935259-03-9 (print)
978-1-935259-00-8 (ebook)
Exterminating Angel Press

The Supergirls is a marvelous book by Mike Madrid (you may remember him from the Wonder Women! documentary if you watched that), and it tells the stories of some heroines you know already (but maybe didn't know some of the early history) and some who were groundbreaking (and since forgotten). Madrid shines a light on the dark corners of comic book history and the ladies who've been there all along, but who certainly haven't had the same recognition.

Madrid divides the book by decades, beginning with the 1940s, with colorful histories separating one decade from the next. In these eras, he shows us how current events and social movements are directly tied to comic books and their heroes and heroines. It's by no means exhaustive; instead you get a taste of the way things were (and are), which should make you want to go find more, and from the original sources! And if wanting to know more about obscure heroines -- or obscure histories of well-known heroines -- isn't your thing, I can't imagine why you're here reading this blog...

His own fascination with superheroines started young, when he first recognized that Supergirl was not treated the same as Superman. Later, he noticed how most of the women were named: Supergirl, Invisible Girl... even when the women in question were adults, their alter egos were demoted to "girl" status, when teenage Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Not only were their names diminished, but their powers weren't as impressive either, and they often required rescuing from the more powerful male characters, at least in those early years.

Not all of the book is a social/historical look at superheroines. The chapter "Heroine Chic" is a rather biting commentary on the practicality -- and lack thereof -- of superheroine costumes. This chapter in particular should be required reading for every writer and artist working in comics. "The world is your gynecologist," indeed...

The Supergirls is a well-written look at the convoluted and sometimes baffling world of superheroines. They are both mirror and lens for how women are perceived in society, and it's not always flattering. Anyone who is interested in superheroines should have this on the shelf right next to Trina RobbinsThe Great Women Superheroes. Feminists, people who study women's history, comics geeks of all stripes, should read this book.

For all their problems, I love these heroines. They have complicated histories, bizarre twists in plots to contend with and weird reboots. It's because I love them that the disrespect shown them by publishers and creators makes me angry on their behalf. (Yes, yes, I know: fictional characters, blah blah blah. Don't coming whining to me if they change something about one of your beloved male characters. Superman isn't a killer, right? Right?)

It's pretty clear that Mike Madrid loves them, too. And because The Supergirls is written with such care and affection, I am all the more exited about his forthcoming title, Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics, due out this October. Madrid will also be signing books at Geek Girl Con in October, and I look forward to telling him in person how much I enjoyed his book (and hopefully getting a copy of the new one).

Read my review of his book Divas, Dames & Daredevils here. The villainess companion book, Vixens, Vamps & Vipers, is due to be published October 2014.

* The copy I have is the 3rd printing (in 2013), and he notes that Ms. Marvel took the name Captain Marvel in 2012.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

DC's Latest PR Disaster

DC Comics is having a contest. You can break into comics, just by submitting panels that they have scripted for you. Four panels in all showing Harley Quinn trying to commit suicide, with the 4th showing her naked in the bathtub. Lots of other articles have been written about this so I won't add to them, but it was the Daily Dot article that brought something to my attention: this contest began just days before National Suicide Prevention Week.


In response to this and some other recent gaffes, my husband suggested that someone should check the DC offices for radon.

ANYway... I'm not entering the contest, but here's the 4th panel as I see it:

Yeah, I know, the hand is wrong. I never claimed to be an illustrator. I also didn't follow
the instructions as they were given. Knives are way better than a hairdryer, if you ask me.

Read more about DC's PR goofs at The Outhouse.

UPDATE: DC has issued an apology: 
"The purpose of the talent search was to allow new artists an opportunity to draw a single page of a 20-page story. True to the nature of the character, the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone, as Harley Quinn breaks the 4th Wall and satirizes the very scenes she appears in. DC Entertainment sincerely apologizes to anyone who may have found the page synopsis offensive and for not clearly providing the entire context of the scene within the full scope of the story."
But I still think that this is a pretty clear indication of just how out of touch that they are, that they didn't realize from the start that this would cause some controversy. Or hell, maybe they did! It certainly got them lots of attention and press!

