Monday, June 29, 2009

There's too much science in my fiction!


This isn't actually a post about comic books, technically, but I thought it was worth writing out. A lot of comic fans (this is a totally scientific estimation based entirely on my own opinions and experiences, and should therefore be completely respected and not argued with) seem to like science fiction, too. There's a lot of overlap, after all. Did you know Superman is an alien? Truth. And that the X-Men are genetic mutants? Seriously. That's, like. Science.

The real beauty of science fiction is that it tells universal (hah!) stories through a medium that makes it easier to, I don't know, deal with the infinite. Or our relationship to technology. Or each other.

So, long story short: I watched Virtuality yesterday (it's streaming on Hulu.com). This is straight up sci-fi (not to be confused with SyFy, which is just confusing): it's a bunch of brilliant people on a deep-space mission to save the planet. Classic. This isn't Fringe sci-fi (or The X-Files sci-fi, which is Fringe sci-fi's gender-neutral parent) or LOST sci-fi, or even Pushing Daisies sci-fi. This is outer space. And science. And, oh yeah. Cameras.

I hear it tanked.

That's sort of a shame. I like having straight sci-fi. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the police procedurals or dramas set in modern times that just have Wierd Stuff Happening. But I dig outer space. I like technobabble. I like wondering wtf is wrong with these smart people going into airlocks without their helmets, or how anyone in the future can seriously say that VR doesn't count as real, so raping that twenty-four year old girl is just, you know.

Fantasy.

Yeah, so everyone else got shot or pushed off a cliff or knocked into a reef; very impersonal, if brutal deaths. But the youngest crew member that's also a woman got tied up and raped. Collective WTF time. Meanwhile the straight couples (even the filanderers) are all over each other, but the gay guys mostly hug.

I think I went off on a "the representation of violence against women, women in general, and homosexuality in this show sort of sucks" tangent.

The funny thing is that for as much as I love straight sci-fi in books (though most of the sci-fi I've read in the past few years has been cyberpunk, steampunk, or vampirepunk) and tv that go into the future or outer space or both, in my comics I'd rather see them on Earth. I haaaaaaaaate how outerspacey things can get. One of the reasons I enjoyed Singer's X-Men adaptation (and one of the reasons I think it did so well) is that it really just... stuck with Earth. Granted, they sort of screwed that up with the Phoenix saga, but... that wasn't Singer, and it was still better than a giant space bird (THE GREAT BIRD OF THE GALAXY IS RODDENBERRY, AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT) that has wreaked havoc on the characters for thirty years. Giant. Space. Bird.

This, by the way, is why I'm sort of down on the whole New Krypton storyline happening throughout the Super-titles. Hey, look, I wrote about comics!

Seriously, though, I'm not sure why I prefer my comics to be Earthbound. Or at least Humanbound. Maybe because I feel that writers use the medium - which allows for pretty much anything - to push the boundaries visually and the reason I'm reading is to relate to characters and find analogies to my own life. And also good stories. Alienness does not make a good story.

Sort of like just having lots of cool tech and a neat out space idea doesn't necessarily make a good story. Which is probably why we won't be seeing any more Virtuality, and why Firefly and Battlestar Galactica were so damn good. It didn't matter that they were in space or in the future, it just mattered that good stories were told. Virtuality had an okay story, and maybe it was hurt by the fact that it should have been a pilot (seriously, the most interesting thing happened in the last minute) as opposed to a stand-alone. But still. If you've got 127 minutes of fiction, I shouldn't think 126 of it is throwaway.

Also I don't get why the Captain couldn't speak with his natural accent (Danish) when the Brits could.

Sometimes the future just makes no sense. Sure can't wait for it, though.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Redo!

Fantastic Fangirls' most recent Q&A asked:

What comics story do you want reimagined or covered, and by whom?

I'm reprinting my answer here, possibly with a few more details, definitely with some pictures, because... it's my blog and I'll do what I want to. You would cry to if it - oh, wait.

Just a small music tangent: Lesley Gore's iconic songs, "It's My Party" and "You Don't Own Me" were given an extra layer of interestingness (flickr invented that word, don't blame me) when she came out as a lesbian in 2005, and said she'd been gay since her late teens. Seriously, go check out those lyrics.

Anyway, my answer!


I'd like to see someone redo Camelot 3000. I really enjoy the idea of the story, but the 80s' idea of the future is... laughable now. I didn't read it until about six months ago, and the art and story both seem dated. I feel like a modern writer/artist team could give it a spin that just feels more correct and holds up better with time. I love retro-future ideas, but most of the ones from that decade just don't hold as well as the ones written in the 50s and 60s. I liked the struggle of the knights to find themselves in the 40th century, but I didn't feel like the 40th century reflected well enough on the 20th century that the writers were coming from.

As for that writer/artist team. Hm. I'm currently enamored with Greg Rucka and Gail Simone. I think Rucka does really interesting things with mythological constructs (I'm basing this on the Crime Bible stuff) and I just like the way Gail Simone thinks about and writes comics (there's a great interview with her on AfterEllen that really piqued my interest in her writing) and I think between them they could put out a good story with interesting characters and a good adapted mythos. I will absolutely admit to mainly wanting to see the Tristan/Isolde story retold by a modern writer, but the rest of it would be great, too. Also, maybe we could ignore the tired old Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot thing. Granted, the resolution in the original was fairly cutting edge, but I think by the 40th century they could just all get together and be happy.

Another tangent: David Franzoni's/Anton Fuqua's weird-but-enjoyable (Sarmatians? Really?) take on Arthur, the one that finally had a Celtic warrior woman (who needed a sandwich, but still), did a good modern twist on that triangle, making it Arthur and Lancelot who were the unrequieted tragic lovers. Not, like, on screen (because Heaven forfend men be in love in an action movie), but the undercurrents were pretty clear. To me. And even if they weren't, Lancelot was very obviously more interested in Arthur than Guinevere.

