Wednesday, April 30, 2014

FCBD 2014 Title: Project Black Sky with Captain Midnight and Brain Boy

By Ron of the Empire

Look, you already know how I feel about apes in comics. So just make sure you pick up this title on Free Comic Book Day. FCBD is Saturday, May 3, 2014. We open at 9 am.

Great Title from Dark Horse

Project Black Sky is a threat to humanity, and it's about to get ugly in fabulous Las Vegas. Enter Captain Midnight and Brain Boy (download a preview), our heroes.

Michael Broussard's art is to die, Dan Jackson's colors are perfection, and Nate Piekos' lettering will blow your mind (sign language! No joke. Wow). Plus, you can't go wrong with Fred Van Lente at the storytelling helm.

And I can't believe I'm getting this for free. And there's apes! Michael Broussard can really draw an ape!

Oh, man, I already have my copy and I'm still excited about this title. I even went and picked up the zero issue and number one of Brain Boy. I've already been reading Captain Midnight. Great fun.

Story: Fred Van Lente
Art/Cover: Michael Broussard
Colors: Dan Jackson
Lettering: Nate Piekos
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FCBD 2014 Title: Skyward plus Midnight Tiger

By Ron of the Empire

This Free Comic Book Day comic is a 2-in-1 book: Skyward and Midnight Tiger (visit FCBD website to download a free preview of this book). Both titles are published by Action Lab Comics.

Swing by Saturday, May 3, to pick up your copy. Doors open at 9:00 am. Experience our FCBD Mini-Con!

Both books seem appropriate for older kids, however, parents may wish to preview them before passing them on to their children.


This fantasy adventure revolves around young Quinn whose life is about get turned upside down. The FCBD titles features a brief story, Past Sins, that brings you into the world of Skyward and prepares you for a great adventure. The beauty of this book is that there are already three volumes for you to explore.

Story and art: Jeremy Dale
Colors: James Rochelle
Color flats: Hoyt Silva
Letters: Thom Zahler
Cover: Jeremy Dale, Ray Height, Laura Martin

Midnight Tiger

You'll enjoy the "The Origin of Midnight Tiger." Midnight Tiger opens with friends Dex and Gavin discussing the world of metahumans around them. In a later scene, Gavin wanders into a metahuman fight, and that leads to Gavin becoming a hero himself. Watch for more Midnight Tiger this July 2014.

Plot/art: Ray-Anthony Height
Script: DeWayne Feenstra
Colors: Paul Little
Letters: Erica Schulte
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Monday, April 28, 2014

The Other Heroes: A Portrayal of Women in Comics - Part 5

Editor’s note: This series of blog posts was adapted from a paper written by Erminia “Minnie” Saucedo. Minnie’s series on this topic will enlighten you on the portrayal of women in comics. We’re excited that she’s shared this with us. Enjoy this enlightening series.

