The Amazon’s New Clothes

My stylist is so fired.

Nothing raises our hackles quite like hearing someone say Wonder Woman is lame. (Hello, Megan Fox.) For example, one of V’s friends (we’ll call him The Antagonist) takes great joy in claiming, among other things, that Bobby Drake could kick her ass, and that the princess would “look real pretty in a pink tutu, carrying a little purse with a little dog.”

We did not handle that well. Words were exchanged via Facebook.

It was even worse once we figured out the context. The Antagonist had already read Blackest Night #6, in which Wonder Woman was transformed into a member of the Star Sapphire Corps. OK, technically the Star Sapphires wield violet light, but the costume’s color was close enough to pink for it to sting. Say what you want about Wonder Woman’s usual getup, but there is a certain dignity (depending on who is drawing her) to her red, white and blue uniform and golden breastplate. The Star Sapphire look is equal parts Dollar Tree and Strip Club. No offense to Carol Ferris, but only Starfire has a trashier costume — and she’s an alien, so she gets a pass.

Wonder Woman as a love-powered being? That’s awesome. But somewhere, The Antagonist is having a good laugh.

Best of the ’09 Pull List: Batwoman in ‘Detective Comics’

She's a ride-or-die chick.

As far as my comic-shop file is concerned, 2009 was a good year overall — and it really didn’t have that much to do with lantern rings and cape-baiting zombies. DC’s “Blackest Night” and many of the tie-ins have been perfectly enjoyable, but the books that stuck with me this year were more about individual characters than cataclysmic events. From the brilliant-while-it-lasted pairing of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on “Batman and Robin,” to the nifty surprises of “Wednesday Comics” and “Superman: Secret Origin,” to the thank-God-it’s-still-good re-launch of Brian Michael Bendis’ “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” my pull list generally gave me a lot to look forward to on Wednesdays.

But no title rocked my world in 2009 quite like “Detective Comics” as conceived by writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III. I expected Rucka’s writing to shine, but Williams’ visual storytelling has been extraordinary. In each of the seven issues (#854-860) this team has produced so far, Williams has executed pages that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a mainstream comic book. Brought to life by Dave Stewart’s expert coloring, Batwoman is frankly terrifying the first time she appears in issue #854, all pale skin, flame-red wig and shiny black bodysuit. Even her crimson lipstick is intimidating. (Dear M.A.C.: Consider making Batwoman the face of your next Viva Glam campaign.) If you’re up to no good, you do not want to meet this woman in an alley, period. That’s how it should be when someone wears the bat symbol.

Fortunately, the artwork serves a mighty good origin story. [Spoilers ahead] What motivates a privileged person, one who isn’t named Bruce Wayne, to put on a costume and stalk criminals at night? After the brutal loss of her mother and identical twin sister, Kate Kane follows in her military father’s footsteps rises through the U.S. Army ranks. But when she’s outed as a lesbian and refuses to lie about being gay, Kate is forced out of the service and becomes a woman adrift — at least, until a chance encounter with Batman inspires her to start taking a bite out of crime herself. Their wordless first meeting is one of my favorite visuals in this series, and though Kate is clearly in awe of Gotham’s dark knight, she didn’t need his help to whip her would-be attacker’s ass.

In Rucka’s hands, Kate has emerged as a truly interesting, complicated figure. I particularly like her kindred-spirit relationship with her dad, who uses his high-level military connections to support her crime-fighting. There’s tension between Kate and her wealthy stepmother, and it’s clear that she’s not entirely over Renee Montoya, aka The Question. A recent discovery about her twin sister, Beth, is a doozie. And of course, there’s that lingering issue of having been stabbed through the heart by a Religion of Crime crackhead.

Word is that Rucka and Williams will reunite in 2010 to continue Batwoman’s adventures in her own title. I’m going to file that under “Please, Please Be True.” After all, Gotham City needs all the help it can get, and I’m pretty well hooked now.

G3 Flashback: Bootylicious!

An occasional look at our favorite panels from comics past.

