Monday, July 02, 2007

The Secret Origin of Exposition Girl

By the late 30th century a crisis is looming (no, not that one). The spread of information has reached a point where it becomes overwhelming. People are in danger of losing their own identities as they are drowned in the sea of knowledge that surrounds them.

It becomes so bad that everyone has to constantly remind themselves of who they are and what they are doing in order to retain their own identities. A side effect of this problem being that everyone loses any nuances of personality, forgetting that they are untidy or have a favourite TV show. Popular culture dies overnight as people become more interested in their own doings than anything happening to some celebrity.

People take to carrying placards around with them that they can place in front of themselves to avoid the embarrassment of having to remind close friends of who they are.

One villain attempts to use this to trick their way into the Legion of Superheroes by convincing the legionnaires that they are already a member, but succeeds too well and entirely forgets that he is not a heroic stalwart of the team.



It is amid this chaos that a new hero arises. Emo librarian Jenerica Jones gained all the knowledge of the universe when a freak accident caused the computer terminal she was working on to download the entire galactic internet into her head.

Donning a brightly coloured costume and cape, she is quickly inducted into the Legion where she serves the invaluable (if rather dull) purpose of reminding them who they are and what they are doing. She is Exposition Girl.





Exposition Girl picture by Karen Ellis who draws stuff.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I ♥ Mika Brzezinski

In a rare outbreak of journalistic integrity, Mika Brzezinski, presenter on the MNSBC Morning Joe show refused to read out a story on Paris Hilton, saying that it was unworthy to be the lead news story when there were serious issues of far more importance.

She then attempted to burn the report, and ended up putting it through the shredder.

I'd never heard of Mika Brzezinski before today, or the show she appears on, or even the network she works for, but right now I'd vote for her as journalist of the year for having the guts to stand up and say on TV that the minor doings of people whose only claim to fame is that the media talk about them a lot are not as important as wars.

See it here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thinking Gilligan

I was listening to the Gilligan theme song and something struck me.

The various characters are all mentioned in the song, getting a description that informs their personality and social status, except for one who is simply named. Doesn't Mary Ann have enough of a personality that they couldn't think of two words to describe her?

It's all Chinese whispers

In early Superman stories it's explained that Superman's x-ray vision cannot penetrate lead. This is because in the real world X-rays cannot pass through lead or any other material so dense.

In Doctor Who, the original Cybermen are defeated when they are forced to inhale powered gold, which clogs their breathing filters, suffocating them.

Several writers later and we find that Superman cannot affect lead in any way, but has little problem with denser materials. He cannot even heat up this soft metal with his heat vision because... well, for no reason given. We also find that Cybermen are now so allergic to gold that a coin fired from a slingshot will kill them, even though it cannot possibly affect them in the way that originally incapacitated them.

It's all Chinese whispers. Writers see what their predecessors have written and follow the form without considering the concept. And that's without even considering the stuff they change deliberately...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Gilligan's whatnow?

So I had a look on Youtube to see if I could find any clips of Gilligan's Island and this was what came up...



Friday, June 22, 2007

Surprise: some comics are still fun

Honestly, I was all set to do a big rant about how the comic industry was going to hell in a bucket and I was going to build myself a fort out of Showcase Presents volumes and not come out until comics were fun again, and then I read the first Minx title The Plain Janes.

It doesn't suck.

I'm not going to do a detailed review of it because anyone with any taste is going to be writing about it. I'll just say that when I got to the last page my reactions were "aw, I was just enjoying that and it stopped" followed by "I wonder if there's going to be a sequel?"

This is a good feeling to have at the end of any book. So a good start for Minx as far as I am concerned, though my expectations had not been high, based on the initial publicity. And the name.

At the back there are several page samples of the next three volumes. They didn't make me want to run to the comic store right now to see if they are published yet, but I will be checking them out.

And it's nice to know I'll have something to read this summer that was written in my lifetime.

Kids of Tomorrow got No Respect!

I think one of the things I like most about the early Legion is their total lack of respect for anyone. They'll travel back in time ten thousand years in order to invite their greatest hero to join their club, and then play a practical joke on him and make him cry.


They cross centuries again to invite Supergirl and then refuse to take her because while following their directions she accidentally gets a dose of red kryptonite that makes her look too old, even though A) she hasn't actually aged, she just looks slightly different (visually she just appears slightly taller and to be wearing lipstick), and b) it's a temporary effect that will wear off in a couple of hours.


So it's hardly surprising that when you see what appears to be a continuity error, such as them telling Supergirl that they are the children of the legionnaires that met Superboy, it's easy to read it as them just having a laugh at Supergirl's expense.