And artists, hmmmmm. I know less about artists. I really enjoy the more realistic style of Stuart Immomen, whom I recently discovered, and I think it would work well for that kind of story. Also a cover or two by Alex Ross would be iconic and amazing.

That art as it is is... well. Dark and strange. With odd detailing and accents. I'm sure it was very good for its time, but it's definitely not a style I enjoy. It reminds me of Heavy Metal and Ralph Bakshi settings. I don't like Ralph Bakshi settings, because they do the dark-and-bright-at-the-same-time thing in a strangely surreal way that removes me from the story. Seriously, have you seen War Wizards? WTF. I guess it has its place in fantasy (and I certainly like surreal artists like Peter Chung, so maybe it's more that I prefer surreality in science fiction over fantasy) but I'd rather see Camelot 3000 done with a more realistic, modern bent.

Besides Stuart Immomen, I also enjoy the artist doing Batwoman on Detectice Comics right now, JH Williams. Like I said before, I like his noir style. And while Kate Kane may be a bit vampiric, he's certainly capable of adding pigment to people, so I think that'd be fine. A neo-noir Arthurian story would be sort of cool, really. Like Blade Runner meets Sin City meets, well. King Arthur.

So that's my personal answer. I was an Arthurian geek before I was ever a comic geek.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Lesbians! Well. The same lesbian. Then some flirty non-lesbians. You know.

I forgot to mention this before, probably because I was so overwhelmed by Kate Kane's albinism: she's not a stick figure with giant breasts, she's a proportional woman with curves. Also she's got nipples. Seriously. They're, like, poking out of her costume. And I don't normally pay attention to these kinds of things (really!) so it was pretty noticeable. Why does she have nipples? Are they going for the Clooney look? I guess constantly-erect nipples are better than gravity defying breasts of doom (a.k.a. gigantobreasts).

Right?

Yeah, suck that Power Girl, Batwoman is anatomically correct.

Speaking of someone sucking someone else's something, the other big pick up for me this week was Gotham City Sirens. I just sort of went along for the objectification ride on this one. I love the way Paul Dini writes Harley and Ivy, and I literally LOLed at a couple of scenes. Which is nice. Sometimes I don't mind comics being funny! (Page 10 is the best, and I will scan it and insert it here as soon as I get a chance.)

Now, I'm not saying that it's automatically objectification if a man is writing or drawing female characters. Not at all. I still like Greg Rucka! But the title of this, erm, title is sirens. Here, let me sum up the wikipedia article so you don't have to read through it: three women who use their sexuality to seduce and kill men.

Remember back in the seventies, right after the second wave of feminism, when women retaking the streets, using their sexuality to get what they wanted, and being just as violent as men was an entire subgenre of movies? No, me neither, but I know those movies exist. Right? Well, Pam Grier was in a lot of them, but then we get into blaxploitation and there's no way I'm going there right now.

I just don't find it subversive any more.

What I do find interesting is the idea of Harley and Ivy legitimately caring about Selina's well-being. And I certainly enjoy the three women's dynamic. And Harley is one funny lady, despite her thing with the Joker.

Oh, hey, while I'm on the topic (or not)... where did Holly go? Was that ever explained? She should go to L.A. randomly! Because that's where lesbians go when they leave Gotham for no good reason. Viva Los Angeles!

So I liked Sirens enough that I will keep reading it. I like this post-Bruce Gotham that's been established, and I like the writers and artists working in it. For the most part. I seem to like the non-central titles more, but I've always been like that.

By the way, to come full circle, none of the women of Sirens have nipples.

Maybe Gotham isn't that cold after all.

The Wait is Over! Lesbians! And other women, too.

Ladies and gentleman and genderqueer compatriots: Kate Kane has arrived. She's tough, she's smart, she's got an extreme lack of pigmentation, and she's the goddamn Batwoman.

[Spoilers!]

So Kate Kane is really sorta gay. And if I had a scanner, I'd scan the proof. The tattoos, the music posters, the vests... wow. Gaaay. And openly gay. Which is cool. And openly gay with an (ex) military father, which is even cooler. Suck that, DADA (Don't Ask Don't Tell, for the non-acronyming among you). I'm definitely glad femme-socialiate-extreme Kate is gone, but I'm not sure what to make of the Kate left behind.

Besides the fact that she looks like a vampire. Seriously, would it kill you guys to give her some skin color? I thought it would be an as-Batwoman-only thing, but nope.

I enjoy the contrast between the black/white/red (all over, heh heh heh) panels of Batwoman and the more colorful panels of Kate (especially when compared with The Question's panels). It gives the Batwoman scenes a really great neo-noir feel, which is a lot of fun to have with a female lead detective. But I knew they were hyping the extreme red of her costume and hair for a reason... and that reason is apparently going to be an Alice in Wonderland themed story arc, with a villain named Alice that is very very white. Like. White Queen versus Red Queen. GET IT? GET IT?

I like that the Religion of Crime is still around, though their name is still stupid, but seriously. Alice? Really? Bleh. And if they're around, why the hell is Montoya in Los Angeles?

Anyway. Those quibbles aside, I liked the issue for what it was: an overview and introduction to the "new" Kate Kane. There were some broader things I didn't like, that I think reflect the theme of women heroes in comic books, which I will happily rant about now, after once more saying that I did like the issue and I'm still looking forward to Rucka's run with Kate on Detective Comics.

Issue the first: getting Batman's permission. Oh please. Does he say "this one's yours" to every Bat-related person wandering around Gotham? And don't try to pass this off as a "it's Dick, he's new" thing. It was a thematic choice. Batwoman's okay with Batman, so she should be okay with us.

