My DC Comics Pull List Purge

The only comment that DC Comics has made so far about the epic fuck-up that they have made with Batwoman and refusing to allow her to be married [Batwoman writers leave DC Comics over ban on same-sex marriage] is this:

“As acknowledged by the creators involved, the editorial differences with the writers of BATWOMAN had nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the character.”

This has been their statement to many media outlets, and is, apparently, in reference to this tweet by J.H. Williams:

Annnnnd here’s why that is complete and utter bullshit on the part of DC

Like it or not, comics are not immune to the political realities of the real world we live in. Comics don’t exist in a vacuum; they speak to us as readers because they have some significance to our everyday realities. Otherwise, why bother to introduce a gay character into a comic book at all? The point of course, is that we want to identify with the heroes of comics – that we want to related to them and imagine being them. For gay people, seeing a character like Kate Kane existing, carrying out her job and also balancing the realities of romantic relationships is appealing because it touches on our real lives. She has to go through some of the same difficulties and triumphs that we do in order to keep our attention.

And like it or not, same-sex marriage is a huge, emotionally-complex thing that we as LGBT people are dealing with. It has relevance to gay characters in comic books as much as it does to us in the real world. There’s just no way to side-step that issue with any gay character right now. And because of that, there is simply no way that you can separate the subject of Batwoman’s romantic relationship from her sexual orientation.

Because the character’s sexual orientation and romantic life are on the table as subject matter for the comic book, allowing or disallowing her to marry is inextricably bound to the current global climate on the subject of same-sex marriages. And banning her from getting married has a very different connotation than it does for heterosexual characters. There’s no way that doesn’t resonate with real people being banned from getting married and amplify the issue to all readers, no matter whether DC wants it to do so or not.

As Williams said, specifically for this character – “but it still should not be a story to be avoided, but embraced fully.” If you are going to have gay characters in comic books, marriage HAS to be addressed. There’s no way this subject CAN’T come up.

Two days have passed since this news hit the press. Comic Book Resources is running a poll – Will You Be Interested In “Batwoman” Once J.H. Williams & W. Haden Blackman Exit the Series? The current results stand at 83.6% – No. 16.4% – Yes.

Batwoman Rain

Given that there are 6,697 news articles on this issue currently out there on the web, almost all with some completely damning version of a headline like “Batwoman Writers Quit as DC Comics Prohibits Lesbian Marriage” I would have expected a much more complete and thoughtful response on the part of the company at damage control. But… apparently not. I’m not inclined to give the company any more time to craft a satisfactory response, given that they have been wrangling over the issue with Batwoman’s authors for quite some time on the issue, and they didn’t seem to be prepared with any sort of complete or statement about their position.

I can’t imagine they didn’t realize what a massive mistake this would appear to be, and yet… no real acknowledgement of their LGBT readers at all other than a terse statement.

My pull list from my local comics shop yesterday was this:

  • Ame Comi Girls
  • Batgirl (I’m so sorry to do this, Gail Simone)
  • Batwoman
  • Birds of Prey
  • Captain Marvel
  • Fearless Defenders
  • Katana
  • The Movement (Again, really sorry, Gail)
  • Red Sonja
  • Supergirl
  • World’s Finest (Power Girl & Huntress)
  • X-Men Now
  • Young Avengers Now

And my pull list as of this afternoon, when I dropped in to change things around:

  • Batwoman (until issue 26, the last Williams/Blackman book)
  • Captain Marvel
  • Fearless Defenders
  • FF (the fantastic four spin-off by Matt Fraction)
  • Hawkeye
  • Red Sonja (I had to keep at least one Gail Simone thing)
  • X-Men Now
  • Young Avengers Now

There are some other independent books that I’ll probably add in, too. I’ve been meaning to investigate other publishers, and now I’l have time for that.

It kills me that my childhood favorites – Wonder Woman and Batgirl – are no longer in my comic book reading, and that the thing that pulled me back into comic books after I stopped reading in college was the DC New 52 reboot. They got me back into comics, and then turned around and kicked me out again. So – good job, DC at attracting women to your readership, only to alienate them again and push them on to better work.

