Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Comics creator Jim Zub started a great little hash tag called #FourComics last week that caught fire and made twitter a nice time for sharing comics for a bit (isn’t it nice when it’s not all doom and gloom and terribleness at every turn?). Anyway the idea was simple, tweet out the covers of Four Comics that “influenced you growing up.” It brought forth a bunch of great creators and great comics (check out Comics Alliance piece which gathers together a lot of great creators picks, including Zub’s, and you can also check out CSBG’s Greg Hatcher’s from last week here).
Because I came to comics a bit later in the game than many (I was almost 16) my picks are probably a bit newer and less “classic” than some, and reflect less something that influenced me “growing up” and more books that influenced my creative direction, or as I said on twitter “four comics that permanently shifted my perspective.”
I always like to do a post early in the year that looks forward to some of the books I’m most excited about on the horizon in 2015, helps me get pumped for the year and also try to make a mental note of all the projects I’m looking out for. I was ready with my list the first week of January but opted to wait to hear what news came out of Image Expo as they’ve had some truly exciting stuff in the last couple years, this year was no exception and added some great looking titles to my “must haves” list.
All that said, it was a bit hard to predict what I’m most excited about from Marvel and DC because their events (Secret Wars and Convergence, respectively) are even more potentially “line changing” and mysterious than usual. So keeping in mind that that accounts for a likely decreased number of books from both publishers on the list…let’s get going! I organized this by month and then for stuff that has nebulous release dates more a “going forward in 2015” category.
So, I had the honor of reading an advance copy of THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #1 (releases this week – 1/7/15!) and I am here to tell you that it’s criminally cute and MUST be purchased by anyone interested in variety in their big two comics, or anyone just interested in great fun comic books period. I wrote a few weeks ago for CBR about Bitch Planet #1 being a “perfect first issue” and the power of such a thing. There are few “perfect issues” in a year of comics and yet here I am, first week of January writing about another one.
As always, I like to put my BEST OF list up before the year actually ends, mostly because it drives Greg Burgas crazy. Probably since the last Monday of the year is reasonably close to the end of the year it will drive him less crazy, but we’ll just have to be okay with that. You can’t win them all! As always, my feeling is that if I haven’t read it by mid-December (and let’s be clear there are MANY I have not read) then I’m not going to be able to get to it in time for it to make my bests and worsts lists anyway so it’s all the same in the end.
So what’s on this year’s list? Well you can bet it’s going to be a lot of stuff I’ve already been excited about this year, but it’s still fun to see it all stacked up here in the end I suppose. Again this year I didn’t have it in me to do any worsts…call it optimism, call it fatigue, readers choice!
Let’s get to it, shall we?
So, I have a column I’ve been working on — off and on — for a few months now, but I keep stumbling on the parameters and I thought I could put it out to all of you, see if together we could come up with better parameters than I have been able to come up with myself.
For the purpose of the column in question – which is a column about superheroes on film – my major stumbling block seems to be between action hero and superhero – where does one draw the line?
I have had some wonderful help from whip smart CSBG commenter Dean Hacker (thanks Dean!) and without him I would not even be this far along. Right now my in-process definition looks a bit like this:
“Superhero is a fluid term. It does not HAVE to come with clear cut superpowers or even a costume, though it should be said that costumes come in many shapes and forms beyond the traditional (i.e. is Ripley’s flight suit a costume? If not, why not?). While a “superhero” does not HAVE to come with the aforementioned superpowers or costume, a superhero does have to come with actions that are “super” in what they attempt – scope, breadth, intensity, etc., and perhaps with a “magical” solution of sorts to solving the huge problem they face.”
It’s that time of year again, the time for a million lists, including my 25 Favorite Fictional Females in comics list. Like all years, this was tough. Like all years, I’m never quite convinced I’ve got the list right, but for better or worse, here we are!
Fair warning, if someone was repeated from a previous year, I often cribbed some of the text from my previous post with some light updates to reflect changes. Here are last year’s list and the first list in 2010 (as well as a 10 ladies making a run for the title list) in case you’d like to read about even more female characters in comics. It was a really exciting year and with a promising 2015 ahead of us I’m very excited about where we are when it comes to our progress with female characters – as always things are a bit two forward and one back, but we’re making progress! I’d like this list a bit better if there were more indie ladies on it (there are so many that are worthy) but Marvel’s push with female characters this past year did a good job of gobbling up a good number of spots.
Like last year, what I found most interesting is how some characters managed to triumph over lack of material or worse, bad material. Wonder Woman, despite the fact that I can’t read her book, hasn’t fallen much– maybe she’s just got so much iconic power that others are helpless to overcome the big shadow she casts? I spent a lot of time when trying to organize my list this year thinking about the characters that I’d most like to see creators work with in new series – that was how I ended up defining where they fell – how interested I found myself in seeing them in new stories. Still, you can’t underestimate the power of reading both old and new – Black Widow makes the list this year (finally) thanks to some damn fine work by Nathan Edmonson and Phil Noto, while Big Barda shoots up the list because I took some time out this year to read/re-read all her classic Kirby stories…and how can one deny her utter dominance after doing that??