By Erminia Saucedo

The Future of the Super Heroine in Comics

Whether it is in the tales of high flying heroics, the hilarious antics of teens or the swift heart beats of a first love, women have their places in the great place that is the comic universe. As the industry begins to undergo another set of culture changes, so to will the portrayal of female characters in the illustrated
stories. Like in the real world, being women in a world ruled more by men is always difficult at times and there are days when everything looks grim and bleak, but there are always rays of light within those dark days. Many more comic creators have realized the flaws and triumphs of the past and have begun to learn from them, building on their legacies. Writers like Wolfman have seen the abused female character as a passionate being and have created numerous super heroines that do the gender proud by each and every single one being real as well as an individual; there are no cookie cut outs from one female model. On the romance and comedy side, the sixty year run of Archie has finally solved the question of just who Archie would choose, girl next door Betty or rich, pampered Veronica. In an issue released last year, Archie proposed to Veronica, finally having the brunette win over the blonde and causing a gleeful war of whether or not he was right between long time Archie fans; giving the realistic portrayal that sometimes the most unexpected girl wins out in the end. Even controversial issues women deal with today have been brought into the comic book universe because of attention to who the real modern woman is and what she deals with. D.C. Comics has recently revived the characters of Speedy, the arrow wielding side kick of the Green Arrow, and Batwoman, independent off and on partner of Batman, in rather shocking ways that have both been heavily applauded and criticized. Speedy, Mia Dearden, is a seventeen year old girl who the Green Lantern saved from a life of abuse, homelessness, prostitution and drug use who five years ago in Teen Titans #23 came out and revealed that she was
H.I.V. positive due to her past drug use and sex life. She now fights to protect other teens from ever having to go through all the pain she had to endure alone. Batwoman, Kate Kane, is a woman who was dishonorably discharged from her many years in the military due to being “outed” as a lesbian to her commanding officer, falling victim to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. She became an alcoholic because of the pain of losing all she had worked for but cut herself off and stayed sober as she alone took up the cowl when Batman left Gotham City for almost a year during the
Infinite Crises war; protecting people and their rights the way her retired general father failed to protect hers. Comic book sales have been wavering for the past ten years and have finally started to become somewhat steady in 2009. As the industry races towards the future that looks as if traditional printed books will be replaced with online releases, things will get interesting for female and male characters alike. Boom or bust, it is going to be a bumpy ride for women in comics, as it always has been. Next time you step into a book store, stop by the comic rack and flit through the new, obscure heroines’ series, you never know just who will become the next big star to burst through the glass-ceiling like world that is Comics.

This concludes The Other Heroes: A Portrayal of Women in Comics series.

Works Cited

Madrid, Mike. Super Heroines: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy & the History Of Comic Book Heroines. United States of America: Exterminating Angel Press, 2009.

“Women in Refrigerators.”  Gail Simone page. Mar. 1999.

Wolfman, Marv. E-mail to author Gail Simone. (Date Unknown)

Hilty, Joan. E-mail to author Gail Simone. (Date Unknown)

“Gender Violence: A Look at Female Comic Book Characters.” Katherine Broendel blog. Dec. 17, 2009.

Robbins, Trina. From Girls To Grrrlz: A History of (female gender sign) Comics From Teens to Zines. Hong Kong: Raincoast Books, 1999.

Johns, Geoff. Teen Titans # 23- Lights Out Part 3: Secrets And Lies. United States of America: D.C. Comics Press, 2005.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wolverine - Issue 1 - April 2014

By Ron of the Empire

A few things have changed for Wolverine. He's lost his healing factor. He's using a gun. He's wearing armor with retractable claws.

But some things haven't changed: His stupid fearlessness, for one, and also his typical stubbornness.

In this first issue, Wolverine is running a job for The Offer (not as in offing people, but "offer you can't refuse"). You'll meet the crew that's with him, run in to old friends Storm and Natasha Romanova, aka, Black Widow, and see how he's dealing with his new limitations.

The art is good all around and the issue has good pacing.

Storyline: Rogue Logan, part 1 of 4
Writer: Paul Cornell
Pencils: Mark Morales
Inks: David Curiel
Colors: VC's Cory Petit

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter - Issue 1

By Ron of The Empire

Want to make me buy a book? Put a dinosaur, a robot, a monkey or an ape on the cover, or have Jae Lee draw the cover. It's that easy. Well, that, and I have a thing for Number 1's, or first issues.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is one of the comics in Dynamite Comics' reboot of the Gold Key Universe. The first issue certainly sets up an intriguing world where Turok faces bullies, dinosaurs, and something much worse.

The art, including lines and colors, is appealing. I'm looking forward to the second issue. Needless to say, Greg Pak writes a good story.

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Mirko Colak
Colorist: Lauren Affe
Letterer: Marshall Dillon

Friday, April 25, 2014

On: The Turnabout & Fair Play

The sleeveless wonder
By Tony C. Asaro

Alright, fine, I’ll admit it.  I never much cared for Hawkeye.  The garish purple-on-purple, the inimitably-funky headgear, the . . bib?  (Is that what that was? Tunic? Smock? Eh, ‘bib’ seems apt enough for the purpose of this confessional.) The utter disregard for sleeves. At no point during my first 34 years on this planet did anything about Hawkeye strike me as interesting, other than the obvious question of why The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would ever have allowed him to sidle-up to their most-illustrious company to begin with.