Yeah, she's okay on her own, thanks. She's dealt with the RoC (seriously, stupid name) before, had her heart almost cut out, turned into a Fury, and knows the score. Go away, Dick, and deal with Damian.

Issue the second: a female nemesis for a female hero. Tired. I probably don't need to go into it, and I'm sleepy and have the entire arc of the "Rise of the Olympians" (I waited) to read, but needless to say: blech.

By the way, I'm not sure how I feel about switching over from the "snooty, closeted socialite" cover to the "partying, sleeps-around lesbian" cover, but we'll see. We'll also see if Kate gets as much action as her straight counterparts, or if it's more like TV. You know, where people say they're dating, but mostly they hold hands or brush each others' hair.

Meanwhile, Renee is in L.A. working as, essentially, a PI with no face. Which I guess is consistent? I know she's just a co-feature, but considering how important she was in InfiniteLastUltimateWePromiseSuper Final Crisis (and the entire arc of the damn RoC, who are now main villains in Gotham), you'd think she'd be doing something more interesting. Maybe that will develop. Or maybe not. I'm actually okay reading Renee Montoya doing just about anything, so I don't know why I'm complaining.

Page 1 Panel 1

Renee is seated on an over-sized chair, chin in her right hand, watching paint dry. We look over her shoulder at the beige wall. There is no art on the wall and there are no windows in the room. It's lit from above by a single, energy-efficient light bulb. Renee is wearing a tank top and jeans, and her fedora rests on the left arm of the chair.

Page 1 Panel 2

Repeat of Panel 1

Renee Thought: This is interesting.

Page 1 Panel 3

Repeat of Panels 1 &2


No, really.

I'd read that.


Monday, June 22, 2009

My Lesbian Senses are Tingling

That was slightly dirtier than I had planned for a title.

Since the introduction of Kate Kane during 52, I have patiently been waiting for... well, this Wednesday. I just didn't know it until a few months ago. On June 24, there's going to be a lesbian headlining a major imprint's major title for the first time, um. Ever? I'm not a comic historian, so I'm going to say ever, and someone can correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.

Yes yes, Crime Bible, but it wasn't a major title. We're talking Detective Comics here, people. The title that's been running for over 60 years, gave the DCU its name, and introduced the world to this guy named Batman. I hear he's popular with the kids these days.

This is sort of a big deal.

I'll save my actual reactions until I read her first issue, but other than looking freakishly pale, I'm excited for Kate Kane to kick some ass, take some names, and romance some ladies. I'm hoping this whole "closeted socialite" thing doesn't last long, because: blech! So we'll see. Her brief appearance in Crime Bible gave me hope! Who knows.

The point I'm trying to make is that there aren't exactly a lot of lady lovin' ladies that are in big comics. I mean, this makes sense and it doesn't. On one hand, we've got a genre that loves to titilate (teehee) its (generally and stereotypically) young, male audience with scantily-clad women that are very very non-proportionally endowed (I'm not saying this would be a good way to get female same sex relationships into comics, I'm just saying it's a motivation.) . On the other, we've got things like comics codes.

There was this movie that came out about 15 years ago (wow) called The Celluloid Closet. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the history of movies. It goes into great detail about all the years of moviemaking where filmmakers would slip in references of homosexuality for viewers to pick up on, because the Hollywood Production Code. Except the only viewers that were meant to pick up on it were part of the "culture" in the first place.

This is what I call subtext. And I have graduated from the Xena School of Subtext, my friends. The one where you dissect every single episode/issue/scene for something, anything that proves that the particular character you think is a GLBT character is actually a GLBT character. And is probably having hot lady-sex with her sidekick.

Ahem. Also, they kissed a lot. Usually to bring each other back to life. I don't know.

Where was I?


Comics. Right. So I've read Camelot 3000, and that's definitely explicit. After 15 issues of self-hatred and misogyny, Tristan finally man's up (pun intended!) and realizes no one in the 30th century cares about same sex relationships (oh, dated socio-political statements, how I love you).

And I don't deny that there are some definite lesbian (erm, I'm just going to use the term lesbian from now on to refer to a relationship where ther are two women of the same gender who are in a pairing, whether they're bisexual or gay or whatever) storylines in V for Vendetta and Sandman, but when I sit down and ready my usual haul of comics, there's not much there for me. Um, Mystique I guess, but let's be honest: an evil lesbian is one of the Big Three Lesbian Clich├ęs. (Yes, she's bi. That sort of makes it worse, because then she's the insane bi woman who preys on men but tragically loves a woman. Blech.)

[For the record: 1) Lesbians wanting to be mommies more than anything else, and then being defined by those mommy storylines (ER's Carrie Weaver). 2) Lesbian in love with straight friend, goes insane and kills straight friend's boyfriend and/or straight friend (High Tension, anyone?). 3) Lesbian can't handle lesbianness and offs herself.]

So lesbians kind of get short-shafted (absolutely no pun intended there) in the main imprints. Luckily, I don't need much.

There are some easily-brought-to-mind subtextual (practically maintextual) lady-couples in comics. I think Poison Ivy and Harlequin are my favorite (of course we can argue about whether this started in the DCAU or the DCU, but whatever, they're in comics now and I'm definitely going to be picking up Gotham Sirens and so should you). I know I'm not alone in this, because when I googled "harley ivy" to get a nice picture of them, the first thing that came up was most definitely NSFW. And there were no men. Thank you, internet.

Speaking of the DCAU being awesome, Paul Dini not only made Harley, but he made Renee Montoya, too and she is definitely one of the most interesting lesbian characters out there (I have no comment on that travesty that is Anna Ramirez from The Dark Knight Returns). (Also, check out Montoya's newer, gayer haircut.)

