Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Random comic review: Green Lantern (Corps) #212-213

Okay, so I should probably be doing something more retrospective to mark not only the first post of my second year at this, but also my 200th post, but I couldn't work up the enthusiasm, so you are getting a review of an old comic (okay, two old comics. It's only the one story) instead.

In this story Star Sapphire and Hector Hammond team up to make slaves of Hal Jordon and Arisa. Well, they initially try to kill Hal, but then when that doesn't work they mind control him.

It's a mixture of stuff I liked a lot and stuff I disliked a lot. Steve Englehart clearly had some issues he needed to work through, but I don't see this as the place to do it. The whole male vs female/mind vs body debate that he has going between the villains is not entirely out of place, but it sits heavily in the comic, repeatedly bringing the action grinding to a halt while the two vie for superiority.

The scene where Star Sapphire strips naked to prove she can even make the immobile intellectual Hammond sweat is particularly tangental, and I'm not convinced that she even scores a point there unless you take it as read that any woman can control any man simply by taking her clothes off. Affect them, sure. But control? I don't think so.

And where did all that hair come from? Star Sapphire's hair varies from waist length to below her knees, and in this scene there's so much of it that she can wrap herself in it like a beach towel.

The whole slave segment where Arisa and later Hal (at least it's equal opportunity) are degraded by their captors under mind control kind of fits the story, and it pretty mild compared with what I'd expect in a similar scene today, but there's some unpleasant subtext going on that I can't quite put my finger on.

This debate/contest is never really resolved. Ultimately they are stalemated until Star Sapphire gets Arisa to help her. Perhaps this is a comment on the duplicity of women, but it could also be read as their being more resourceful.

Anyhow, aside from Englehart's issues this is a well written story with clever twists and turns, and a great cliffhanger at the end of the first part where we see Hal Jordon burst. The first part revolves around Arisa being mind controlled to lure Hal into a trap, and it is explained that she is vulnerable because of her recent transformation, so there's no suggestion that it was because she was the girl. I particularly liked that at the end of the story she gets a good solid cathartic resolution. It is Arisa who rescues Hal, Arisa who beats the trap that caught her companion, and Arisa who punches Star Sapphire's lights out.

If they could do that in 1987 why is it such a problem now?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rape of the month: July

Months without a rape in comics: 0

This is an ugly little regular feature that I am running monthly to highlight just how often sexual abuse appears in comics and to make it clear that it is neither clever nor original to address this issue. In fact so many comic writers have addressed it so often and so badly that it has become a ghastly cliche. It doesn't matter how thought provoking or moving your rape story may be, just don't. There are few enough unmolested women left in comics as it is.

Only one comic this month has include a rape as far as I am aware:

The Walking Dead #29

The serial rape we are promised at the end of last issue is not averted by a last second save, and the character is repeatedly raped during the course of this issue. But apparently the writer does not feel that he has made his point sufficiently, and it looks set to continue into next issue.

If you know of any other comics published in the last month that feature rape or sexual abuse, please leave a comment so I can update this entry.

I really don't like doing this feature so please, writers, stop abusing our heroines, and I won't have to do this anymore.

Happy Birthday blog

One year old today.

I should bake a cake.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Zero interest

Why can't all good things in life come without downsides?

It's like girlfriends without the five year plan

It's like bras without the fumbling

It's like stag parties without the wedding

It's like blind dates without the psychos.

With this kind of attitude you almost expect to see the slogan "Coke Zero: We don't want to sell it to girls".

Apparently Coca Cola were concerned that low calorie drinks were primarily favoured by women, so with the launch of their new product Coke Zero in the UK they have done everything possible to ensure that any woman who has actually seen an advert for the stuff won't touch it with a ten foot pole.

Cathryn Sleight, marketing director for Coca-Cola GB, said: “We're launching Coca-Cola Zero to offer people as much choice as possible. The new brand joins the Coca-Cola family, alongside original Coca-Cola and diet Coke.

“With our creative and media strategy, we're confident that we've created a campaign that's not only entertaining and engaging for a young male audience, but one that will excite them and ensure that they can't miss the fact that Coca-Cola Zero has arrived.”

She did not explain why engaging a young male audience relied on alienating the entire female audience, but I'm sure it's some clever marketing strategy.

The advert containing the "psycho" reference has now been removed from adverts in Scotland after complaints from Scottish mental health campaigners, according to The Scotsman. Unfortunately it seems nobody has complained about the entire campaign being misogynist. But I suspect most people who are as irritated as I am by the whole attitude of the campaign will vote with their wallets.

You can see the main TV advert here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dooooooom!! Dooooooom!!

I know I can do cynical as well as anyone, and there are specific creators who do set the cynicism pumping through my veins at the mere prospect of them approaching any of the characters I like. Someone asked me yesterday if I was going to read The Ultimates when Jeph Loeb takes over and my initial response was surprise - why would I pick up a comic I hardly read in order to see what a writer I don't like does to it? But then I had a moment of Schadenfreude and thought "yes, I'll be interested to see just how appalling it is, and then I can gloat at the wailing and teeth-gnashing coming from Marvel fandom.

I do not believe that Marvel hired him for his writing skill. I think they hired him because his name on a comic sells a lot of copies. Presumably they were aware of his work at DC and knew he was likely to screw around with continuity and established characterisation, but that was less important than the dollars. They deserve to be taunted for it.

But I do try to keep my cynicism down to those that deserve it. You can't help second guessing upcoming events that have been trailed, but unless I have good reason to fear the worst (like it's written by Jeph Loeb or Frank Miller*) I try to wait until the comic arrives before passing an opinion stronger than "I'm looking forward to it" or "I'm not looking forward to it". The only times I've addressed Batwoman was to comment on the behaviour of the media to the announcement, and I haven't said anything about the news that Jodi Picoult will be writing Wonder Woman because I haven't read any of her previous work and have no idea what kind of job she will do. It's good in theory that a woman should write the title, but what that will mean in practice I have no idea. So I'll just wait and see.

One of the things that got people a bit exercised recently was Joe Kelly saying that the only reason he agreed to write Supergirl was that everyone else turned it down. This has led to a lot of speculation that the horrible mishandling of the big relaunch of the Girl of Steel has turned her from Hot Property into Unwanted in a very short space of time.

I see shadowy figures walking the streets of the internets yelling "Doooooooom!! Dooooom!!" but in fact it's another case of Brainiac's enlargement ray and a hill of moles. I first got suspicious when I saw a post from Gail Simone saying she would have been interested but she hadn't been offered the title. Now I know I'm biased, but if I was DC editor in charge of matters Supergirl, Gail would be high on my shortlist of writers to approach.

So then I looked up the source. The quote is from an interview last month at Wizard. What it actually says is:

With Rucka departing after one issue, Kelly claims he got the gig because of his helpful nature.