The bastards.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

spot the difference























Apparently Mirrorland has a stricter dress code...

The Legion again

(I hadn't been planning to write much more about the early Legion adventures, but these Showcase volumes are so full of daft ideas that I can't help wanting to share the fun.

But first, a correction. In my previous article I said Shrinking Violet and Triplicate Girl weren't introduced until Adventure #300. In fact they, and Bouncing Boy first appear in a Supergirl story in Action #276 that, more than any other appearance, has all the hallmarks of a stealth pilot, as it features the most complete version of the Legion prior to their own series.

In this story we are told that the Legion has revised its policy of only allowing one new member per year to allowing one boy and one girl per year (1). Applicants shown include Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, and Shrinking Violet. Since all of them are members by Adventure #300, the Legion series must take place at least two years later, assuming that these guys were taken on their second or third attempts, over other applicants that hadn't already been rejected (2)(3).

Other highlights of this story include Saturn Girl fooling Supergirl into not recognising her by wearing a mask, even though she is in full costume and has demonstrated her powers; the whole "super-girlfriends" routine which is ripe for innuendo by someone with a smuttier mind than I, and Supergirl's demonstration of power for her membership application, which involves destroying hugely important archeological sites by burrowing down to cherrypick a couple of choice items that made the archeoligist in me wince, and my experience is limited to watching the odd episode of Time Team; and how convenient is it that a kryptonite meteor just happens to fall out of the sky right on top of Supergirl just in time for Brainiac 5 to demonstrate his cleverness and self-sacrifice by slapping his force field belt on her and tuning it to fit her personally in less time than it takes for her to get out of the way of it. Anyone would think he had arranged it on purpose...

I feel a bit sad for poor Shrinking Violet here. I mean here she is, she's got as far through the Legion application process as having a placard with her own name on it, and then at the last minute she has to go up against someone who is related to the most famous hero in history that inspired the Legion in the first place, and who they have traveled back in time to personally invite. It must be particularly galling when Supergirl bogs off as soon as she's inducted and hardly ever turns up for meetings(4). She doesn't even get to be one of Supergirl's super-girlfriends.

Notes.

1) which makes you wonder how they end up with a 3:1 male/female ratio.
2) In Adventure #301 we find that Bouncing Boy was rejected once.
3) However, since there are no new female legionnaires between this and Adventure #300 I can only guess that Sun Boy reapplied in drag.
4) Talk about nepotism...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Meme of Eight

I'm not big on memes, but since Walaka tagged me with this one, I thought I'd give it a go. But I'm not passing it on because that would be way too much like a chain letter, and I'd feel the need to add something like "don't break the chain or your pet will turn an unexpected colour, and your favourite TV show will be canceled on a cliffhanger ending!"

Anyhow, the rules:
I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.


Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.


1) I collect cool (anime/goth/scifi/superhero) dolls, but not in any obsessive way, unless you'd consider having twelve goth dolls on your mantelpiece obsessive.

2) Terry Pratchet once gave me a lift in his car. He's a lot less funny in person.

3) My favourite flavour of soda is banana, but I haven't seen one in years. Actually my favourite flavour of most things is banana.

4) I still haven't finished reading Seduction of the Innocent. I'm beginning to think life is too short.

5) I have never seen Gilligan's Island. And not because I don't want to. I've never watched an entire episode of Neighbours either, but that's taken skillful manoevering because it was so ubiquitous on UK TV and I've known lots of people who liked it. I'm vaguely curious about Gilligan because it seems to be part of the American experience and often turns up as a pop culture reference, but it's never been shown on British TV (that I'm aware of). Now I think about it, I could probably find at least a clip of it on YouTube.

6) I bought my first videotape before I had a VCR, my first CD before I had a CD player, and my first DVD before I had a DVD player. I mean I knew I would be getting the player eventually, and it was a bargain/something I'd always wanted.

7) My most hardcore videogame experience was playing Sakura Wars in Japanese (it's an RPG heavy on text that has never been translated).

The oldest comic I own is Wonder Woman #17. That's WW volume one, dated 1946.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

It's in the name

The Legion of Superheroes has always had something of a reputation for sexual equality, and now with the publication of the Legion Showcase collection we get the opportunity to see their earliest appearances, and a somewhat different picture emerges. Basically, unless you were Saturn Girl, the preferred trait for a female legionnaire seems to be the ability to fade into the background and keep quiet.

When the Legion first appeared, the name was really a bit of a stretch. Only Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad were in any way identified or got speaking parts, with a few backs of heads to suggest the Legion had more than three members. In most subsequent appearances a couple of new members would be introduced, although they never got to do much, until the Legion finally got their own series in Adventure #300.

