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Dance of the Puppets

Like a bat on a hot tin roof since August 2005

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Money for old rope to hang yourself with

The Amazing Spider-Girl #3

It's like watching a car crash in slow motion. Very slow motion. Motion so slow that even a multi-car pile up gets boring. It's almost as if they are deliberately trying to kill this comic.

The plot from issue #1 drags on but we still have no idea what the maguffin is that everyone is after. May is still not back in costume properly, and just to bog the momentum down further we see the introduction of a new villain Bitter Frost; such a cheap Killer Frost knockoff that even the name is almost the same. And even though we get page after page of angsty backstory about what a hard life she's had so May will feel conflicted about preventing her from murdering more people*, her actual origin is restricted to a single small panel that doesn't actually explain anything.

Even the subplots about May's problems with her social life and her running for class president or whatever it is don't come off because it just makes her look like a self-centred diletante who is incapable of prioritising.

I find it hard to believe that many readers who were lured in by the big relaunch of the series are going to make it to the end of this grossly padded storyline. It's almost a textbook example of how to alienate your audience.

Unless this title gets a fairly radical quality upgrade in the near future I don't think it will last a year. On current form it doesn't deserve to.


*So how many people does she need to murder before "having a hard life" is no longer an excuse?

When is a monthly comic not a monthly comic?

When it's published by Marvel, apparently.

Newsarama's regular "suck up to Marvel" segment Joe Fridays gives us a memorable quote from editor in chief Axel Alonso. He says:

The problem is simple: Comics ship monthly and very few artists can draw 22 pages in a month, or 12 issues a year. That’s just facts.

Firstly, I have to call bullshit on these "facts". How many pages a month did Jack Kirby used to produce when he was at Marvel? There are plenty of artists that can turn out 22 pages a month, 12 months a year. Maybe not the ones you like to cover feature or who bring in the most fans, but then those are the ones who know they will still get plenty of work no matter how unprofessional they are.

Secondly, just in case you've forgotten, Axel it's your job to get a monthly comic out 12 times a year. That's what editors do. If you are so sure that the people you have hired to produce 12 issues a year are incapable of fulfilling that task whatever possessed you to contract them to do so in the first place? And if you know that you can't put a comic out monthly, why are you selling it as a monthly comic?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Eighth Feminist Carnival of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Whether it's just that time of year, or that the email box I set up especially for this managed to delete itself while I wasn't looking, the Carnival is a little quieter than usual. But we still have plenty of attractions to amaze and inform, and since it is that time of year, let's start with Subversive Gifts for Girls and More Gifts for Girls.

Something that we missed in the previous Carnival was the announcement of the winner of the 2006 Womens Comics Podcasters Grant. This page has a lot of useful info for anyone who has any interest in casting their pods.

In Just Back from the Casino, Scott Lynch considers what an ugly spectacle the new film Casino Royale would have been if it really was as some critic described "Ian Fleming's Bond".

Over at Arrogant Self-Reliance, Amy Reads reviews Wonder Woman #3 and asks how much feminism you need in Just Not Feminist Enough.

Every Carnival should have one entry that takes the piss out of Frank Miller, so it's a good thing there are webcomics like Wonderella.

There's a thought provoking piece about identification with and attraction to fictional characters at Headpieces full of Straw, but the comments move it in a more female specific direction.

While it wasn't specifically submitted for this Carnival, I think everyone needs to know about Marvel's upcoming Bikiniverse imprint.

Anna O. is described by her doctors as a "female hysteric", who suggested she start a blog to help talk out her problems. Her contribution to this Carnival is Apple, but that's just the tip of a curious and fascinating iceberg.

In Feminist SF - The Blog! Ide Cyan says time is no excuse for sexism in Timeless.

Veleda K responds to the way weakness in men is considered a feminine quality in I was Sick of this a Long Time Ago.

Ragtime hunts for woman-friendly kid's fiction and strikes gold in a most unlikely place, over at Comic Book Thoughts .

Prejudice and privileage are found in many forms, and although it's not a female specific issue, the opinions Lake Desire addresses in an article about the Range of Wii-motion at New Game Plus are depressingly familiar.

As part of a continuing series Using Beauty to Establish Gamer Cred [The Gaming Beauty Myth, Part 3] looks at the problems of being female in the gaming community.

Apple Foot responds to CNet's odd choices for its list of Top Ten Girl Geeks.

Calico Reaction reviews Ursula Le Guin's essays in Dancing at the Edge of the World.

My own contribution hardly needs a link when you could just scroll down a bit to find it, but my exploration of the difference between misogynism and sexism is the most feminist thing I've written all month.

And finally, a quick plug for the Feminist Writers Livejournal Community, a haven for weird feminist fiction.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

I finally got around to seeing My Super Ex-Girlfriend and it's nowhere near as bad as I feared. Of course after all the negative things I'd heard about it my expectations were very low, so that wasn't a difficult thing to achieve.

The biggest problem people have with it (especially those who haven't actually seen it) is that it it takes the cliche of an ex-girlfriend who cannot let go and makes a comedy of it. I think the attitude would be the same regardless of whether she had super powers or not. They say it wouldn't work if the roles were reversed, but there are plenty of movies where the ex-boyfriend won't accept it's over. The only difference is that they tend to be the cuddly stalker type, rather than the cuddly psycho. That and they usually end with the woman realising her mistake and going back to him.