I think I digressed again. Oh, I was going through a mental list of the women in comics I think ought to be lady lovin' with each other. Emma Frost and Jean Grey (c'mon, that'd be awesome). Supergirl and Power Girl (if you can get over the whole "we're genetically the same" thing, which I can understand if you can't). Barbara Gordon and, sweet merciful crap, um, anyone? Dinah Lance, for sure. I could see Babs with Helena, too. And after reading the Manhunter co-feature last week, yeah. Totally with Manhunter.

Told you I don't need much.

Some people might call me crazy (or desperate), but when you're given so little for so long, you will latch onto the slightest thing and run with it.

Of course now I've got a main-title heroine (and her co-feature) to latch onto. Will that stop me from finding subtext in all the right wrong places? Nah.

But it's nice to have a hero I can identify with. And not just in an allegorical "hey, mutants are second class citizens just like black people/disabled people/gay people/etc." kind of way. This is srs bdnss, this is a lesbian kicking ass and taking names while wearing a big ol' Bat symbol on her chest.

Cool.

Oh, and since I this is a post about Kate Kane, I'll end it with the pretty-popular "Her Sex is on Fire" image (by Phillip Tan; for Crime Bible, I believe). Because it's awesome. And you totally know that's a question mark. The rest I'll leave to your imagination.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What is this internets of which you speak?

One of the first memorable experiences I had with comics as an adult was stumbling on my first webcomic. I have no idea what it was called, and I only vaguely remember the story. I wish I could find it again, because it was pretty awesome and ended on a cliffhanger. It was some sort of futuristic sci-fi thing with a female lead and some fantastic art. This was, wow... ten years ago? Give or take.

Anyway, I never really got into webcomics again because I had trouble remembering to follow them. Once RSS feeds came around, I... well, took another year or two to figure out how to deal with them. I'm still sort of slow. But a friend of mine asked me last fall why the Hell I wasn't following some pretty fantastic webcomics, and I had to admit that I had no good reason.

This last winter, I was at the Gallifrey One convention (it's for Doctor Who, for the crazies out there who wouldn't recognize the word Gallifrey) and went to a panel on writing comics. There were some great people on that panel, including Marv Wolfman (squee!). Pia Guerra was supposed to be there, but had travel issues, so the panel was entirely male (though they even remarked at one point about how there should be more women writing comics). Anyway, someone asked the best way to break into comic writing and/or drawing, and the answer (besides the obvious "just start doing it") was to look at the internet as a way to get your work out there.

Not that I needed anything to legitimize webcomics. I've been reading fanfiction since 1995 (Xenafic, yo), mostly because mainstream publishing didn't (and mostly still doesn't) have the sort of stories I'm looking for (the gay ones). And then the Trek series Dark Frontiers was released, and I realized that I could get superior femslash* for free on the internet as opposed to buying it from the people who tried (admirably, I guess) to sell it to me. So I'm all about the internet as a forum of both amazing writing (speaking of Doctor Who, I've got a friend or two who ought to be writing about that show, because sometimes they seem to get it better than some of the staff writers), and amazing talent of many other types (oh Flickr, I heart you).

So I've got my webcomics. I feel like most of these are pretty non-obscure, but I don't know.

xkcd - because I'm a geek.
Penny Arcade - see above.
Questionable Content - which I'm still about 500 behind on, but which I love, because it's like. Life.
The Abominable Charles Christopher - because it's amazing.
Married to the Sea - because it literally makes me LOL about 4 or 5 times a week.
A Softer World - Not sure if it counts, but it's in panel format. And I love the photography and the irony and the randomness.
Dr. McNinja - I feel like the title of this makes it self-explanatory. Though I have to remember to go read it, because I've never found an RSS feed (seriously, I think I'm developmentally delayed in this department).
Curvy - [Explicit sex warning, yo.] This is my latest add (another recommendation from that same friend). It's awesome, super gay, and kind of fun. It's probably the most obscure of the webcomics I read, but it's one of my favorties.

So. That's it, really. I've noticed that webcomics tend to have a different feel to them than published comics, which makes sense. But I still miss that very-serious first webcomic I stumbled on a decade ago, that was basically a comic like I'd find in the store, but on the internet (Abominable Charles Christopher is like that).

If anyone has any recommendations for good webcomics of any sort (I'll try anything once!) let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Space Girls Gone Wild. For Real Real.

Okay, I admit that I have very little familiarity with Power Girl. I have never read any of her stuff before, and only know the history I've read about her either on the internet or in various TPs or other comics where it's mentioned. I know her chest size is some kind of running joke, which... grates, but. Whatever. "Eyes up here." Yeah, it's just so funny every single time. Har har.

SoI have to ask. Is the entire title meant to be a commentary on feminism, an attack on feminism, or is it just stupid?

Because. Seriously.

DC released its September solicits on Monday (?), including this gem of an arc title: "Space Girls Gone Wild". (Okay, okay, this started in the August solicits, but I didn't read those. And it didn't have a cover with the "trio of sexy alien marauders".) Cool. I mean, it's not like Girls Gone Wild is a misogynistic series of videos that takes advantage of inebriated and peer-pressured young women for the voyeuristic pleasure of men (and some women, maybe?). Sure, they've got their staged porn scenes with actors, but most of the draw are the real women that do various sex acts for the hordes of men watching in person and at home.

So I'm really excited for this arc, needless to say. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the actual videos and more to do with having a catchy tag line, but really DC. If I were your target audience (a horny guy?) I'd probably still be annoyed. Or maybe I'd be busy watching GGW. I don't know, because I know I'm definitely not your target audience (let's talk post Detective Comics, btw).

Like it's not bad enough that Power Girl's chest is still a running joke in 2009?

So I went into PG #2 this week already in a bad mood. And what do I get? Bestiality! A giant ape (get it! ape! like! chest beating man!) that's really a dorky, sickly guy who's trying to overcompensate! Bestiality and blood play! Hysterical mom-scientists and rational guy-scientists! Jokes about how PG doesn't use her brain! Blondie remarks! Chest jokes!