This comic introduces two new female members, even if they don't appear in the story: Triplicate Girl is on the cover and a statue of Shrinking Violet is shown among other Legionnaire statues on the first page(1).

Shrinking Violet's first actual appearance is Adventure #301 where she appears in two panels, filling out group shots. She continues to stand at the back and say nothing for some time, except #305, where she gets to speak briefly. I can only guess this was because Star Boy was out sick and Lightning Lad was dead that day so she had to fill in, as she doesn't get to speak again until #310, where, for the first time in ten issues, she gets to use her powers. And then dies.

This being the Silver Age, she, and everyone else who dies is fit and healthy again by the end of the story. Over the next 20 issues Violet gets to use her powers twice more, to little effect, and it's not until #324 that she gets any individual attention, falling for Duplicate Boy, who conveniently leaves at the end of the story.

Phantom Girl gets it even worse. She is the first female legionaire introduced (2), appearing briefly in #290 for one panel (3). In #301 we find she is off on a distant planet on a vital door opening mission, which keeps her absent until #313. In fact she's not even listed as a legionaire, absent or otherwise, for twelve issues. She then vanishes again until #316, where she finally gets to speak, and even takes an active role in the story. She's next seen in #319 filling out the crowd scenes, and succumbs to a weapon that only affects her because she's not the star of the story.

Thereafter she appears semi-regularly, filling out the cast and occasionally getting to participate in the plot, but a lot of the time the writer hardly seems to notice she's there, which means that the contrived ending to Adventure #325 could have been avoided if he'd only remembered the power she'd demonstrated two issues earlier.

And then there's the names: Phantom Girl - A girl with a power to make herself so inconsequential that she's entirely forgotten for years at a time, and Shrinking Violet - the shy one with the power to make herself so small that nobody even notices she's present. I bet if Camouflage Girl (the girl with the ability to blend entirely into the background) had applied for membership they would have snapped her up because she would have fitted right in.


Notes.

1) Why the team have statues of themselves is not explained.
2) other than Saturn Girl.
3) two if you count the splash page, which is the same image

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It makes me sad

I always thought that Marvel Zombies was a pretty lame joke, but that particular (un)dead horse has been getting well and truly flogged lately. Apparently this has included some theme of doing zombie versions of "classic" Marvel covers. Oh, will the laughter ever stop.

So, a tasteless theme in a tasteless comic which I wasn't going to read, anyhow. Little relevance to me other than to give me another reason not to give Marvel any money. And then I hear about something that plain depresses me, even though I wouldn't touch the comic anyway. A new cover is a riff on the cover to the first issue of the all-ages Mary Jane comic, except this version depicts an adult version of the character with large breasts and her guts hanging out.

It's the trashing of an innocent image intended for children that gets me. There's no political message, no deeper meaning. It's just taking a sweet image and shitting on it for the laugh. I could relate this to the broader subject of the way Marvel and DC can't seem to allow any character to remain innocent for long, to the point where even Mary Marvel has to be dark and angst-ridden (with a hemline that barely covers her ass, of course. See previous entry), but it's all too depressing.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Girly Tips for evil Makeovers

1) Learn to cast a shadow over your face regardless of where the light source is situated in the room.

2) Show more skin. When heroines turn evil they invariably get shorter skirts and plunging necklines.

3) Accessorize with leather and chains for that badass look.

4) Ragged edges show how you have symbolically trashed your "goodie" costume, also that you are just so bad that you can't be bothered to hem.

5) Evil hair is usually bigger than good hair. Get in lots of gel for that snakey look.

6) Colours: Black, obviously, but doing a version of your regular costume in darker shades also works.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Atomsk

Paul Linebarger is one of my favourite ever authors. I discovered the science fiction he wrote under the name Cordwainer Smith when I was at school, and his lyrical prose informed my daydreams from an early age. I could never understand why his work was not more popular, why it had never been made into movies, why so few people had heard of him. But at least his science fiction remained in print (in fact I happened to notice yesterday that it's just been republished again in a two volume collection with different titles and the stories in a different order from the previous two volume collection, just to confuse you). Atomsk, written under the name of Carmichael Smith has been out of print for fifty years.

This does not mean that it is unregarded. It's not too hard to find as a collectable if you have a couple of hundred dollars to spare. But Rosana Hart, Paul Lineberger's daughter recognises that there are plenty of people who don't want to collect it, they just want to read it, and so she has made it available as a PDF. Which is how I got to see it.