From my glimpses of him in the odd comic or two as a wee lad in the 80’s, to my steadfast refusal to play as his character in Data East’s 1991 classic Captain America and The Avengers (be it the fantastic four-player arcade version which offered a slew of avenging heroes to play with, or the somewhat-less-fantastic single-player NES port in which he and Captain America were the only two playable characters), all the way through my heady comic-devouring days of the early-to-mid Nineties, well through my long self-imposed comic-drought of The Oughts, clear up to and beyond his appearances in 2011’s Thor and 2012’s outstanding mega-blockbuster The Avengers (in which he was, admittedly, capably portrayed by Mr. Jeremy Renner), he never, in any way whatsoever, struck my fancy. At all. Not even once. Not even the littlest bit.

To take it a touch further in the service of fully demonstrating my long-standing apathy-turned-full-on-dislike of the character, if, at some point during those 34 years, a non-denominational omnipotent being of indeterminate origin had paid me a visit and offered me the chance to erase one Marvel Comics creation from the minds and histories of the whole of mankind, for ever and ever, Hawkeye may well have been a name I’d have considered, such was the total lack of affection that I’d developed for his amaranthine ways and pedestrian means. “A cheap, shallow, tacky, over-obvious knock-off of Green Arrow,” I might’ve cawed, callously, to aforementioned non-denominational omnipotent deity and/or imp, “The world would be better off without him.”

The Gift of The Turnabout

And so it was that less than three short months ago the mighty Sir Matthew of Fraction gave me quite the precious and unexpected boon, indeed, in the form of a Hawkeye that was blessedly unrecognizable to my eyes, a Hawkeye that demanded further study and cried out for a second (fifth? ninth? twentieth?) chance.  Let us call this The Gift of The Turnabout, and it is a gift for which I shall be forever grateful.

I was tardy coming to know him, this new, substantially-less-violet fellow, this Regular Joe, this wise-cracking Charlie Brown of Marvel’s Manhattan, this “what he does when he’s not being an Avenger” Clint Barton.  I’ve only somewhat recently dipped my toes back into the shimmering four-color waters of comicdom after so very many moons adrift (though the tale of that odyssey is, surely, best told some other time), and as such the word that there was a massively-popular new Hawkeye book making waves took entirely longer than it should have to reach mine proverbial eardrums, and, if I’m being honest, even if I’d heard tell of it a year or two ago when the series was kicking-off, more-than-likely I would have scoffed and thrown it back to the wind without a second thought.

But if the recently-late, great, songsmith Pete Seeger taught us anything at all (and you’d better believe that he did), it’s that there is a time and place for all things (under heaven or otherwise), and after noticing that every “Top 10 _________ In Comics” list of the last two years had at least one commonality, it came to be that January of this year proved the time, Empire’s Comics Vault the place, and writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja just exactly the right people to do The Thing: To conjure a near-miracle out of naught but thought, care, craft, imagination, and no shortage of straight-up awe-inspiring talent, to make the highly-improbable a reality, to make me fall, platonically, head-over-heels in love with Hawkeye, his various unlikely associates, and their hilarious travails.

This freaking book, my god.  What could I possibly say about it that hasn’t already been said so much more eloquently and indisputably more comprehensibly elsewhere?  The lulz (oh my, the lulz), the constant, uncontrollable smirk on my face while reading it, the instant fondness for the previously-unknown-to-me supporting cast (has there ever been a more instantly-loveable pet in all of comics than Pizza Dog?), the boundless mirth . . it’s one thing to find oneself saying, “This is a great book; I’m really liking it,” or, “No, really, trust me, it’s better than it looks, I promise.  You should really check it out,” but it’s quite another to find yourself in the middle of a dizzying 180° Turnabout, suddenly awash in a torrent of sentiment for a character that you’d previously counted a C-list scrub barely-hero.