Miscellaneous Geeky Girl Stuff

By now, you've almost certainly heard/seen "Nothing to Prove" by The Doubleclicks. (You can buy it from iTunes or Bandcamp, and read the lyrics here.) It's an awesome and poignant Geek Girl anthem, but it's the signs that choked me up. Many people (famous and otherwise) submitted signs for the video; they estimate that they received between 150 and 250 signs, but the song just isn't long enough to include them all. Here are the ones they were able to use (I tried so hard to get all of them, but I know I missed a few):
  • Hi there! We are geek girls.
  • I started playing D&D in 6th grade. I never stopped.
  • I learned to read with comic books.
  • I've been a Gamer since before I can remember.
  • I grew my hair out / so I could dress up as Princess Leia.
  • I played Myst when it was released. I was 11. It was the GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE!
  • My Transformers played with my Cabbage Patch Kids.
  • I received my first console when I was nine years old.
  • My regular Saturday night "date" was with the 5th Doctor.
  • Comics taught me women can be beautiful & powerful!
  • [arrow pointing at face] Founder and president of my high school Star Trek fan club.
  • I spend hundreds of hours working on cosplay.
  • [hugging toddler daughter] I'm raising The Next Generation of Geek Girls!
  • Accounting associate by day, Elf ranger by night.
  • I was obsessed with Star Trek: The Next Generation and had a super huge crush on Jonathan Frakes. / Now we're friends. It's weird.
  • I write code for particle accelerators.
  • im in ur HOUSE OF IDEAS writin ur COMICS
  • Being a geek girl is really awesome / ...except when it isn't.
  • I LOVE video games but BOYS tell me I'm not a "REAL" GAMER
  • That look of surprise when I talk about Star Trek? It gets old.
  • Why are you surprised I want to be an ASTRONAUT when I grow up?
  • I'm a SCIENTIST not a secretary.
  • I own a comic + game shop, but people just assume I 'm humoring my geeky husband!
  • People say I only play video games because of my boyfriend but I owned over 200 games before I even met him!
  • I work at a comicbook store. Male customers tend to ignore me completely or as if there is a man around to help them.
  • Being Asian & a GEEK doesn't mean I have to like ANIME.
  • I was told I traded my cleavage for free comics.
  • I have to have a gender-neutral pen-name just to be Respected.
  • I was told I "sound smart for a girl in a pink skirt."
  • I con vendor told me that the smaller dice sets were for women to wear and show off (accessories). The regular ones were for me to, you know, play games with.
  • Here's a message for the haters, elitists and bullies / from us, the geek girls, and our friends.
  • No one gets to tell you how to be a geek.
  • If someone has to pass a test to hang out with you... / YOU'RE the problem.
  • You think I do this for your approval??? / mwa ha ha ha! / Get over yourself.
  • There are no fake geeks... / ...only real jerks.
  • Who died and made you Batman?! Wait. Was it your parents? In that case, I'm very sorry. Nevermind.
  • I don't need you to tell me how much I like anything.
  • We've both been ridiculed for our hobbies... Be supportive. We're on the same side!
  • I don't need to go to a con to be a geek. I am & I haven't.
  • Please don't let my gender turn you into an elitist. *We love the same things for the same reasons.*
  • Don't tell my daughters that Lego, Robots and Superheroes are for boys.
  • "Geek" + "Equality" equals GEEKAUALITY now!
  • I was a Geek before I saw a cult film or played a game. I don't need your approval in the end.
  • Be RESPECTFUL and I won't EAT you.
  • Staring =/= Respecting / Men are women, too!
  • I'm a geek and I'm awesome / and I don't need your permission.
  • I'm older than "your mom" and I still love MMORPG's!
  • I am a geek. Search your heart. You know it to be true.
  • I founded a camp to teach girls how to program.
  • I am a cardboard-flipping card gamer.
  • You can't take the geek from me.
  • [stick insect on girl's face] Buuugs!
  • I'm a geek!
  • I am a geek! (and I'm good at sports!)
  • I'm a geek!
  • I'm a geek.
  • I'M A GEEK!
  • I am a RPG Nerd!
  • I am a geek!
  • I'm a Geek <3
  • I'm a geek.
  • I will do anything for $5 [I'm a little confused with this one]
[the images come really fast right here, and I can't quite catch all the signs] 
  • I am a Costume Geek!
  • I cosplay for attention. LOL NOT
  • I'm Me NERD
  • I'm a Geek!
  • I'm a NERD.
  • I'm a fraking NERD!
  • I'm a cosplayer.
  • I'm a NERD
  • I am a Geek Grrl!
  • I'm a GEEK!
  • I am a GEEK!
  • I am a tabletop geek girl!
  • Browncoat Comic Book Collector Convention Panelist I'm a GEEK. Tabletop Gamer Fanfic Writer
  • I solved the cube in 36 seconds on TV 30 years ago... now I publish the card game FLUXX.
  • I just knew that one day STAR TREK could be cool. Take that EVERYONE from junior high!
  • I turned nerd watching the 90s XMen with my dad.
  • [daughter and mom, can't make out the signs completely] I am a geek girl in training. / aka a general all-purpose geek girl!
  • Trek-obsessed cosplaying grammarian librarian.
  • I got my husband into gaming.
  • I am a geek!
  • It's not easy but I'm a geek.
  • I crochet my own Elder Gods!
  • I have been playing video games for almost 28 years!
  • [can't read it]
  • When I ran a two-week line up for the first Star Wars prequel, my homeroom teacher called me an EMBARRASSMENT and said I was ruining my school's reputation.
  • My mom let me read her copy of The Jedi Academy trilogy when I was 10!
  • I was born making Vulcan hands.
  • I often contemplate the merits of a Hogwarts education.
  • I got my PhD in Electrical Engineering with a research focus in Computational Neuroscience.
  • I am a Wizard, Jedi, [?], XMan, Baker Street Irregular, Companion, Browncoat, Starfleet Officer, Dread Pirate, Walker, Wizard, GEEK.
  • Ich bin ein aussenseiter :) ["geek" in German]
  • I'm geeky enough for me.
  • I teach robotics to kids, make my own cosplays, and I work as a professional NPC at my local comic book store. (And I watch lots of geek TV shows.)
  • I was born pulling things apart & putting them back together. Now I do science on a boat. #geekforlife
  • Write fanfiction. Do cute and sexy cosplay... BE YOURSELF. Do what you want.
  • I can be a ballerina AND kill cylons!
  • When I was six my family brought me to PAX. I loved it!
  • Chem teacher told me I would never make a good SCIENTIST. I start my PhD in Biology in September.
  • I said I liked Illusion of Gaia. He asked me how many red jewels the game contained.
  • Don't worry of you haven't read, watched and played everything. With [?] time you will explore!
  • In high school and university, guys were shocked that I played video games and read sci fi/fantasy books.
  • I am a geek! YAY!
  • Geek girls are awesome and we are not going away. / Deal with it.
[roll credits]


