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Damian Wayne: Where the Hell was Child Protective Services?

3 Mar

So Batman Inc, #8 ripped my heart out.

*Spoiler Alert* – just so we are clear if you are waiting for the trade or your shop’s shipment got damaged, or you had 50 books to get through this week, and you don’t want to know what happened in this issue, stop here. I might also suggest that you step away from the internet, purchase earplugs and blinders, and find an underground bunker to hide in… because everyone is talking about this.

First of all let’s talk about this cover.

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To the left of Damian’s face is a drawing showing the facial proportions for a baby, to his right is a drawing showing a child’s facial proportions. Is is just me, or does the one on the left look a whole lot more like him? When I look at this cover, it reminds me of a baby in a Christening gown.

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So from the start, contents of this issue seem a little perverse. Damian Wayne looks like an infant with the phrase “R.I.P.” emblazoned boldly under him. So, babies, death, sounds like a good time right? Let’s read on.

Damian comes to the aid of his adult counterparts. While his father, Bruce Wayne (as Batman) is locked away in a safe underwater. Of course Damian’s mother, Talia Al Ghul,  is busy as well; having put his father in the aforementioned safe, she has a responsibility as a Batman villain to give a long speech full of taunts and bravado. So obviously, they are occupied. He has escaped Alfred’s watchful eye, and Tim & Dick have no choice but to fight alongside Damian as all hell breaks loose.

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There are an alarming number of adults who miss the chance to intervene and save Damian, from his grizzly fate. Talia, his mother, has abandoned him. Bruce, his father is caught up in his own conflicts. Alfred, his caretaker, has somehow lost track of him. Dick, his stepbrother, may be allowing him to behave so recklessly because of some sort of nostalgia for his own Robin days. Tim seems too concerned about his interpersonal conflicts with Damian to appreciate the danger he might be in.

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I think all of these people would face legal action if Damian’s case was  brought into a court of law.

ImageFirst of all there is Talia al Ghul

She is the genetic mother of Damian Wayne, she and Bruce have a somewhat tumultuous past…

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Naturally, she decides to genetically engineer a child that combines her DNA with that of Bruce Wayne. I mean… logically, right? But she doesn’t impregnate herself, she incubates Damian in a tank that looks like it once housed Zordon from The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. So far, Talia has managed to sleep with Batman, have his baby, and not get a single stretch mark or give up alcohol for nine months. This is enough to make me kind of hate her.

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So, since she is going to all this trouble, surely she will be an excellent mother, spend all her time doting on little Damian and trying in every way to make his life as wonderful as it can possibly be … yes, that is what one would think, however; she sorta goes the other way with it.

As she admires the fruit of her test-tube; she lets Damian know that global domination is in his future. Oh, good. I know every mom seeing her kid for the first time thinks he or she is perfect, and possibly even more perfect than all the other babies whose mothers have ever looked at them, but I don’t know many who start planning out their kids careers at during their child’s first moments; and I don’t know any who start grooming them for world takeover before their child draws his or her first breath.

ImageDing! The timer goes off, and Talia welcomes Damian to the world with a smile and look of wonder that seem at home on the face of any new mother. This is pretty much the upper limit of their relationship, it doesn’t get much better. Of course, like any good mother she has plan’s for Damian’s education.



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ImageTalia trains Damian to become an assassin. This could be seen as abuse, but she always remembers his birthday, and its for his own good, right?

At any rate, Damian is put through years of physical and mental “conditioning” that result in him becoming a very talented but socially inept 10-year-old.

So mother-of-the-year, Talia is not. In some ways she loves Damian, and in some ways he loves her. He is a little boy after all, no amount of training is going to change that fact.

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Eventually,Damian goes to live with Bruce, probably for the best right? I mean how could a kid in the hands of superhero possibly come to any harm? Even if it is an unstable environment, anything is better than getting your ass kicked on your birthday, right? Surely Damian’s lot in life will improve now that he has a whole support system of caring adults.

ImageYeah, about that…

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So how did we go from movies and popcorn to a dead kid? Long story. First of all, Bruce and the Bat-family do try. He makes a genuine effort to take care of Damian and teach him how to do the right thing. He forbids Damian to kill, which seems like a good start. Most parents I know have the same rule.

