Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Meme Culture

Having had some time to distance myself from recent events there's a general point that I'd like to address. The blogosphere is usually a pretty friendly place, and often when someone says something on one blog another will respond. There have been days when When Fangirls Attack is composed entirely of links to various points of view about the same topic, many of which will reference each other. One blogger will come up with an idea and another will take it up and play with it. Only a couple of days ago Sleestak made a reference to Editorial Swimwear and linked to a post of mine that defined the concept. But it wasn't my original idea. I think it was first used by Dave of Dave's Long Box, but I'm not 100% sure.

EDIT: Close, but no bikini. Dave first discussed the subject, but calls it the de-nudifying effect. It was Tom the Dog, responding to Dave's article, who first used the phrase, but even there it's only the title. Tom still calls it the de-nudifying effect in the article, and even says "I have no reason to call it anything else." I'm beginning to wonder if I wasn't actually the first to use it directly. This turns out to be a great example of the blogosphere group mind at work.
And then there are the deliberate memes, where somebody has a notion and actively encourages other bloggers to respond with their take on the idea. It's a friendly sharing community.

So when somebody stands up and says "I object to other people using my ideas or writing about my topics" it throws a spanner in the works for everyone. Particularly when he does it retroactively, which makes it appear that he has been uncomfortably tolerating the practice for a year and putting a brave face on it by commenting positively when people do it. It makes everyone stop and wonder if they have been unintentionally offending someone they thought they were sharing a joke with.

There isn't an easy answer. If everyone sticks carefully to their own schtik for fear of offending anyone then we lose all the fun and the interaction that makes the blogosphere a community. If someone doesn't wish to participate in this to and fro they can prominently display a notice on their blog to this effect, but would it damage the community anyway?

I don't have a solution. I'm just asking the question. Feel free to apply your own thoughts to the subject, either here or any other forum. Just let me know so I can follow it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Return of the multiverse

So DC's next big thing is bringing back all the parallel worlds where different versions of their characters exist.

But you know what this means to me?

Handy guide to silver age writers

At the dawn of the Silver Age DC did not go much for crediting the people who created their comics. Even when Marvel arrived and made a point of including credits on all their books, it was a long time before DC followed suit in any formal way, so it can often be difficult to tell who wrote an given comic.

I've been studying the work of three writers in particular, Bob Haney, Bob Kannigher, and Gardner Fox. Although these three share elements of style and content, they can be told apart by their individual approach.

Bob Haney likes to ground his fantastic stories by inserting fashionable touches from the everyday world, but makes no effort to research these elements, and so often gets them wrong, with hilarious results. I particularly like the way the Teen Titans manage to be so popular with all the young people they meet while they are working for the government in the late sixties.

Gardner Fox, on the other hand, is more inclined to throw in some ludicrous plot element and then spend a page justifying it. The more technobabble that he can stuff in there, the better.

But Bob Kanagher. Ah, Bob Kanagher. Big Bob just does mad stuff and feels no need at all to either justify it or make it relevent. Often his work reads like stream of consciousness, where logic is a toy, and Cause and Effect are just the names of the henchmen.

To give you an example how this works in practice, say you have a story where our hero encounters a crashed spaceship.

Gardener Fox would have the spaceship crash and our hero would be led to it by some convoluted plot of the pilot to trap him in another dimension where he would fight dinosaurs, which for some complicated reason would enable the alien pilot to acquire a thermometer, and hthis would include a whole page explaining why the alien pilot couldn't just walk into a shop and buy one.

Bob Haney would have our hero hanging out at a beach party, surfing and riding jetskis up the beach when the spaceship would crash into the car park, cutting all the hot rods off from the main road and making it impossible for the cool kids to get home before curfew without our hero battling the aliens.

Bob Kannagher would just drop the spaceship in front of the hero and have an alien made of flowers jump out and steal his hat, just as a pirate ship arrives, looking for a quiet spot to drop off some foreign saboteurs with a bomb made of cheese.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bitter lemmings

I'll get back to some mad silver age fun real soon now, but in the meantime here's a lesson from Wonder Woman on the problems of being a super heroine.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Pants on Fire

It's small and petty, but I really do not like being called a liar.

Last March I ran a little piece about Hal Jordan's brother being as clumsy as Hal.