Continue ReadingMy DC Comics Pull List Purge

Batwoman writers leave DC Comics over ban on same-sex marriage

J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman — longtime writers of the Batwoman comic book — are leaving DC Comics over a dispute about editorial changes to their planned story lines, including being forbidden to show the main character marrying her same-sex partner. Cross-posted by the authors to both author sites:

Unfortunately, in recent months, DC has asked us to alter or completely discard many long-standing storylines in ways that we feel compromise the character and the series. We were told to ditch plans for Killer Croc’s origins; forced to drastically alter the original ending of our current arc, which would have defined Batwoman’s heroic future in bold new ways; and, most crushingly, prohibited from ever showing Kate and Maggie actually getting married. All of these editorial decisions came at the last minute, and always after a year or more of planning and plotting on our end.

In response to questions about the issue, J.H. Williams clarified:

Batwoman Kiss

DC Comics has had serious problems in the past with public disputes with authors over comic book story lines. In December of last year, the comic book company fired fan favorite Batgirl writer Gail Simone only to turn around and rehire her after an embarrassing public backlash. Simone didn’t delve too deeply into specifics, but did say that last-minute editorial decisions and push-back on treatment of a transgender character were involved.

Back in 2010, DC Comics also had difficulties with the previous Batwoman writer/creator Greg Rucka over editorial control of his work on Batwoman. Except for saying ‘he realized that he “needs to [tell] the stories he wants to tell again,” rather than getting complacent at DC,’ Rucka didn’t get specific about what the issues with DC were, but in retrospect it seems safe to speculate that Batwoman’s love life may have had something to do with it.

DC Comics has also been embroiled in controversy about same-sex marriage issues in the past after they hired famous homophobe and same-sex marriage opponent Orson Scott Card to write a single-issue of a Superman comic. Public backlash caused the book to eventually be put on permanent hold when no artist was willing to work on the book due to the publicity.

For DC Comics, this is a fuck-up of epic proportions. The blog DC Women Kicking Ass suggests that it’s not necessarily a problem with homophobia but an anti-marriage-in-general stance on the part of DC, since they’ve broken up Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane and some other prominent super-hero marriages. I’m not sure whether I believe or care if that’s the issue. Another set of tweets between authors Gail Simone and J.H. Williams support that theory:

Tentatively, my plans are to keep getting Batwoman through the end of Williams/Blackman’s story arc – issue 26 – but after that, I’m going to cancel it. Based on the news over the next few days about this, I’m probably also going to cancel – right away – every other DC title I’m currently getting. I’m not going to continue supporting a company that seems to have such a public problem with gender and sexuality issues. I have better places to spend my money – like Marvel and independent publishers.

UPDATE: the only official statement from DC Comics, so far:

They may wish that, but it isn’t the case. The fact is that one of the only same-sex marriages in comics was just banned; there’s no way it could be about anything other than sexual orientation. It has huge implications. It was, as I said above, a fuck-up of epic proportions.

Continue ReadingBatwoman writers leave DC Comics over ban on same-sex marriage

Supergirl First

The case for why DC should tackle a Supergirl movie before a Wonder Woman movie.

I wrote a little bit a few weeks ago about the importance of getting the Wonder Woman storyline right when she is written in comics, books, television and movies. If I had a huge ego, I’d say the folks at DC Comics read what I wrote, (I’m sure they didn’t!) because Diane Nelson, new President of DC Comics just came out with a statement about writing Wonder Woman for the big screen in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter on DC Comics movie strategy over the next several years.

Nelson: We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now. I think one of the biggest challenges at the company is getting that right on any size screen. The reasons why are probably pretty subjective: She doesn’t have the single, clear, compelling story that everyone knows and recognizes. There are lots of facets to Wonder Woman, and I think the key is, how do you get the right facet for that right medium? What you do in TV has to be different than what you do in features. She has been, since I started, one of the top three priorities for DC and for Warner Bros. We are still trying right now, but she’s tricky.

I agree there are some pretty high stakes in getting a Wonder Woman movie off the ground. Unfortunately due to the world we live in, a failed Wonder Woman movie would be seen as the inability to sell any female superhero. Batman can bomb and get more movies. Superman can choke and still get another reboot. But Wonder Woman wouldn’t get another shot if her movie failed, because no one would be willing to take a critical look at why the movie failed; they’d just chalk it up to “women’s stories don’t sell” even though that would almost certainly not be the problem.