"Everybody else said no," Kelly joked.

The "Kelly joked" bit seems to be forgotten. At the very least it suggests that he is exaggerating when he says "everybody". In fact it could just mean that the first couple of choices for writer turned down the gig because they are everyone's first choices to write their comic and they already had a full schedule. The impression given by the interview is that they were in a bit of a rush because Greg Rucka was leaving earlier than expected (for unspecified reasons) and they needed someone at short notice to keep it on schedule. Hence Kelly helping out. There is no suggestion that the comic is any less popular, it was just a joke that got taken way too seriously.

*My response to hearing that Miller will be working on the upcoming Spirit movie was "If he turns Sand Serif into a ninja I will not be responsible for my actions."

Friday, July 14, 2006

I have seen the Light

I just saw the cover to the new JLA issue #1.

Let's look at that a little closer, shall we?


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Molly sez, Mari respondz

This week's Marvel comics (well the one I read, anyway) contain an editorial from someone called Molly. I have no idea of who Molly is or what position she holds at Marvel, but I was so gobsmacked by her words that I'd like to reproduce them here in full. Responses mine.


My roommate, who is a teacher, told me that one of her students had asked her if Captain America was real. The girl’s brother had told her that he was pretend, but she badly wanted him to exist When I heard this story, the thing I was most surprised about was that a ten year old girl knew about a comic book character who hasn’t appeared on the big screen. But the times, they are a’ changing.

At Wizard World Philadelphia this past weekend, another friend of mine remarked that she’s been seeing more women at the convention each year. It’s no longer a surprising thing to see fangirls pawing through the stacks of half-priced trade paperbacks with the fanboys. I’ve been a comics fan since I was five years old. Growing up, I didn’t meet any girls who shared my interest. But now the female comics fans seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Groups like Friends of Lulu have formed to unite women who read and work In comics. Many stores have ‘girl friendly” titles on display,

what, like Strangers in Paradise, you mean?

but the employees are just as willing to show female customers traditional super hero books if that’s what they’re looking for. And it’s not just the number of female fans that is growing. The women inside the pages are getting a better rap as well.

Are you sure you didn't miss an "e" there? (okay, that was a cheap shot, but I just saw the latest issue of Walking Dead.)

Today, female comic book characters aren’t just the ‘women in refrigerators” of times past. Girls can admire Ms. Marvel’s strength, Kate Bishop’s bravery, She-Hulk’s Intelligence, and Spider-Girl’s determination.

Because at least one of those listed hasn't been sexually assaulted.

Yes, many of these characters still have gravity-defying proportions that would cause them serious back problems in real life. But we’re taking steps towards getting to a point where female super heroes get as much respect as their male counterparts.

what steps would those be, then? Your boss certainly doesn't seem to consider having any female creators to be one.

We’ve still got a ways to go before the general public sees comics as a medium designed for everyone—men and women, adults and children alike.

Kind of like how it was before the industry totally focused on superhero comics, you mean?

But with every new reader who picks up a comic book and likes what they see Inside, we’re getting closer.

You are? In what way?

So, yes, little girl, Cap can be real, If you want him to be.

But finding a female superhero role model might be a little trickier.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


While spell checking the last post, I find that Blogger's spell checker does not recognise the word "blog".

Fake out at Byrne Robotics

I was just reading some stuff on John Byrne's message board and I reached a post where he explains why he doesn't allow nicknames - he calls them "fake names" - on his board, and gives his opinion of people who "hide behind them".

I can see his reasoning, but it is simplistic to the level of uselessness to take the attitude that all pseudonyms are bad*, or that message board trollers can be defeated if you deny them the use of nicknames (unless you have some way of verifying the "real" names as being true, which they don't). That will only stop the ones who are stupid enough to buy into the "solution".

Now I have been writing about comics under the name of Marionette for several years, and even this blog is getting close to its first anniversary. I post and comment on a lot of message boards and blogs with this name, and wherever possible link back here. I recently broke one thousand hits in a single day, so I like to think that I have a certain reputation in this little online world of ours. But if I want to express an opinion on John Byrne's board I cannot post with this name by which I am well known because it is an "obvious nickname"**. So I have to post under a name which nobody recognises and which will not be traced back to me. It's not my real name either, but it doesn't look like a nickname, so I pass the registration. Thus I am prevented from using the identity by which everyone knows me and must use a fake name*** to pass the measures in place to prevent people using fake names.

See, that's irony.

*Pen names have been a tradition for writers since the invention of the pen. Magazines are full of "house names". Film stars never seem to keep the names they were born with, and I believe I'm right in thinking that even Stan Lee could technically be refused entry to this board.

**Bear in mind that the only criteria apparently in use is "does it look like a real name or not?" So if your actual name is something unusual like Moon Unit or Rainbow you will be judged fake and your only option, if you still care enough to continue, will be to register as Jimmy Smith or something.

***Actually I've registered several different names from different email addresses at Byrne Robotics. Not because I particularly want to comment there, I just see it as a symbolic act of giving them the finger.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Listen to the wind

Sometime last year one of the writers at DC (can anyone remind me who it was, and point me at the original quote?) suggested that they were going to use the big gear shift of Infinite Crisis to lighten up their comics a bit and move away from the grim & gritty approach that passes for "realistic" in the comics world.

This was later refuted, but somehow the idea took root in the Great Fan Unconsciousness and is still being sited as official DC policy even now. I don't think I've seen any comments from anyone who thought it was a bad idea. In fact the only negative response has been from people who thought this was happening and are now unhappy when they see no sign of it.

This isn't a pressure group demanding a change they would like to see, it's just everybody seeing an idea that seems so obvious and right that they just assumed it was happening. And now they are sad and disappointed.

We don't want a return to silver age silliness (well, we do, but that craving is satisfied by Showcase Presents), what we want is a definition of realism that encompasses the lighter side of real life as well as the darker.

And meanwhile DC is acting like the shopkeeper whose response to a request for an item they don't stock is to say "You must be the fifth person today I've told that we don't get any call for that." DC, you need to shut up for a moment and listen to the wind. It's blowing in a different direction.

Judd Winick is not a misogynist

He just likes taking women's power away and then dropping them from a great height.

In defense of Joey Q

In a recent post I invited readers to respond to Joe Quesada's peculiar comment about why there were no women creators on any of Marvel's major titles by posting to a thread at Newsarama. The support was a bit pathetic, and only two people followed it up.

So I doubt it will get any further, but interestingly I did get a response in the thread.
It's interesting because this is quite specifically not a discussion thread so it is out of order for someone to comment on another person's post. And it almost guarantees that the response will go unopposed, because the original poster would also have to break the rules to respond, and then the whole thing starts to get messy.

It's just as well I have a forum all of my own, isn't it?