Yesterday Scipio ran the same comment over the same panel. I did not believe that he had deliberately copied my article, but I knew he had been aware of the original, so I lightheartedly pointed this out to him, expecting an "oops, sorry" type of response, and that would have been the end of it.

Instead he disclaimed knowledge of my piece, claiming he had stopped reading my blog before this article was published.*

Once I'd shown that he had to have read the article because he had responded to it in the comments section, he then changed his tune to "pardon me for not memorizing everything that has appeared on your blog! How silly of me!" which is interesting because it's still refusing to acknowledge any connection between the two near-identical articles, while attempting to fudge the issue by implying that it is absurd that he should remember everything I've written.

Of course I never suggested that he had done any such thing, but the possibility that when he saw the same panel again recently, the comment I had associated with it resurfaced in his mind seems far from impossible**. I know I look at images now and then that have all kinds of sensual associations. There was even one picture that would make me feel nauseous when I saw it for a long time because the first time I saw it I was sick.

But rather than admit the possibility that the two articles might be connected, even unconsciously, he takes pokes at me when responding to other people on unrelated matters. As if calling me names will absolve him of his error. At this rate it's only a matter of time before he blames me for the whole thing.

Update: Scipio has now locked comments on that particular thread so he could get the last word in. In this final post he:
a) suggests that I was copying him for posting at all on the subject because he was the one that started looking for examples of Hal Jordan getting hit on the head, so presumably anyone else who posted such images was also copying him rather than sharing the joke,
b) suggests that my post was so much in his traditional style that it's copying him anyway,
c) says that he'd consider it acceptable to steal stuff he'd seen on my blog and post it under his own name because I have so few readers that nobody would notice, and finally
d) sneers at my request that he show a little respect.

I'm actually quite stunned that something so trivial could spawn quite so much venom and all around nastiness.

*In fact the most recent comment I can find from Scipio is a response to a post published six months later.
**In his final word he alludes to a sense of deja vu about the article, but only wonders if he has posted it before. It doesn't occur to him that it might be someone else's work.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Get in line

Line by Yua Kotegawa

So many manga go on for volume after volume that it's a surprise to find what appears to be a single volume stand alone story. The trouble was that by the time I got to the end of this one I was so involved with the characters I wanted to know what happens to them next...

It's an intruiging, if not entirely original premise. Girl finds an abandoned cellphone and before she can hand it in to lost property it rings, throwing her into the middle of a fast paced thriller. I intended to just read the first chapter, but found myself unable to put it down until I'd finished. And I think I may reread it again in a couple of weeks. The first time you are mainly concerned with the plot, but there are interesting character developments, particularly in the relationship between the two main characters, and I think it might be worth reading again to focus on that aspect of the story.

The art is attractive, showing you everything you need to see in an uncomplicated fashion. It serves the story very well without being so flashy or clever that you stop to admire it - something a lot of comic artists should consider, whatever their nationality.

I liked this so much that I went looking for other work by Yua Kotegawa. The only thing I could find immediately was the multi-volume Anne Freaks. I may have something to say about that in the future.

Rape cancelled

While I still believe that there is a need to catalogue the number of times rape is used as a plot point in current comics in order to make it clear how overused it is I'm not in a position to continue with monthly updates.

I don't read many current comics and I'm not able to check every new comic published, so it's not possible for me to keep track without help. If someone wants to take over who can do a better job, let me know and I'll make sure to link to it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Spoiled Space

Some people like to know all the exciting stuff first. They can't wait for Christmas day to open their presents and they can't bear not to know the big twists coming in their favourite comics or TV shows months beforehand.

Me, I'm more the sort that will give the boxes a shake and try to guess what's inside, but the last thing I want is for someone to tell me. So I avoid spoilers whenever I can. Unfortunately they are sometimes shoved in my face without my choice, and that really annoys me.

It's bad enough when some outside agency feels obliged to reveal all the good stuff for their own purposes, like TV stations running trailers that give away the big twist - I may hate them for it and plot to burn them down, but I can understand that their priority is to get people to watch the show. Once they are actually watching it, the PR machine is too busy screaming at you to watch the next thing to care about how they have screwed over the current one. But what's worst is when the guys producing the original feel the need to give away the ending. Like putting it on the cover of the comic.

The all time worst spoiler cover for me was the X-Men annual (I forget which one) where the story involved mysterious happenings and the big reveal of who was responsible didn't ocur until well into the story. Unfortunately he was prominently displayed on the cover, so the dramatic tension was nonexistant.