I don’t think the story line of Wonder Woman is all that tricky, really. For one thing – start without an origin story. Just drop her into the action – In medias res, kicking butt and taking names. Then make small references to her origin story where it’s absolutely needed, and leave the rest up in the air. Let it be a mystery you fill in about movie 2 or 3. Wouldn’t that be a fresh take on a superhero movie? Start by showing, not telling, and from the point of view of the average person on the street, who wouldn’t know or care about what’s going on on Mount Olympus, but who does give a crap about what’s happening around them.

Stop talking about gods and goddesses (especially when they get them all wrong) and just have Wonder Woman work on some issue of global injustice, especially one that relates to women. Also drop the “female superheroes get female super villains” trope (which I REALLY need to devote a whole blog post to!) and have her fighting some patriarchal cultural problem with male bad guys. Because look at the reality of the world – 85% of the time, the bad guys are men.

Go back to “the Amazons are alive and they’re good guys” stories of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman era, but wait to reference why she left the island and all that until future movies. Then go back to the “clay baby” origin story, and the Perez origin story in particular. Compelling story lines could be made with those elements, without rubbing anyone – most especially me and other feminists – the wrong way. And really, for Batman and Superman, it’s important to tell their origin stories, because they’re pretty big babies, full of angst and woe. Wonder Woman is strong and confident and capable and doesn’t need an emotionally unstable childhood to explain her frame of reference.

Nothing is tricky about all that. What’s tricky is that there are a bunch of men involved in DC Comics who really don’t want any of those story lines to happen, because they’re pretty sexist and can’t manage to reconcile good storytelling, what the public wants to see in a superhero movie, and what they need to uphold for the integrity of Wonder Woman as a cultural icon. That’s not a problem with Wonder Woman; that’s a failure of imagination with DC Comics staff. If I were a betting sort of girl, I’d bet that the Joss Whedon story that got canned was something along the lines of what I outlined above. (I am a betting sort of girl, BTW.)

I kind of agree that I’d rather not see them bomb with Wonder Woman. So I’ve been writing in every comments section I can find about what I think they should do – start with another female character. Specifically; start with Supergirl.

Supergirl by Chillyplasma
Supergirl by Chillyplasma

There are some good reasons for doing it that way:

  1. Supergirl already had a fairly successful movie that people like many years ago.
  2. They just had a very successful Superman movie come out recently.
  3. Supergirl is pretty straightforward, if they use the very popular Candor/Identity origin story. The advantage of that would also be Angry Supergirl, and nothing is better than Angry Supergirl. If you’re writing Angry Supergirl, she can be “Ripley in Aliens” badass, and she could tackle a lot of cool global issues story lines.
  4. Casting would be easy, because they answer is a really obvious one: Dianna Agron. She looks the part, and she does Angry Face really well. She’s also a competent actress that could carry a movie if she’s given a consistent and well-written role, unlike anything she was handed on Glee.
  5. I love Supergirl almost as much as I love Batgirl, and slightly more than I love Wonder Woman. And everyone should make me happy at all times.
  6. A good Supergirl movie would set the stage for Wonder Woman nicely. You could do something interesting like just have Wonder Woman show up at the end of the movie to invite Kara Zor-El to hang out at Paradise Island for awhile, setting up the “in medias res” story for Wonder Woman that I outlined above.

Dianna Agron

Who knows, maybe the powers at DC Comics are reading my blog and some of these ideas will wind up on screen. Probably not. But I can dream.

Continue ReadingSupergirl First

Wonder Woman as a feminist icon, and DC Comics’ moral obligation to do better

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Or – How DC Comics is wasting the best character they own and acting like 5-year-old idiots making jokes about Superman and Wonder Woman boning while they fly.

First, let’s start off by putting Wonder Woman in the right context.

Wonder Woman is the most important character that DC Comics owns. She’s bigger than Superman. She’s bigger than Batman. She’s bigger than the DC universe, and bigger than comic books themselves. Wonder Woman is the fictional, graphic novel equivalent of Susan B. Anthony. Or Martin Luther King, Jr. She’s a beloved feminist icon, symbolic of women in a way that no male superhero could ever be for men. Wonder Woman is the only superhero character that could, if she were written well, change the course of human history.