It is 1949. Scraps of intelligence taken together hint at a secret underground russian city where research is being done into atomic weapons. It is known as Atomsk. Major Michael Dugan is given the task of infiltrating Atomsk, finding out what is going on there, and then leaving enough of a mark behind him so that the russians know they have been infiltrated and Atomsk is no longer an ace up their sleeve.

We follow Dugan as he slips through Russia, assuming and dropping identities as required. Unlike so many fictional spies, Dugan has to work his way to the secret city one step at a time, using skill and cunning. What would be an afternoon jaunt for Sydney Bristow is a journey that takes weeks for Dugan.

The weakest point to me was when we finally reach Atomsk and don't get to see much of it. It's not necessary to the plot, but after the big buildup I would have liked a little more sightseeing of the big mysterious place we've heard so much about.

The book is clearly an earlier work than Lineberger's science fiction. The lyrical writing is there, but it is not as developed as his work as Cordwainer Smith. The really striking thing about Atomsk is how optimistic it is. Dugan is such a good spy because he empathises with the people he encounters. He believes that the work he is doing is not just for the good of his own country, but for its enemies too. During World War 2 he works undercover in Japan as an incompetent officer gently fouling up every major project that comes through his department, saving lives not just of Americans, but Japanese too.

The book has also aged remarkably well. I mean obviously it is now a period piece, where it was "present day" when it was published, but there is nothing out of place or jarring to the modern reader, which suggests how far ahead of his time Linebarger was in his attitudes.

Atomsk is not the great american novel, but it's a fun spy story that proves that realism and optimism can exist together. There are a lot of writers today who could learn from this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

License to Kill

When you are reading a spy novel set during the cold war, it's impossible not to think of James Bond, whose books were originally published between 1953 and 1966. Most striking is the difference between Fleming's smug dilettante and any story that deals with a more realistic take on the subject.

The problem is that James Bond doesn't actually do much spying. No spending months infiltrating an enemy country under a false identity; he's always quick in there, steal the plans, sabotage the death ray, kill the bad guy, get the girl, and out before a real spy had reached the outer perimeter in the guise of a nondescript worker. And he's always so flashy and high profile where a real spy is the exact opposite.

And then there's the whole "license to kill" business. He's a spy. It's a very dangerous business. Any spy undercover in hostile territory surely has the authority to protect themself by whatever means necessary, up to and including killing people, so why does 007 get a special certificate for it?

And then it struck me, that's not an extra qualification, that's his job description. It makes sense that they'd want the enemy to know he was responsible, that he'd be sent in for quick jobs, that so many people die when he's around. Of course it would be terribly unbritish to admit what he was really up to, so it's always couched in euphamism and the pretense that he is a regular member of the department, but it's obvious when you think about it. James Bond isn't so much a spy as an assassin.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'd rather be writing about Superman

It gets harder and harder to avoid politics. All week I've been trying to avoid writing about hot topics and controvertial issues; partly because plenty of other feminist comics bloggers have most of the things covered that I want to address, and partly because I want to just write about lighter stuff for a bit.

So I didn't say anything about Joe Quesada's asinine response to criticism of the Heroes for Hire cover that has been in the news lately, even though a lot of it seems to be "it was drawn by a woman so it's not sexist" and "It's not a tentacle porn image because I am ignorant of tentacle porn", and entirely fails to address the problem that Misty Knight has been transformed from an african american into a Barbie doll with a tan.

I didn't say anything about the Mary Jane statue, although I have been irritated that so many people seem to have missed the point and that the issue is not about the dumb statue but the huge and vicious overreaction toward anyone that complained about it.

Right now I'd be far happier reading a fifty year old spy novel for a review I want to do (why am I wanting to review a fifty year old spy novel? Wait and see) and writing about silver age nonsense that makes me happy, and then I hear about some tiny pressure group, possibly only a couple of people, who are persuading LiveJournal to censor their users to a degree that they are throwing out baby, bathwater, and most of the bathroom plumbing in a crazed putsch that is destroying years' worth of literary criticism, fan fiction, and valid discussion entirely unrelated to the "child porn" scare card they are playing.

Always remember, "Freedom of Speech" means the freedom to voice an opinion that disagrees with you. It doesn't matter if it's wrong, or it's bad, or it's "unamerican". Once you start telling anyone they can't have a different opinion then speech is no longer free.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sisters of Mirthy

Thanks to The Hathor Legacy I now have a new indulgence in the form of the wonderful Ask the Brontë Sisters blog.

The world needs more advice columns run by historical and fictional characters.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Light sight

What time is it, kids?