Originally Posted by Marionette
from this week's Joe Friday:

So there are no female creators at Marvel because Marvel doesn't have any female creators working for them? That's not exactly my idea of an answer. Perhaps I can rephrase the question; why are there no female writers working on any major Marvel titles? And "because there aren't any" is not an acceptable answer.

It also begs the question of who is ultimately responsible for there not being any female writers working on any major Marvel titles (are there any women writers on Marvel titles at all right now?). Would that perhaps be you, Joe? Could it be that the actual answer to "why are there no female writers working on any major Marvel titles" would be "because I didn't hire any"?

Many, many people would be interested to know.

Beta Ray responds:

Breaking format here sorry... Just wondering, what answer would possibly satisfy you?

Would Joe saying "We asked them but they all did not want to join" be good enough? It's not like there are no females working at Marvel...

What answer would satisfy me?

The head of Marvel saying "You know, maybe there is a bit of an imbalance here, and since our industry is dying for lack of an audience it might be worth trying something totally off the wall and radical just this once and hiring a representative from the other half of the population to do something creative."

If Joe said "We asked them but they all did not want to join" I would like to know what was so different in the terms of employment he offers women from the ones he offers men, since he doesn't seem to have any problem hiring them.

It's not like there are no [minority group] working at [almost anywhere].

Fish, here is your barrel.

Aren't you just embarassed for even writing that?

But remember the circumstances of the original question was the Marvel "summit" where the big dogs plan the direction for their books in the months ahead. No women present = no women have any input into this important creative strategy session. It doesn't matter how many female editors they have, how many women in any positions in the company; they weren't there so they don't get a say. Joe's lame obfuscation is irrelevent and so is yours.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

colour blind

I just read something on another blog that kinda bugged me so I feel the need to stand up and make my position clear.

True story: When I was at college I had a friend called Parm. He was the coolest guy I knew. We hung out all the time and solved the world's problems in the way you do when you are 19. He had a lot of asian friends. After about six months it occured to me that he might be asian too.

That's how much the colour of anyone's skin means to me.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Nutrasweet of the comic world

In an article I found at Blog@Newsarama (Blogarama?) that looks at Paul O'Brien's breakdown of recent Marvel sales figures, Paul is quoted as saying:

Between the Other, the new costume, the Civil War prologue, and Civil War itself, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #525 to #538 will all be boosted to some extent by crossovers and stunts. Arguably, when it goes on for that long, it's no longer an artificial boost but simply a sign that the book is running a string of particularly popular stories. Can you really talk about a fourteen-month artificial boost?

Can you really talk about a fourteen-month artificial boost?

Well aside from the pedantic observation that you are doing so right there, I think that any time a comic includes inorganic elements to bring in readers who would not be there otherwise then it's an artificial boost regardless of how long it is done for.

After all, Superman/Batman is filled to overflowing with guest stars every issue, but that doesn't stop it being a gimmick. Every time you guest a character you will get some buyers who are only there for that character. Doing this every issue inflates the sales figures but it just means that lots of different people are buying different individual issues. The effect of the artificial element only becomes apparent when you stop adding it and you get to see how many comics you can shift without that boost.

Similarly making event comics that tell a single story over several different titles is going to bring in readers who are only there for that story. Running event/crossover comics continuously doesn't stop them being a gimmick unless it is the premise for the title. On a basic level team books like Avengers or JLA are gimmicks, because they will always get readers who are only there because a character they like from another comic is on the team. It's more acceptable than the short lived event comics because the whole premise is based around these characters getting together regularly, rather than being thrown together only for a specific storyline, but if Batman leaves the team, the Batman fan may stop reading the title.

Obviously the theory is that the casual reader brought in because a character they like makes an appearance, or because they wanted to read the whole of Secret Civil Crisis Outside Wars of M Hour will be so taken by the title that they will continue reading it even once the reason for their initially buying it has departed. The problem with these artificial sweeteners is that they often interrupt the flow of the title's own story. The ongoing storylines and characterisations are interrupted and put on hold for several issues to make room for someone else's epic, which may bring in a few new readers, but can be annoying to the readers already there who are not happy to find their story continually being pre-empted and having to wait for the event to go away before they can get back to it. Not to mention that they find themselves paying for comics they have little interest in reading and that won't even make any sense unless they buy a whole bunch of other comics, many of which may not even feature their character.

It's all so introverted, too. It's hard enough for a casual reader to pick up a random comic on impulse and enjoy it, but expecting them to not only by other issues of the same comic to make sense of the story, but to buy a whole lot of different comics, is about as welcoming as writing "fuck off, loser" in large unfriendly letters on the cover. These comics are all about getting the existing dwindling audience to buy more comics when what is desperately needed is to find a way to increase the size of that audience.

Having a guest star or an event can be icing on the cake; a fun change of pace in the ongoing story. But even hyperactive ten year olds get sick of a diet composed entirely of sticky buns eventually. Not everyone wants to read every comic put out by a publisher, and stuffing every comic with characters and storylines from all the other comics puts them off buying the ones they do read. That's why I rarely read Marvel anymore. And why Infinite Crisis and all its spinnoffs pushed me almost to breaking point. They were saved at the last minute by the best gimmick of all: good writing.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Powerpuff Girls Z

What happens when the little cartoon that always wanted to grow up to be an anime grows up?

Rape of the month: June

This is an ugly little regular feature that I am instituting to highlight just how often sexual abuse appears in comics and to make it clear that it is neither clever nor original to address this issue. In fact so many comic writers have addressed it so often and so badly that it has become a ghastly cliche. It doesn't matter how thought provoking or moving your rape story may be, just don't. There are few enough unmolested women in comics as it is.

This month's featured comics are:
Squadron Supreme #4
The Walking Dead #28

Since Walking Dead ends with a cliffhanger of preparing a character to be raped to death I suspect the next issue may feature in a future instalment unless we get a last second save. Even should that occur, I think it's valid to include it here. Having several pages of preparation for serial rape still falls into the "Just don't do it" category as far as I'm concerned.

I really don't like doing this feature so please, writers, stop abusing our heroines, and I won't have to do this anymore.

I don't read many comics, so if you see an instance of sexual abuse in a new comic please add a comment to this post so it can be included in the next roundup. This is only for newly published comics, Ragnell and Kalinara are focussing on the wider view.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Marvel boss states the bloody obvious

In his regular weekly interview at Newsarama, Marvel head honcho and poor speller big Joey Q pulled up Stan's old soapbox at the Marvel Summit - It's not actually a summit, it's just an excuse for a bunch of guys to get away for a weekend to talk about comics and claim it on expenses.

Newsarama, that bastion of investigative journalism in the comics scene unexpectedly pinned the great Q with this question:

NRAMA: Noticeably absent (and for some time) is a female creator in that group. Big picture wise, why hasn't a women creator made it into the tight circle of Marvel creators?

