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What’s Love Got to Do With It? Attitudes Toward Sexuality in Revival

5 Feb

My, oh my, these girls have interesting ideas about the function and nature of sexuality. This post examines the role that sexuality plays in the series Revival by Tim Sheeley and Mike Norton, published by Image comics. You should know that if you are not caught up on issues 1-6, you should be… no really, go pick them up now, and this contains *SPOILERS* so be warned.

All images below are from Mike Norton’s interior artwork.

Let’s start with Dana. She had a child, as a teenager; this apparently left her with a litany of torments that manifest in attitudes toward her body and her sexuality.


Above, we see Em referring to the strain that Dana’s pregnancy placed on her relationship with her father. Em believes that Dana is driven by a need for her father’s approval, this makes her so interesting. Its possible that she has passed down her own hang ups about her father, to her son, Cooper.


When addressing a childlike entity he has seen in the woods, Cooper lays out the aim of the game he has created starring his action figures. Admiral Peppercorn wants to make his dad proud. These are Dana’s words in Cooper’s mouth.

Dana’s words tell us more than she means for them to as she complains about her body.


She is continually self-deprecating in the face of compliments. An unplanned pregnancy can leave you feeling a bit violated. The damage or scars you wear as a result of the pregnancy feel like they are blazing neon, and screaming louder than anything else about you. I am not sure if the creators realized how on target they were in putting this detail in, but I applaud them. Then we get to the really interesting stuff. Image

After a rough day, Dana seeks comfort in anonymous sex. Her personality is remarkably different in this episode. She is confident, playful, and authoritative. The encounter ends when she receives a phone call and Ibraham realizes that they will be working together. Her coquettish demeanor is terminated along with the prospect of consummating in the back seat. The next time she sees her would-be-lover, this happens. Image


Though Dana was fully invested in the initiation of the tryst the pair share, she now resents the unspoken implications that the event will have on Ibraham’s opinion of her. She believes that he sees her as weak, oversexed, and under-qualified. There is no reason for her to draw these conclusions; as readers we have to assume that she is referring to a past episode that actually did play out the way she is presuming this will. Again, I will bring up the sense of violation she might have internalized as a result of her unplanned pregnancy. Dana does not like being vulnerable, she becomes combative when she feels that someone might have insight to her personal struggles. For her, anonymity in sexual encounters preserves her power and agency.


Em’s feelings about her affair with Professor Aaron Weimar inform her choices throughout the series.


The affair has ended, and I assume that the experience of being cast aside has left Em feeling devalued. In response she continually seeks out dangerous scenarios to either relive, or distract herself from, the lasting pain this relationship has caused her. Her high-risk behaviors become beautiful symbol; harkening to that old adage, sticks and stones may break my bones… She can survive anything, but this is killing her.

Lastly I’d like to take a look as Jamie Hettinga. She is involved in an extramarital affair with her step-brother, Justin Hine. Jamie’s life is a hectic onslaught of threats and public scrutiny. The affair seems to resent an escape from the pressures she faces, an indulgence taking place away from the public eye.



Jamie seems empowered by the source affection and attention she has found in her step-brother Justin. However, she finds Justin disemboweled, not sleeping, and the reality that she is involved in something insidious begins to set in. It seems that the aim of the murderer may have been to make her feel ashamed, and point out the element of betrayal that underlies her actions.



Jamie throws her bloody lingerie in the trash after finding Justin’s body. Is this action the result of shame, or just Jamie trying to escape the consequences of her choices?

It seems that in the case of Dana and Jamie, sex provides an escape from the consequences of stress and violence. For Em, however; violence may represent the escape for the consequences of sex. The varying degrees of shame and secrecy that surround all of the relationships in the series only add to its mystery. Now seriously, if you haven’t already, go read it. I could not write this much about something that was not truly stellar, thought provoking, and original.



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Violence Against Women in Revival (And why Seeley and Norton Are NOT Misogynists)

3 Feb

The following contains *SPOILERS!* If you haven’t read issues 1-6 of Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton published by Image Comics; first of all what’s wrong with you, go pick it up! And secondly you might want to check back after you’ve caught up.