ImageDamian struggles a little with the house rules. Gets in trouble, you know the usual settling in with a new authority figure stuff.

No one really seems to question the implications of a 10-year-old needing to be expressly forbidden to murder someone. This is probably as good of a reason as any to get the kid in therapy. Red flag, anyone? No? Okay, then lets continue.

Since we have agreed that it seems acceptable for ten-year-olds to have homicidal tendencies, let’s talk about how Talia reacts to his new (and dare-we-say improved?) moral compass.

ImageShe resurfaces in Damian’s life to tell him she’s disappointed in him, aw Mom, you shouldn’t have… But lest you think lacks the commitment to completely destroy her son psychologically, she also formally disowns him.Image

Where’s Bruce while all this is going on, you might ask yourself… turns out he has a pretty good excuse for turning a blind eye to what’s going on, see he’s kind of, oh what’s the word… dead.

So Damian learned he had a father, lost said father, and was abandoned by his mother. No one has considered that perhaps Alfred and Master Dick aren’t exactly the dynamic duo of parenting, that maybe Damian could benefit from some normalcy, be around kids his own age, have some pizza, a cookie, maybe? No? Okay. Just checking.

Eventually as most dead superhero dad’s do, Bruce comes back… that’s a really long story… so let’s just go with it.

So what’s it like, having a kid who has grown up learning how to kill people come to live with you when you have dedicated your life to putting people like that away? On the other hand, what’s it like to have Batman for a dad?

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It’s just PEACHY…

Bruce and Damian have their ups and downs. That’s for sure. Bruce tends to see him as another soldier in the war on crime, and Damian tends to overreach his means to try and win his father’s approval. They do have their tender moments.

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Just look at this example of fatherly love. Bruce is carrying a beaten and battered Damian away from a fiery end… wait a second… what the hell was a 10-year-old doing in a situation like this to begin with? Well there has got to be one nice moment, hasn’t there?

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There’s the money shot… So, Mom is evil, and while Dad occasionally allows him to be put in harms way; its essentially all sunshine and rainbows over at Wayne Manor, yeah?

ImageOkay, so this was early on, but still, is this anyway to treat a traumatized child when you are a full grown man?

Not Bats finest hour…

But it all turns out well in the end.

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Really? You’re bringing this up again? So it doesn’t end well? But I mean the kid had a few good years, right? Its not like he got put in the middle of his parents feuds, or had to take on emotional burdens beyond his years or anything….

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Well… huh… okay, so I guess things got a little messy. His parents didn’t get along. A lot of kids parents don’t get along. At least they kept it hemmed up between themselves. He was never literally put in the middle of their fights or anything, never forced to choose between his mom and his dad….Image

Well, that sucks.

All right so Damian was mistreated, physically abused, mentally abused, neglected, abandoned, forced to choose between his parents, lost his father, and died. That’s terrible, especially when you consider how well most kids recuperate from early emotional trauma.

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Touche’. Fair enough. I see your point. Bruce had a fairly idyllic childhood. His parents loved him, and put his needs before their own. One bad night changed him forever. Violence creates lasting scars and mental fixations that plague us for the rest of our lives.

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Even under the best of circumstances, parenting can fall short and fate can take over.

Martha and Thomas loved Bruce, and they would have given anything to protect him.

I just wish someone had felt that way about Damian.

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We all start out as kids, trying to live up to our parents’ expectation. Then some of us become parents’ trying be worthy of our kids. Missteps are easy. Children are precious. We have an ethical responsibility to make sure that they are cared for and loved. With all the things that can go wrong, why would we ever add to the challenges facing our children knowingly?

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Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

We Saw Your Boobs-And I Want Feedback

28 Feb

 

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http://youtu.be/saHG2MLDfPI?t=12s

So, this is getting a lot of attention. Above is a link to Seth McFarlane’s opening Oscar number. This thing has raised a few eyebrows, and cause some people to pull out the old soap box. My reaction: what did you expect from the creator of such potty-humor juggernauts as *Family Guy* and *Ted*? McFarlane opened the show with a song and dance routine that named various actresses and the films in which they appear nude, aptly titled: “We Saw Your Boobs.”

