She Has No Head!
Though some of my columns from 2012 have apparently been a bit controversial it’s been a long time since I engaged in a full on rant. Are you ready for it? Good.
Still high from my Avengers viewing a couple weeks ago I was working on a post for today called “Black Widow: Required Reading” when I happened to check out Sue’s DC Women Kicking Ass site and stumbled across this gem from Joe Quesada via Ain’t It Cool News:
In a chat afterwards, Joe told me that he’d love to make a tentpole [sic] movie with a female lead, but that he really doesn’t think there is an actress right now who could carry it, or a character that would work either. I’m thinking I might agree with him on this one actually.
As Sue said, this sentiment from Quesada manages to both insult all of Marvel’s female characters and all actresses everywhere in one fell swoop. But even more impressive is the fact that less than two weeks ago a movie debuted that is destroying box office records everywhere AND getting huge critical and fan acclaim. A movie with a large ensemble cast, that stars, in part, one of Marvel’s greatest female superheroes, and one of Hollywood’s hottest young actresses, and this character and performance are also getting huge kudos. I speak of course of The Avengers, and Black Widow, and Scarlett Johansson.
Like many this weekend, I saw The Avengers, and was blown away. I had a lot of faith going in, since I have huge confidence in Joss Whedon, but the ensemble superhero movie (hell, even the single superhero movie) is a herculean task to get right…and so I admit to being worried. But those worries were soon put to rest. Whedon delivered on every single level, and while one could complain that there could have been more plot, or more character development, I think in the end he struck the right (and smart) balance. Had he tried to do more (he was already doing so much) I think he would have ended up actually doing less…or at least doing less right.
Most wonderful of all to me (and there was a lot of wonderful) and least surprising was Whedon’s exceptional use of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. In a movie with this many “big” superheroes (Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor in particular) it would have been easy for a character like Black Widow, with her more subtle power profile to get lost. Not only are her powers not as spectacle driven as those above, but every one of those gents has an introductory superhero movie under their belt already (ahem, some of them have two).
But instead of getting lost, Whedon utilized Black Widow to her best. He knew exactly where to put her for maximum impact, and he let her just be her badass spy self. It worked like gangbusters and Johansson got both amazing scenes, and also a critical role in the story, rather than just some cool one-off scenes. A director less familiar with female characters and with superheroes in general, might not have been able to pull this off but for Whedon it feels effortless – because it is.
And so that leaves us with only one question…when do we get our solo Black Widow film, starring Johansson and directed by Whedon?
Marvel would be fools not to jump on the opportunity to create the first superhero franchise featuring a female character, and I don’t suppose they’d hate the idea of making Whedon and superheroines work, when DC couldn’t make it happen with their star female superhero – Wonder Woman.
So, who else is ripe to lead a film and potentially begin a franchise? And perhaps more importantly as we’ve learned with Whedon and Widow, who would be the director to do it right?
X-Men Season One. Dennis Hopeless (writer). Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton (artists). Matthew Wilson (colors). Clayton Cowles (letters). Julian Totino Todesco (cover). Marvel Comics. Hardcover, full color, 136 pages (includes a preview of Uncanny X-Men). $24.99
As someone always on the lookout for strong layered portraits of female characters, I was delighted to find just that in Dennis Hopeless & Jamie McKelvie’s X-Men: Season One (terrible title) in the form of their re-imagining of Jean Grey. I have never been a big fan of Jean Grey in any of her incarnations; she was always the definition of a Mary Sue to me. Too nice, too smart, too powerful, too kind, too beautiful (I mean she was a model at one point…gimme a break), too perfect, and everyone too in love with her. I mean, she was that character that when asked “what is your greatest weakness?” would have to be all “Um…my obsession with perfection?”
Sure there were portrayals of her over the years that I liked and stories I found interesting – like any X-Men fan I enjoyed The Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Sagas, and I never hated her or anything extreme, but she was never a character that worked for me as so many others did. Jean Grey never had that moment for me where a character you didn’t care for one way or another suddenly became amazing – like for Cyclops it was when he led the nearly helpless Acolytes out of the Australian desert without bitching once in X-Men #44 – I never saw Scott Summers the same after that issue. But all that changes today. Jean Grey and I have finally had that moment, and it was not just one moment but a slight tweak to her in general throughout X-Men: Season One, that has finally made her very compelling to me and dare I say, for the first time, she feels human to me.
Like millions of others, I recently bought a (losing) lottery ticket for the $500 million dollar Mega Millions jackpot.