By the way, I think I managed to get the variant cover, which didn't have a slightly-cranky looking PG with a ferocious Ultra-Humanite behind her (edit: that one was by the interior artist, a woman, thanks for the correction, Michelle). Instead I got an almost Alex Rosseque and statuesque PG with her fists on her hips and cape flowing in the wind (and, you know, giant breasts, because yeah).

I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that PG will eventually beat the Big Bad Ape-man. I suppose I can also take comfort in the fact that Karen Starr is sort of a kick ass liberal business woman (I don't know if she's a feminist yet, I haven't seen enough of her, but it seems like she is in the over-the-top way that men write feminists, you know... actually, this should be out of the parenthetical).

Just to grossly generalize (how's it feel?), men seem to have two ways of writing feminist characters in comics (with two exceptions): either as man-haters or as hard-working women just trying to get by who constantly (and I mean constantly) have to deal with sexism, but don't want to. Karen Starr seems to fall into the latter category. Nevermind the fact that there are many shades of feminism (which leads me to my exceptions, because I think Greg Rucka and Paul Dini both do great jobs with strong women that I think would be called feminists if everyone weren't so afraid of that word).

So if there are any long-time Power Girl readers out there, I'd really like to know:

WTF?

Wednesday - Or: Space Girls Gone Wild?

Actually, "Space Girls Gone Wild" is apparently the title of the Power Girl arc coming at the end of September. But it sort of put me in a bad mood going into PG #2 this week, so I thought I'd run with that.

But first: Supergirl #43 was anti-climactic, but I guess that was the point. With the upcoming crossovers that will be required to follow the next arc, I'm not sure I'll stick with it. The art's not anything special (not bad, just not special) and as interested as I am in seeing Kara stick it to her mom (and find out what sort of twist is going on with Lana, because if it's cancer, wtf) I'm not sure if the budget's going to allow plunking down extra money on Action Comics, or whatever the crossover is.

I have Captain America #600 just because... I should. But I'm so annoyed at Marvel for bringing Steve Rogers back (there best be a catch) that I haven't read it yet. I'll get to it later.

I was really looking forward to the start of Streets of Gotham, and I wasn't disappointed. It jumped around a little, but the narrative was a good glimpse into the minds of Gotham's citizens, and the people related to the Bat but not part of the Bat-family. I liked the style, and the last page was absolutely gorgeous.

The Manhunter co-feature is engaging. I know nothing about the character whatsoever, but what I now know (single mom, attorney on both sides of the courtroom, new Gotham ADA, sarcastic, UST with Babs) I like. I wouldn't buy the title just for the co-feature, but if SoG ever has a bad issue, I think Manhunter will keep me going.

I also picked up Batman #686 and #687, but that's sort of old news and I haven't read them yet.

Mostly I want to bitch about Power Girl. Actually, I think I'll do that in a separate post.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old?

Old Girls Scout song that I think is appropriate: "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold."

I got to talking with some follow comics people on the internet this weekend about the DCU's inability to move past the Silver Age. I think they're taking strides forward with the new Batman (as in, there is a new Batman, and he's one that could conceivably stay as Batman for a long time, though I don't think they'll do it that way). But there are all these great characters that get introduced only to sit in perpetual sidekick and/or teenageland. Why? Of the Titans team over there, specifically the ones with Silver Age connections, one died (he's back), one went into an alternate universe, got to take on the adult role of his series and then died (he's back, but as the Kid again), one is still the Girl, and one just finally did something interesting by moving on as the Red Robin. Oh and the others, too. What the Hell are they doing?

One of the negatives of Bart Allen as the Flash in Fastest Man Alive was that we missed all of his growing up. I like the growing up stories. They're interesting. I grew up, too! Maybe not to become a superhero (YET), but it's a way I can connect with the characters I love. I think they call it... character development... yeah. That's the one! And now with Barry back, pushing Wally back to second-tier Flash, what's that leave for Bart? Oh yeah, Kid Flash. Again. I'm waiting to judge until Rebirth is over, but I can't imagine they'll let Barry just disappear again.

And here's the thing: he should. And as cool as Hal's return was (especially after the BS that character went through), and as okay as it is to have multiple GLs, based on the Corps' structure... maybe Hal should've stayed gone, too. And maybe it's time for Ollie to retire and let Roy or Connor step up. And Superman can stay on New Krypton, to be repalced by any number of worthy heirs to the S-Shield. Kon-El, Mon-El, even Kara once she finds her way (though word is she's staying on Kew Krypton for awhile). I wouldn't even mind seeing Chris Kent come back to Earth as Superman. (I need to catch up on the Flamebird/Nightwing stuff, so apologize if I have no idea what I'm talking about.) It's not like we don't have plenty of Superman family that are both willing, able, and Good enough to fill Superman's cape. (Blasphemy!)

Speaking of Chris Kent, I read the Superman: Last Son TP this weekend and was... both overwhelmed and underwhelmed. I feel like the cut a lot of stuff out for the Trade that I'd have like to have seen, (like Chris meeting Robin) but what was there was good. I didn't realize it was co-written by Richard Donner until I noticed the intro was written by Marc McClure. "Hey," said I, "wasn't he the movie Jimmy?" Duh. It was a far better sequel to Superman II than Superman Returns was, and did the Son of Superman story in a much better, less I-want-to-punch-Singer-in-the-face way.

Where was I? Oh right, moving on.

The Marvel Universe doesn't seem to have this sort of trouble. They bring in new characters, make new teams, and every decade or so things can be fresher (no comment on the fact that Steve Rogers might come back). The first time I really became engaged in any of the X-Titles was with the launch of GenerationX. New heroes! A link the past! People that will one day grow into X-Men (or, you know... die). Then to hang onto the Silver Age (does Marvel have one?), they've got the Ultimates. Sure, I hear they sucked, but I think DC could do something good along those lines.