So, the girls in the series Revival take their fair share of lumps. I do not think that means that the creators have some awful grudge against the fairer sex. Here’s why, more often than not; the women get up. They don’t limp lamely to a refrigerator and wait for a man in tights to come to the rescue. It should be noted that they dish it, and take it. The team takes the time to show the consequences of violence in the world they have created in Central Wisconsin.

The whole getting up when you get knocked down thing can be applied pretty literally here. I mean, with the whole “reviving” shtick, some characters are basically a walking Chumbawamba chorus.

All images used in this post are from Mike Norton’s interior artwork.


Arlene Dittman is basically unstoppable. She survives, and survives, and survives. Arlene provokes a great deal of the violence that she endures. I have to say, the reflexive nature of these conflicts is one of the major reasons that I am on board with this series. No one cries foul, or starts picketing when Batgirl lands a punch on Catwoman’s face. I like to think that is what we are seeing here. I mean just look at the havoc Arlene was creating.


Chopping the top of someone’s skull off with the farm implement that they just impaled you with=fair play. Look what Arlene did to her own daughter.


Arlene eventually ends her own life by setting fire to the funeral home where her daughter’s wake was being held. The end she meets is her own decision and it seems a great relief to her.

Martha, or “Em,” as she prefers; gets in enough trouble for ten issues of a cape comic every month.  She initiates a bar fight and winds up looking like this. When she is later confronted about her motivation, she state’s that the woman, “had it coming,” despite the fact that she never caused any physical damage, she seems to believe that her agency in initiating the fight gives her some sort of victory.Image

Part of the mystery in the series centers around the event that lead to Em’s initial revival. She and her sister, Dana, believe she was murdered, and they plan on finding out who is responsible. With the removal of the threat of death the murder becomes a symbol. Instead of simply being a tragedy, the murder functions to remind us of the pain and suffering caused by violence. Em is haunted by the experience, it effects her in ways the scrapes and altercations she later seeks out, do not. The idea of being a victim is something that she appears unable to tolerate. What is tougher than refusing to be a victim?

Em actually rescues another female character, May Tao. She shows great bravery facing down Blaine Abel, who attacks her with a giant wrench…


…And a bow and arrow


Eventually during a snow mobile (I am guessing that is what those things were, we have no such vehicles in Louisiana) chase, Em leaps from her own vehicle to Abel’s causing him to collide with a train. She takes him out, and ends up a little worse for wear herself.


Of course she gets up and walks away moments later. Again I want to say that the damage here is a product of Em’s own scheme. She is willing to sacrifice her body (though with the knowledge that she will heal, I don’t know if the word sacrifice applies) to stop a man who did this to May Tao.


Unlike Seeley and Norton, the character they created, Blaine Abel, seems to really have it out for women. He physically threatens young Kelly Merrit during her would be exorcism. He begins his conversation with May like this:


I’d like to say that May, possessing no special training or superhuman powers fights back here. She tries pepper spray, and does not go quietly. Abel eventually overpowers her and ties her up in a subtly symbolic manner on the back of a tow truck as seen above. (Okay, so maybe its not that subtle, Abel’s not really one subtlety.) Abel even goes after poor Mrs. Vang, jabbing a rake in her back and leaving her for dead in her own basement.


In this case May rescues Mrs. Vang, who at the time I write this has survived her attack. Its not clear how stable her condition is, but she is able to carry on a conversation with May in the hospital. She is not giving in either. I love that these female characters rescue one another, and then need help themselves from time to time. It reminds me that women are nurturing, often selfless, and powerful allies.

Dana is a trained police officer, the episodes of violence that involve her are a result of professional responsibility. She is attacked by Arlene Dittman in the first issue of the series during an investigation. Later in issue 6, she gets into a physical struggle with Jamie Hettinga’s enraged husband Rick. Image

Dana is not maliciously attacked, but instead faces threats because of the job that she was empowered enough to take on, and that’s tough. Similarly, Jamie Hettinga stands up for her belief that reviving is a miracle, and takes criticisms and threats as a result of her stance.


The murder of her step-brother and lover, Justin Hine, seems to have the aim of terrorizing her. The doubly deviant affair (adultery and incest-ish) is reveled in the same breath as the gruesome disembowelment of the object of her affections.