JQ: Because currently there aren’t any female writers working on any of our major titles.

Having satisfied the eager reporter with the information that the reason there were no female creators at Marvel was because Marvel didn't have any female creators working for them, big Joe went on to inform him that water was wet and fire was hot.

Where's Jeremy Paxman when you need him?

[EDIT] I notice there is a link at the end of the column that points to a forum where you can ask a question to be put to Joe Q. I recommend anyone who is interested in getting a real answer go here and state the question politely in their own words. I'd like to see enough of us do it to force him to address the question seriously.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Retcon mania

Okay, I know DC like a good retcon, and surely Superboy Prime's history punching should be shown to have more effect than just adjusting some of the backstories of a few people in tights, but if you are going to write Galileo out of continuity then I personally think it shouldn't be done in a throwaway caption.

Brave New World opens with:

It was but two centuries ago-- mere moments in the cosmic scheme--

I think you'll find that's four centuries, actually.

--That the people there believed Earth the center of the universe.

In the eighteenth century? You think?

Eventually science disabused them of this notion,

That would be Galileo, 1564 - 1642. But not in the new DC universe.

I wonder what other historical retconning has occured. And is adjusting cosmology so that it's not until the period of the american civil war that it is established that the Earth revolves around the Sun a step too far? Is it an example of american imperialism to rewrite historical events to a time period where they can be attributed to americans?

Enquiring minds are all agog.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I was thinking

I was thinking about Stephanie.

I was thinking about Kate.

I was thinking about Cassandra and Nita and Kimiyo and Mia and Katma and May.

I was thinking "Now it's our turn to rescue them."

Monday, June 26, 2006

P.S. to big Joe Q.

If you enjoyed watching these heroes die, why not get the collected edition of their most recent adventures?

Pimping the New Warriors TPB in the back of the comic that slaughtered them? Tasteless.

Oh, and someone in your position really ought to have a sufficient grasp of the written language to know that you end a question with one of those little squiggly question mark thingies.

Sacrificial offerings to the god of crossovers

Hey, Marvel and DC, there's something you need to know. There is no god of crossovers and you don't have to sacrifice your firstborn to them in order to make your event comics succeed.

When I say "firstborn" here, I actually mean the second or third string characters that you don't care about, and yet somehow think that killing them off will be a big deal. No, killing off the ones you do care about would be a big deal. Killing the easy targets you always go for just upsets the few fans who liked them and has no effect on the rest of the audience because they didn't care either, and the shock value of killing off any hero has long since lost any power because you keep doing it.

See, this is the big secret that you have somehow failed to grasp in all your history: offing Namorita or Pantha will not make your event comic more successful or more memorable. Only good writing will do that.

Rest in peace, Little Avenging Daughter. 1971 - 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

I have a date with Judd Winick

No, I don't really. But I did try.

After all the mean things I said about him, it only seemed fair to give him the opportunity to respond, but he wasn't interested. He wasn't very happy about me calling him a misogynist, which is understandable. I have never met the man and know nothing of his life so I have no basis for commenting on him as a person and I would take this opportunity to publicly apologise to him. Okay, Judd?

It was sloppy wording on my part. What I meant to say was that in my opinion he had written a very misogynistic story, which is not the same thing. But don't take it personally, Judd. I'd say the same of anyone who wrote a story in which a woman was raped and left to die and her abuser escaped, whistling a happy tune.

The one thing he did tell me was that Kimiyo's race and sex had nothing to do with his decision to depower her and that he wasn't depowering an asian female character, he was depowering Dr. Light II.

Actually, Judd, I think you'll find you were doing both.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A brief review of Shadowpact #2

or, When Decompressed Storytelling goes Wrong

****Spoiler Warning****

***This review spoils the entire plot of Shadowpact #2 so do not read further if you want to waste $3 avoid finding out what happens****

The heroes fight the villains and the villains win.

You may now move straight on to issue #3, wherein the heroes escape their bonds and stage a comeback.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Your assignment for today

I just had the most cynical and thoroughly repulsive idea.

I think that one of the reasons why writers are still doing stories where women are sexually abused, either to motivate them, or worse, to motivate the men in their life, is because they don't get that everyone else is writing that story too. To the extent where, far from being the most horrific and dramatic thing in a character's life, it becomes a cliche on par with "the butler did it".

So in order to do my little bit to enlighten and maybe, just maybe slow it down the nasty, I'm going to do a monthly roundup to show what the current state is. I'll to need some help on this one, since I don't read a lot of current comics, and no Marvels at all. So if you see an instance of sexual abuse in a current comic (one published this month), stick a comment here and I'll do a list at the end of the month.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Trading Places

I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them. Some days my belief is under such extreme suspension that I'm afraid it will snap and take someone's eye out when it goes twanging across the room. Providing comic book physics is consistant I am willing to believe a man can fly, a woman in a minskirt can grow to sixty feet tall, and a dog can become a detective on a distant planet. But one thing I have a hard time believing is that super powers can be passed around like trading cards.

Now I want to make it clear that I don't have a problem with someone copying another's power. If you can have shape changers then it's not taking it much further to suggest that one character could mimic the structures of another's body that are responsible for the power; say they copied the physical arrangement of Superman's cells that enable him to process light into a form that gives him strength or the ability to fly.

Where I fall down is that I don't see how this process could remove those physical parts from the person's body and replace them with those of a regular human. I know in some cases you could explain it by saying that it's not the physical parts that have been removed, simply that the energy that powers those systems has been drained and so they will not work until the battery is recharged, and the character only assumes that their powers have been "stolen". But even if you drained Superman of all the converted light energy that powers his abilities he should still be Kryptonian and should still be affected by kryptonite. And it does not explain situations where characters have their powers removed permanantly, or are examined and found to be normal humans.

John Byrne does a nice take on this in Fantastic Four #250 where he suggests that it's a hypnotic effect to compliment the mimickery, and the person just believes their powers have been passed on to the other character. Superman's recent depowerment and regaining of those powers is written in a way that suggests the trauma that removed his powers damaged his ability to process sunlight, but that there was also a psychological element. He liked being depowered. He enjoyed being Clark Kent and for a while being free of the huge responsibility of being Superman.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Read my lips

What with one thing and another traffic has been unusually high around here recently. Largely due to the Doctor Light essay getting widely linked across the net, we got over 1200 hits on Saturday, alone. It's great to see so many discussing something I've written about on several different message boards, but I'm a little stunned about how some of the facts get lost along the way. In some cases despite my repeating them when I see someone has failed to spot them. Several times in the same discussion thread. Until I reach the point where I'm thinking I can't say this again without looking obsessive but they are still not getting it.

