Monday, September 14, 2009

Write What You Know?

Okay, first things first: sorry for my lack of entries lately. I promise I'm not dead (see, I made it through two sentences without once asking for your brains). Regular followers of this blog probably know that I recently moved. It was a bit of a process and involved moving from one place to another to another, and I don't do very well when trying to adapt to new routines. I'm mostly adapted now, though. I've also had some medical issues, blah blah, and have spent most of my free time playing mindless video games or Beatles Rockband (buy it if you like The Beatles).

One of the side effects of moving (and last week's holiday) was being all turned around on my comics. I've only recently started catching up. I have yet to read the last issue of Exiles or the latest issue of Flash: Rebirth (they're waiting for me at my local comic shop), but I've read Adventure Comics (loved it!) and Red Robin (ooookay) and the Blackest Night: Batman title (meh).

Also, I bought the Secret Six trade and, on the recommendation of one of the Fantastic Fangirls, the two volumes of Whiteout.

I read the first one last night.

And I loved it.

As usual, the art first because I don't know as much about art other than my personal reactions. I normally don't like the black and white thing, unless there's some sort of hook (like black being the background and an occasionaly bit of color, like Sin City), because I just... like pretty colors? Actually, I don't know. I just know I tend to not like the style.

But considering the setting (Antarctica! Cool! Literally!) the very-white with some black worked. It made me feel like the Ice really did get to Carrie and become part of her. And by the end I really was into it. So way to go Steve Lieber, for having art that doesn't make me wish you also had a colorist. (I also like the way Carrie looks, short and with a button nose and freckles and an attitude, like a cross between a petulant kid and someone that can break your neck with one hand tied behind her back - and the other missing two fingers. I think Kate Beckinsale does not look like Carrie, but hey. That's okay. I get why she was cast, and I dig her as an action heroine in general.)

The story got me hooked, in a way I didn't expect. The trailers for the movie make it seem very supernatural, so I was expecting some kind of alien Yeti or something, but no. Just normal humans in an abnormal environment. Just your regular old murder mystery that happens to take place in Antarctica. As someone that likes my comics to border on the fantastic (I think V for Vendetta is the most "realistic" comic I've enjoyed up until this point, which says a lot), you'd think I would be disappointed. I don't like mystery books, I don't like mystery movies, and I do like superheroes and aliens and apocalypses and spirits and... yet I still liked this book.

So I started wondering to myself: why?

The women.

Seriously.

I mean, sort of a given for me right now, right? Strong and interesting women make me interested, even if it's in the type of story I normally wouldn't go for (erm, yes, I've seen every episode of Golden Girls and Sex in the City, why?).

I've been wondering recently why we're not allowed to have female action heroes anymore. I have a half-done entry about it. I mean, they're around, right? There was that one movie with Rhona Mitra. And that other one with Rhona Mitra that was a sequel to the one with Kate Beckinsale. And Lena Headey is sort of awesome in general. We've got a few on TV, but I think they're sort of watered down by other things now. Buffy wasn't so much a high priced hooker (Dollhouse, which I enjoy but which can be iffy with that sort of thing). And... actually, who else? Yeah, can't think of any other female action people on TV, but maybe that's because I'm multitasking.

Anyway, long story short (too late!) I was thinking about Greg Rucka, and the fact that I like all the women he writes. And I was trying to think about other male authors (in various forms of media) that I can say the same of. Joss Whedon, maybe. Sort of (I can go into the issues with the women and the negatives weighed against the positives, but that's a post for another time). Ron Moore, also a sort of.

When I was in AP Bio, my teacher told us to take an exam question and twist it around so we could write what we know (eight years later I'd wonder if he had ever been a first year law student, since we were given pretty much the same advice for our first advocacy memo). So on one of my AP exam questions I managed to turn it into a map of the digestive system from mouth to anus, with all the enzymes included (I was taking anatomy at the same time). I think I must have read the same thing about fifty million times in various "So You Want to Be a Writer?" books.

Write what you know.

I don't know anything about Greg Rucka personally, other than what he shares on his Twitter account (he's a Doctor Who fan! cool!), but I'm pretty sure he's not a woman or a lesbian.

So how come his women all rock so much?

Yeah, I don't know. Though I can maybe come up with a few male writers in movies and TV that write women with the same combination of humanity and kick-your-assery that Rucka does, I can't think of anyone who does that in comics besides Gail Simone (and I will then add the caveat that I do not consider myself to be a well-read person in the modern comic field, so please correct me if I'm wrong).

You don't really need to limit yourself to what you know, I guess. Or maybe it's more that you have to find what you know in lives you haven't experience.d I mean. It's not like Jerry Siegel could fly or Stan Lee turns into a giant green dude when he gets angry (or DOES he). But the little Jewish guy knows what it's like to be an outsider. And Stan Lee is a master of finding the archetypes in all of us and putting them into comics.

Archetypes come from some place, right? They come from the old stories which were told for a reason. Because we all want to Be Somebody, and we all need to be Saved, and we all have Daddy or Mommy issues, and we're all Totally Normal Until We're Special, and we all want to Fight the Good Fight (or Be Very Very Bad).

And then we don't get new archetypes, we get new applications of the archetype. We get Kate Kane stepping in with her mommy issues, being Someone Special in Gotham, and yeah she's a woman and yeah she's a lesbian and yeah her breasts don't defy gravity and yeah that is sort of groundbreaking for a mainstream comic title. And she's not just groundbreaking, she's cool.

Though not as cool as Renee Montoya, but we all know how I feel about that.

So my point is that when I read that the female co-lead had been cut from the Whiteout movie adaptation, I was not surprised. Having one woman that can be a woman and kick ass (and did they keep the references to her being called a dyke in the movie? because.. yeah) is a big enough deal in mainstream movies, which are of course more mainstream than the most mainstream of comics that you're definitely not going to get two on there. No matter how much that might change the story.

Actually, wait. That wasn't my point. My point was that Greg Rucka writes better women that I do, and I'm a woman. He probably writes better lesbians than I do, but I've honestly never tried. Most of the time I write, I write men, and I certainly don't write for a living. So props to Greg Rucka for continuing to create and write the most interesting women out there in comics.

And tonight I'm going to read Volume 2 of Whiteout, and we'll see how that goes, because I'm sort of worried Sharpe won't be there anymore.

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