Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
Comics let me down all the time.
But that’s to be expected, I basically live, breathe, eat, and sleep comics and when you’re that saturated in something it’s bound to let you down from time to time.
I was reading the (it must be said, excellent) Unbeatable Squirrel Girl the other day and I was struck by something that really used to disappoint me about comics that has shifted dramatically, at least from where I’m sitting (and what I was reading).
Hey everyone, sorry for the absence. In addition to a lot of THINGS happening (things which I will share as soon as I can) I was traveling for some of July and I always seem to forget that, like fine shrimp, I do not travel well (that last bit stolen from Buffy The Vampire Slayer as die hard fans will no doubt recognize).
Anyway, I have several ideas for columns stacked up in my queue (and some ideas even have words written on pages!) but today I found myself wanting to talk about writing about comics.
This is spurred by a few things – firstly, I am in a not unique…but perhaps slightly unusual position in that I have spent many years writing about comics — on this column, over on Lit Reactor, and as a reviewer for the gold standard of comic review sites – CBR and Publisher’s Weekly. For CBR alone I wrote over 500 comic book reviews. Jeez. I feel tired just thinking about that. Anyway, all that to say, I have some experience in this “writing about comic books thing.” I’ve certainly written my fair share of reviews I’d like to revise in retrospect, some that were not well-considered enough or where I feel I could have presented my case more clearly (or kindly) but on the whole I feel proud of the work I’ve done talking about comics.
It’s taken me very many years to realize this about myself, but basically funny sells me over just about anything else. I mean, we almost universally all love to laugh and so we naturally like funny things, but I have realized I prize it more highly than I understood, and more highly than do a lot of others. I find time and again, what can keep me hooked when it comes to media – especially serialized media like comics and television – is if something is funny. If I can get good laughs week to week (or month to month), out of your creation you have a really good shot at keeping me invested and perhaps even more impressively, becoming a die hard fan.
Since I’ve enjoyed some of these open discussion posts we’ve had of late, I thought today might be a good time to open up a discussion about creators killing characters, and what makes or breaks a good story for you. I’m interested both as a fan and as a creator who has done my own share of killing characters and will do much much more of it before I’m done (though thank the universe for nice bright shiny happy Jem and The Holograms in which…spoiler alert…nobody dies!)
[No spoilers, except that Game of Thrones killed some characters in their finale last night, which shouldn’t really be a shock for anyone who lives on the planet Earth.]
So, anyone who watched Game of Thrones last night knows why this post is particularly relevant right now. I mean…OMG, you guys. But turn your attention to comics and you’ll find plenty of beautiful (and terrible) deaths over there too. As just one example, last week’s absolutely excellent Saga #29 ALMOST gave the finale of Game of Thrones a run for its money as it killed between two and four characters this past week (we’ll see, but it looks pretty grim for all involved to be honest) and three of the characters are significant players. The previous issue had another supporting character biting the dust too – in a quite literal blaze of glory.
I have comic book weapons on the brain these days. I’ve been working on a few comic pitches and weapons are involved (because of course they are). And it got me thinking about all the great weapons I love in comics.
Comic have heavily influenced both of my novels – and for the second novel – Storykiller - I decided I needed to create a weapon worthy of my lead, her mission, and the massive world I was creating. So it was with a lot of my favorite comic book weapons in mind that I created La Colombe Noire (The Black Dove) a magical double sided axe that could only be called forth (and wielded) by its owner and its ownership could only be transferred by killing the previous owner with it. The Black Dove turned out to be one of my favorite things in Storykiller, though it certainly helped to have artists like Sophie Campbell and Stephanie Hans bringing it to beautiful life:
So I though it might make for a fun column to talk about some of my favorite comic book weapons. What’s on this list…well, there’s a mountain of great weapons in the comic-verse, but since this column is about women in comics I decided to stick to weapons that have been wielded by women at some point or another (sometimes exclusively, sometimes not). And then here’s the usual disclaimer: these are not necessarily the “most powerful” or “best” weapons but just my favorites — both those I enjoy reading about and those that I would most definitely like to get my hands on as a creator!
In no particular order:
So, I am a BIG Mad Max fan. Ever since I was a kid I loved these films (Thunderdome is my favorite because A) Thunderdome and B) Aunty Entity/Tina Turner. And it’s one of the same reasons I prefer Conan The Destroyer to Conan The Conqueror – i.e. Grace Jones). But I love them all. I love them SO MUCH that of all my comics pitches my favorite of all time is something I’ve been sitting on/fiddling with for about 20 years and refer to as my “Mad Max X-Men Pitch.” Now that I’ve gotten to do some work with Marvel maybe that’s the first step toward that someday becoming a reality. Will a Mad Max revival make my comic pitch more viable or make it feel derivative? I have no idea. I just put it here to illustrate how deep and abiding my love is for Mad Max - both as a sci-fi concept and as deep nostalgia that still holds up well 35+ years later.