The main problem was all the appearances of Kimiyo in comics after she was depowered. I mean, okay I was confused until I looked it all up, but I thought I had explained it sufficiently in the article that every comic she appeared in subsequently was either a flashback or due to the way officially it took place on May 15th even though it was published in a comic with a cover date of November the previous year. And yet I'm still finding responses from people who can't understand the fuss because obviously she's fine in this month's Action Comics. Not only are they not paying close attention to the article they are discussing, they failed to spot the scene in the comic they just read is a flashback.

It's like the woman who can't see the point of and doesn't have time to read any of the articles, so she's made up her mind about it entirely based on her own assumptions of what she thinks it is. The G-W guys were trying really hard to find a way to give her the coherent simple statements of purpose that she was demanding while she responded by slagging off Stephanie. She seemed strangely proud that she hadn't really read any of the relevent comics and that this was a perfectly reasonable basis for trashing her to those who had taken Steph as their icon. Me, I would have soon reached the point where I decided I did not need this woman on my side.

How about this for a plan? If people are discussing something you aren't interested in, don't take part in it. Just step away from the thread and go chat about something you are interested in. If you haven't made any effort to follow the subject, expressing opinions based on what you think it's probably about are just going to make you look like an idiot, and confuse the other people who haven't bothered to read up but who are genuinely interested. And trashing stuff other people like when you don't know what you are talking about just makes you look like a jerk.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The science of Superskirt physics

It's been known for some time that normal physical laws react unpredictably and are sometimes suspended altogether in the vicinity of scantily clad women, and I think it is time there was some serious study done into this "superskirt" physics.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that women wearing costumes with bare midrifs are less likely to get hurt than if they are entirely encased in adamantium armour. The flimsiest underwear can withstand damage that would tear a full body costume to tastefully arranged shreds, and Supergirl's skirt could easily resist the gravity pull of a black hole to cling to her thighs.

Think of the benefits to mankind that could be achieved if we could harness the power that enables cute girls in chainmail bikinis to survive unaffected by blizzards while heavily wrapped people are losing toes to frostbite!

Clearly other, more advanced alien races have mastered this science, so we have some catching up to do.

On a related note, I feel there should also be room for more 16 year old girls in the space program.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

girl-wonder under attack

I hopped over to just now to find that some... I can't even think of a word to describe them adequately... How about weasel fuckers? That'll do. Some weasel fuckers have attacked by filling all the forums with really offensive pictures. I mean grossly nasty. I wouldn't recommend going over there until they've had a chance to clear it up.

I'm stunned. I mean I know they had some trolls in the responses to the first column, but this is on a different level. It's web terrorism.

Think I'm being hyperbolic for effect? The dictionary definition of terrorism is
the unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion

Unlawful? Check.
Use or threat of violence? Yes. It's the brutal invasion of a shared webspace to fill it with images intended to upset and intimidate its users, not forgetting the thread titles that are simply threats to rape the moderators.
Against the state or public? It's a community area.
Politically motivated? I think we can take that as read.

So tell me, what part of terrorism is not an appropriate description of this act?

I cannot imagine what these braindead weasel-fucker terrorists thought this would achieve. Sure, it inconveniences everyone for a few hours, and upsets us that our community space has been violated in this way, but it's not going to stop us.

Hell, the biggest message it sends is that some assholes feel so threatened by the mere existance of girl-wonder that they tried to do the web equivilent of firebombing it.

Realism in comics

I love those everyday life moments in superhero comics. I think one of the reasons I lost interest in Batman (before Steph) was how he had no life other than the miserable avenger of the night. The grimmest dramas are ones that have light moments and the strongest comedies are the ones that have a touch of harsh reality to ground them. That's what Robin is for. It doesn't work if you make Robin all angsty or kill her off.

One of my favourite Batman stories ever is the one by Harlan Ellison where nothing happens. It's great. People witter on about realism, which they always seem to use to mean nasty, ugly, and vicious, but what realism actually means is that most of the time Batman would be very bored waiting for something to happen, or he'd just miss the important crime because he was across town getting a cat out of a tree.

Okay, not getting a cat out of a tree.

Something more Batmanish but trivial.

But realism also means unexpected random sillyness. Well it does in my life, anyhow. I want more of that kind of realism in my comics. I want more motivation by desire for ice cream and less by rape.

And I want to see large breasted women get backache. I want to see girls with massive hooters and not much holding them down to smack themselves in the face when they are running. I think there would be a lot less antagonism toward the typically overdeveloped superheroine figure if we saw them suffering realistically for it.

That's my idea of realism.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Incandescent: Losing the Light

Incandescent not only describes my subject, but my mood. It's time to set the rant levels to 11.

I'd start with a few words about writer Judd Winick, but Ragnell's got that covered.

Now I'm not sure how much time is supposed to elapse between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, but continuity is stretched past breaking point here, so it may get a little confusing. In Green Arrow #54 Winick writes a story that follows up on events in Identity Crisis, but in order to fit in with Infinite Crisis and 52 it officially occurs during 52 week 2, even though it was published 10 months earlier. Confused yet?

GA #54, the short version: Green Arrow and Black Lightning are looking for evil Doctor Light. Evil Dr. L. is conveniently only a few blocks away attacking Kimiyo Hoshi, the good Doctor Light. Evil Dr. L steals Kimiyo's powers and flies off cackling. Green Arrow finds Kimiyo in the hospital and is attacked by Mirror Master and Killer Frost, and runs off to fight them. Kimiyo is left bleeding on the floor and never seen again.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Well the continuity problems start with Kimiyo being seen in costume in Tokyo during Infinite Crisis, and then in America in 52 #1, and in flashbacks to around the same time in current issues of Action Comics. She's actually appeared more in costume using her powers in the last few months than she has in years, except that she was depowered and badly wounded months ago.

And to make it worse, in GA #54 it states quite specifically that she has not used her powers in two years. But then it also has Kimiyo Hoshi, astronomer, scientist, and medical docter who lives in Japan working as a business executive in Star City, America. Something is wrong somewhere and I think it's probably that Judd Winick is a lazy writer who didn't bother to research the character he was planning to destroy.

Winick writes the fight between Light and Kimiyo as entirely one sided, and Evil Dr. L. only wins because Winick ignores Kimiyo's established abilities, and worst of all belittles her character by telling us that she lacks the instinct to understand the situation. Frankly, I don't fully understand the situation.

Winick implies that they have the same powers, but that's nonsense. Although both are light based, their powers are not related in any way. Evil Dr. L got his from technology built into his costume, which he didn't even create; Kimiyo was zapped by The Monitor who channeled the power of a star into her. And even if they were identical, that doesn't mean that one can just take the other's power. It's like saying an athelete could steal another athelete's ability to jump by hitting them. Sure, super villains are always stealing heroes' powers, but there's usually some explanation for how they are doing it. Here there is none.