So not only are the lyrics awesome, but those signs are fantastic. This song will definitely be going into the iPod playlist I will make for the upcoming GEEK GIRL CON coming up in October. Because I am so going this year, and OMG am I excited about it. The schedule is going to be posted (IIRC) on the 15th. Christina Blanch, who taught the amazing MOOC Gender Through Comic Books is presenting there, so I'm super-stoked for that and looking forward to meeting her. I'm a little sad that it's only a 2-day convention, because I have way more geeky clothing than I can wear in just a couple of days. :/ (On Twitter, I'd think that has to be tagged with #geekgirlproblems, dont you?) The Skirt of Awesome for sure, but how will I narrow it down? *dramatic hand to forehead*

Another guest I know will be there, for the second consecutive year, is Mike Madrid, author of The Supergirls: Fashion, feminism, fantasy and the history of comic book heroines, and the forthcoming title Divas, Dames and Daredevils: Lost heroines of Golden Age comics. I'll definitely have to take my copy of The Supergirls for him to sign.


And one more thing (actually 2) before I go play with my action figures. Jill Thompson is about to finish up her Kickstarter to make a Scary Godmother doll. It's gorgeous, and I want one desperately, and there's only a few days left, so go pledge! The other Kickstarter that I want to urge your backing of is for Charles Dowd's Lilith Dark graphic novel. He wrote Lilith Dark for his daughter, when he saw the serious dearth of comics for kids and for girls especially. This is a heroine our girls (and boys, too!) need to read about! Check out his project and see if you don't agree that it's pretty fantastic.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Diversity, or Lack Thereof

Chinese-American Jubilee
When you have a conversation about comics and action figures through a feminist lens, it also brings up topics like diversity and inclusion. If you happen to be a white male, maybe the lack of diversity in this medium hasn't really occurred to you, but if you're (for instance) a black female, you're reminded fairly often that there aren't many heroes or heroines who look like you. Quick! how many black superheroines can you name without looking them up? How many black characters, period? Or Hispanic? Or Asian? Or gay? Or disabled?

