Tag Archives: Women in comics

Icebreakers: Leah Rae Miller Talks About Comics and How She Became a Nerd

12 Feb

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I had a hard time trying to figure out what to talk about in this post, and after many different thoughts, the one that kept sticking out was, “Geez Louise, I love comics so much.” And isn’t that what it boils down to for all of us. The characters, the stories, the art, etc., all these things culminate to create one of the best forms of storytelling ever.

My love of comics started at a very young age. My brother used them (specifically X-Factor) to teach me how to read. I’d read the girl parts and he’d read the boys’. It wasn’t long before I was daydreaming about being a superhero, about what type of powers are the best to have (that would be telekinesis and telepathy, just so you know). I like to think comics shaped my view of women and what we can do. Sure, I have a very strong mother who cemented my belief that women are not the weaker sex by any means, but this blog is about comics not how awesome my mom is.

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Seeing Jean Grey and all the other X-ladies be strong and smart definitely had an impact on the six-year-old me and the now thirty-year-old me. I didn’t graduate from college, I have two kids, and I decided I could write a book because if Jean Grey can come back from the grave a million times, well, I can write a novel.

Not only did these characters help build my confidence in being a woman, they also inspired me. In fact, I can say with all honesty that if I wasn’t a comic book lover, my first novel, a young adult romantic comedy entitled THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD, wouldn’t even exist. It’s about a girl who is secretly a huge comic fan. The guy behind the counter at the local comic shop finds out and hilarity ensues.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I owe a lot to comic books and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Born and raised in northern Louisiana, Leah Rae Miller still lives there on a windy hill with her husband and kids. She loves comic books, lava lamps, fuzzy socks, and Cherry Coke. She spends most of her days reading things she likes and writing things she hopes other people will like. Her YA novel, THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD, releases May 7, 2013, from Entangled Teen

Find out more about Leah’s book THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD, or pre-order your copy here:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Summer-I-Became-Nerd/dp/1620612380

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14744489-the-summer-i-became-a-nerd

Follow Leah on Twitter @LeahR_Miller or follow me @comicsonice

If you are interested in becoming next week’s Icebreaker, please contact me at comicsonice@gmail.com

Until next week; keep chiseling!

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

Icebreakers: Blair Wade Writes About Feminist Themes In Wonder Woman

5 Feb

This week’s Icebreaker is Blair Wade

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About Blair

My name is Blair Wade and I am a second year political science student in Alberta, Canada, with a fascination with all things feminist and superhero Gail Simone and Barbara Gordon are 100% my biggest feminist inspirations.

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An excerpt from her essay: 

The Wonder Woman Complex: 

How The Most Iconic Super-Heroine in the DC Universe Demonstrates The Positive Impacts of Radical Feminism

Created from the imagination of William Marston in 1941, Wonder Woman emerged as a fierce super-heroine in the overwhelmingly male-dominated sphere of comics. Described by Robert Greenberger as a “cultural juggernaut”5 she proved herself from her origin as a resilient competitor, equal, if not superior, to her male rivals. Using her astounding physical and mental strength to fight for truth and justice, she took on the mission to help alleviate oppression around the world. Consequently she became an empowering figure for her audience. Greenberger fervently argues that she “espoused the equality of women in every aspect of society”6 as heroine, career woman, and romantic companion. Just as soon as she entered the DC Universe, she became symbolic in popular culture of the entire feminist movement; she was even used by prominent feminist figure Gloria Steinem in her campaigns. In the recent re-boot of her character by Brian Azzarello in The New 52, Wonder Woman and her fellow characters continue to encapsulate both explicit and implicit feminist messages. The series and its iconic heroine demonstrate how radical feminism has the power to end female oppression by overthrowing patriarchal society, redefining reproductive roles, liberating female sexuality, and ending sexual violence.

Please read more of her thorough and thoughtful essay by clicking here.

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Follow Blair on Twitter @CeremonialStars & follow me @comicsonice

Keep the great contributions coming, cannot wait to hear more from all of you!

Again my email address is comicsonice@gmail.com and any media goes for this project.  Until next week, keep chiseling – Sam

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.comixology.com/Revival-1/digital-comic/MAY120495

 

Follow me on twitter @comicsonice

Icebreakers

5 Feb

First of all I want to talk about what I have planned for the blog. Every week I will pick a new series to explore. I’ll try to provide some food for thought, maybe even make a point or two, no promises.

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This week, I have chosen to write about the Image Comics series Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton, I should have at least one more post coming up on the topic.

On Wednesdays I will review some new books that came out that week.

There’s another piece in the plan though, I want to start including contributions from women and girls who read, write, draw, or otherwise touch the comicsphere, I am calling the series ‘Icebreakers,’ because I aim to gain support for the idea that there are fangirls out there too; to ‘break down,’ the assumption that the world of comic books belongs to boys.