And then there's the problem that Kimiyo is magnitudes of times more powerful than Evil Dr. L. In Crisis on Infinite Earths she tapped a star to blow a hole in the Anti-Monitor. Although nobody bothered to write her at this level of power in later years, for raw power output she is in the Superman class. And unlike Evil Dr. L. she has been shown to tap other sources to boost her levels. There is evidence to support her taking his power, but not vice versa.

Once Evil Dr. L has "stolen" her powers, we only get one more scene with Kimiyo. Green Arrow bursts into the hospital room where she is lying bandaged, with an oxygen mask over her face. She gets to deliver a message to GA from Evil Dr. L. that it is a trap, so that the villains can make a dramatic entrance. GA goes chasing after them and Kimiyo is left lying there, never to be seen again (not counting the many "flashbacks" that have appeared since). She gets no resolution to her story, no cathartic revenge on her abuser, not even an indication whether she survived the experience.

She didn't even get one of those little tag scenes you'd get at the end of the A-Team, where Hannibal would say "Well, Mary-Anne, your father and brothers may have been murdered and your family business burned down, but we brought their killers to justice so it's all better." And then they'd all have a big laugh and Face would hit on her.

But that's not the end of it.

Green Arrow eventually confronts evil Dr. L in GA #57, and Winick gives Light several pages to expound on the joys of being a rapist. He likens his attack on Kimiyo to rape "only more benefitting than usual." And having painted this character as the most vile abuser, Winick allows him to escape. Evil Dr. Light leaves the story without any kind of censure. Kimiyo gets no justice; her abuser who considers himself her rapist gets to walk free.

And I'd just like to mention that the only other female in the story, Mia, also gets badly wounded by evil Dr. Light and left for dead. Green Arrow is apparently badly injured right at the end of the story (not by EDL), but since he has bounced back by the following issue, it's not really the same. I don't know if Mia has been seen since she got shot and blown up by EDL but there was no mention of her in the two subsequent issues of GA I read.

To say that Kimiyo was badly written in this story is understatement. Her background details are arbitarily changed to fit the story Winick wants to tell, and the only reason she's in it at all seems to be to power up the villain and make him look even nastier than he was already (because being revealed as a rapist in Identity Crisis clearly wasn't enough). Once her purpose is served she is dropped from the story like a used tissue, and the fact that her story gets no resolution just shows how little Winick cares.

Is this the end of the road for Kimiyo Hoshi? With all of her subsequent "flashback" appearances one can hope not. It would be a sad and pathetic way to go out, symbolically raped and left to die, forgotten, while her abuser escapes cheerfully singing a happy little song, our last sight of her the back of her head in a flashback, or her broken body lying on the floor.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The Doctor is [in]

In case you were wondering what she was saying.

It seemed appropriate to the moment.

Plus I have a few words to share about Kimiyo Hoshi but I need to build up a good head of steam first.

Dagger envy

When Red Sonja first appeared in comics she looked like this.

Then Esteban Moroto whipped up this little illustration.

Which Howard Chaykin transformed into this.

Other possible titles that occured to me for this entry included Is that a dagger strapped to your thigh or are you just pleased to see me?

Some time later they revamped this story. It's exactly the same story with the same pictures, but redrawn without the penis scabbard.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I just noticed something

While looking for a picture to illustrate the previous article I was looking through Robin #126 and noticed this.

Specifically, this:

So access to your secret plans in the Bat-computer where you keep all your paranoid little schemes for taking down every major superhero on the planet as well as for starting citywide gang wars don't qualify as big secrets?

You are such a jerk, Batman.

The forgotten Robin

I have to confess I jumped ship some time before Stephanie died. I could see where the story was leading the moment War Games started and it was clear that she was going to be the one sacrificed to give the event impact and shock value and I couldn't bear to watch. Call me cynical but I'm pretty certain that she was only made Robin in the first place to give her a higher profile so it would make for a more powerful story when she was beaten to death.

It's a practice that's been overused at DC and long past time it was retired to the cliche cupboard. Killing off a long established character is not a substitute for good writing, and when you make a big deal out of it and then forget about them the moment they are gone, it just shows what a cynical marketing ploy the whole thing was in the first place.

Stephanie was Robin and died in a horrible way, but Batman has no memorial to her in the Batcave like he did for Jason Todd. DC have no action figure of Stephanie as Robin, but they do one of Black Mask, who murdered her. He even comes with accessories like the power drill he tortured her to death with.

And that just makes me feel nauseous.

These guys feel the same way:
Because capes aren't just for boys.

46 to go

I could take or leave most of the mini-series that led into Infinite Crisis, and the event itself was, to say the least, disappointing. But so far I'm really liking 52.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The first lesbian superhero

I'm kind of a binge reader. I have books sitting around for ages that I never seem to quite find the time for, maybe I'll read a couple of pages here and there. Then for no obvious reason I'll sit down and read 500 pages in a day.

I'm currently at the "few pages here and there" stage with What they Did to Princess Paragon by Robert Rodi, so it may be a while before I get around to doing a proper review, but I wanted to say something about it now because although it was published eleven years ago, real life just caught up with it. See it's about the comic business. Specifically it's about how a thinly disguised analogue to Wonder Woman is relaunched as a lesbian. And the parallels to the current Batwoman situation are almost scary.

In an interview, the new writer of Princess P at one point says:

And, I mean, come on - we're not going to be doing soft core porn! We probably won't even have sex of any kind, beyond an occasional kiss or embrace. I'm writing about people, not bodies. I guess all I can say is, wait til the book comes out, then read it and judge for yourself. That's all - just judge for yourself.
Of course in this story the whole thing is a cynical move to work up interest in a dull and failing title, where the writer believes that doing something so controversial will be good for his own career. It perhaps shows how much the world has changed in eleven years, or that the real world isn't quite as cynical as we sometimes think, that when DC announced the introduction of Batwoman, they did so with no fuss. It was everyone else that made a big deal of it.

The media frenzy and the fan reaction is very closely parallel, though the internet is not a feature of the 1995 novel, which dates it rather. There are hysterical and obsessive fans claiming the character has now been ruined or perverted, and one particular obsessive looks likely to play a major role in the story. It's a shame that all the comic book fans in the novel are stereotype losers, thirty year old men still living with their parents, lacking social skills or any life outside comics. Couldn't they have included mention of one or two more normal people who liked comics, or *gasp*, female comic readers? When someone is satirising the prejudice of others, it's a little irritating that their own prejudices are so blatant.

More to come when I get a bit further into the book.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pirate videos

Just say no!

It was a confusing juxtaposition of images last time I went to the movies; a trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean 2 immediately followed by a new promotion against video piracy.

While I'm on the subject...

What is it with giant women and miniskirts?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gorilla my dreams

Intruiged by her appearance in the new series of Wonder Woman, I was looking into Giganta's backstory and was surprised and more than a little confused by what I found there.