It's time to indulge my obscure fannish interest in a character nobody else particularly knows or cares about.

Kimiyo Hoshi, the good Doctor Light appeared in World War III in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo.


I'm happy to see her here for three reasons:

1) Including her in the group, even without any dialogue and at the back of the crowd establishes that she is an active character in the DC universe.

2) She fights Black Adam and doesn't die - always a risk for a female C-list character as it's contractually required that a villain in an event comic has to kill at least one less popular character to show how badass they are because killing millions of innocent bystanders clearly isn't good enough. This time it was Terra who got the bullet, but she goes through lives like a video game character, so it's hard to get too worked up about her.

3) It's the first time we have seen her in action since she was depowered and left for dead. Okay, she's been referred to elsewhere, and cameoed in Birds of Prey in civvies, but this is the first we've seen her powered up. And okay she doesn't fare well against Black Adam, but he was trashing everyone that day.

Fingers crossed, as always, that she gets a more profile gig sometime soon. Just so long as it's not in The Outsiders.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Yay Fantomah!

Long time readers may recall I am a fan of the golden age heroine Fantomah, particularly in her original incarnation by Fletcher Hanks AKA Barclay Flagg.

Fantographics have recently published a book entitled I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS, a collection of fifteen Fletcher Hanks stories, including no less than five Fantomahs! They've even set up a Fletcher Hanks website to promote the book, though it is of variable quality, even for a webvertisement. While it doesn't even include a list of the stories in the book it's promoting (I had to go to Amazon for that) it does include an online scan of a Fantomah story from Jungle Tales #13.

A little bit of politics

For the benefit of those colonials who may be unaware of it, Britain has a new Prime Minister. Not that anyone really notices or cares. In fact the two major parties are now so similar that it's hard to tell which one's in power without looking, and previous leaders are forgotten often before they've even stepped down (as was evident from a recent question on an episode of The Weakest Link I happened to see), so Gordon Brown moving around the table a bit is only of interest to the people who need to find something to fill the newspapers.

What he needs is a slogan, or possibly a theme song.

I have a proposal that with very little work could fit the bill quite nicely:

"Never a frown with Gordon Brown"

It would be worth it if only to see The Stranglers reform to sing it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Scott Kurtz will get his dad on you

Scott Kurtz does this webcomic called PVP, which I've mentioned before. Recently he did a comic in which his characters dwell on the joy of objectifying women. Apparently he was surprised that some people were offended by it, and responded with a comic in which he depicts his own father saying to his audience words to the effect of "I think it's funny so screw you if you can't take a joke."

Now consider this is not even Kurtz's actual father defending him by dismissing any criticism, it's Scott drawing a picture of him and entirely literally (in the actual usage of the word) putting the words in his mouth. For all I know, he may have said this, but we are not told this. All we have is cartoon Kurtz senior defending cartoon Kurtz over a comic made by actual Kurtz.

Which is pretty sad and pathetic.

It's also a typical reaction of Kurtz to any criticism: don't consider if it is valid, just put down anyone who voices it and call them names. Because how could anyone not see the good natured fun in looking at boobs.

Point 1: Yes, it's something that men do. Men do lots of stuff that even they wouldn't consider appropriate to do in public. That doesn't make it right, funny, or appropriate to put it in a comic in such a way that shows you are endorsing this behaviour if you aren't prepared to take the flack for supporting such a sexist attitude.

Point 2: Getting your father to support you on this is not helping. It's just showing that you aren't the only one in the family with a sexist attitude. At least if you drew pictures of your mother or your wife standing up and supporting you it would look as though you actually cared enough about whether the comic was offensive to women to actually ask one.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Heroes: Random Realisation

I was just watching a "Behind the scenes" thing on Heroes, and it says how Mohinder is supposed to be the character the audience identifies with, because he's the ordinary guy.

Well actually, no. My (and I'm sure the majority of genre fandom) viewpoint character is the one who is living my fantasy.

Go Hiro!!!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Make it stop

I saw Ragnell's mention about Blog Against Sexual Violence Day. If you want to get technical, it was yesterday, but I've come out of retirement for this one post on the subject.

I'm not big on having special days to address a particular issue any more than I am in favour of having a specific day to be nice to other people. But maybe that's just my anarchist streak, and I don't like being told what to do.

Anyhow, I got to thinking about all the women in comics who had been sexually abused and realised that in real life how many close female friends I'd had who had been sexually abused in some way. Now of course there are lots of women who haven't told me that they had been abused, but I have no way of knowing whether this was because they haven't chosen to tell me, or because they haven't been abused. And then there was the one that confided in me that she had reported she had been raped to the police when she hadn't, as a way of getting attention from her boyfriend. The point is that the number who have chosen to tell me is uncomfortably high.