In many ways this movie is more realistic in it's treatment of the relationship than that particular cliche, or perhaps it's just a bit more cynical. The guy never loves her in the first place. He was just looking for some sex to tide him over while he works on the girl he really fancies. She doesn't really love him. She's just desperately lonely and clinging to anyone who shows her some attention. It's not quite my idea of comedy, but I'm definitely on her side when he dumps her.

Throughout the movie the boyfriend (whose name I've forgotten already) is the point of view character, the sympathetic character we are supposed to identify with, but the fact is he has treated this woman badly and her overreaction does not negate that.

Jenny, herself is very inconsistant at times. Characterisation and plot coherency is dumped in favour of comedy. The woman who has chosen to spend her life using her powers to help others is prepared to let millions die at one point because she's in a sulk and wants a night off.

On the plus side the movie does portray a romantic relationship between a superhero and a regular person that focusses on the petty difficulties that are glossed over in other superhero movies. Superman might be a creepy stalker in Superman Returns, but you know he's not going to do anything petty or spiteful to Lois. And it's never going to occur to Lois that pissing off someone who can move planets might be unwise.

The worst thing about My Super Ex-Girlfriend for me was the lack of consequences to the actions we see. Everyone is happy at the end and they seem to have forgotten that ex-boyfriend has lost his job and his appartment is full of holes. And no one seems to have a problem with evil villain Bedlam hanging around. Admittedly we haven't seen him do anything very illegal, but you don't get a reputation as an evil mastermind without doing something society frowns on.

So not a great movie, and a little annoying at times, but if it was on TV I'd still prefer it over most sporting events. Or reality shows. Or chat shows, soap operas, quiz shows, game shows, political debates, worthy dramas, breakfast shows, and gardening programs.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Definition of terms: Misogyny vs. Sexism

mi·sog·y·ny

–noun
hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.


sex·ism

–noun
1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; esp., such discrimination directed against women.



I was in a discussion at girl-wonder where the art of Rob Liefeld and Greg Land was described as misogynistic. I disagreed and said it was sexist but not actually misogynistic. Rather than sidetrack that discussion I thought I'd address the difference here.

Misogyny is hatred. A writer or artist might claim to be pro-women and even give female characters overtly empowered roles, but when those characters are forced to suffer in degrading ways that their male counterparts do not, then misogynism is apparent in the work. When women are made to suffer or die purely as a way of motivating a male character it's misogynism.

I know it's a favourite example of mine, but Kimiyo Hoshi's treatment in Green Arrow is misogynistic, pure and simple. I don't care how feminist Judd Winick thinks he is, or how empowered his female characters are in other comics, the way Kimiyo is treated is entirely misogynistic. She is attacked and beaten, symbolically raped, and left badly injured. The hero finds her and is motivated by her plight (though not enough to tend to her injuries before he chases off after the villain), and having served her purpose she is dropped from the comic, her personal story unresolved.

Sexism is more about assumptions. It's about assuming women having a lower value than men in any given situation. It's objectifying. It's making decisions based on sex rather than any relevent data. It is not about hate. Rob Liefeld doesn't hate women. He likes women. He likes drawing hot women in skimpy clothing. His art exaggerates all the hotness to a level where they appear absurdly deformed, but although it is a level of objectivism beyond stupid, it's not hate.

That's what I think, anyway.

Friday, December 08, 2006

schadenfreude

Being american is one of those "unconscious privileage" things. It doesn't mean you are better than anyone else but it does mean that until very recently you get the cool comics, the big movies and TV shows before anyone else. Hell, some of the best known american TV shows have never been shown in the UK at all (I have never seen Gilligan's Island), and the ones that did turn up did so often years after they were first broadcast in the States.

Before comics were confined to specialist shops you could find them at selected newsagents (that's news stands to americans), but you never even knew if you would get to see the same titles two months in a row.

It's all different now. UK comics shops get the same selection as the USA only a day later, and if TV isn't broadcast here fast enough, who cares? We can download it the day after it appears in the US and get it on DVD within six months. Movies can still take a few months to roll around, but the pressure is on to minimise the time lag - at least to get it out before the american DVD release.

Even so, there's a lot of stored up resentment there. So anytime we get to see something before you guys, be it the season finale of Babylon 5, the climactic battle between the Daleks and the Cybermen, or the final race of Oban Star Racers (I know who wins! I know who wins!), I can't resist the urge to rub your faces in it.

Nyah nyah!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Carnival reminder

Tomorrow is the last day for submissions to the Eighth Feminist Carnival of Science Fiction and Fantasy, so get those entries in now or I'll have to make stuff up and pretend you did it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A very careful review of Batman Meets The Spirit

Darwin Cooke's art on this comic is as good as anyone could hope for, and I look forward eagerly to his forthcoming Spirit series. I don't understand why an otherwise classic style features Catwoman wearing her latest costume rather than one she wore when she was a villain, but that's a minor niggle, and it might not even have been Cooke's decision. In all other respects it is gorgeous, catching all the nuances of every single one of the pointlessly large cast.

I know if I wanted to get a Batman comic in which all the villains were defeated off-panel by Superman on the final page, that also featured The Spirit, this would certainly be top of my list.