Giganta's first ever appearance in Wonder Woman v1 #9 is such an amazing story that it needs a post all on its own. Possibly several. Suffice to say here that in her original incarnation she is a gorilla who is artificially evolved into a large, strong human woman. She later teams up with other foes of Wonder Woman to become part of the original Villainy Inc in WW v1 #28, but is not then seen again until #163 where her story is revamped a little and Dr. Psycho is thrown into the mix, she gets bigger and goes blonde. Apart from appearances on Super Friends TV show (why pick Giganta who had only been seen once since the 1940's?) she vanished into obscurity again for several decades.

When John Byrne reintroduced Giganta in post-Crisis¹ continuity (WW v2 #126) he made her much more pro-active. The golden age Giganta was the experimental subject of Professor Zool. The new Giganta was Dr. Zeul. Instead of the victim of a mad scientist she had now become the mad scientist herself. In this version her motivation was desperation. She was dying of some vaguely unspecified disease and wanted to cheat death by transferring her mind into the body of Wonder Woman. I didn't quite get this part since at the time Wonder Woman was also dying, but we soon find that Dr. Zeul isn't exactly playing with a full deck.

Her attempt to possess the Amazon's body is thwarted and she appears to have died, but in fact her mind/soul/essence or whatever has been safely stored in some kind of battery and her faithful sidekick Bronson, doing an Igor to Zeul's Dr. Frankenstein, transfers Zeul into the body of the ape Giganta they happen to keep in the lab (WW v2 #136). She then has a brief fight with Wonder Girl and is not seen again for some time.

We then get one of the most hamfisted pieces of continuity I've encountered in a while. Unless I've missed an appearance somewhere, Giganta is next seen in Wonder Woman v2 #175. She now most closely resembles the Super Friends animated version; a giant woman with a two piece leopard print outfit and big bracelets. It is not until #180 that we get any kind of explanation. Here we are told how circus strongwoman Olga is put in a coma by a shaman. Why we are given this detail I don't know as we never get to find out what the shaman was up to or what Olga did to upset him. All we get to see is the comatose Olga is stolen by Giganta the ape. The implication is that Dr Zeul then transfers her mind from the ape into the body of the strongwoman, but decides to keep the ape's name for no obvious reason. There is also no explanation given for the size changing powers. Did Olga already have this ability? We don't know. The next thing we hear about her is that she is now acting as heavy in Villainy Inc. who have taken over Skartaris. In fact we are told they have been there several years, so what she's doing in #175 at all is a mystery.

Subsequently Giganta appears now and again, even acquiring a first name, Doris in Flash #219, but she is largely ineffectual and usually either the heavy for someone else or the warmup act to give the heroes a chance to swap witty banter before the real villain shows up. If she is given any characterisation at all it is "big and stupid", even in the usually excellent Justice League Unlimited animation. But then Byrne's original characterisation was of the cardboard psychopath mad scientist happy to use her loyal follower as cannon fodder, so it's not really that much worse.

If Infinite Crisis did anyone any favours, Doctor Doris Zeul was high on the list. They might have reduced her bust size to the point where the other supervillains sniggered about the inappropriateness of her name behind her back, but Alan Heinberg and Terry Dodson have realized her potential and given her back her brain. I'm not wild about the jumpsuit, but it's more appropriate to an intelligent Giganta than the strongwoman outfit. Her past may have been a bit spotty, but it looks like she has a great future ahead of her.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Wonder Woman v3 #1.

There was stuff I liked about this and stuff I was less than thrilled with, and quite a lot that I am willing to suspend judgement on until we've seen the whole story, because enough of it I did like.

I'm still waiting to find out the significance of the mini eagles on the cover. You can't easily judge the size of most of them, but one of them is in front of Wonder Woman, and it's tiny.

The story opens with a bang and I immediately have mixed feelings. It's a lovely double page spread, but it's the buxom Donna Troy. I don't like Donna Troy. She's one of those characters that are being perpetually reinvented and I have no idea who she is now, but I don't want her to be Wonder Woman. My fears are immediately increased as she gives us some backstory. In the new post-Crisis² version we are now told that Donna is Diana's sister.

It's been pointed out to me that right now we only have Donna's word for this, so it may turn out to be more complicated, but that's where we are right now. This seriously screws around with Wonder Woman's origin. Was Diana still sculpted from clay? And if so, did Hyppolita have another go a few years later with some leftover bits to make Donna? Either way Diana loses a lot of her uniqueness and Donna becomes no more than the spare Wonder Woman she plays here.

Enter the bad guys. The now-human looking and buxom Cheetah matches chests with Donna (Wonder Woman lite) Troy and wins. What, you thought that someone who regularly takes down gods and beings with enough power to change history by hitting it would be cowed by a couple of big pussycats?

We then get to the part of the comic I like best, and which has me falling about laughing. I haven't read any other reviews so I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but I think it's hilarious that the woman with the flattest chest in the new improved DC universe is Giganta. No wonder she prefers to be called Dr. Zeul. She is now officially my favourite villain.

Partly I'm just delighted to find that there's room in the DC universe for even this small deviation from the regular female bodytype (see Buxom above). Of course I'd like to see a much greater range than is currently on offer, but it's a step in the right direction.

And after some entertaining back and forth on the last page we are intorduced to buxom Agent Diana Prince. Agent of what, I'm not sure. Should I know who this Nemesis guy is and would that explain it? Well I don't so it doesn't. But a kick ass Diana Prince in a completely white outfit?

Two questions I have for next issue: does she have the realistic kung fu grip, and where's the little old blind oriental guy?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Okay, but no.

I read way too many other comics blogs. I blame Ragnell and Kalinara When I reach the point where I am commenting about what other people are writing about comics then I should probably stop and go read a comic. Or go sit on a beach. How about if I go sit on a beach and read a comic? Yeah, I could make that work.

Anyhow, what's got me all exercised today is that I've read several articles in the last couple of days talking about various productions and doing the Women in Refrigerators thing (not freezers. *rolls eyes*) of examining how the female members of the cast are mistreated and then using that to bang on about inequality and misogyny.

The problem is that the evidence in each of these cases is taken from a narrow, blinkered reading of the source material which undermines their whole argument. Yes, female characters are depicted in an overly sexualised way compared to male characters, but you can't support this by saying that their costumes are basically nude figures with costumes painted on. That's been the style of superhero art as long as they have been around, and it has been applied equally to males as to females. In fact it probably started out with male characters drawn that way to show off their muscles, so when female characters were created they just went with the same plan because it's easy to draw.

And yes, many of the female characters in the latest X-Men film didn't fare too well, but having just watched it I couldn't say that the male characters were treated any better. Except Wolverine who is a complete Mary-Sue, which I'm not sure does him any favours since it means that he is rapidly turning into the Fonze.

So yes, there is plenty of injustice toward female comic characters, but before you get outraged about a specific example, make a little effort to check that they are getting treated any worse than the rest of the cast, or other comparable characters in general.