So when I turn to superhero comics and I see the high number of women there who have been sexually abused I find I have to consider that it's not too far from my own life experience. So why do I complain about this situation?

Because I think that life in comics should be better than it is in the real world. Because if superhero comics can't give me a glimpse into a world where the good guy/girl saves the day and the woman who is attacked is either saved by the hero/heroine, or preferably is empowered enough to do that wish fulfilment thing of kicking the crap out of her assailant herself, then what's heroic about them?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Danger! Haney at work!

There are some comics that really need to come with a warning label. Labels like "Remove brain before reading" or "Attempting to understand this comic could seriously damage your sanity".

Some of Grant Morrison's more surreal works can give you a headache if you try to make sense of them, but Morrison at his most peculiar rarely comes close to the distilled nuttiness of Roberts Kannigher and Haney. I've just started reading the Showcase Brave and the Bold collection and I'm not even to the end of the first story and I'm looking for some asprin.

The first comic in the collection is a time travel story written as stream of consciousness. Cause and effect are not only reversed and sent sideways, but retconned three pages later to be a flock of hammers. Important story elements are added as required without any effort to integrate them earlier in the story. People use ill defined powers to do unnecessary and bizarre things. And it is absolutely stuffed to the gills with sense of wonder.

It's difficult to get yourself in the right frame of mind for this kind of comic. It doesn't have the clever, sophisticated stuff we look for in the medium nowadays. It doesn't have complex motivation or political subtext. It has no repurcussions beyond the final page of the story, and nobody's world is changed forever. But if you can read it without adult preconceptions of what makes a good story, or even makes sense, you could have a really fun time.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Justice once

Showcase Presents The Justice League of America volume #1.

I wanted to compare the treatment of Aqualad and Wonder Girl in Teen Titans with their adult counterparts in early Justice League, but it took me a while to work up the energy to read the Justice League Showcase collection. Gardner Fox is not my favourite silver age writer, and if there was ever a poll of DC's all time most annoying character, you can bet that Snapper Carr would be a contender.

On the other hand I am surprised how much I warmed up to Bob Haney after a few issues of Teen Titans, and I can hardly believe I didn't like Robert Kanigher when I first encountered his work, so maybe some intense study of early JLA would help me find the fun a third time.

500 pages later I am still not much of a fan of Gardner Fox, but the volume wasn't quite the chore I had expected, and Snapper Carr doesn't appear enough to be more than an irritant. The plots are formulaic and dumb, but provide enough entertainment, often for the wrong reasons, that you don't completely glaze over.

As with the Batman volume, the stories often suffer from the "Schwartz cover" effect. That is, editor Julius Schwartz commissions an exciting cover and then hands it to the writer to tell a story around, but then doesn't seem to care how the cover image is shoehorned in. The result often being that the cover scene is a ludicrously contrived moment in an otherwise unrelated plot. Which is disappointing, as the covers, often very intruiging or exciting, promise so much, but deliver so little.

The cover to JLA #1, for example: an alien plays a strange boardgame against the Flash, with the rest of the team at stake. Except that in the story the entire thing is fixed and it's just an excuse for the alien to transport them all away which he could have done anyway as they were already within his power.

But back to my original motivation for reading the book. How does Gardner Fox's treatment of Wonder Woman and Aquaman compare to Bob Haney's use of their counterparts in Teen Titans?

Aquaman is less obviously useless because of the nature of the stories. Where Teen Titans is given a realistic setting, the JLA are usually thrown into a fantasy landscape, so tailoring part of it to suit Fishguy is less blatant. Plus the formula plot usually involves each member of the team being transported to an environment designed specifically for them, either on another planet or an alternate dimension.

Wonder Woman is not singled out in any way. There is even less characterisation in JLA than there is in Teen Titans, which hardly seems possible, but it's true. There are no distinguishing voices, and many of the team are differentiated by a single ability: Aquaman talks to fish, Wonder Woman has a rope, Flash runs fast, Green Arrow shoots stuff. These characteristics are applied to every possible situation. Green Arrow can't put handcuffs on a subdued villain without using a handcuff arrow, Aquaman can't make a cup of tea without the assistance of his fishy friends. Beyond that their abilities are a bit vague.

In Post-Crisis/Pre-Infinite Crisis Wonder Woman was retconned out of being a founder member of the JLA, which is little ironic when you read the original comics, where you find that she was the only one of the big three who put in serious time on the team. On the occasions when Superman and Batman actually do show up, they often find excuses to disappear for the bulk of the story.