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So starting now, right now, this instant; I am accepting emails at comicsonice@gmail.com, or tweets @comicsonice, or carrier pigeons carrying words from women who love comics. Write an essay, a poem, draw something, video an interpretive dance, anything goes! Get creative, tell the world about what comics mean to you, why you love them, and how they inspire you. I really look forward to seeing what you create. Grab an ice pick and start chiseling your way out of the fridge.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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…And a bow and arrow

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

Oh, Kate. Lah te dah.

31 Jan

For a while now, I have been loving Matt Fraction’s take on Kate Bishop in Hawkeye. She is tough, but he doesn’t make the mistake that so many writers do of taking away all her femininity. We have seen her go toe-to-toe with bad guys, risk her life to go behind enemy lines, put Clint in his place, and retain an impeccable sense of both humor and fashion. She is badass.Image

Once I saw her driving a purple Volkswagen Beetle, I realized, in my eyes at least; she is the Annie Hall of comic books. She is a girl I would totally have a beer with (my criteria for whether I like a character or not involves the shared consumption of alcoholic beverages, its a very highbrow technique for analysis).

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Unfortunately something slipped in the most recent issue. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem, but after revisiting it, I realized what happened. Fraction had started making fun of her, which is fine, but here, it didn’t feel like she was in on the joke. Its unfortunate for the creative team that they put her story side by side with Clint’s, because the disparity between the treatment of the characters crystalizes due to that format. While Hamm seems a promising artist, something about his work here exasperated the problem for me.   

While Clint is selflessly accompanying a tenant of his building to see about his father, Kate is going to a silly engagement party. I do not infer that the party is silly, the creative team has told me as much, through the ridiculous wording of the invitation and the caricature of Kate swooning over it. (When I look at this image I hear the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice, and not in a good way hawkguys) When she tries to tell Clint about the party, he responds, “Yeah I don’t care,” and as charming and on-point as that is; it sucks for Kate’s character. I think she needed, or deserved a chance to tell us why she is braving hell and high water (literally) to go to this thing. I am not saying we need a long-winded explanation, just something other than: she is a girl, and girl’s love weddings. I don’t necessarily need Kate to be sagely, burdened by emotional baggage, or full of deep brooding feelings. She is perfect the way she is. The guys should respect what they have created enough to let her speak for herself. Kate can love weddings; she can want to go catch up with an old friend; she might just want to go see what everyone there is wearing. That’s all fine, just let her be a character with a motivation instead of a stereotype with a silly hat. Image

She is also referred to as Clint’s ‘ward,’ which she disapproves of, and given an opportunity to show her ineptitude and silliness; by giving Clint Scotch tape to close a box of canned goods. 

I would like to take a moment to remind you that this is the woman who drove the car in the third issue of the series, she saved Clint’s ass a few times, and now she does not understand the function of self adhesive sealing implements.Image

 

When Kate first appears in her “bridesmaid to-be dress” I thought, ‘that looks like a bridesmaid’s dress from 1978,’ only to realize that it is supposed to be a designer piece of couture that she loves. Would the same woman who wears an asymmetrical purple jumpsuit flawlessly, or dons that stunning gown in issue 2, touch this dress? Let alone lament its demise? If the guys at Hawkeye are going to make fashion a part of Kate’s character (which they evidently are *see mention of two designers by name in issue 7) then they themselves should take the time to see it through, and make it believable. Otherwise its just a ‘bitches love shoes’ joke, and really who needs more of those in their life? (Imagine if a female writer did that to quickly characterized a man in a story, “that new quarterback is great on defense,’ he said”)

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I wish they hadn’t chosen Kate as the vehicle of the, ‘everyone can be a hero,’ message in this story. After being made to look like a silly immature girl in the exposition, she should get to prove her metal in the end. I would have forgiven a lot then. Instead, her bravery looks like foolishness. As she confronts the thugs in the pharmacy, she decides to impersonate a Batman villain, talking through a crucial strategy point. After being knocked out cold by a can of baked beans. She wakes up to find the good people of New Jersey have all come together to save her ass.

This is a triumphant moment… for the people of New Jersey (especially the one holding hedge clippers,) but Kate fails so completely. You have to wonder how she holds it together posing as super villains and facing off against hordes of circus-trained cronies, when she cannot manage a couple of looters in a pharmacy. 

I lived through Katrina, I know how beautiful and wonderful people can prove to be when they band together after a tragedy. My father-in-law and his buddies took pirogues down to New Orleans and pulled people off rooftops. Trust me, this a inspiring thing that needs to be said. People do rise to the occasion.  I am just so disappointed that they used Kate to say it. 

Guys, you have made a wonderful female character. She is dynamic. She is an individual. She has her own interests. Don’t lose her. I cannot wait to eat my words after the next issue.

 

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