And that’s what makes it more special to me than it otherwise would be: The Turnabout. That’s the fix, the jam, the sparkly pixie dust of legend that makes everything shine a little bit brighter when you’re in its sway.  Surely there’s a parallel universe out there, only ever-so-slightly different than our own, where I was always, let’s say, “kind-of fond of” Hawkeye for whatever unfathomable, alternate-reality rationale.  The Tony in that universe reads this book as well, and he finds it very funny, and satisfying, and enjoyable (for it is most definitely all of those things), and he looks forward to the new issue of it every month or so because it’s an outstanding book, regardless of my particular history or perspective in any universe.  But what That Tony doesn’t quite understand is the deep, additional, inestimable joy of The Turnabout, and he’s a little poorer for it.

It’s mystical, and innately surprising, The Turnabout.  It’s puckish, and delightful, and mercurial.  It seems impossible to capture or manipulate or replicate it at will, and it is flighty and not to be counted on under any circumstance.  It’s capable of transforming a simple smile into a tingly epiphany.  If you try to grab at it, more often than not it’ll slip right through your too-desperate digits and dissipate before you can say “overwrought metaphor”.  And certainly it’s something that I’ve encountered a handful of times before, and each time it’s left a mark.

The Turnabout Hath Cometh Once More

An even-more recent example, if you’ll allow it.  Not more than five weeks ago while perusing shelf after shelf of trade paperbacks and graphic novels and such, I guffawed a deep guffaw which I’d guffawed several times before, that there was such a thing in existence as the chunky collected tome titled The Essential Moon Knight.

“Who would buy this?” I japed, “I mean, ever?  Who would ever buy this?  I guess there’s somebody out there, one poor, sad soul, surely, whose life’s ambition at this moment amounts to acquiring this, but . . god.  I can’t imagine.  Moon Knight?  Moon Knight!?  Really?  Too funny.”

Little did I know, that same titular-white-robed-vestige-of-a-bygone-era would soon be starring in a new series.  A series -penned by Warren Ellis and drawn by Declan Shalvey- that was about to debut to much acclaim, every inch of it deserved.  The first issue proved to be remarkable, and while I flipped through it’s starkly-beautiful pages I once more felt a small twinge, a little tang on the back of the tongue with that recognizably-sweet, ethereal aftertaste.  The Turnabout hath cometh once more.  Not all the way, not quite the full Monty; just a hint of it, but oh it was succulent nonetheless.

Similarly, and keeping with recent and medium-appropriate examples, one of the most stunning and most captivating books that I’ve been picking up since my long-overdue, headlong dive back into comicbookland has been Image’s Pretty Deadly, and the undeniable, startling quality of what I was seeing and reading within its pages immediately sent me off on a quest to find out what else its creators have done.  Googles, podcasts, Youtubes, interviews galore . . I sought and devoured everything I could find about the writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick (who also happens to be married to one Matt Fraction. Coincidence? YOU BE THE JUDGE), for whose work I found I was developing quite the burgeoning adoration.

Most of what came up in my search seemed, at first glance, to fall flat in the face of my now-feverous expectation.  “A mini-series about Norman Osborn? Ghost, whatever the hell that is? One of the 30 Days of Night books? A bunch of manga translations, a handful of seemingly random one-shots, and one of the plethoric multitude of Avengers titles that Marvel’s been flooding the market with since the billion-dollar success of the movie? Ehhhhh. Where’s the meat? Where’s the rest of it?  What am I missing, here?”

*(Sidenote: Many assumptions were harmed in the making of this blog post.)

Carol Danvers? Miss Marvel? Captain Marvel?

However, there was one other name that kept popping up over and over as I rummaged through Kelly Sue’s portfolio and listened to her gleefully chat-up cookie-cutter interviewer after cookie-cutter interviewer, yet it was a name that I’d never respected nor had any reason to respect, and it was a name that I’d long-since filed under “Don’t know; don’t care”, and because of this, it was a name that just didn’t in any way spark my interest.