Disabled Lt. Sparks
It's a common piece of advice to writers, "write what you know," and there's not a ton of diversity in the offices of the Big Two. Mostly straight white males are writing about mostly white, majority male, predominantly straight characters. Things are changing, slowly. Gail Simone on Batgirl had Alysia Leoh confiding to Barbara that she's transgender (and bisexual) and shone a spotlight on LGBT characters. We've seen a few gay marriages in comics recently, too, with Marvel's Northstar and (surprisingly for some) in the Archie Comics town of Riverdale, to the horror of One Million [narrow-minded] Moms.

Mentally ill Aurora and her gay twin brother Northstar
Grace Gipson (one of the Black Girl Nerds) was interviewed by the Huffington Post about her research on black heroines. "I chose this research because I wanted to provide a voice from a black woman's perspective regarding comics, especially the black female characters." When She-Ra was popular, entrepreneur Yla Eason founded Olmec Toys because of her son. In 1985, there weren't action figures he could relate to as an African American boy, so she set out to make some. For all the issues involved later, she gave non-white children heroes they could aspire to be. The Bronze Bombers (AA G.I. Joes), Butterfly Woman (AA She-Ra) and Sun-Man (AA He-Man) were important, and showed that there was demand for these toys.

African American Storm
But why is all this diversity important? The world is both very big and very small. It got a lot smaller when the Internet made it possible for people all across the globe to share their passions. The days of living in a monochromatic world are gone, and even if you are a straight white dude, you have to acknowledge that there are people who are not like you, who have just as much to offer to the conversation. It's important because our children learn from us, and model our behavior -- bigoted behavior is learned. Violence against persons not like you is learned. You don't get to live in that tiny, isolated world anymore -- those days are over. And frankly, I don't get why you'd want to.

Hispanic La Lunatica

It's up to us as consumers to demand that our superheroes be as diverse a population as the world we live in. Support the writers and artists who bring us characters who are well-written and interesting, not just tokens of any given minority. Make your voice heard. They're creating this stuff for us to buy, after all.

Celebrate the similarities with your fellow human beings, and appreciate the things that make us different, too.

Relevant Links

World of Black Heroes
Black Girl Nerds
Black Action Figure
The Museum of Black Superheroes 

Prism Comics (nonprofit promoting LBGT comics and creators)

Lonely Gods: Social Minorities in American Superhero Comic Books

Ethan Lewis at Den of Geek has a series of "top 10" lists:
1/7: Characters with Disabilities
2/7: PoC/Hispanics in Comics
3/7: Non-Christians in Comics
4/7: LBGTQ Comic Characters
5/7: Women in Comics
6/7: Minorities in Comics: The Creators
7/7: Activism and Community

Native Americans in Comic Books: A Critical Study, a book by Michael Sheyahshe

International Catalogue of Superheroes (not strictly non-white characters, but worth looking at)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cute Sexy Blond She-Ra Amazon Fighter Girl Babe

That's the name of an auction listing. Actually the full listing title is "CUTE SEXY BLOND SHE-RA AMAZON FIGHTER GIRL BABE Action Figurine Figure Statue" -- because, ya gotta get all your keywords in there. Fine, whatever... but what I really found annoying was the photo he chose as the main one for the listing, the one you see in your list of search results:

I removed the seller's username and location because I don't think he needs any more attention.
It's a butt-shot. Of an action figure. /facepalm

Now, I could almost tell myself that he was doing this to show the Mattel mark on her back, except when I look at his other listings, and then narrow those using his keyword of "sexy" within the action figure listings, my search results look like this:

157 listings that are "sexy" *sigh* -- and that's just the action figures I don't think it has anything to do with She-Ra's maker's mark. Scrolling down the first page of the results, there's even this tasteful photo:

The photos for this item are especially obnoxious...
A crotch-shot. /headdesk

Now I know some people are going to say I'm being too sensitive. That these are plastic toys and therefore I can't be offended by how he chooses to photograph his items for sale. And besides, he calls some of the male figures "beefcake" so there's equal sexualization:

40 results for beefcake and not one single butt-shot
Lots and lots of people have argued about the false equivalence inherent in the "males are objectified, too" argument. David Willis' Shortpacked! webcomic illustrates the point well. We could discuss the concept of the "male gaze" in various media from comics to movies to video games. But what it boils down to for me is this: he is selling a whole lot of action figures, and taking many product photos (which is a good thing for a buyer), but the ones he uses for the main photos that show up in the search list are really porny. In fact, a lot of the shots he takes of the female figures resemble a Penthouse photo shoot. The fact that he's taking so many shots of the female figures, and far less of the male figures (3-4 for the males, 6+ of the females) tells me that he knows very well that "sex sells."