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Some critics are complaining that the actresses singled out in the bit bared all for art. They are bothered because the actresses efforts have been subverted for the sake of a joke.

But that’s sort of the thing about art, isn’t it? Once you put words, or images, or body parts out there; people will interpret them as they wish. I doubt Van Gogh ever foresaw *Starry Night* iPhone skins and area rugs, but those things exist. So do people who think boobs are worth giggling about, McFarlane capitalized on a point of view that already existed, he didn’t invent it.

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I am not sure that the Oscar Award Ceremony was really the time and place for such humor, but I am not sure it was really the place for McFarlane either. The Academy did, in some capacity, know what they were signing up for (the segment was not performed live after all). Its not like Hugh Jackman went rogue with a number about testicles, or James Franco suddenly burst into spoken word poetry about orgies, or Billy Crystal had a wardrobe malfunction… this was planned. McFarlane is the guy who makes us laugh whether we want to or not, despite the fact that we sometimes know we shouldn’t.

So, with all that said, this got me thinking about comic books (yes most things do) and I decided to write about it. I was thinking that, while actresses and actors get the final say on their nude scenes; comic book characters are in the hands of their creative teams. They don’t get to choose whether or not the public sees them unclothed. Yet, once it has happened, its out there. For better or worse, to be appreciated, or mocked. I can’t imagine Barbara Gordon (as Oracle or New 52 Batgirl) signing up to do Batman Confidential #18, but there she is, wearing nothing but a cowl and a grimace. That book is still attached to her name, and if you google “Batgirl nude” it will pop right up. The legacy of nudity for comic characters is very similar to that of actors.

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So in preparation for a much longer post on this subject… I am putting out an all call.

Tell me what you think about nudity in comics. Is there a scene or character that comes to mind when you consider the topic? A time when it added to a story, or detracted from one, that left an impression on you? Does it affect the books you buy, or tell people you buy? Who gets it right? Who misses the mark? Surprise me with your own insights. Tell me what you think. E-mail me at comicsonice@gmail.com

I’ll post the best response here on my blog, and make sure everyone (or no one if you prefer) knows who is responsible.

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

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Modernity & Mythology: What Saga Tells Us About Ourselves for Image Addiction

26 Feb

Modernity & Mythology: What Saga Tells Us About Ourselves for Image Addiction

Just posted a new Mirror Image feature on the Image Addiction website. I hope you’ll stop by and take a look.

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Review – The End Times of Bram and Ben #2

19 Feb

Review – The End Times of Bram and Ben #2

Check out my review of The End Times of Bram and Ben #2 by Asmus, Festante, and Broo published by Image Comics for Image Addiction here. 

 

 

The Encomium of Josephine: The Exoneration of a Disastrous Woman

14 Feb

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In the series Fatale, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips published by Image Comics; the main character Josephine, or “Jo,” is a moral gray area. Is she a hero, or a villain?

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To begin, there should be no ambiguity regarding the meaning of the term, “femme fatale,” which translated from French literally reads, “disastrous woman.” The dictionary goes on to define the term  as, “a seductive woman who lures men into dangerous or compromising situations,” or “a woman who attracts men by an aura of charm and mystery.” Using this definition as a rubric, how does Brubaker’s leading lady, Jo, stack up?

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Jo is certainly mysterious; she is certainly beautiful. She has power and influence over the stronger sex, which she seems capable of wielding to various degrees of accuracy and deadliness. She does seem to enact Murphy’s Law on the men who cross her path. Once she is a part of their lives; anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. However, to this point in the series, Brubaker has lead us to see Jo as a reluctant vessel for this power. While manipulating the men who surround her, she often develops strong feelings of affection, if not love, for them. When calamity consumes her lovers, she seems to feel genuine remorse and sorrow. So, that leads naturally to the next question I will ask: is there such a thing as a reluctant femme fatale; or does the term by definition imply intent?