Nobody was more excited than I was to see Mad Max coming back (I was also crazy nervous because you know these things go wrong sometimes). My hopes could not have been higher.
And yet, seeing it yesterday it is everything I could have wanted in a Mad Max film and more than I ever could have dared to hope or dream as a female fan. It’s pretty exciting when something that you already love goes out and makes itself into something not only incredibly female friendly, but wildly female positive, a legitimately feminist film that it still effortlessly a “Mad Max” film, and also one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen. Proving without a doubt (there are some people that continue to have doubts I hear) that those things can walk hand in hand with ease.
Every once in a while I write a post just so I can use a comprehensive link in discussions rather than explaining myself over and over again. “No, it’s not equal” was born of this. Our issue today is not nearly as complex, nuanced, or far reaching as the subject of that post, but people misunderstanding the phrase “strong female characters” intentionally or innocently, and sometimes I just can’t tell which, is something that has been irritating me for a good long time.
Most of you probably don’t need this tutorial – everything I’m going to say here is honestly pretty basic and obvious (and I am by no means the first – or will be the last – to say it) but a surprising number of people still don’t get it. Since there ARE people that don’t get it, and still others who don’t get it to the tune that they think that writing “strong female characters” is indeed shorthand for tough badasses and that they’re doing “good work” by writing those one note characters, or by vilifying the idea of the “strong female character”…we’ll here’s my mini tutorial, rant, whatever you wanna call it. Enjoy.
In the spirit of the “defining superheroes” column (which in case you haven’t guessed is about my favorite column ever for the wonderful dialogue it created and the surprisingly low number of jerks that showed up to that dialogue) I wanted to pick your brains about Print and Digital comics.
Before I open this up to comments, thoughts, rants, etc., I want to give you a general state of where I’m at on this thing, my concerns and interests going forward, and what spurred me to talk about this today.
So, back in August I did a post talking about the women of the Marvel Studios Films, doing that made me think I wanted to talk about all the superheroine film performances I’ve loved. Then a few months ago we did a whole post trying to figure out how to define a superhero. It ended up being a really interesting discussion (one in which by some miracle everyone was really well behaved! Miracles! They do happen!). However, the end result was that it became increasingly clear that everyone has a different view of these things and as such I would never satisfy everyone’s definition since such a thing didn’t exist. So I’m just going to choose to satisfy only my own criteria and everyone has to deal with that.
I was originally going to do a best 50 but while there are well over 50 roles of note, there weren’t really 50 I felt passionate about and wanted to discuss, even cutting down to the top 25 I found I was talking more about the problems I had with the roles/performances than the things that I loved, and since I intended this to be largely a positive post, I cut the list down again to a Top 10. And that was the sweet spot where I felt a horrible yearning for a few that had to be left off and could speak with real love about the roles on the list.
I was working on a different column for this week but then I realized that if anything I should take this space to shine a light on the current women in comics poll results being counted down all week, as well as the still evolving Women In Comics list that kicked all this off a few weeks ago. Also, I am just starting to get really sick so I’m tired and running out of steam…good times!
So please, go check that awesome stuff out (here’s the Writers #25 – 21 and Artists #25 – 21). Brian and I (but especially Brian) are putting together pretty comprehensive or at least awesomely informative posts all week highlighting the work of the women you all voted as the best in comics.
I hope these posts will be both fun and super educational and I also hope that those of you with open minds and a deep love of comics will make note of some of the incredible women being featured and seek out their work.
But perhaps most importantly I hope some of you will fall in love with these creators as I have and will remember them fondly the next time you buy comics, recommend comics, and even the next time you vote in in Brian’s 100 Best Creators list in a few years.
Okay, that’s it for me today…please check out those links and come back everyday through March 31st for the rest of the list!
Kelly Thompson is a freelance writer living in Manhattan. She is the author of the superhero novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING recently optioned to become a film, and her new novel STORYKILLER is out now. She is also writing IDW’s JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, co-writing Marvel’s forthcoming CAPTAIN MARVEL & THE CAROL CORPS, and her first graphic novel HEART IN A BOX is forthcoming from Dark Horse this year. You can find Kelly all over the place, but twitter may be the easiest: @79semifinalist
I learned a lot of things while compiling the (continually evolving) Women In Comics list over the last few months. Before I get to that though, let me remind you to please check out the list and if you see names we’ve missed, please add them in the comments, and even more importantly, since voting closes today, GO VOTE!