It gets so bad that even the villains start to notice.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Go Go Gail!

In a recent interview, Gail Simone said:

Are you doing anything involving Dr.Light II (Kimiyo Hoshi) either in BOP or in something else?

A: Not right away, but I do have some ideas for how to renovate her character a little…


Which suggests to me that nobody else has called dibs on Kimiyo in the near future, or has any plans to tell the great story of her comeback.

That's okay. I'd rather wait a year for Gail Simone than get Judd Winick now.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dear Kara....

I saw this and thought of you.


From Millie the Model #26 (1951)

Misogynist advertising again

First I couldn't drink Coca Cola, and now I can't eat burgers.

The Burger King ad for their double whopper has been around for a few months, but after disappearing for a while it's back on british TV. This involves a parody of the feminist anthem I am Woman sung by a lot of men who are so pissed off at having to do girly things like eat in civilised restaurants that they band together and run riot in the streets, smashing up cars and stuffing their faces with 990 calorie burgers.

Now microwave burger merchants Rustlers have jumped on the bandwagon with straplines that sound like leftovers from the Coke Zero ads in a new TV advert that involves a guy bringing a girl home. The clearly uncomfortable girl says she can only stay for a coffee. He goes into the kitchen and taps on a keypad next to a hatch that opens onto the other room, creating a frame that makes it look as though the girl is in a microwave. The couch on which the girl is sitting then revolves like a microwave plate and she transforms into a seductive lingerie model. The slogan being something along the lines of "If only women could go from not interested to hot to trot in 70 seconds without you making any effort, just like our tacky burgers."

Edit: While I was looking for the ad on Youtube I found another version where the revolving girl is replaced by a inflateable sex doll. Otherwise it is identical to the original. I have no idea where this comes from, but if it was a self-parody by the original ad makers intended to undercut the misogyny of the original it might work better if they ever actually showed it.

EDIT 2: I also found an Australian Coke Zero ad that has the same message as the UK version but without the misogynistic aspects. In fact it makes an effort to be female-inclusive.

EDIT 3: Huh?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Continuity Spaggetti

I realise that the absurd lateness of Wonder Woman means that all the questions of identity in the current storyline are old news in every other comic where she appears, but I'm curious where Atom fits in, since Dr Zeul (Giganta) appears to have a legitimate career in Ivytown, which must predate her being a known villain in Wonder Woman, which (initially) was published first. Either it's another multiverse thing (an all purpose excuse for continuity screwups right now, which is just as well given how many there are at the moment), or it's a symptom of Ivytown weirdness. Either way I'd like even a bad explanation somewhere.

And no, DC, the answer is not to have yet another fucking 'event' to explain it all away.

Since the writers appear to be incapable of this stuff, how about you hire someone to oversee each comic and check that if they are using characters that also appear in other titles that the various appearances fit together. This person could also be given the responsibility of ensuring that the comic was completed on schedule. You could even fire the current editor on most comics and give them the same office. I don't think anyone would notice the loss.

Supergirl/Batgirl

I tried to like Kara 2.0, I really did.

But the suckyness wore me down. Every time I was on the point of giving it up as a bad job, I'd hear that the current writer or artist was going to be replaced and I gave it one more go. I did actually quit after #12 when it became apparent that Joe Kelly was too little, too late, and we were stuck with Ian Churchill. I only read #14 because it featured Batgirl.

This was a mistake. The in-joke of having Kara dress in Linda/animated Supergirl's white costume was painfully unfunny, and simply served to remind long time readers how this previous wearer of the cape had been quietly erased from continuity - even Pantha went out fighting. Ian Churchill's big chin/snap like a twig ankles style seemed worse than ever, but maybe it's just because I've been reading too many comics where the characters have less ludicrous proportions.

But Batgirl?

Wait, I think I've got it. It's that multiverse thing again, isn't it. I mean I totally called the two Luthors before it was revealed, so maybe they are doing the same trick again. Originally there was good Batgirl. Then we were told that she went bad (Robin #151) to lead the League of Assassins and get revenge on her father because she found she had a sister (no, it doesn't make any sense), and stopped wearing the costume. But in Teen Titans #43 we are given a whole different explanation about her being mind controlled by Deathstroke. No mention of the League, and she's in costume. In Supergirl #14 she's back to running the League but she is wearing her costume. There's at least two different Batgirls here. Possibly three.

Oh, and there's apparently a story running in one of the Batman titles where the League is being run by someone else. Does anyone at DC talk to anyone else at all?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Random manga

A few years ago, when I was into manga and there wasn't much of it about, I'd pick up a few random collections from the Japan Centre when I was in London, purely because the art styles interested me. I hadn't thought about them in years, but I ran across a couple of the volumes today and thought I'd share.