Case Study: Helen of Troy

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“…she had godlike beauty, which having received she not inconspicuously retained. She produced the greatest erotic desires in most men. For one body many bodies of men came together…”
-Gorgias “The Encomium of Helen”

According to ancient Greek legend, Helen was the most beautiful woman ever to have lived. She belonged to Sparta; she was their queen. Her lover, Paris, was a Trojan prince. He took her away with him, to live happily ever after. As is so often the case when a young man takes a bride, an epic war broke out; taking the lives of countless men, destroying families and permanently altering history. Helen has been given the monicker, “The face that launched a thousand ships.” She has been vilified and berated for centuries.

Was she to blame for the effect she had on the men of her day?

Between 480-380 B.C.E. a Greek Sophist, called Gorgias, set out to accomplish the great feat of exonerating Helen in his speech, “The Encomium of Helen.” He posited that Helen’s actions (leaving Sparta and starting the Trojan War) were the result of one of four things: fate, force, persuasion, or love; and the if any of these were the culprit, she was blameless. Could the same be said for Josephine, the heroine in Fatale?

FATE:

“For the will of a god cannot be hindered by human forethought.” – Gorgias

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It is clear that Jo is a piece of a much larger puzzle. Brubaker takes care to establish that she is cursed, and this curse touches every facet of her existence.

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There are worldly forces controlling her fate…

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And that the rules of this mortal existence do not apply to her.

FORCE:

“But if she was abducted by force, unlawfully constrained and unjustly victimized, it is clear on the one hand that the abductor, as victimizer, committed injustice…” – Gorgias

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It is clear time and again, that Jo is motivated by her fear of violence and victimization. The consequences she would face if she fell into the hands of her adversaries are great enough that she will do anything to avoid facing them. Her fear suppresses her conscience. The threat of violence is tantamount to force in this case.

PERSUASION:

“Persuasion belonging to discourse shapes the soul at will,” – Gorgias

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The truth is, we still do not know how Jo came by the power she possesses. Did she willingly acquiesce, was she tricked into it, or did she come into existence already endowed with this fatal beauty? The panel above seems to indicate that she was somehow initiated into this life.

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However, we learn later that she was not fully educated on her power, or the potential harm she could generate. This might suggest that there was an element of trickery or deception in her initial encounter which led to her acquiring this power. If she was deceived in the beginning and not made fully aware of the devastation she could cause; can she be held responsible?

LOVE:

“If Love, being a god, has the divine power of gods, how could the weaker being have the power to reject this and to ward it off?” – Gorgias

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Time and again, Jo thinks of her affectionate feelings for the men who come in and out of her life. She never takes for granted those who come to her assistance, and seems genuinely invested in her partners.

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She never discounts the sincerity and earnestness of her lovers feelings for her. In fact, she seems as incapable of stopping herself from reciprocating those feelings as she is of inspiring them.

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Jo even puts herself in harms way to protect those who love her, braving bullets and a fiery crash to save Nicholas Lash.

How then is it necessary to regard as just the blame of Helen, who either passionately in love or persuaded by discourse or abducted by force or constrained by divine constraints did the things she did, escaping responsibility every way? By this discourse I have removed infamy from a woman… – Gorgias

Jo is a force of nature, not a malicious temptress praying on the innocent. Find it in your heart to pardon her, and pick up this beautiful series from Image comics here: http://www.comixology.com/Fatale-1/digital-comic/NOV110354

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

And find more of my writing at http://imageaddiction.net/ 

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Review of The Manhattan Projects #9

12 Feb

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Review of The Manhattan Projects #9

Please check out this review I wrote for The Manhattan Projects #9 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

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Review Fatale #12

12 Feb

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Review Fatale #12

Please check out the review I wrote for Image Addiction on Fatale #12 by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Greatest Hits: Sexism in Vintage Comics

11 Feb

 

 

 

I originally tracked down all these images to create the banner for my site. Every time I looked at them, I wondered if people who viewed the blog were actually able to make out what they said. I couldn’t stand the thought that people might be missing out on these spectacular instances of vintage sexism in comics. I am so glad that these are humorous now, women in comics have come such a long way.