“Carol Danvers?” I said to no one in particular, as is so often the case, “Miss Marvel? Captain Marvel, now, seems like, whatever that’s supposed to mean? Whussat? I dunno . . it rings a bell, I guess?  Sort of? Maybe? Wasn’t she in some of my old X-Men books? Binary, or something like that? Fire for hair and lots of angst? I want to say Rouge stole her powers at some point? Never made an impression, never did anything for me; a somewhat obvious Wonder Woman knock-off with a ludicrous soap-opera past that I could never get a handle on, if I remember right? I just . . meh. Mehhhhhhh.”

"Old" Carol Danvers
But, unsatisfied, I refused to give up the search. I knew there had to be something in there, something that I was missing. A couple dozen fly-bys later and I’d finally noticed a tiny, mysterious, nearly-imperceptible nagging itch in the deepest recesses of my brainpan that’d probably been trying to get my attention for some time. Something substantially more intimate than mere hype was telling me that there was more here than I’d previously assumed, and so, with new eyes and a fresh lungful, I decided to give it another go. After all, there was a new Captain Marvel #1 out, and if you’re not at least somewhat curious about new #1’s when they drop, then . . you know . . [insert marginally clever zinger here].

So, obscenely-long-story-slightly-less-obscenely-long, as it turns out, Pretty Deadly (as phenomenal and mesmerizing as it continues to be), isn’t nearly as strong a testament to Kelly Sue DeConnick’s abilities to deftly pluck ones heartstrings as Captain Marvel is. Who knew? Not giving two cares in the world about the character going in, and carrying a raging backache’s worth of doubts, I came out only a single issue later having laughed, and smiled, and sharply intaken (intaken? . . you know what, I’m going with it) breath, and by the last page I was having to hold the book at an awkward angle out in front of me so as to avoid the stream of suddenly-welled-up tears from falling on the pages.

In 20-some-odd short pages, she’d completely flipped my perception of Carol Danvers on its head in the most unlikely and dramatic of ways, and knocked me square in the gut to boot. In the handful of minutes that it took to read, the character of Captain Marvel went from being a half-remembered scoff and a joke, to being a vibrant, fleshed-out, sympathetic, damn-near-real person, whose well-being and upcoming adventures I suddenly found myself caring deeply about. That’s one seriously impressive magic trick. That’s why people read comics. Strike that . . that’s why people produce and consume art of any sort, full stop. It’s no mean feat, crafting a renaissance of that sort. It’s not something you encounter every day, and as such it’s worthy of your attention.  Take note, and savor such experiences when you find yourself in their midst, I beg you, because that, my friends, is The Turnabout.  And it is glorious.

So keep a look out, one and all. Affix mind’s-eyes to the back of your skull, try to think in 360° panorama if and whenever possible, and don’t you dare allow yourself to fall prey to dogmatic nay-saying and the bits of your brain that derive comfort from cynicism and doubt and derision. All too often, preconceptions are poison. Don’t let “Feh” make you miss out on some of the sweetest ambrosia that life has to offer just because you “had it That One Time at That One Place and it wasn’t all that great.” Clint Barton and Kate Bishop and Pizza Dog helped teach me that, Moon Knight (of all people, fictional or otherwise) is helping to teach me that, and Carol Freaking Danvers (again, who knew?) is teaching me that, via the miraculous, bountiful imaginations and pens of the Fractions and DeConnicks and Warren Ellis’ of the world, and, as I said before and will enthusiastically say again now, for that lesson I will be forever grateful, because if there’s anything better than finding joy in reading a great comic, it’s finding joy in reading a great comic that you were 100% sure was going to be absolutely terrible.

By Tony C. Asaro
Freelance Philosopher
Sacramento, CA 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Checklist for Free Comic Book Day 2014 Titles

Fifty-seven Free Titles

There are 57 titles available at Free Comic Book Day Mini-Con  2014. Which ones do you want?

To make sure you get the titles you want from Free Comic Book Day 2014, use this handy checklist.