The latest issue of Manhunter isn't quite in that league, but cover featuring the old Blue Beetle and then not having him appear until the final page feels like a cheat. It's misleading, and does a disservice to an excellent comic that is worth reading for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with the cover.

Sign of Light

Fifty Two #35

First chronological appearance of Doctor Light II since her depowerment (officially 52 #2). It's only one panel, but she's in costume.

So my guess that the resolution to her depowerment story would occur in 52 is now completely busted (as they say on Mythbusters). Will we now even get to see Kimiyo's big comeback story at all? My magic 8-ball says "Outlook not so good".

Okay, the original story was bad in so many ways, but is Judd Winick's tawdry little opus simply going to be quietly ignored? Are those few fans who were emotionally moved by their heroine's plight now to be told "Get over it; it didn't happen"?

Not to mention it would be such an opportunity to produce a hugely empowering kick-ass story about a character coming back from the brink of death to confront her abuser and take back her power and her name.

I really want to see that story.

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


hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.


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


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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The dream team of suck

I have no idea if the original Onslaught event was any good, but Marvel have a worse batting average than DC with "event" comics, and it's taken ten years to revisit it, so I'm guessing it wasn't an overwhelming success. Marvel have a way of recycling even its worst excesses after enough time has passed - whoever thought they'd pry the lid off the toxic can of worms labelled "Spider-Man Clone War" so soon? Don't they ever learn from their mistakes?

So while it could be worse, it does seem that getting together Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld on the microwaved leftovers of Onslaught is the dream team of suck.

And no, I don't plan to review it. It is enough for me that it exists.

And yes, I know some of the proceeds go to a worthy cause. But that won't magically make Rob Liefeld a good artist (as can be seen from the cover image), or give Jeph Loeb any original ideas. It will just mean that some people will buy it despite the suck.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

All this and Superman two

I first heard about Superman II having been substantially changed a couple of years ago, but I never expected the original version to surface. Too much time had passed, and anyhow, it wasn't even finished, was it? Turns out I was overly pessimistic, and last night I got to see what the movie was supposed to have looked like.

It is understandably a little rough in places. Restored footage was scavenged from all over, including screen tests, so you need to be a little forgiving. Some scenes are very underdeveloped, and they could have done with keeping in a little more of the footage from the release version in places, though I am guessing they were left out because they would clash too much - I'm thinking particularly of the scenes in the Niagara Falls hotel room. And I think they were right to redo that scene. I'm not going to give away any spoilers but how stupid is Superman to fall for that?

I can't do a big comparison between this and the released version. I'm sure there are plenty of those already available, and I haven't seen the old version in ages. I caught about half of it on TV when Superman Returns came out, but that's it. But I noticed one thing which has always irked me has been removed. During the big fight scene in New York the drama and tension of the scene is constantly undermined by the inclusion of bits of physical humour by the victims as they are getting blown away. I am delighted that these are gone. I think the whole thing would have been a far better film if this version had been properly finished. Except possibly for the ending.

I have a problem with the ending. If this was what Richard Donner intended, then he's an idiot, and I can see why the production was taken out of his hands. It's like an athlete running a good race and then three yards short of the finish line he trips over his own feet and lands face first in the poo.

I don't think it counts as a spoiler, since it happens after the villains have been defeated (what, you thought that in the original version they would win?). In footage taken entirely from Superman I or from earlier in the movie but shown in reverse, Superman causes time to run backwards so that everything that was damaged is fixed and Zod and co. never escaped the Phantom Zone.

How many kinds of stupid is this? If he could do this all along, why did he bother to fight them at all, or trust to a risky strategy to deceive them? When he saw how much trouble they were why didn't he go give the planet a quick reverse spin? Why does he need to fight any battle at all if he can solve every problem with a quick time reverse? Of course in the first movie I always read it that he was only sending himself back in time (flying faster than light and all that), and that's a very different proposition to reversing time for the whole world. Why would any director give the same ending to two movies?

There's reason to think this wasn't what Donner intended (stuff Superman does immediately beforehand in restored footage becomes totally pointless if he is about to go ahead and undo it, and how can the guys in the diner recognise Clark afterwards?), and I can only guess that this part of the movie was never made, or is completely lost, and this was done to cover the gap. It fails.

This may not be quite the movie Superman II should have been, but it's as close as we're going to get.