 

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Here we see Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) using her superpowers for housework. Interestingly enough, this backup feature “The Female of the Species!” featured in X-men #57 in 1969, was written by Stan Lee’s assistant Linda Fite, in an attempt to include a feminine perspective. In this same piece Jean states that it doesn’t take telekinesis to turn heads. You’ve got to love that. Jean was the only member of the original team not given a backstory in these backups.  

 

 

 

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In this frame we see Batman telling his new wife, Kathy Kane (Batwoman), that she is not invited to join them on their adventure. This was published in Batman #122 in 1959. Prior to their marriage, Kathy had been an ultra-femme crime fighter. She carried a purse full of gadgets in lieu of a utility belt, and of course wore a dress. Batman seemed to find her more of an annoyance than an ally.  

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Sue Storm doesn’t see how she can be of help, but she is quickly reminded that she is always of help because she is beautiful! She can help keep morale up, of course, thank goodness. This panel comes from Fantastic Four #12 published in 1963. 

 

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This images are all from Detective Comics #371 published in 1968. Throughout the issue, Batgirl repeatedly jeopardizes the mission by worrying about her appearance. Silly Batgirl. 

Its nice to see that creator’s are willing to let the girls play now. Each of these characters has evolved to be an individual, with an independent motivation and personality. They are all tough in different ways, and have such a long way .

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Here’s Jean being dark and powerful.

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And Batwoman, being decidedly uninterested in Batman romantically.

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And Sue doing more than boosting morale.

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And Batgirl, not worrying about her makeup.  

As attitudes toward women continue to change, these characters will continue to evolve. Certainly now, they are great symbols for how far women have come in the last half century. 

“You Sexist Twit,” of Course Women Should be Allowed in Active Combat: All New X-men Makes a Point

10 Feb

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Brian Michael Bendis current run of All New X-men, published by Marvel comics, provides interesting insight to the way that views on women’s capabilities and function in society have changed over time. The art is currently by David Marquez. One instance in the last issue reminds me of the current ongoing chatter about women in the military being allowed to serve in active combat zones.

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In a heated exchange with “Old” Bobby, Kitty demands that he hit her. She says that if he does not need conditioning and training, he will be able to land the punch. He sheepishly replies, “I am not hitting a girl,” to which Kitty responds, “I’m not a girl, I’m a fierce competitor, you sexist twit!” Bravo Mr. Bendis, well said. 

On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave a briefing about the United States military’s decision to remove the ban on women serving in active combat.

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Our purpose is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the best qualified and the most capable servicemembers, regardless of gender and regardless of creed and beliefs.  If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job — and let me be clear, I’m not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job — if they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation. – Sec. Leon Panetta January 24, 2013

As many of you know, women have been serving for years in a variety of positions, the removal of the ban functions primarily as a removal of roadblocks. It is important because it recognizes that women are capable of military service in a number of capacities. The premise of removing this ban does not function on some flimsy hypothetical; it invests itself in results that women serving in the armed forces have already produced. 

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It’s clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation.  Women represent 15 percent of the force, over 200,000.  They’re serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield.  The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission. – Sec. Leon Panetta, January 24, 2013

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The idea that female super heroes face the same obstacles as female members of the armed forces is not novel. Neither is the apparent “discrimination” that Kitty faces in this brief exchange. In fact even within the X-men franchise there has another example of subtle sexism, even within the fan-base. Brian Wood is working on an X-men (Olivier Coipel will provide the art) book featuring an all female cast. Some readers are complaining that the book should be titled X-women. Wood expressed his disdain for this idea in a recent interview with Newsarama Wood said: 

And the title… I’ve been talking about this quite a bit online, because there are fans who can’t wrap their mind around the fact this book is called X-Men. I sorta can’t wrap my mind around that, that the absence of some alpha male somehow invalidates these six women’s identities as X-Men, identities that go back decades through continuity. As my editor told me early on, these women are X-Men. They just are, period, always have been. So we sometimes get accused of “segregation,” a truly ugly word, or whatever, but I truly feel that to call this book X-Women or something like that, only suggests that these characters are a subset, or a spinoff, or even just off to one side, when I think any X-Men reader would admit that these women have more than earned the honor of being called X-Men.