15,000 Free Comics

And remember, at Empire's Comics Vault, you can take one copy of each title that you really want to read -- while supplies last -- and 15,000 should last quite a while.

UPDATE 04.28.2014 - Children's checklist now available.

Podcast Episode 3 - Spoiling Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Breaking Down Captain America: The Winter Soldier

There are spoilers in this episode. Don't say we didn't warn you.

So first things first: Listen to our predictions before seeing the movie. Then go see the movie. Then come back here and give a listen.

You'll hear the vast comic book wisdom of Patrick Clarke and Jacob DeSersa (of Con Nachos Podcast fame).

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The Other Heroes: A Portrayal of Women in Comics - Part 4

Editor’s note: This series of blog posts was adapted from a paper written by Erminia “Minnie” Saucedo. Minnie’s series on this topic will enlighten you on the portrayal of women in comics. We’re excited that she’s shared this with us. Enjoy this enlightening series.

By Erminia Saucedo

Girls’ Comics
Comics have always been seen as an entertainment set specifically for boys, even from the creation of
the comic industry in 1938, however a small revolution of comic genres came about four years after the first golden year to change this thought. Although super hero comics were and still are a majority of the comic industry when it started, with each title proudly boasting a male hero, “Girl’s comics” came into existence and were geared towards the female audience. While hero creators attempted to draw women into series and even created a few new female heroes, they were nothing more than over glamorized women that were meant to attract men and, to a lesser extent, please women. Women, very obviously, were not interested in comics of that nature and shunned the industry for the most part until the tides turned in the year 1941. Comic creators had finally found the key ingredient for a “girl’s comic”: a wholesome self image and realistically relatable characters. In December of 1941 the Archie series was released from MJL Publications and was the first comic ever to be geared specifically for women as it featured romance and comedy at the heart of its stories. It flew from the stands quickly as girls between the ages of six and thirteen found female characters they could finally relate to in Betty and Veronica, two girls who were both rivals and friends vying for the heart of Archie’s title character Archie.

Years passed, and female fans of Archie’s Girls: Betty and Veronica, a spin off comic made to feature the pair and their romantic antics specifically, was joined by many, many different titles that found and used the key of the wholesome self image and relatable characters. Some of those titles were Patsy Walker, Taffy, My Girl Pearl and Candy, among a seemingly limitless list of others. Each more or less
about a girl who was in high school and being the typical American teen, shyly fawning over the hunky star quarterback, hanging out with friends and being the spunky good daughter. However there were a few titles like Sunny that completely missed the key ingredient mark and centered on a girl who flunked classes, flirted often and wore spiked heels and low cut, cleavage flashing tops to school. Trina Robbins, author of From Girls to Grrlz, points out, “Unlike many of the other curvy comic book teen queens, Taffy and her toothy friend Putty were…skinny thirteen year olds. The girls were no glamourpusses, but they were adorable…Like many of the other teen titles [another name for “girl’s comics”], Taffy included some stories about real movie stars, pop singers and other teen faves…On the other hand, Sunny, published that same year by Fox Comics and subtitled “America’s Sweetheart”, was the school tramp.” Robbins parallels the series of Taffy and Sunny in order to get a point across; it was and is all about image. Readers could relate a lot more to Taffy than they could Sunny.  Taffy was a normal ditzy girl who dressed just like the everyday girls of the forties while Sunny dressed like the loose floozy everyone talked about behind the gymnasium, which determined which series had the bigger fan base and it was easily Taffy. Sunny lasted only a year due to her poor image where as Taffy lasted for a long while. The creators of Taffy made sure to pay attention to who the modern teenage girls were, what they were interested in and found that not every girl was the same, each was special, giving them the upper hand to create stories that portrayed women and girls in the closest form compared to the real thing. While many of these “Girl’s comics” ended their runs long, long ago, they paved the way for  market to create romance, comedy and high school comics; all of which to this day have steady female consumer bases. Compared to the gritty hero side of the comic world that in a lot of ways does wrong to the female character, “Girl’s comics” have the foul-proof recipe for the realistic woman: Relation, Attention, Detail and Specialty. With this in hand, the comic world will always have a section ruled by the fairer sex for once. (From Girls to Grrlz)