 

I can’t say enough about artist Nicola Scott, who has generated some gorgeous panels during her Secret Six run. But she outdid herself in issue #9 with a cameo appearance from a certain member of the Bat family. Continue reading “G3 Flashback: Bootylicious!”

Note To Self: Stop Hating

We like him when he's angry.

My LCS owner and I were doing our regular news-of-the-week chat when I started griping about the Earth One projects DC has planned for Superman and Batman. Gripe is probably too strong a word, because I’m a big fan of Gary Frank, who’ll be illustrating the Batman arc. However, I said something about being annoyed with the repetition of two very well-worn origin stories, and that as much as I love Batman, I don’t need to see him crouched over his dead parents’ bodies ever again. That’s when the owner pointed out the obvious: “Well, you’re not the target audience for these books.”

Oh.

When I got back into comics in a serious way three years ago, I promised myself that I wouldn’t become the kind of fan who considers a reboot or revision as an affront to his or her childhood. And since I write for a living, I can appreciate the difficulty of keeping a beloved character fresh while being confined by lore and editorial dictates. But there I was, throwing shade on books that aren’t even out yet. God forbid a publisher try to bring newer, younger readers into the fold! While I’d much rather see a great writer breathe new life into a less familiar character, I’m already reading comics. Someone who isn’t in that world is more likely to enter (or re-enter) through a familiar door. And it doesn’t get more familiar than Batman and Superman.

That comic shop exchange reminded me of a Dragon*Con panel about the future of comics that I attended back in September. Panelist Darwyn Cooke, one of my favorite writers, kept it extremely real, referring to modern comic book culture as “an over-35 club.” He pointed out that comic books were never meant to be read by the same audience for 20-plus years. But because the average reader today is more likely to have a mortgage than a homeroom teacher, the demand for continuity, among other things, hangs over many titles. So naturally, someone like me — as opposed to, say, my 9-year-old son — is over Superman’s origin story because they’ve been paying attention to superhero titles for decades. As Frank himself put it, the Earth One project “is a blank slate.”

It’s nice to be reminded that there’s room under the tent for everyone — and that if it doesn’t move me, I don’t have to read it. Besides; despite my grouchy old geek act, they had me at “Gary Frank.”

G3 Review: Secret Six #16

Secret Six #16
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Peter Nguyen
Inkers: Doug Hazelwood & Mark McKenna
DC Comics
December 9, 2009

The Story

*Spoiler Alert*

We’ve all watched movies with serial killers where you wished nothing more than for Justice to assail them squarely in the nuts.  Well, our favorite amoral anti-heroes of Secret Six do much, much worse. Leave it to Gail to make demented so delicious.

The issue opens up with Catman and Deadshot abducting a serial-killing child molester from police custody, only to turn him over to the father of 9-year-old Katie Sanchez, one of his victims.  Mr. Sanchez wants revenge.  Before parting ways, Catman gives the bereft father a few tips.  “When you flense him, don’t think of him as human. It’s just tissue.”  Catman and Deadshot exit scene  to talk about … dinner!  Gail perfectly articulates the fine line these lovable psychopaths teeter on.  The diabolical duo don’t get very far before the one and only Black Alice makes her presence known.

Now, I am beyond thrilled that Alice is back in Gail’s hands.  I loved her at inception, and have been champing at the bit for more of the character ever since.

Having witnessed the tutorial on torture, Alice is unaffected and wants to join the Six.  In her bratty, teenager fresh-from-hell kind of way, she refuses to take no for an answer.  Throw in some strip club shenanigans, Black Alice’s magical mojo, some sentiment from the teddy bear that is Bane, the always welcome witticism of Ragdoll, and you got yourself a Dionysian good time.

The Art

I pretty much jizzed on myself when I got a look at LuVisi’s cover back in August.  I LOVE HIS ART.

But I have to admit; I really missed Nicola, who is about as good as a comic artist can get.  Having said that, I think Peter Nguyen did a excellent job.  The facial closeups were awesome. I absolutely loved what he did with Alice’s costumes as she moved between magics.  The Alice Banshee was some rock star shit, fa sho.  I also dig the ink, which is appropriately ominous. My only criticism is that the faces seemed elongated in certain panels. All in all, enjoyable.