The seller has a high feedback rating, and many sales. He puts time and effort into the listings; some even have that annoying automatic MIDI music in the background. The photographs are good, in-focus and clear (some have unfortunate shadows, but overall they're far better than most product shots on ebay). He hasn't broken any rules that I have seen. The listing titles are a little spammy, but there's nothing really wrong with any of the listings I looked at. I think his pricing is a little out of line for loose figures, but that's not against any rules, either. 

So if he's not doing anything wrong with the listings, and has better-than-average photos for those listings, what the hell is my problem? What makes it problematic (for me) is the focus on body parts and "hotness." Boob shots, and lots of 'em. Butt shots, likewise. Even Aunt May gets the sexist treatment: "SPIDER-MAN'S SEXY OCTOGENARIAN AUNT MAY HOT BABE CHICK GIRL Statue Action Figure." (No, really, that's what it says.) It's the overall tone of objectification (which, when you think about it is pretty impressive: he has objectified an object even more than it already was!) that rubs me the wrong way. Will I report him? Of course not! Walking the line of what is "good taste" is a completely subjective point of view. Will I give him any of my money? Nope! (Although it hasn't escaped me that by giving him any attention at all might generate more sales for him.)

What do you think? Porny, or just attention-grabbing? After all, it got mine!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Yes, Actually, My Gods DO Wear Spandex

Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes
©2007 by Christopher Knowles
Illustrated by Joseph Michael Linser
Published by Weiser Books (I think it's worth pointing out that Weiser Books is an established New Age/Occult book publisher, not your typical publisher for books about superheroes.)

When I saw this at Half Price Books, I was pretty excited. I was taking the Gender Through Comic Books MOOC and this seemed like just another way of looking at comics. The problem is, this book just doesn't hit the mark.

This is my full Amazon review (2 stars):
I wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, it reads like it was excerpted from Wikipedia articles, and I never felt the author had any real expertise or serious knowledge of the subject. The work is superficial at best, and in some cases wrong-headed. (For example, he lists Batman as being a Golem archetype. I have no idea where he's getting that crazed idea, even after reading it. The Thing, the Hulk maybe, but BATMAN?? No.) The brief section on female superheroes focuses a great deal on two things: 1) Marston (who created Wonder Woman) was into bondage and a polygamist, and 2) girls don't really read comics. Even though he quotes from The Great Women Superheroes (Trina Robbins -- a must-read), I'm not sure HE read it with any real comprehension.

The connection to the mystic/religious is spare. He spends so much time discussing Madame Blavatsky and Aleister Crowley (and others) as well as various secret societies like the OTO, but never draws strong relationships from those mystic orders to the majority of the heroes he mentions. Superman is a Messiah figure. Hawkman comes from Egyptian mythology. But these assertions are not explored, examples are not given. I've had more in-depth conversations about these same characters in message boards.

Save your money and strike up a conversation with the folks at your local comic book shop.

It took me months to finish this book; it was just not at all engaging. Seriously, the "Amazons" chapter is a measly ten pages, and two of those are full-page illustrations. He wants to show our gods wearing spandex? He barely touches on Wonder Woman's close ties to the Greek pantheon before going back to bondage references. This paragraph beautifully illustrates why I don't like this book:
Whatever Wonder Woman's feminist virtues, the fact remains that she is a scantily-clad beauty taking part in stories engineered to appeal to bondage fetishists. To read Marston and Peter's Wonder Woman adventures is to confront stories that are absolutely drenched in transgressive sexuality and rendered in a style that betrays a distinctly decadent influence. And Wonder Woman's favorite exclamation is "Suffering Sappho," a reference to the poet laureate* of Lesbos. (p. 163)
He completely ignores so much of her history and creation to focus on Marston's personal life. And if he has so much bias and misinformation in discussing Wonder Woman, where else has Knowles glazed over history with his own beliefs? When I told my husband that he'd labeled Batman a Golem, he told me that he could see where Knowles came to that conclusion but that was really stretching it. Perhaps he's worked in the comics industry for 20 years, but he's no scholar, and his research and analysis are unimpressive.

The only thing I'll give Knowles a pass on is for not mentioning that Frederic Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent† was debunked by Carol Tilley at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He gets a break only because Tilley hadn't yet published her paper, "Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics" (Information & Culture, Nov/Dec 2012, vol. 47, no. 4).

* Sappho was never a poet laureate of anywhere, as far as I know. Contemporary poets of her time were known to revile her.