Now back to business. We could sum up a lot of what I learned with: a lot of people have crappy websites with really incomplete information and non-intuitive navigation.
But that seems mean and judgmental, what I mean is that when you embark an endeavor this time consuming — running hundreds upon hundreds of Google searches and trying to parse out from those searches, real information relevant to what you’re searching for vs. the insane amount of worthless dross on the internet, you end up coming away with FEELINGS. FEELINGS ABOUT THINGS.
THINGS LIKE WEBSITES.
There are some great perks to working at Comics Should Be Good and one of the weird ones is that I can see comments as they come in to the site, before they are approved, or rejected, or burned in a frenzy of horror (some awful stuff comes through here, guys). But this weird perk became rather depressing during the most recent round of voting for CSBG’s Top 100 Comic Book Artists and Writers (50 for each category) because almost no ballots had women on them.
It’s not really surprising that given only 20 precious slots to fill (each voter was allowed to vote for 10 artists and 10 writers), and with all the absolutely stunning comics creators over the years that women almost never made it into people’s ballots. Women just haven’t historically had the comics credits to their name and that’s for a variety of reasons both reasonable and less reasonable. But this post is not about examining the past and the how and why we got here, it’s about celebrating what we do have, and what we have had.
While I have no interest in ghettoizing women in comics, watching the voting results come in for the latest CSBG Top 100 Comic Book Artists and Writers in comics was an eye-opener.
This weekend my boyfriend and I went to see Jupiter Ascending. Going in knowing it was not going to be good I sort of vaguely hoped that my lowered expectations would make for a better viewing experience. Nope. It was basically awful.
Why did I go knowing it would be bad? Well, for starters I do like to try to support original sci-fi. Especially stuff that isn’t a reboot, remake, or sequel. But mostly my boyfriend was interested (even though he had the same fears and reservations) and relationships are about compromise, folks. So, Jupiter Ascending it was.
Still, though I was prepared to be underwhelmed, I was not prepared with how frustrated and even angry the film would make me. Seeing 176 million wasted on a sci-fi story that just bathed in the broadest and most cliché of concepts, and offered not one single surprise…not even an attempt to surprise. It offered nothing smart, or charming or funny, and it didn’t try to subvert expectations even once and for all of these reasons it was just epically disappointing.
I thought about writing about the best romantic couple in comics history for a “Valentine’s Day” themed post but then decided that was boring because the answer was obviously Big Barda and Scott Free. Though if you’d like to double down on NO LOVE I wrote a piece about Anti-Love: Great Nemesis pairings over on Lit Reactor.
Anyway, instead I thought maybe I’d write some more somewhat stream of consciousness thoughts on why we all love comics so much. Last time I did this when I was trying to work out “defining superheroes” we got so many thoughtful comments and discussions going as a result (the post forthcoming from that discussion is still percolating in my brain, it’s a time consuming one, even beyond the whole “superhero definition question”). Anyway, if we’re even half as lucky this time around, it will still have been an exercise well worth the effort. So I’m going to begin my rambling, and I urge you to put down your own thoughts in the comments.
Folks, 2015 is already shaping up to be an interesting year in comics (and that’s even when I just put my fingers in my ears and go “LALALALALAA” whenever anyone mentions Secret Wars and Convergence which might very well be great but basically make my head spin right now). What with all the new creator owned stuff coming out (In a bit of Wytches-like badassery Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender is not even out yet and already optioned by Sony. Wooo!) and women doing especially awesome things in comics both big and small, let’s talk about 10 female comics creators that are seriously leveling up in 2015.
Without a doubt, you should already be (and hopefully are?) following all these ladies as none of them are unknowns. And for the record, I am planning a post for later this month that will focus on 10 “lesser known up and comers” and that will also include a massive list of women in comics that I hope you will all help me flesh out to be as complete as possible.
But for now, for THIS list, since there are SO MANY worthy women to consider, I tried to stick with ladies are currently transitioning to a bigger/larger stage…who are REALLY leveling up. Because of that, someone like say, Faith Erin Hicks wasn’t included simply because to my knowledge as of this writing she doesn’t have any major works scheduled for this year. Similarly, creators like G. Willow Wilson, Emily Carroll, and Eleanor Davis all had incredible years in 2014, the kind of stuff that I would definitely consider “leveling up” but that was LAST year…and this is the FUTURE.
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