I had a great deal of anticipation for this issue, and I was not disappointed.  I look forward to whatever fuckery the Six can get themselves into next and … and what happens if (OK, when) they make Alice angry.  Cowabunkle!

Vixen’s Fashion Crisis

Bills! Bills! Bills!

When she isn’t channeling animal powers to fight crime with the Justice League, Vixen — aka Mari Jiwe McCabe — rolls as an international fashion model. So why does her costume look like one of Tina Knowles’ rejected sketches from the 1999 Destiny’s Child Tour?

Of course, there’s no shortage of fashion crimes against female comic book characters (Star Sapphire’s stripper-inspired getup comes to mind), but there’s something especially jacked up about Vixen’s situation. The woman is a runway model, and she’s in a mustard-colored bodysuit with a butterfly collar and an animal tooth belt? For real? Liya Kedebe or Gisele wouldn’t be caught dead in that madness.

Maybe this seems like a quibble, but a superhero or villain’s costume is, for better or worse, his or her calling card. Vixen is by far the most prominent black female superhero on DC’s roster, but her spectacularly unimaginative yet tacky costume suggests that she’s nothing special — just another random chick in Spandex. As Manhunter and Catwoman’s costumes demonstrate, even a simple bodysuit can make a powerful (and sexy) design statement.

Some enterprising person at DC ought to get Lifetime on the phone and pitch a Vixen costume redesign challenge for the next “Project Runway” season. While they’re at it, they might want to offer up Star Sapphire, too, because that fuchsia shit is just crazy.

If It Pleases and Sparkles …

There are few things I love more than comics. They are rich with iconic characters that I’ve always loved, from Wonder Woman to the more obscure but fascinating anti-hero Lady Shiva. And oh, how I love the art; so many ways to draw a character, an emotion, an action. Add to that the stories and the ingenious writers who bring them to life every month. Comic books opened up a whole new world to me; Wednesdays at my LCS, lunches with my fellow aficionados, and blogging are my joys. If you visited my home and viewed my bookshelf, you would find, first & foremost, comics so good I had to get the trades (the issues are of course bagged, boarded and stored safely in their long boxes), some modern and contemporary philosophy, and some classic prose. But the most ostentatious thing on my shelf (drumroll): All four books in the Twilight saga.

Blasphemy you say?  Well, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been deemed a heretic. Why should this be any different?

I get a lot of flack for being a Twihard (that is the “official” term) from my fellow geeks. So do the millions of other fans of the series. I read blog after blog, article after article and hear endless podcasts about how much the geek world loathes the series and how it (and fans) didn’t belong at the cons. Frankly, I am over it. Continue reading “If It Pleases and Sparkles …”

Wonder Woman: Second-Class Citizen?

If you asked the average non-geek to name three superheroes, chances are they’d say Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — arguably the most iconic comic book heroes in existence. It’s just as likely that few (if any) of these people would know anything about Lobo, a DC character who was introduced as a villain in the early ’80s.

So it would stand to reason that Wonder Woman, who has been a major part of the DC Universe since 1941, would get the big-screen treatment long before a second-tier player who had a run of popularity in the ’90s. But while Hollywood has yet to show Diana any love, Guy Ritchie — a legitimate filmmaker! — is set to direct a live-action movie about Lobo.

Lobo.

Look; it’s bad enough that Wonder Woman has gotten second-class citizen treatment compared to her alleged equals, Superman and Batman. They’ve both had several major motion pictures across several generations. The last time Wonder Woman enjoyed a big pop culture moment outside of comic books was when Lynda Carter donned the costume in the ’70s. You could chalk that up to garden variety sexism or just a serious failure of imagination on the part of DC-Warner Brothers. But when frickin’ Lobo gets to the big dance before she does, that’s just ridiculous. Continue reading “Wonder Woman: Second-Class Citizen?”