Seduction of the Innocent was the book that claimed comics were destroying youths, published in 1954, and was also responsible for the creation of the Comics Code Authority.

Fairy Tales, Marketing, and Heroines

I just finished an online class, a MOOC* at Canvas Network, called Fairy Tales: Origins and Evolution of Princess Stories, taught by Dr. Kevin Yee. This was a shorter course than the Gender Through Comic Books that I took previously, and not as in-depth as I would have liked, but it was only 4 weeks. There was some attention paid to the modern retelling of these stories through the practically ubiquitous Disney movies. In many cases, the Disney version is they only version people know well. I'm not a fan of the message that Disney is selling.

Here's my criticism of Disney, no matter who's at the helm of the company but primarily after Disney's death. Marketing has driven the direction of these movies. Marketing experts determined that if you "brand" your item as for girls or for boys, it will make more money. So instead of having wonderful movies for children (like The Rescuers, which I saw in a theater when I was 7), we have movies that are explicitly for boys or for girls. That brings us to movies that lack male or female characters, depending on which "brand" you're watching. In Planes, faster planes deride slower planes as being "ladies" because they're slower -- message? Being a girl is not as good as being a boy (or a man). If there is a female character in a boy's movie, then she's background only, or perhaps what other writers have called a "minority feisty" - an apparently strong female character thrown in so no one can say there are no female characters. I think this is also problematic of the princess genre movies, with a near-complete lack of male characters in some, and with his role being the most crucial one -- to save the princess, and the day (see Sleeping Beauty). The movie is about the girl, but she's still passive and in need of rescuing; another horrible message for modern girls.

The villain has more agency† than the supposed heroine of the story.
(Maleficent as the dragon, in Sleeping Beauty)
We read through some of these old stories, hundreds of years old: Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, the Frog Prince, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. They are fascinating to study and read, as well as entertaining, but their messages are not necessarily ones that should be taught to impressionable young children. Brave was important because it was our first really feminist heroine. And just like those of us who are clamoring for a Wonder Woman movie (15 live-action Batman and/or Superman movies, fifteen!), many of us would like to see more stories like Brave for girls AND for boys. That women can be strong and interesting characters is an important message for boys, using feminine epithets to insult other boys is not.

Pop quiz! Which of these girls has agency?
I believe that people who present things for the consumption of a young audience have a responsibility to those kids. Positive messages include things like working together, personal growth, keeping promises, being true to oneself... Why does everything have to be pink and blue?! You can have your message, tell your story, in a framework that is meant for all children, not just half of them at a time.

I have had some issues with Disney for years, before my daughter was born, but now I can see the potential damage of the same message of passivity/inferiority over and over again from them. And the gendered marketing juggernaut that is Disney just gets bigger and bigger.

StrideRite -- girls skip and twirl, boys are powerful;
blogger Margot Magowan is through with you.
I think what puzzles me the most is why so many people don't see what I see. I know there are other bloggers who do -- lots of them, in fact -- but the opposition to our opinions is harsh and swift. It's a backlash against feminist thought, and the "make me a sandwich" trolls abound. So many people are critical of those of us who bother to speak out about this. I was enormously criticized for daring to post on Target's Facebook page about the pink/blue pegboards in the toy department. People suggested I find better (more important) things to worry about. What's more important than our kids? It starts so small... indoctrinating that pink/blue dichotomy is the first step. When they're toddlers, we introduce them to Disney. Girls get the Princesses, boys get Toy Story and Cars (with active male characters). When they're older, they get Spider-Man and the Avengers. The message is repeated over and over, and eventually, some of those girls are going to believe the hype: girls are passive, boys are active. Do I blame Disney for this? Not entirely, but they have certainly played a large role in this. In their quest to make money, girls have gotten sold a bill of goods. It's one of the reasons I was so horrified that Disney purchased Lucasfilm... was Princess Leia -- arguably one of the modern age's best heroines -- going to be Disneyfied? She's already a princess, but are they going to make her a passive Disney princess? I guess we'll find out.

* Massive Open Online Course
† Agency: when an individual is free to make choices and to act independently on them; Aurora lacked agency because she was "cursed" to find a spinning wheel and forced into that long sleep

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why I'm Irritated with Batfleck

It's not just that I think Ben Affleck is all wrong for Batman (I do), it's that Batman and Superman have already had so many feature films that it's ridiculous.
  • Batman (movies, live action): 1966, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2012
  • Superman (movies, live action): 1951, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1987, 2006, 2013
Sixteen in all, if you count the movie Affleck has been tapped for. And we can't get a single Wonder Woman movie???