Molehill enlargement for beginners

This is the original Batwoman of the '50's and '60's.
This is the Batwoman from the animated movie Mystery of the Batwoman.

This is the official image issued by DC of the new Batwoman used in their press release.

This is the image used by the australian Daily Telegraph in their report about the new character. It is a poster for a mexican film made in 1964 that was not licenced by DC.
This is the image used by Pravda in their report of the new character. It's from a website that features images of girls dressed in minimal costumes based on comic book characters. It is unlicensed by DC.
This is the image used by the Metro newspaper to report on the new character. I do not know where it is from but I believe it is a piece of fan art done several years ago. It is of course unlicenced by DC.

What do these images have in common that were used to illustrate news articles about the new Batwoman?
1) They are not the character the article is about, and in fact were all produced long before the new Batwoman was created.
2) They are all eroticised depictions of a woman in a Batman style costume.
3) They are all unauthorized images and probably in contravention of DC's copyright.

Oh, and in each of these cases the unlicenced, illegal erotic image is the only image used to illustrate the story, and in none of them does it explain that their image has nothing to do with the character they are writing about.

The only reason they have used these images that I can possibly see is to play up the fact that the character is a lesbian and imply that her sexual adventurings will play a major role in the story and be visually depicted in a way entirely innappropriate to the comic she will be appearing in, which they must know will not be the case. Would a newspaper get any credibility if they illustrated an article about the new Superman actor Brandon Routh exclusively with images of random muscle men in Superman themed posing pouches and speculated about the kind of sex he likes?

So much for fair and accurate reporting of the news.

Friday, June 09, 2006

What's in a cameo?

This started off as a reply to Sleestak's article The Wolverine Conspiracy over at Lady, That's my Skull, but it got a bit too long so I decided to post it here instead. Sorry, Slee.

Sleestak discusses what qualifies as a cameo in a comic book. I looked up "cameo" in the dictionary and it wasn't really specific enough, merely suggesting that it is the brief appearance of a prominent actor in one scene of a movie.

In comic terms a cameo is much less; usually a single panel appearance or standing in the background for a couple of panels as furniture.

The problem with comics is that they are formed of both single self-contained stories and
multi-part or continued stories. Sometimes at the same time. In the case of Hulk #180 - 181 Wolverine's appearance only counts as a cameo if you take it as self-contained, which it clearly isn't. Read the story as a whole and the end of the comic is not the end of the scene. 181 continues on from the end of 180 continuing the scene unbroken. Therefore Wolverine's appearance in 180 cannot be a cameo when taken in context.

I think a fairly adequate rule of thumb would be if you can remove a character from the story without it having any impact at all on that story then it's a cameo. I'd include "furniture" appearances in this - those shots like crowd scenes in Crisis with a lot of big name characters standing around: it is only important to have the crowd. It doesn't matter who is specifically in the scene.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lesbian wears cape: news at 11

The Blogosphere seems to have gone mad this week with speculation about the new Batwoman. Even the ones that aren't second guessing a story they aren't going to get to read for more than a month are bemoaning the impracticality of costume details like long hair and high heels. Apparently the cape is okay because although it is equally impractical, lots of male characters have them too.

Me, I think I'll wait until there's an actual comic to read. Personally I can't see what all the fuss is about and I'm kinda sad that that I live in a world where it is such a big deal.

I don't care about Scott Pilgrim

This started out as a continuation of my long-delayed overview of Free Comic Book Day comics, but then kind of got sidetracked. I blame Scott Pilgrim.

Free Scott Pilgrim is my, and presumably many other people's first taste of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim. At first sight it comes across as a typical cartoony amerimanga; a few superficial generic manga stylistic devices like big eyes and speed lines, but without any of the hard to draw stuff or depth of the source material.

The stand out point for me is when we hit page 3 and there is a large panel that uses a photo for the background, which works fine. Except that there's this little caption that says
"a note from the artist I don't think I'm getting paid for this comic and this background seemed pretty hard to draw so please enjoy the stock photo"
Bryan, honey, you may not be getting a check for this comic but it's your big promotional tool. Someone has stumped up a lot of cash to get copies of your work into the hands of many, many people who would not normally see it, and what they are reading is "I can't be bothered to do this properly because the idea that it might prompt people to buy lots of my other books and make me lots of cash indirectly is way too theoretical for me to handle."

Sadly, the rest of the comic does not interest me enough to distract me from this sour note. After a gag about buying drinks, Scott and friends head off to a movie theater but never arrive because several copies of the same girl jump out of a movie poster and attack him for no reason that makes any sense*. Scott stands around for a few pages whining about how he can't hit a girl, even though she is beating the crap out of him, and then his friends discuss the whole situation for a few more pages, and then Scott's girlfriend makes him hit the girls and they go poof and turn into beverage coupons, which enables us to revisit the gag about drinks, which is no funnier the second time around.

I don't know if this is supposed to be some kind of bizarre stream of consciousness thing. Maybe it makes sense if you've read Scott Pilgrim before, except, wait a second, isn't this supposed to be aimed at people who have never read it before? If not, why bother?

And the whole sexism of it pisses me off no end. The attitude of "No, I cannot hit a girl" is reasonable in some situations, but when eight of them are kicking your head in is not one of them. In this context the implicit idea is that it would be unfair to hit a girl even when she is hitting you because obviously she is only a girl and she couldn't actually hurt you whereas you are a guy and you might damage her with your manly strength.

So what with one thing and another I am not moved to seek out any more of the works of Bryan Lee O'Malley, but it did get me thinking about things that are self defeating. Like TV adverts that put you off buying the product rather than encourage you, or ones that are okay but get repeated so often that you end up being so annoyed by them that you will cross the street to avoid the product. Or like the Scifi Channel which I will no longer watch casually because I am so annoyed by their intrusive and excessive self advertising which can sometimes mean that there are 3 different graphics promoting different programs on screen at the same time, obscuring the current program I'm trying to watch, and every 15 minutes we are subjected to the same adverts for the same shows, not to mention mangling the end credits to promote the same or different shows. This was only recently outdone by Sky One's overhype of Ricky Gervais's Simpsons episode, where they spent a week rerunning the same clip of Gervais talking about it every ad break day and night. At the start of the week I was quite interested. By Thursday I wanted to hit the smug git with a pickaxe every time his stupid face appeared. And it wasn't even a very good episode.

What I don't understand is how the people who are paid vast sums of money to create advertising cannot see that their work is having the opposite effect of that which they were paid all that money to achieve. I realise most of the cash goes into making those glossy 15 second movies, but you'd think some of the expertise might be devoted toward having a clue whether it's going to make people like the product more or less.

*I don't care if Scott's girlfriend's ex might have been a ninja, that does not explain movie posters coming to life and turning into coupons.