It's why I liked the All-Star runs. Outside of mainstream continuity, but legtimiate stories of the main superheroes of the DCU.

Here's my thing. I want all these great characters that get introduced as teenagers to evolve. Either retire from the business (like Arrowette did), become your own hero (Garth becoming Tempest) or take on the mantle of your mentor, like Bart did for 13 issues. But let us take the journey with them, don't thrust them into the role with no explanation. We won't like it (cough FMA). And why do you keep dragging out the Silver age? I love it, too, but come on, guys. We've got heroes with names that no one would ever even name their kids anymore. Their secret identities are outdated. Bruce, Clark, Oliver, Hal, Lois, Dinah. How many of those do you meet that aren't your grandparents age? (Maybe a few Bruces, but still.)

Do a majority of comic fans really want to read about Barry Allen again? Every month? While Wally gets shoved into the JLA title, and Bart into the Titans Is it really so bad to move on? I know we're very against comic book characters aging, but there are some great stories to tell there, too. Look at the JSA. Look at how awesome Kingdom Come was. I don't want to be fifty years old and still waiting for Bart to get his chance as a the hero.

Of course, the downside of this is that people we love will die. I understand that comics are meant, in part, to be an escape. But they're also meant to be an allegory (and Marvel does this better than DC, usually). Let us deal with a beloved character's death in a way that is permanent and real. Bruce Wayne is going to live on forever in the movies that are going to be made about him (we are not fucking done professionally), so let the world of the comics move on. We've got a new Batman and a new Robin (and a new Batgirl!) and Tim Drake's growing up, finally, and I think all of this is very good.

Sure, I see a Lazarus Pit in our future, but a girl can dream.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

And the DC Universe breaks my brain.

So I only had two issues for my pull list this week (the fact that I bought Uncanny X-Men First Class 1 and the Superman Last Son TP is completely unrelated), and both managed to blow my mind in completely different ways.

UXM mostly managed to annoy me by being vague about whether I was supposed to take it seriously or not. I decided not. The rest was just a mish-mash of quasi-origin stories, some of which were well written with bad art, like Piotr's, and some of which were stupidly written with okay art, like Sean's. And the rest were fine.

So, right, Flash: Rebirth #3. I've never liked Barry Allen, but - wait, did I talk about this already? I can't remember. The point is, despite never liking Barry Allen, I'm enjoying what this title is doing to the speedsters of the DCU. Issue #2's reveal of Barry as the new Black Flash was pretty awesome. After that, I expected this week to be slightly anti-climactic. Which it was and it wasn't. First off, I wish my local shop had the variant cover, which I'm posting here. Because the main cover sucked. I don't know, it just reminded me of something from 1988, and I like my art to evolve. See how awesome that variant cover is? Yeah, word.

Anyway, there were four things I liked about this issue that made it a page turner. First was the description, by Wally, of Linda being his lightning rod so he didn't get lost in the Speed Force (and then saying that Iris ought to be Barry's). I like the idea of the speedster's emotional connection to someone being able to anchor them. It's good stuff. Second: Barry's thoughts about Wally ("the suit fits him") and Bart ("proof I'm past my time"). More good stuff. Third was the description of the Speed Force itself, which I've written about before, and which I found very... I don't know. Resonent. I'd reproduce it, but I'm afraid DC might sue me. Anyway, the idea that you become a part of everything but have to give yourself up in the process is an interesting and scary one. And that's what exists in and for all speedsters.

And the last thing I liked, which is a huge spoiler I guess so stop reading this sentence right now if you don't want to be spoile, okay? Good. Max!

Yay!

Sorry, I like Max Mercury, so it was nice to have confirmation of his existence, and the hope that he may be integral to solving this whole Barry Issue (personally, whatever, Barry can be the Black Flash and I don't care).

Also, the appearance of the Reverse Flash (meh) just reminded me again why I hate the Kid Flash uniform. Way too similar. If Bart can't be Impulse again (why not?) why can't he be someone else? In my fanon he's taken the name Inertia and is more adult without losing his Bartness (the way he did in FMA). Then again, in my fanon he's dating Cissie King-Jones, and DC seems to have abandoned her. Also I make no claims that my fanon may be realistic at all. But there we have it.

And then the other reason I went into the shop today was for Red Robin #1. I have to say, I'm liking the whole Batman aspect of the DCU now that Bruce Wayne isn't Batman anymore. Everything seems fresh and new, and I can start from scratch with some titles (and, hi, Paul Dini is writing two of them and one features Harley Quinn, so... I'm there).

I had no idea what to expect with this. I have a vague idea of what happened during the Jason Todd run, and I know there was supposed to be some new reveal of a shocking Red Robin, so I figured I'd pick up the issue and see if it engaged me.

It did. Tim Drake as the darker Robin seems like such a fantastic turnaround, without being completely based in nonsense. It also answers my I-didn't-realize-I-was-thinking-this question of "where the hell is Tim Drake?" I'd assumed he'd pop up somewhere, eventually, but not like this. Though a friend has just informed this was "obvious," as someone who has not been following the Batman titles at all, I can say that it was a nice surprise and now I will be following them. So there.

And here again there were two distinct parts of the book I liked. One was the flashback to his argument with Dick and his treatment and the hands of Snottian (erm, Damian), and the other was Tim's inner monologue about why this costume and this name. The Red Robin crosses lines, and Tim's ready to cross them to find Bruce.

And the last panel reveal of Ra's al Ghul worked for me. It sets up a good dichotomy with Damien living as Robin and Tim living with Ra's watching him with a potential for an alliance and daddy issues (yeah, Tim shouting that he's "Tim Wayne" at Damian was awesome) and all sorts of interesting storytelling.