By showing the effects that this grizzly murder has on Jamie, the creative team once again reminds us of the consequences of violence, and the way it so often effects the loved ones of the victim in ways they couldn’t expect. I’d like to thank them for making not making Jamie the victim here, but allowing us to see her response and learn more about her character.

Rick seems unhinged, possibly by the news of Jamie and Justin’s affair, or by the murder of Justin in a more general sense. He goes to the home of Nurse Ann Moss to speak with Anders Hine (the reviving father of the pair). Even a character as minor as Moss stands her ground in the face of a threat.


So, from the main characters to the most minor; Seeley and Norton never allow a woman to go quietly. They stand and fight, for each other, for their lives, and for what they believe in. In the chaos of this world these women are warriors. There is nothing weak about this cast.

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Women, Women Everywhere: The Female Dominant Cast of Revival

2 Feb

This week I sat down and read issues 1-6 of the new Image series Revival (written by Tim Seeley, art by Mike Norton, covers by Jenny Frison.) It was wonderful. There are a ton of strong women in the cast, which is worth noting since they essentially don’t have to be there. These roles could have gone to men; the story could have easily supported an all male cast, but instead Seeley chooses to showcase women with a wide variety of temperaments, ages, and histories. Good for him.

So spoilers start here.

I want to take a look at the cast for a moment. First there’s Dana Cypress: single mom, police officer, sister and daughter. She seems insecure and often makes fun of herself, and focuses her efforts on taking care of those around her instead of herself.  (This and all other images are from Mike Norton’s interior artwork.)


Her younger sister Martha “Em” Cypress becomes very important to the story early on. She is a student, favorite child, and amateur poet, and reviver. Martha seems a bit flighty and absent-minded. The revelation that she is a reviver seems to reinforce her reckless tendencies. She has a hard time accepting affection or praise, and seldom smiles.


Next we meet the antihero, or maybe the villain, its great to have so much moral grey to work with; Arlene Dittman who is a reviver, struggling with what has happened to her.Image

Arlene murders her daughter, Theresa “Terry” Stankowicz during an episode of rage brought on feeling cheated because she is unable to die and rest in peace. Again it is very interesting to note that this episode involves two women.


Arlene struggles with what she has done. Her soul is tarnished, her daughter gone, and her very existence is in her own word an, “abomination.” Her story helps put the seemingly miraculous phenomenon of the dead coming back to life in perspective.

Kelly Merrit appears in only one issue (issue 2) so far. She fakes a demonic possession and effectively “exorcised” by Blaine Abel, who knows what she is up to. She is driven to act out this way because everyone’s attention is diverted by the revivers. She is desperate to be noticed. This extreme case shows a response to the revival that one might expect of a angst ridden young person. (The image below is taken from Jenny Frison’s cover of issue 2)


The woman Em confronts in a local pub is a hossy lady with a mean streak. I mention her because the job of kicking Em’s ass could have been given to a male character very easily. Instead we see a woman acting in a physically aggressive, brutal manner, Seeley includes a whole new type of female character here.


Thang Vang seems harmless upon her first appearance, but as the story progresses we realize that some major action revolves around her and the choices she has made.


Then we meet two female reporters. Each of these women take their profession very seriously, but beyond their similarities stop there; they are two very different people. First we meet Jamie Hettinga whose publicly sympathetic stance on revivers has brought some very negative attention her way…


And May Tao, who has acquired celebrity status as the reporter who broke the reviver story nationally. May struggles with balancing ethical responsibility and professional notoriety.


There is also a nice supporting cast including: Bonnie, the secretary at the police station; Ann Moss, the nurse for the Hine family who knows Jeet Kune Do; May’s editor, Bogs; and Ami, who works for the CDC.

Seeley and Norton do some incredible work here. Personally I believe they are on the right track; not characterizing these women solely by their gender, and allowing them to be different and three dimensional. I look forward to seeing what they do next.

I plan on writing more about these women created by Seeley and Norton in later posts. I am working on a piece about the violence against women in the series. Though many of them are victims, they refuse to be refrigerated. Also I want to look at the complicated relationships these characters have with sexuality. So, those are coming soon, stay tuned.

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