The next, and last, post in this series wraps up our Super Heroines discussion.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Episode 149 - Einstein the Barbarian

Lots of good stuff hitting comic book shelves this week. In particular we're excited about Justice League United and Manhattan Project's "Einstein the Barbarian." Need we say more? Watch for more highlights of new titles this week.
New "Lazarus" this week

Free Comic Book Day Mini-Con 2014 is moments away. Hope we'll see you there... I mean, 15,000 free comic books? Difficult to say No to that, haha.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Other Heroes: A Portrayal of Women in Comics - Part 3

Editor’s note: This series of blog posts was adapted from a paper written by Erminia “Minnie” Saucedo. Minnie’s series on this topic will enlighten you on the portrayal of women in comics. We’re excited that she’s shared this with us. Enjoy this enlightening series.

By Erminia Saucedo

Gender Violence and Sexual Imagery

Another side of the comic book spectrum that paints an odd portrayal of heroines is gender violence and the overuse of sexual imagery with women. Amateur writer and blogger Katherine Broendel brings up the fan favorite classic and original graphic novel Watchmen, a comic about a team of heroes set in an alternate history earth during the 40’s and 60’s, in an entry on her online blog. She explains the
Silk Spectre
attempted rape scene between heroes Comedian and Silk Spectre, teammates on the hero force The Watchmen, as an example for gender violence. In the scene Comedian justifies his actions by saying, “C’mon, Baby. I know what you need. You gotta have some reason for wearin’ an outfit like this, huh?” A statement thrown at Silk Spectre about her crime fighting outfit, which was a short yellow and black dress combined with black leather gloves and black garter connected pantyhose that segued into black heeled boots. They fight and he beats his teammate, rather easily, to the floor then the scene is interrupted by Night Owl, another member of The Watchmen, who immediately stops the attack on the woman. While Night Owl helps the beaten and bloodied Silk Spectre he says, “Get up…and, for God’s sake, cover yourself.” Even though she was the one who was victimized by someone who was supposed to be her partner, Night Owl blames Silk Spectre for her clothing instead, leaving the feeling that while Comedian was being an utterly terrible person, he was only reacting like a man. Broendel writes, “While the sequence does not glamorize rape, it does contain victim-blaming language…This [Night Owl’s actions] solidifies the victim-blaming justification used earlier [by Comedian] and reinforces the notion that, even though she’s a crime fighter, she can still be degraded, overpowered and controlled by men. ” So even though Silk Spectre is strong and has kept up with her male teammates during all their endeavors, her strength as a hero as well as her pride as a woman is taken away in a quick moment simply because of her outfit. The pain she feels from her attack is even intensified when she is blamed for it; a harsh yet factual example of gender violence in the real world as well as the illustrated world of ”heroic” men and women.

The next post in this series discusses Girls’ Comics.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Other Heroes: A Portrayal of Women in Comics - Part 2

Editor’s note: This series of blog posts was adapted from a paper written by Erminia “Minnie” Saucedo. Minnie’s series on this topic will enlighten you on the portrayal of women in comics. We’re excited that she’s shared this with us. Enjoy this enlightening series.

By Erminia Saucedo

Women in Refrigerators Syndrome

While a writer limiting a female heroes’ potential is a problem that has continued for generations, super heroines now have another modern writer created terror to fear: Women in Refrigerators syndrome.