Seriously, DC and Warner Brothers clearly do not have their fingers on the pulse of reality. Here's what Diane Nelson said about Wonder Woman, to The Hollywood Reporter in July ('13):
We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now. I think one of the biggest challenges at the company is getting that right on any size screen. The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn't have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes. There are lots of facets to Wonder Woman, and I think the key is, how do you get the right facet for that right medium? What you do in TV has to be different than what you do in features. She has been, since I started, one of the top three priorities for DC and for Warner Bros. We are still trying right now, but she's tricky.  (full article)
 And here is a brilliant rebuttal by Alan Kistler:

And lots and lots of other people have weighed in on this: Mark Hughes in an article for Forbes ('Wonder Woman' Movie Will Deliver Big At Box Office For Warner Bros., 7/25/13)
...Warner Bros. needs to release a solo Wonder Woman movie instead of trying to spin her off from Justice League as if she’s not popular enough to support her own series. Ignore the recent wrongheaded Wired article insisting “we don’t need no stinking Wonder Woman movie,” the truth is we DO need a Wonder Woman movie, and soon.
Alexander Abad-Santos for The Atlantic Wire (Wonder Woman Can't Have it All, 8/21/13)
The real question is why this is happening to Wonder Woman. Part of the reason may be that comic books remain a sexist industry dominated by older white men. As DC's most iconic feminist, Wonder Woman is an outlier, and not always a beloved one.
Sede Makonnen and her 6 Reasons We Need A Wonder Woman Movie at BuzzFeed (7/23/13)
We live in society that A) desperately needs strong women in the media and B) really, really wants them. Wonder Woman, for all that she has a messy past, is a character that is recognized as a powerful female lead by people who haven’t read the original comics, people who haven’t read many comics at all.
Tim Hanley in his blog, Straightened Circumstances (Wired Says We Don’t Need A Wonder Woman Movie OR I Disagree Entirely, 7/23/13)
Wonder Woman needs someone who can take the best bits of her incarnations and create a modern, relevant, feminist take on the character, drawing from the past while injecting their own ideas as well.
The bottom line is, the comics and movie industries are sexist money-making machines. They will remake and reboot and make sequels to properties they're pretty sure will make them a lot of money, and rely on formulae they've used for generations, rather than step a little outside the box.

Unfortunately, the somewhat lackluster American sales for Pacific Rim tend to shore up the idea of sticking to the formula. It was an original idea, we saw something new and interesting from a passionate director, and yet what should have earned buckets of cash here, didn't. If Warner Brothers/DC were to write a check for a similarly passionate director for Wonder Woman, would we see the same mediocre box office numbers?

I don't think so. Women are hungry for a superheroine movie. And because Wonder Woman is so iconic (and since a whole generation of boys dreamed about Lynda Carter), I really don't see how a movie would fail... unless it was done poorly. None of us want a bad Wonder Woman movie, no one wants a repeat of Supergirl or Elektra. But we do want a Wonder Woman feature film -- not one where she's merely part of the team, but a heroine in her own right. All you have to do is watch the documentary Wonder Women to know just how much we want this.

Warner Brothers, DC: knock it off and get to work. Seriously. Quick dragging your feet and give us the Wonder Woman film we all deserve. (So long as Azzarello doesn't write the script.)

Isn't it interesting to note how many of the voices calling for a Wonder Woman movie are male? Guess that should help dispel the idea that men aren't interested in a female lead in a movie, huh?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Marvel Heroines - A Novel Approach

The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta and Rogue Touch by Christine Woodward are novels published by Hyperion. Novels, not graphic novels, regular black-and-white-words-on-a-page novels. This press release from Marvel set the tone: 
The announcement was made by Hyperion’s Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Dyssegaard. Of the deal, Dyssegaard says, “Marvel has had tremendous success with recent hit movies and we think it’s a great time to explore what happens to super heroines when they are dropped into traditional women’s novels.”

“It’s exciting to see Hyperion bring two of our most beloved female super heroes, Rogue and She-Hulk, to life in ways you’ve never seen before,” said Ruwan Jayatilleke, Associate Publishers/SVP, Marvel Entertainment.  “Whether you’re a long time fan of Marvel or new to our super heroes, these novels deliver exciting stories that will capture your imagination.”
Traditional women's novels... When I first heard about this, I was horrified. Chick-lit. Bleh. These are superheroines, not romance heroines. I was prepared to read them, and then shout to the rooftops how much they sucked. I had already made up my mind that they would suck, completely without merit or evidence. Then I read an interview with Acosta at Reel Girl -- and felt like a jerk. Felt bad enough to send an apology to the author, even though I hadn't written anything yet, just for having that unfounded, unfair knee-jerk reaction.