Balancer is an action adventure story, with the twist that the beautiful heroine is in fact a little old lady who is able to transform into a supermodel. It looks like great fun.



Karuizawa Syndrome is altogether stranger. Even with so much manga now under the bridge it still looks odd. The art style varies from realistic to chibi so much the characters bounce up and down like yoyos, sometimes even in the same panel. It appears to follow a group of characters who are possibly early twenties, though they spend so much time in chibi mode it's hard to tell. They drive hyper realistic cars and motorbikes, have chibi sex, and a couple of them seem to be nazis.

As far as I know neither of these series have ever been translated. But I guess neither exactly fit into what american publishers look for in a manga.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Robin's gang

I haven't been a big follower of Teen Titans in its various incarnations, but the team has always seemed like Robin's gang. Doesn't matter who is Robin, it's his team.

So I'm just a little sad that Steph didn't get to be Robin long enough to get that issue of Teen Titans where she's in charge.

Teamups we'd like to see for the sheer silliness #2

All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel.


Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

About damn time

The announcement that tells us of the Batgirl Showcase collection also lists, a month later, the following:

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: WONDER WOMAN VOL. 1 TP
Writer: Robert Kanigher
Artists: Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
Collects stories from WONDER WOMAN #98-117
$16.99 US, 528 pages


So the third member of "The Big Three" finally gets a Showcase collection after Superman, Batman, The Atom, Hawkman, Phantom Stranger, Metamorpho, Martian Manhunter, Adam Strange, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman again, Batgirl, Jimmy Olsen, Batman again, Green Arrow, Elongated Man, Shazam, Green Lantern again, Aquaman, Challengers of the Unknown, and The Haunted Tank. Oh yes, that's really showing the love.

Having said that, this collection is exactly what I wanted in a WW Showcase and I am hugely excited about it. It collects the never in 40 years reprinted before in any form first silver age issues of Wonder Woman starting from #98, where Ross Andru and Mike Esposito took over the art, and opens with the wonderfully deranged origin retelling that contains elements which no later origin story ever dared acknowledge. This volume also introduces Wonder Girl and (I think) Wonder Tot, but they don't get to team up with Wonder Woman until a while later. This is Robert Kanigher at his loopiest, so check your brain at the door and sit back and enjoy the pretty colours.

Yes, I know it's a black and white collection. Trust me.

Batgirl Returns

I haven't commented on the recent ups and downs in the life of Cassandra Cain. I hadn't been reading her own title for a while before it ended, although I did take a look at the last couple of issues when I heard about the fuss. I also read the issues of Robin where she is transformed into a villain.

My own theory was that the talk of David Cain training other girls was a clue, and that this chatty villain was going to turn out to be Cassie's evil twin. I mean it obviously wasn't Cass.

Sadly, I find that my guess was wrong and that it was Cass; just a very badly written Cass, who behaved and talked nothing like the character I knew.

But somewhere up at DC, whoever was responsible for this villainisation got overruled and Teen Titans #43 gives us an explanation that allows Cass to return to the good guys' team. It's a bad explanation, which doesn't begin to cover the changes that were made to her in Robin, and it's all about abuse and mind control, but I see a lot of fans happy to accept it because it gives them Cass back.

This in turn has prompted a reaction to happy feminist fans of Batgirl that can be summed up as "Oh, so it's okay to have a story of abuse towards women when it suits you, is it?" To which the answer is "No, but this bad thing fixed something that was worse. We do not cheer the bad fix, we cheer that the worse thing is gone."

In other Batgirl news, I'm intrigued to find announcement of a Showcase Presents Batgirl collection. This is an innovative move on the part of DC collecting the adventures of a character who never had their own strip*. So Yay! to DC for thinking outside the box, but a Wha? for picking this as their first collection starring a female character, and when there are so many great silver age comics waiting on dusty shelves that are being passed over in favour of obscure war comics and this collection of guest appearances.

Which is not to say that I won't be first in the queue for this book. It's a great collection and contains one of my favourite silver age comics ever.

*Okay, she did have a brief solo strip in the anthology Batman Family title, but it's not included in this collection.

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

mi·sog·y·ny

–noun
hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.


sex·ism

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



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

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

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

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

That's what I think, anyway.

Friday, December 08, 2006

schadenfreude

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

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

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

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

Nyah nyah!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Carnival reminder

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

Monday, December 04, 2006

A very careful review of Batman Meets The Spirit

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

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