So the holidays are upon us again and you’ve decided that in these tough economic times you want to support the comic industry by giving everyone on your list sweet comics. And not only that, but you want to take it one step further and only give female friendly comics…well, in that super specific case you’ve found the right list.
Like previous years, in addition to picking excellent female friendly titles, I also limited myself to books released in 2014 only. If you’re looking for more books that just those released in 2014, I urge you to check out my previous lists here: 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
Now, I’ve put links to everything here for your convenience but as always, buy at your local shops when you can! These are in no particular order – and there are about 15 items and 3 pages so don’t stop before you’ve seen them all…let’s get started, yes?
So, on last week’s piece about comics to buy on a $50/month budget, I put one of my base requirements that the books be “female friendly” since that is sorta what I do here, in this column about “women in comics.”
I had a couple people in the comments claim to not know what “female friendly” meant. I don’t know if they were trolls or if the confusion was genuine but I’ve decided to the err on the side of their confusion being genuine and talk about it a little bit this week.
Before we start, let’s be clear, my definition is surely not everyone’s, but this is where I come from when I look at comics (and other media but I’ll try to stick to comics). At the same time, I make no argument that ALL material SHOULD/HAS TO BE female friendly. The world is vast and there’s room for all kinds, including stuff that isn’t female friendly (True Detective would be a great example of something I love that I wouldn’t necessarily call female friendly). And there’s ALSO room for stuff that I hate and find offensive. Censoring creators doesn’t really get us anywhere, it’s not a good way forward to say what can and cannot or should or should not be done when it comes to art. But I can still advocate for, promote, and recommend the stuff that I feel is worthy, and especially given the comics climate we live in now — one in which there is a lot of great female friendly stuff to promote and one in which we still need much much more female friendly stuff to promote — this is a big and maybe even important job, one we can all help to get done right.
Anyway, thinking about just getting started on things and being new to something reminded me of discovering comics when I was a teenager. The joy an frustration of fumbling through the dark with no idea what I should be reading (I’m old, the Internet was barely a glimmer in the most advanced readers eyes!).
My eventual comic book shop was helpful, but it took me a while to find the right shop…and even then I felt enough like a stranger in a strange land for a time that it took some time to start having actual conversations about comics with anyone other than my younger brother who was as in the dark as I was (though he remains my favorite person to talk about comics with). What I would have given for a road map!
However, as mentioned above, I’m old, so comics were a lot cheaper and it wasn’t the end of the world to waste a buck or so on a crappy comic. Today, with a few indie exceptions, even the cheapest comics will cost you $2.99…and that’s a lot to risk on a comic.
Thanks to the She Has No Head! publishing schedule I haven’t really had a chance to express my insane excitement here over the Captain Marvel movie announcement. I am, in a word, PUMPED. Pumped that they finally committed, pumpbed that it has a date, and over the moon pumped that they’re calling it Captain Marvel (as it should be). I am extremely disappointed that they didn’t commit to two female led films by also announcing a Black Widow film, but that’s another post for another day. Today we are here to celebrate and what better way to celebrate than with fan castings!
One of the only things the internet seems to collectively agree on is that Katee Sackhoff would make a near perfect Captain Marvel [ed. note: this is hyperbole people – these are the jokes – the internet is clearly in agreement on nothing – it would be literally impossible for all of the internet to agree on something, which seems like it should be obvious. Please take this statement as the hyperbole it is clearly intended to be. As a sidebar, I am sorry that I have to spell this out, but a few freak outs in the comments section over this one line means I must clarify or risk people continuing to miss the forest for the trees…and this is why the world cannot have nice things. Now back to your regularly scheduled program…]
ANYWAY, Sackhoff does feel a bit like no-brainer casting, the kind that has spawned an internet full of Sackhoff as Carol images. And to be clear, I agree. I think she could fill the role very well and she tends to be my default pick. However, Marvel, given their history seems to be interested in more known/bankable stars, and it’s fair to say that Sackhoff has not done much of note (especially when it comes to film) since her star-making turn as Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica (which ended five years ago). So assuming that Marvel is interested in a bigger/more bankable “film star” – and that does seem to be how they’re trending if you look at their casting choices, who might be our other options? Trying to focus (for the most part) on bigger more well names and those with more film experience or more recent break out roles, here are my alternate suggestions starting at 10 and working my way down to my #1 pick!
I love Halloween. It’s easily my favorite holiday. Christmas is a close second thanks to all the nostalgia (my parents do an epic warm Christmas). But there’s so much pressure on Christmas (just like New Years) that it can start to feel like obligation more than celebration and even I grow weary of the music and everything that comes with it which seems to creep into our lives earlier and earlier each year.
But Halloween never gets aggressive or greedy. It just hangs back being awesome. Go out and have the night of your life, or just hang back and eat chocolate and watch scary movies. Both are completely acceptable.