The She-Hulk Diaries

I bought SHD last week, but didn't pick it up to read until this week. You see, as long as I didn't read it, it didn't suck (a Shröedinger's Cat approach to books), and I really didn't want it to suck. I love She-Hulk, and a treatment of her as an angsty, empty-headed heroine would have broken my heart. But you know what? The characterization works; Acosta did a fine job writing Jennifer Walters.

Contains some spoilers:
The book is written, as the title suggests, in a sort of diary format, from Walters' perspective. When we join her, she really is having some issues: she's lost her job, she needs to find a new apartment, her love life stinks, and she has to see a therapist as part of a settlement with the Avengers for anger issues. She treats She-Hulk more like an obnoxious roommate who is the source of most of her problems, than a part of her. Shulkie is the one who gets party invitations (and then is embarrassingly featured all over the internet. Shulkie is the one that guys fall all over. Shulkie is the one who's made her lose jobs and apartments. And her irritation with She-Hulk makes sense. The issues that she's having in her life, things she's trying to fix with a set of Valentine's Day resolutions, make total sense. It never feels weird or contrived. It's believable that Jennifer Walters has these problems, and those reactions to them. These are the things we don't seen in comics, because, well... they're not action-y enough. This is the mundane side of being a metahuman, and it's definitely readable.

I like the twists in the plot, I like the love interest, I like the little side plots that get tied up fairly neatly. I like that she and Shulkie grow as people, and that she moves toward an integrated self. There are still unresolved issues, the book doesn't end with everything all tidily solved, but I don't know that it's necessarily because a sequel is in the offing. Even though there are places that the pacing is a little slow, I recommend SHD unreservedly. This isn't an adventure-filled romp through NYC with the Jade Goddess; it's a wry and thoughtful look at what it's like to be Jen Walters, who is sometimes She-Hulk.

I do have one complaint, but that's not Acosta's fault: I hate the cover. Green lipstick on a purple background... yes, please, let's make sure most men wouldn't be caught dead reading it in public. Thank goodness for e-readers...

For book nerds*: the Library of Congress info lists the book as 1. Women heroes -- Fiction. 2. Superheroes -- Fiction.  


Rogue Touch

I had to order RT because my comic book shop only got in one each of it and SHD. They didn't know if the books would sell, so they were conservative with their order. Since SHD did not suck as I'd feared, I dove right into RT, and was not disappointed with Woodward's take on a 19-year-old Rogue.

Contains some spoilers:
The pace of RT is considerably faster than SHD, but that's part of the plot. This isn't the same sort of ordinary day-in-the-life story; Anne Marie is on the run, and she's on the run with someone else who is also running for his life. We see her really struggling with things that have happened because of her, particularly the fateful kiss with Cody that put him in a coma. In spite of the fact that Rogue's first comic appearance was back in 1981, this telling feels quite fresh and current, complete with a very contemporary distrust/loathing of financial institutions. (OK, that's been a problem throughout banking history, but still...) Frankly, the story is a bit of a crime spree as she and "James" try to stay a step ahead of the people who are after them. She struggles with the things she's doing, but tries to justify it in ways that are age appropriate.

Rogue's vulnerability and naïveté combined with a defiance and brashness make her a fully fleshed-out character. The worst thing that can ever happen to a character in a story is for the reader to look at them with apathy; you won't do that with Rogue. There's plenty of twisty bits, and suggestions of things yet to come, but really, this is a fast-paced and entertaining read. It took me less than a day to finish, where SHD took a bit longer. Different stories, different authors, different paces -- both are well worth reading.

The cover is much better for RT, and she appears to be wearing the leather coat described in the beginning. It's a poignant and yet dynamic portrait of her, and a much more active cover than that stagnant tube of green lipstick. Interesting, when you consider they were designed by the same company.

For book nerds: the Library of Congress info lists the book as 1. Young women -- Fiction. 2. Outcasts -- Fiction. 3. Identity (Psychology) -- Fiction. 


You can read excerpts from both books here. Please consider supporting your local comic shop and having them order you copies (if they don't have them on the shelf) before you get them online.

* I know I am not the only person who reads this stuff at the front of a book, who is not also a librarian. You know who you are... ;)