Before my hopes were dashed against the brutal non-winning rocks of reality I, like anyone with a lottery ticket in hand, fantasized about what I would do with my winnings. Though I spent much of my time imagining the swanky New York apartment I would buy, as well as the sunlit pad in Los Angeles (complete with badass pool) and infinite traveling I would do, I kept coming back to one thing over and over that I’d like to do.
Start a publishing company.
Seeing the furor over The Hunger Games, and being part of it myself (I love the books and thought the movie was pretty good for an adaptation) was part of what kept me returning to the fantasy of me having the power and funds to launch a comics line with The Hunger Games graphic novel adaptation at the heart of it.
It continues to baffle me, why YA (Young Adult) Fiction continues to skyrocket – massively successful series like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games – which are monster hits in terms of readership and sales; while YA Comics are barely even a thing in the mainstream comics market. Not only do those novels have huge readerships, but they have huge female readerships, while female mainstream comics readership continues to struggle and flounder.
I originally intended to pair this column with my “25 Great Superheroine Moments In Comics” post from two weeks ago in honor of Women’s History Month, but then Wonder Woman #7 happened and I felt compelled to write about that. So here we are with the unofficial “part two” in April. So it goes!
Those of you familiar with my blogging over on 1979 Semi-Finalist know I’m a big cover fanatic. I do a monthly post called “Drunk Cover Solicits In Three Sentences Or Less” where I…you guessed it…get drunk and talk about the newest Marvel and DC Cover Solicits. It’s supposed to be a chance to talk about some gorgeous art and also to make good-natured fun of some of the silliness…of course some rage occasionally seeps out (shocker). I also do a “52 Best Covers of the Year” in honor of SDCC every year. But I realized recently that I’d never focused on covers that feature women and thought what better way to celebrate than to do that here.
My criteria was looking at covers from between March of 2011 and March of 2012* and only at saddle-stapled monthly comics that feature a woman as a minimum of 50% of the cover focus. These are entirely North American as that’s primarily what I have access to. I didn’t include trades or graphic novels either. I’m not going to write much about each, just a few lines about what I love about them. Enjoy!
I drafted Wonder Woman #7 for my CBR reviews last week not knowing what the issue was about, and it resulted in the toughest review I’ve had to write for CBR yet. To CBR’s credit, though the review skewed a bit editorial, they ran it. However, we have strict word counts over there and I have many thoughts and feelings…so here we are on She Has No Head! five days later.
I have loved and supported the new Wonder Woman under Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. I supported this book vehemently even when I did not agree with all the choices they made — like Wonder Woman being Zeus’ daughter and thus a demi-god — because I understand that writers have to do things that are unpopular sometimes in order to tell the best story. And in fact, doing something unpopular can often be the right thing to do. In addition to that, I also understand that stories are not tailor made FOR ME, and I don’t expect them to be. So I accepted the changes as many fans did and continued to read, and frankly to love, so much of what Azzarello and Chiang were doing.
The site is all about finding those great moments for women in superhero comics…you know the ones…the ones that leave you with goose bumps, that leave you breathless, that leave you in love. The site is open to submissions from anyone, which is only fair as we all have different definitions of what inspires us from women in superhero comics. And what better month for a post like this than March – Women’s History Month.
Inspired by Sue’s efforts I thought I’d do a piece about some of the moments that have meant the most to me over my years of reading. I make no argument that these are the “best ever” moments…just that they’re the moments that have curled my toes. Which ones curled yours? Let me know, and better yet, submit your own over on THIS!
Word of warning – if you haven’t read the story I’m talking about, be careful of spoilers!
Click to enbiggen on any image!
So, many of you saw that I broke the internet two weeks ago with my post about the visual representations of men and women in superhero comics and the apparently still radical idea that “No, it’s not equal”. So how does one follow up THAT column? Do you try to break the internet even harder? Or do you go the completely opposite route? Well, for starters, if you missed it, read this piece I did for my new gig at Lit Reactor, which is chock full of fantastic books that don’t commit any of the “No, It’s not equal” sins.
Why you ask? Well, because I knew it would cause a ****storm, as any comics column that’s remotely controversial does, especially it seems when written by a woman. I had also decided, partway through writing She Has No Head! that I was going to take a decidedly more positive tact for the column, primarily focusing on books that are good, and what I’d like to see more of, supporting creators that are getting it right.