Wonder Woman comics, written well, could affect the lives of women and little girls around the world. Wonder Woman’s stories could influence how people think about girls and education. About rape as a tool of war. About female genital mutilation. About honor killings. About sex trafficking and sexual slavery. About women and girls as leaders. About female scientists and athletes and artists and astronauts. Wonder Woman has the power to inform our way of thinking, to shine a spotlight on the bleakness that is the existence of 80% of the female population on the planet. This is a dangerous and often miserable world to live in for 51% of the human beings on this planet. Wonder Woman has the power to transform that.

Wonder Woman

The power of the written word to move nations, to topple dictatorships, to change lives, has been proven over and over in history, even up to and include the present day. Written well, Wonder Woman comics could put a thumbprint on human history, to the effect that 200 years from now, she would be a point of discussion in our history books – the one and only comic book character that could possibly achieve that. Superman could never fly off the page that way. Batman couldn’t climb up and out of comics and into history like that. We know about male power. We know about men’s ability to manipulate, control and dominate through force; Superman and Batman have nothing new to show us. Those things are already real in the world today.

We don’t know about what women can achieve, given open opportunities and the power to make our own destinies. We may have *some* idea of that here in the United States, and in Europe. But so many of the women in our world live without any hope of opportunity. Wonder Woman is the only comic book character that has the power to transcend the medium, any medium, and take up a place in our thoughts as a symbol of the possibilities of women.

So what is this nonsense about flying and boning?

Well, Wonder Woman is finally getting a second comic book. This happens with “big” characters – Superman has multiple comics, as does Batman. Flash has also had more than one comic book. Wonder Woman has long been considered one of the “Big Three” of DC Comics, so it’s fitting that she finally gets a second book.

Except that her “second book” is not really hers – she’s taking second billing with Superman. And it’s a romance book. And they’re a couple. And the writers of the book are on twitter, making jokes about how fun it will be to write about the two of them having sex while they fly around.

Yeah. Lots of important work to do, but lets write ridiculous stories about super-powered sex. Because of course. That’s the first thing I would do, if I knew how to fly. I would screw, up in the clouds.

Never mind rescuing women from rape in the Congo. Never mind building schools for girls in the middle east and Africa. Never mind preventing girls being sold into sexual slavery in Thailand. Or building an underground railroad for lesbian and gay people to get out of Uganda before they’re slaughtered wholesale. Or, for everyone’s sake, kicking Vladamir Putin in the nads.

No, lets screw in the air! Yay! What better things could superheroes possible do?

I’m completely mystified by what DC Comics thinks they are doing with this character. It’s like they don’t even understand what they own. They’re like five-year-olds playing with a mack truck. They have the ability to do so much good, and yet they’re completely oblivious to what they hold in their hands.

Continue ReadingWonder Woman as a feminist icon, and DC Comics’ moral obligation to do better

Wonder Woman and Superman? Why?

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Entertainment Weekly reveals that in an upcoming issue of the Justice League, Wonder Woman and Superman will start knocking boots.

Wonder Woman and Superman Hook Up

Yup. From the reaction I saw on Facebook and the comments at DC Women Kicking Ass, fans don’t seem to be into it, and it doesn’t break down across male/female gender lines the way discussions often do when it comes to the topic of female super heroes.

DC Women has some great points in their article; they’ve basically devalued Lois Lane, who used to be a prominent female character at DC. They’ve made Wonder Woman subordinate in ways that are out of character, and it’s especially a problem for Wonder Woman given that they’ve already trashed her origin story.

I’m not really a fan of it. I don’t think he’s good enough for her, and think she belongs with Steve Trevor. It really depends on how serious this whole thing is – are they just macking on each other for one issue as a stunt, or are they really going to be together? But at the same time, I ignore the Justice League anyway, because I really don’t care that much about hanging out with the boys. I only care about her main title, such as it is. I added it to my pull list in the beginning because – it’s Wonder Woman. She’s the original, the coolest, the girl I fell in love with on the television. I’ve pretty much disliked the entire 52 reboot of Wonder Woman, though; it’s crappy Greek mythology, crappy feminism and where the hell are the bad guys? Could we fight some crime, please?

But I’ve had serious second thoughts about dropping Diana from my pull list. It almost feels sacrilegious to say so, but I’m thinking the guys in charge at DC really don’t get it, and may never get it.

UPDATE: NPR has a hilarious take on how Wonder Woman and Superman would get along as a couple, presented in text message format. Sounds a bit like they don’t agree with the pairing either.
Continue ReadingWonder Woman and Superman? Why?