Or possibly not. I'm optimistic.

That's a pleasant change.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A few things on Batman & Robin #1

Um. Spoiler alert?

So Batman's mostly-dead ("He distinctly said 'To blave,' and as we all know, to blave means to bluff, heh? So you were probably playing cards, and he cheated." Which, while we're on the topic, is followed by a much more appropriate quote: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.") but Gotham still needs a Batman.

I don't really know why Gotham needs a Batman. No one's ever explained it to me sufficiently. Sure, I get that whole "he's the spirit of Gotham" thing, and it makes a lot more sense in the movies where there's only him and, occassionally, Chris O'Donnell, but in a world with a gigantic Bat family, I don't see why Gotham can't be all set with a Nightwing (I'm just assuming he'd hang around since Bludhaven sucks), Robin, Red Robin/Hood (erm, well, he's sort of a good guy!), Oracle, Huntress, Batwoman, Question (also assuming she's hanging out there, since Montoya's a native), Spoiler, Batgirl... am I missing anything? I think as long as that bat signal's shining into the night, Gotham's pretty much all set.

But hey, it's comics and comics don't have to make sense and, dagnabit, Gotham needs a Batman.

I'm glad it's Dick. That makes sense. Who else could it be? I would sort of think this is an inevitible conclusion. In a world without Terry McGinnis (hey, I liked Batman Beyond) the only heir that makes sense is Dick Grayson.

I'm sort of bummed about the whole Tim-Drake-has-a-hole-in-his-chest-so-Damien-gets-to-be-Robin. Here's my thing about Robin... people fall into it, they're not born for it. It's a privilege, not a right. Damien treats it as a right, and it makes me want to punch him in his tiny-nosed face. I'm suuuuure that this is all part of his arc and he'll eventually come around (or die tragically), but right now I still wish for some face punching. Dick's handling him very well. I actually like Dick as the unwilling Batman. I don't think I've liked Dick since, um. Frank Miller's Batman threw him into a bit of lava or something after he cut Carrie Kelly up.

Anyway. After viewing some preview panels this morning, I'm kind of looking forward to Streets of Gotham, because it'll be nice to see the new team from a different perspective. Also Dick deadpans. Ish.


(Also I love when Paul Dini writes Harley, but that's a blog entry for another time.) Too bad the art makes them look like the Bruce/Tim combo. Which brings me to the entire reason I started writing this:

To gush about Frank Quietly.

I love him!

Okay, but more specifically. I've only been paying attention to the artists for a year or two, and I was immediately drawn to his style. What I like best about B&R #1 is that the team doesn't look the same. Not just because Frank Quietly is drawing them, but because they're different.

The differences between his Bruce/Dick team and his Dick/Damien team speak for themselves. And that's good. I don't want Damien to look like Just Another Robin. And I haven't been following Batman in a continuous enough manner to just be able to pick up a book and know someone is different just by looking at him. So besides the fact that I just like the way Quietly draws the characters, I also like the way he draws the world. I like the lines and the shadows and all sorts of technical stuff I don't know about, because I know next-to-nothing about art.

But whatever. It's awesome. And I'm looking forward to the run, and I think it'll be good. The villain is creepy (though he reminds me of Sander Cohen from Bioshock, so we'l see how that goes) and, like I've said before, I like coming in at the start (which is also going to add Gotham Streets and Red Robin to my pull list, sigh).

So, good book, and I wrote more on it already than I'd planned. But don't you want to punch Damien in the face now? Smug bastard.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Superman: Secret Identity

In January of 2006 (which I mention, because I thought it had been after Heroes premiered, but I was wrong and it was before, so go team me), I sat down and wrote out a character named CJ Kent. CJ was a normal kid from Quinter, Kansas, whose dad had been a Superman fan, and decided to name his kid Clark.

A little bit of the backstory I wrote for him:
The boy had a normal life, as most boys do. He went to school and did well. He made some friends, but not many, and spent most of his time wandering by himself on his family farm.

One day, when he was eight years old, CJ’s father brought him into a Very Special Room, a room he had always been told was for Grownups Only. This was the room where CJ’s father kept his comic books. He had been collecting comic books all his life, and had dedicated this entire room to their preservation.

CJ was awestruck. Fascinated by the bright pictures and the stories of the heroes, he spent the rest of the afternoon reading through his father’s collection. He came back the next afternoon, and the next and the next, until he had read every single issue. The boy – barely a boy any more – had discovered something about himself within the pages of the books.

He told his parents the next morning at breakfast.

“I am Superman.”
He was only eight, so it's not like he could back that up with anything but eventually his powers manifested, and he had to deal with having super powers in a world that thought Superman was fictional.

If that sounds familiar, it really ought to. Last winter, while I was clicking around the internet, I found out about Superman: Secret Identity, a 4 issue miniseries released in 2004. In my defense, that was during my "off again" period with comics (I was busy with Doctor Who*), so I had absolutely no idea.


I like Elseworld miniseries in general. There's closure (although it's always bittersweet for me; more on that later), which you don't generally get from main-continuity lines. I also love the idea of exploring the characters in other situations, and the Elseworlds I've read have been written well enough that the characters are still the characters. Superman is still Superman in Red Son; he manages to have the same ideals and manners, which gives him the same feel, as his Earth-1 counterpart.

I picked up all four issues of Secret Identity this weekend. I'd read the wikipedia article on it, so I had a general sense of what would happen, but reading the actual comic is always better than just getting the summary.

I wasn't disappointed. Obviously, I liked this idea to start with. And the miniseries took it farther than I did (as the character I wrote was for soething ongoing, and therefore only in his early twenties). It also told the story better than I did (though our only overlap was really in the Superboy years), which is to be expected.