But there’s a lot of talk these days, and many good columns written about women in comics, feminism, and in particular the sexism of comics by way of the objectification and hyper-sexualization of female characters and related issues. Most people who read this column regularly know how I feel about these issues. The short version is that I think it’s a big problem that extends far beyond comics and like other media, it really affects the way people view women, and how women, especially young women, view themselves. I don’t think “it’s just comics” and it doesn’t matter. I think media is a powerful thing in our society and that there’s a trickle down effect in seeing these portrayals reinforced over and over again. These portrayals shape how we view and value women and contributes to everything from sexism in the work place to eating disorders. I don’t think comics are the only media to blame, but it does happen to be the medium I write about, so here we are. However, this column is not actually a discussion of my thoughts on this issue, it’s an answer to the oft repeated knee-jerk response I see to these pieces. When I read the comments section of a piece that talks about these issues, without fail, in the comments section I come across one idea over and over again…
Many of you know that I’m a massive unabashed Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan. I rarely write about Buffy here, I’m not really sure why, but all that changes today. Why today you ask? Well, because Buffy impressed the hell out of me this week and it warrants discussion.
Any regular readers know that I’m a huge fan of the all-ages book Princeless by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin from Action Lab, having talked about it here and on the 3 Chicks podcast, as well as reviewing for the first issue for CBR. An indie comic book mini-series for kids is not exactly a given big seller in comics these days, so I was impressed and excited to see all the enthusiasm and positive feedback Princeless received from critics and fans. Now that the series is coming to an end and the trade is forthcoming, Princeless creator Jeremy Whitley took some time out to talk with me for She Has No Head!…
Kelly: Jeremy, thanks so much for joining me to talk about Princeless…you know I’ve been pretty excited about your book, so I appreciate you coming onto She Has No Head!…
Jeremy: No problem. I’m glad to be here. I’ve actually been a big fan of the blog ever since you started it.
Kelly: Thanks! So before we get specifically into Princeless can you tell me a little bit about Fire Tower Studios…what that is and how it came to be?
I wrote a post back in March of 2010 opining that neither DC nor Marvel managed to pick up the rights to adapt Twilight into a graphic novel.
My point back then was simply that Marvel or DC should have moved heaven and earth to get the rights to adapt Twilight and when successful, made a simultaneous effort to place advertisements for female friendly comics and graphic novels in the edition, as well as shelve some of those same titles right next to it. The Twilight Graphic Novel went on to smash sales records, selling an approximated 66,000 copies in the first week. And in June of 2010 Twilight The Graphic Novel had been #1 on the New York Times best-seller list (for hardcover graphic books) for 12 weeks.
Well, this time around, DC has managed it, as they’re scheduled to publish the graphic novel adaptation of the hugely popular The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo novels via their Vertigo imprint.* With stats that 80% of fiction readers (in the US, Canada, and Britain) are women, and the “unofficial stats” that the readers for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo are perhaps as much as 71% female it’s worth considering what the audience for this graphic novel might look like.
So…Greg Burgas gets grouchy when we post “Best of Lists” before ALL THE COMICS HAVE COME OUT. I tend to not agree because the reality is that if I missed it by the last week of December, or didn’t get it yet, I’m probably not going to have time to read it with all the chaos of the holidays and end of the year. But I capitulated to Greg’s demands this year, and so here we are, January 2nd, with my Bests of 2011 (and a few worsts).
Please keep in mind as always that I didn’t get to read ALL THE BOOKS. A handful of books are sitting on my shelf just begging to be read (last year’s The Return of The Dapper Men is this year’s Habibi), and they might have all been contenders, not to mention all the books that I didn’t read that aren’t sitting on my shelf and won’t be read for ages. They all might have been possibles…but unlike our fearless leader Brian Cronin…I can never manage to read all the books (I don’t know how he does it). I would say my most notable and glaring holes come from being behind on DMZ, Scalped, and Daredevil, all of which I like, and all of which I suspect might have made things tough for other books…but which I’m just not current enough on to include. Of what I DID read, here’s what I really loved the most…
I find myself in an introspective (though not particularly deep) mood in these days after holiday madness and leading up to the end of the year, so what better post to write than another She Has No Head!/Random Thoughts mash-up (TM Chad Nevett!)?
Random She Thought: It’s She Has Random Thoughts Time! Get Excited!
Welcome back to my annual female positive comics holiday gift list!
So the holidays are (suddenly) upon us 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 positive comics…well, in that super specific case you’ve found the right list.
Like last year, in addition to picking excellent female positive titles, I also limited myself to books released in 2011 only. If you’re looking for more books that just those released in 2011, I urge you to check out my first list, which was not limited by a time period, and my second list, which covered books released in 2010.
Let’s get started, yes?