Captain Marvel T-Shirt

I added my first Marvel Comics title to my comic book pull list today – Captain Marvel. The “new” Captain Marvel is the former “Ms. Marvel” — Carol Danvers the female adjunct to Captain Marvel from the old comics, before he died. She’s had a comic for years, but Marvel has reworked her costume and has her taking over the title of “Captain” in this new series.

The story is not too bad; a little heavy on the overt “girl power!” charge at the beginning of the book; with the villain taunting Danvers with sexist remarks while she and Captain America battle him, and of course she wins the day, because “girls are awesome! I thought none of that really needed to be said, but the rest of the story was great, with Danvers working through her reluctance to take on the title of “Captain” from her old friend and mentor.

And hands down, the new costume is my favorite superhero costume ever, knocking my former favorite – Captain America – into the dust. It’s pretty damned awesome. I love it so much, I made a t-shirt design inspired by it, that you can buy at this link on Red Bubble. Unfortunately, they made me take the design down.

Captain Marvel Shirt Design
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Thoughts on Azzarello’s Wonder Woman

From Vanessa Gabriel: Thoughts on Azzarello’s Wonder Woman |.

In the last three issues of Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, I find myself less than inspired. What started off strong is now bringing diminished returns in the form of Diana’s intellect, or lack thereof. Diana is repeatedly being tricked or lied to in some monumental way, and she’s falling for it.

I know there are various methods in fiction writing that make the protagonist interesting. One of them is creating conflict and struggle in order to build the character back up, and to give the audience something to root for. But Azzarello’s “deconstruction” of Diana’s personality is irritating the living shit out of me. Diana of Themyscira as a dumbass has got my goat far worse than the vilification of the Amazons. Apparently being one of Zeus’ bastards throws Athena’s wisdom out the door. Perhaps it’s a punishment from Hera.

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On Wonder Woman #8, Fanboy Flakkers & The Sanctity Of Myth

On Wonder Woman #8, Fanboy Flakkers & The Sanctity Of Myth (Part 1 of 2) by “Too Busy Thinking About My Comics”.

It seems that Azzarello has been granted free reign by the flakkers to reinterpret anything at all except for those aspects which serve to perpetuate misogyny. The supposed vileness of Queen Hippolyta and her brutally emasculating sex-killers ought to be forever respected, it seems, but everything else is apparently up for grabs. And so, there’s been not a murmur of discontent – let alone any spittle-flecked raging – about the innovative if hyper-real rendition of the Greek underworld and its ruler in this month’s Chasing Shadows. It’s something which really does leave the suspicion that all that rage and indignation about the sanctity of those old myths, about the necessary rightness of portraying the Amazons as despicable man-murderers, was nothing more than a desperate attempt to shout down anyone who might have pointed out how unpleasantly sexist, and indeed profoundly stupid, Wonder Woman #7 was.

Or: it was never about the sexist myths of times gone by and everything about the sexist myths of 2012.

A very interesting read. Part 2 of this analysis is here.

Continue ReadingOn Wonder Woman #8, Fanboy Flakkers & The Sanctity Of Myth

Female Superheroes – No, It’s Not Equal

Kelly Thompson takes a really close look at female superheroes and body type portrayals, and the vast difference between male and female superheroes in an article called No, It’s Not Equal on Comic Book Resources.

When I look at the way characters are rendered in superhero comics for more academic purposes, I look at four primary categories: Body Type, Clothing, Beauty, and Posing….

Both men and women are given crazy nearly unattainable idealized bodies in comics, we can all agree on this. But that is where the equality ends. Men are generally portrayed with idealized ATHLETE body types. While women are generally portrayed with idealized PORN STAR and SUPERMODEL body types. Which would make sense if the women were not actually superheroes. But they are, and so making them porn stars and supermodels doesn’t make a lot of sense. If women, like men, were rendered like gymnasts, swimmers, runners, boxers, tennis pros, and body builders, you’d see far fewer objections, because that would make things quite balanced. An idealized athletic form that few of us can achieve but many of us would admire or like to have, is imminently reasonable for a superhero form, but that’s not what we get, instead we get idealized (and wholly unrealistic) supermodel and porn star types.

It’s funny that in comics, the term “brokeback” means something quite different than the gay cowboy movie. It’s a description of the pose that many female superheroes are drawn in, where they twist in a way that is physically impossible in real life to show both their breasts and ass in the image.

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