Panel from Green Lantern #54
Women in Refrigerators, a term first used by comic writer and lasting comic enthusiast Gail Simone in 1999, is a throw back reference to an early issue of The Green Lantern. In Green Lantern #54, written then by Ron Marz, the Green Lantern of the time, Kyle Rayner, returns to his apartment to find that his girlfriend, Alex DeWitt, had been killed by the villain Major Force and stuffed into his kitchen refrigerator; “Women in Refrigerators” was quite literally inspired by a murdered woman in a refrigerator. Simone used this term to describe the harsh condition of being a comic book super heroine, which many times means being either killed, raped, depowered, turned evil or having some other terrible life altering event happen that makes it less likely for a female character to bounce back. She started a website in March of 1999, which she named after her new term, that hosts an A to Z list complied by Simone herself of super heroines that have fallen victim to Women in Refrigerators syndrome. From the first Aquagirl, Tula, who was killed by drowning in poisonous waters while trying to protect the underwater city of Atlantis to even the second Wonder Woman, Donna, who has been killed, revived and has now ultimately lost her goddess powers. A character that stands out due to being an over all amazing character and a victim of both limited written potential and Women in Refrigerator syndrome is Barbara Gordon, the second Batgirl. She is paralyzed from the waist down after a battle and rather than asking the scientists of Wayne Enterprises to find some way to fix her injury with science, Gordon backs away from preventing crime without a fight and becomes the wheel-chair bound Oracle instead. Batman, on the other hand, breaks his back later in a story titled Knightfall and recovers with some training and is soon back to fighting crime on the dark streets of Gotham City. The only things that separated these two heroes was their written potential and had the writers given Barbra a fighting chance, as she was always written strongly in the series, she could have avoided being infected with Women in Refrigerators syndrome and could even still be a fierce working hero today, though, admittedly, her work as Oracle has been phenomenal.

 Barbara Gordon, Batgirl
Simone’s list has, for years, been reference for many comic book fans as well as feminist researchers, enough so that the buzz her now online famous list has attracted has caused other officials in her industry to write letters responding to her compilation of super heroines infected with the syndrome, putting in their own thoughts on the topic of Women in Refrigerators syndrome and how it has continued to take place. A few of the letters, posted on the list’s website had been sent to Simone in accordance to her list and term have been from writer Marv Wolfman, who was half of the imaginative team that created many powerful heroines in The Teen Titans, and D.C. Comics editor Joan Hilty. Wolfman wrote, “I think the wholesale slaughter is because there’s a lot of writers who think all major character motivation is made by killing folk and women characters are easier to kill than male characters because so few of them are major heroes on their own…The reason for that is, I fear, that most boys want to read stories about big muscled guy heroes showing off than a gal hero.” He makes a good point and he brings up character motivation, he is giving the explanation of Women in Refrigerators syndrome as being a cultural action rather than personal; he later says that acknowledging this does not condone it, but merely explains why it could be done.

Women are seen to be more emotional and expressive of those emotions, so to kill off a female hero or character could act as a strategy to elicit a reader response; however, the sad down side to this is that writers kill many characters that were still “young” and had the potential to possibly become their own major heroes. Some have tried to argue that male heroes have been killed or maimed too, however Hilty takes a drastic stand in response against those who state that logic. She wrote, “ The response that ‘male characters get killed too’ is completely disingenuous…It’s not how often it is done, it’s HOW it’s done and TO WHOM certain things are done. The sexually violent visual language of how these women get killed is remarkably consistent. Really, the larger reality is that American mainstream comics, built by guys for guys on the crumbling foundations of super hero fantasy, remain intensely hostile to women, consciously and subconsciously.” She takes the position that Women in Refrigerators syndrome is a conscious and almost personal action against heroines and women in the realm of male run universe of heroes; it’s the industry that allows this to happen. So it is still culture, but in a more personal form. It is true that many writers are male, making it easier to write characters and stories for men by men, giving the comic world an almost sexist take on their treatment of women. Drawing from Hilty’s own views, most men were raised to either see themselves as the better sex or to be better than women in some way, making them uncomfortable and insecure about a woman besting them in some form or another, so why should super heroes, and the men who write them, be any different? Taking a heroine who could grow too strong out of the equation would leave more for the hero to take: the sympathy for losing a comrade, gaining the “will to go on” factor and then more room for his own story arc. Whether it is personal or unconscious, culture is easily a big part of the treatment and portrayal of female comic characters.

The next post in this series discusses Gender Violence and Sexual Imagery.