So it bums me out every year, especially the last five or so when superheroes have become so popular and mainstream to see so many lazy superhero costumes and since this is a column about women in comics we’ll focus on the superheroine costumes especially. The “super sexy” versions of costumes (that were already reasonably high on the sexy to begin with) get pretty tedious too, but my beef is not with costumes that are “too sexy” my beef is with costumes that are lazy as all get out or worse, don’t make a lick of goddamn sense (and not in the good way that things sometimes don’t make sense). Here are a few that really ticked me off in my hunt this year…
Counting down the best things for “Women in Comics” to come out of NYCC this weekend!
To be honest, going into a big con week I never know if there’s going be enough material to make a decent post of for She Has No Head. Sometimes I’ve struggled to come up with new announcements to write about, even after a big con. And then there are weeks where it’s hard to whittle your list down to ten items and you come it at well over 3,000 words. Well done, NYCC, well done!
I’ll also say that though I am “con averse” in general and was out of town for most of the festivities anyway, this was the first time I have been following the news (and even more so the tweets) and really felt like I missed out. So many great creators I love were out and force and being recognized for the insanely talented individuals they are and it made me feel so genuinely joyous (though disappointed to have missed out). Also, a huge thanks to all the people that so valiantly brave the con to do such great reporting, you guys are soldiers – soldiers that seemed like you were having an incredible time.
Onward to the list!
The five comic things I’m most excited about for October? Glad you asked!
I’ve read it, it comes out this week (10/1) and it is AWESOME.
That’s right, written by Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher and with some absolutely incredible art by Karl Kerschl (colors by Geyser/Dave McCaig) this is my pick of the week before I even read anything else. No way anything else is coming close to kicking it out of the #1 spot. It’s got some fantastic new female characters in Olive and Maps, the hottest Bruce Wayne this side of…well, anywhere quite frankly, and a rich beautiful take on telling stories in Gotham that only touch Batman lightly. Everything about this feels young and new and smart. It’s the exact breath of fresh air that DC desperately needs. And while I wouldn’t want ALL of the DC books to feel this way (the same way I don’t want them all to feel grim and gritty) I must say it’s a welcome change of pace from what we’ve been seeing from DC. Even though Gotham Academy is a pretty gothic book – it’s set in Gotham after all – it’s not going to be all roses and sunshine – it has a lightness hope about it that just sings.
BONUS: Gotham Academy wonderfully straddles several lines, the first being that it will be effortless for new readers unfamiliar with Gotham (or even cape comics) to jump into, and yet it’s filled with little details that hardcore Batman fans will love. It also straddles that often difficult line of being all-ages friendly – and it is – there isn’t anything worrisome for younger audiences but it’s plenty complex, layered, and nuanced for older audiences. Check out the Becky Cloonan variant cover (right), so pretty!
So, I thought about writing about a few different things this week, maybe a focus on some great books or something, but the state of our industry and sister industry of gaming just has me too damn wound up and frustrated to focus on anything else.
For those playing catch up, gaming has been thrown into absolute chaos as it continues to deal with the growing pains of facing some really long gestating problems with sexism and misogyny in the industry. It’s a problem we here in comics know well. Many of us are “gamers” (or players perhaps is a better word) and even for those of us that don’t play games, there’s still a bond between comics and games – as “geek hobbies” we’re sister industries for good or ill. I guess it makes sense that both our industries are pushing on these boundaries and trying desperately to grow past these limitations at the same time and with some of the same disturbing results, but man has it exposed some truly nasty people and agendas.
So, much to everyone’s shock (I’m guessing), I have very little problem with the Milo Manara Spider-Woman #1 variant cover. Surprising to nobody, I do have some issues with the information we have thus far for the forthcoming Spider-Woman book.
So let’s get into it.
Milo Manara is a well-known creator/writer/artist primarily of porn and erotica, perhaps mostly notably a series called Click! (which, full disclosure, I own). So, when you hire Milo Manara to draw a variant, you are hiring him to get a very specific thing: titillating erotic imagery that is at the very least reminiscent of porn and generally of women.
This is exactly what he delivered. It seems ridiculous to criticize Manara for delivering exactly what he does and what was surely expected of him. Though his response to the Spider-Woman cover controversy is depressing and predictable it’s not particularly surprising. Yes, it’s practically a bingo card of alarming statements we see all the time when people try justify portrayals of women in media: the “there’s other ‘real’ problems in the world to worry about” “all superheroes are basically naked with colors on them anyway” “women are just built this way, I draw what I see” “it’s not my fault this how women are/look” “women wear less than this/are more provocative than this in real life” etc. and of course the artist describing the character/his work as “beautiful, nice, attractive, seductive” all of which have to do only with how Spider-Woman looks to him/should look to him and nothing to do with who she is or what she does. Pretty depressing stuff.
But again, as sad as it is to hear these statements, this is a European (Manara is Italian) man that draws Erotica for a living and has for decades. None of this is terribly surprising and anyone surprised by it is not paying attention. The question shouldn’t be why does Manara draw a Spider-Woman that looks more like a porn star than a superhero, the question also shouldn’t be why didn’t Marvel send Manara back to the drawing board when he turned in his work. The question should be why is this what Marvel wanted in the first place?
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.