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Again we see that women have already earned the right that is now being called into questioned. The cast of that book have earned the right to be called “x-men;” the women of the armed forces have earned the right to serve in active combat. These are rights that were not handed out blindly, and that makes them all the more important as reflections of the struggles and successes of all women. 

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

Read the full transcript of Panetta’s press conference here: http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5183

Read Brian Wood’s full interview here: http://www.newsarama.com/comics/x-men-brian-wood-marvel-now.html

Find All New X-men here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43462/all-new_x-men_2012_1 

And look for X-men #1 in April. 

Jean Grey And Pants: The History of Modern American Women in a Flash

7 Feb

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In Brian Michael Bendis’ series All New X-men, Jean Grey, along with a team of  her peers travel to the modern world from “the past.” Bendis remains purposely vague about when exactly the team hails from. I suppose, judging from the costuming choices, we are to associate them with the original 1963 team. However, Bendis is smart, and realizes that readers can do math, and readers will realize that no man who was old enough to legally drive a car in 1963 could look like Scott Sommers does now.

So let’s follow Jean’s costumes over the years and see what her appearance tells us about Women’s History.

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Jean Grey’s original uniform was a utilitarian garment, not unlike swimwear popular in 1963, but with the added coverage of tights and long sleeves. She wears pants, in that she does not wear a skirt, but it is function over form. When not on duty with the X-men, Jean wears shirt waist dresses, and occasionally hats.

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For the time Jean’s appearance is not out of the ordinary, Title IX which prevented public schools from prohibiting girls to wear trousers was not enacted until 1972. It is likely that most women at that time were wearing pants only for function, not for fashion. Pants were considered “loungewear,” and deemed inappropriate for wearing in public among most circles. In fact in 1960, a judge ejected a woman from his courtroom for wearing slacks; not in the Deep South, but in New York City.

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So it is no surprise that When Jean later takes it upon herself to update Marvel Girl’s appearance, a sensible, albeit short skirt injects some femininity into her ensemble.

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Marvel Girl’s new look premiered in X-men Vol 39 in December of 1967.  That is the same year that the Supreme Court ruled that states banning unmarried women from purchasing birth control pills were unconstitutionally invading those women’s privacy. It was beginning to be acceptable for women to possess their own sexuality. Perhaps this has something to with Jean’s gams and décolletage being so prominently displayed.

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So time moves on, women stop connecting their worth to housework, and start taking ownership of their sexuality. Jean evolves, becoming Phoenix in 1976. In the nine years that passed had seen everything from the Summer of Love (1969) to the landmark decision of Roe v Wade (1973), more and more women were delaying family life in lieu of pursuing careers, the phenomenon of single motherhood was on the rise, and there was disco. Jean returns from the dead, empowered with a new force, much like her real world female contemporaries.

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But as good things will, the Phoenix Force went the way of disco, leaving people scratching their heads, wondering why they ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. Women began to demand equal pay for equal work; it became clear that two working parents in a household meant more out of home child-care, threats like AIDS loomed right around the corner (1981). All of these things meant that the novelty of the women’s liberation was wearing off and the patriarchal society was left making the walk of shame, from the one decade stand they shared. So, Jean gets dark.

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Jean came back too powerful, so naturally she was corrupted by evil. She steps in place as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club in mid-1980. Scantily clad in black leather, she may represent a woman, left to her own devices, unchecked by social mores. She is hyper-sexualized, incapable of dealing with her own power, and hopelessly impressionable.

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Jean is ultimately corrupted in this arc as she becomes the Dark Phoenix

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Jean is planning on consuming the world, but in the end, decides to sacrifice herself so that things can continue on the way they were. If that is not a comment on the modern woman’s dilemma I don’t know what is. There is more of course, but lets stop there, and just consider for a moment, what face’s Bendis’ Jean as she learns her future.

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These women exist, the ones that watched our world change, they were Rosie the Riveter, and June Cleaver, and bra burners, and workin’ 9-5; they were our mothers and grandmothers, and us… and for some of them; I imagine they felt they watched the changes happen at this speed.

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

And find Brian Michael Bendis’ All New X-men here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43462/all-new_x-men_2012_1

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