But taking comparisons to me out of it (sad!), I just really enjoyed the story, the writing, and the art. I'll start with the art, which was done by Stuart Immomen. It had a more adult feel to it than a lot of Superman stories that I've read, and I loved the short frames where Immomen's usual style was contrasted with the old school Superman styles. My favorite panels were also things I'm not necessarily used to seeing Superman do, such as in #2 where he's laying in bed and Lois is straddling him in the half-darkness of his Mahattan apartment. I also enjoy the last few panels of #4, which run through the myriad of styles that Superman has been drawn (and animated) in, as he reflects back on his life. That's some great, um, literary something or other.

Which brings me to the writing. I liked it! The rest is just expansion, so you can skip the remaining bits of the paragraph if you want. It's a first person story, and I really like the way Kurt Busiek's wrote this particular Clark Kent. I may have read an issue or two of something he wrote at some point, but not that stood out for me prior to this (knowing that he wrote Trinity makes me want to check it out). Which one of us hasn't wanted to be Superman? (I guess you can answer in the negative, but I won't believe you.) Well, the guy named Clark Kent, that's who. But the use of the first person drew me in, and made every moment that I got to see of Clark's life - from his realization about what "outting" himself would do, to his first date with Lois, to the birth of his kids, and his twilight years - more poignant.

Caveat: I totally get sucked into stories. I don't know why. I'm capable of becoming emotionally attached to something in only 48 pages, so by the end I was a bit teary-eyed. That's why limited runs are always bittersweet for me. In mainstream continuity, I know they'll keep going elsewhere, but for Elsewords that's it. They're done (usually), and I'm sad because I'll miss the characters.

I'm a sap sometimes.

So anyway, for any fan of Elseworlds or Superman, or just the idea of a "regular" person getting to be a superhero (remember, this was written before Heroes, and it actually foreshadows a lot of similar stuff, ushering in an age of "naturally" occurring, non-alien superheroes living among us), I recommed the miniseries.


*Amusingly, speaking of Doctor Who, having an idea I use show up later (or earlier) has happened to me before. I wrote about the universe collapsing, forcing various characters from all eras/incarnations of Doctor Who (and later Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures) to come together to save everything for a game I created. Didn't have Davros, though. Also, one of the writers I gamed with thought that Gillian Anderson would make a great Rani. This was back in 2006. I don't think there's any copying here, I just think the universe of ideas isn't always as big as we think.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday Wednesday

Going to the comic, for me, is not a weekly thing. There aren't really enough titles that I actually collect (as opposed to vaguely following via blogs and other internet sources) and as much as I enjoy my comic shop, the closest one isn't in the most convenient location ever (in the sense that I have to pay for parking, which I hate, and deal with people in Brookline, which I hate even more).

I don't think I've been in a comic shop on a Wednesday in years. But today I went, because I happened to be working from home today, and had a free chunk just before noon. I went to go buy Flash Rebirth #2, and ended up with a lot more than that. But I was catching up!

(This is what I tell myself.)

So, here's what I picked up today:
Exiles 1,2,3 - I didn't even know there'd been an Exiles relaunch (I still like typing it eXiles, but I also am a fan of the movie eXistenZ, which I recommend to anyone that enjoys science fiction, gaming, and/or The Matrix). I initially read the Exiles for the lesbian Sunfire (who, as with most lesbians in fiction, died - but at least she didn't get pregnant or go psychotic!), fell off after that, and then was done. Or so I thought. But a friend mentioned it to me this morning when I told her I was going to the shop, so I looked... and saw a majority-female team with alternate versions of both Polaris and the Scarlet Witch. Sold!

Final Crisis Revelations 4,5 - Yeah yeah, I'm behind. I'm sort of annoyed that NEC didn't have the last two issues of the main Final Crisis title, but hey. I'll take my Montoya any way I can get her.

Power Girl 1 - Power Girl's back, ad the cover is... well, she's still got those same attributes I remember her having. My thing with Power Girl is that 1) she's Supergirl, so I'm down and 2) more often than not, despite having a gigantic, Marvel-sized chest, the rest of her isn't usually drawn is ridiculously skinny (hey there, Kara Zor-El, Emma Frost, etc. etc.). And I like the chance to get into a series on the ground floor.

(Look! She has thighs!)

Superman 688 (World Without Superman 27) - I bought this for two reasons. One: the art (I'm easy, and I really like this style). Two: Caleb Mozzocco wrote about the art in his own weekly haul round up last week, and it inspired me to give it a look. Sometimes art can make me pick up a title I wouldn't normally pick up (though I love Superman, keeping up gives me a headache). Some of my favorite art, actually, was from Flash: Fastest Man Alive, particularly #3 (was that Demeo?) and Frank Quietly's style, especially in that All Star Superman run. (On a quasi-related note, I love anything Peter Chung does in animation. Anything. Even weird Animatrix shorts that make no sense.)

New Mutants 1 - Thought I'd give it a try. I've never been super into the various mutant teams (besides Generation X and the Exiles) but, hey. Ground floor opportunity again.

Blackest Night 0 - Yeah, free comic book day, woo. Unfortunately now I'm interested in how this "event" that will change the DCU unfolds, so I'm going to have to keep on top of that. Fortunately there's a check list in the back. Way to advertise, DC. Also, the idea of a Violet Love Corps (the Star Sapphires) made up of only females is both hilarious and offensive to me. I know they're not new, but they're new to me.



I'm excited to see this stuff play out. I've actually already read this, and it was a nice way to jump back into JLA/DCU stuff without having had to read the death of Batman or the Martian Manhunter or Aquaman (seriously, guys, wtc, Dweller in the Depths).

Flash Rebirth 2 - the whole reason I went to the store. Wally West was my first first Flash, Bart Allen is m favorite Speedster, but I still find the event exciting. And I like Geoff Johns.

Oh, I also picked up the TP of Identity Crisis. Because, that's why.

I've got some reading to do.