I HAVE REVERSED MY POSITION ON Why there probably WILL be a Wonder Woman film (and why it will probably suck)

EDIT: I FEEL MUCH BETTER - they've pushed the date to 2016 and are probably rewriting it. Not rushing it like Man of Steel:

http://www.screened.com/news/batman-vs-superman-or-whatever-its-called-pushed-to-2016/5321/

Furthermore, DC's solid win of this case puts them in a position of no longer needing to mandate character changes to strengthen their hold on copyrights:
http://www.deadline.com/2014/01/superman-warner-bros-dc-comics-copyright-lawsuit/

Comic book fans and feminists alike have been deploring the fact that there have been oodles of super hero films lately, but still no Wonder Woman film.

I tried to explain some of the Hollywood reasons why there hasn't been a Wonder Woman film yet (in an admittedly tongue-in-cheek way) and was of course deluged by responses that totally missed the point:

http://www.comicvine.com/profile/etragedy/blog/why-a-wonder-woman-movie-would-suck/89845/

(if you take nothing else away from this, understand how WB is a giant departmentalized company... and the part about pants)

Recently there was another announcement that basically caused the entire Internet to go apeshit - namely, the casting of rail-thin Gal Gadot as the Amazonian Princess in a cameo in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie.

Now there has been another round of rumors about Wonder Woman's character in that movie. She doesn't need to look like an Amazon warrior, because she isn't going to be one!

http://io9.com/the-rumor-about-wonder-womans-movie-debut-will-make-yo-1495695994?fb_action_ids=10203035381313799&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

My stock answer to this has been that for awhile now in the comics she flies and is all around a lot more like Supergirl anyway, so they may as well go ahead and make her a Kryptonian instead of an Amazon.

But wait, you say. Doesn't that change her entire origin? What about the Greek mythology which is the foundation of the entire Wonder Woman lexicon?

Well, now I am going to tell you why I suspect there really WILL be a Wonder Woman movie, and why it will probably completely suck...

The first thing you have to understand is a little about copyright law. Yes, copyright law. I don't have time to get into the whole thing here, but just understand that copyright law in the United States has changed several times over the years. Specifically with respect to when fictional works enter the public domain (basically the termination of copyrights). Now that modern media like movies and comics have been around for more than a century, a lot of the characters owned by giant corporations like Disney and Warner Bros. (like Mickey Mouse) were *going* to become public domain characters, meaning anyone could profit off them, until copyright length was extended courtesy of Congressman Sonny Bono (yes, that Sonny Bono).

But even that extension is now starting to run out. In the meantime comic book companies have found a temporary solution in trademarking these characters (there is no sunset clause on a trademark). But even that issue got muddied when the courts ruled that the draconian work-for-hire contracts under which a lot of these characters (specifically Superman) were created did not grant perpetual ownership.

Now here's where things get interesting. Last year WB made a lackluster Superman movie called 'Man of Steel', the film to which 'Batman Vs. Superman' (guest starring Wonder Woman) is sequel. Why was that film so lackluster? Part of it was because it was *rushed into production*. The reason it was rushed into production was that a court ordered the film be made or else the rights to Superman would revert to the original creator's (Jerry Siegel) heirs.

That's right, the film was not made to make money, but to preserve the copyright! (allowing WB to continue to make money off the character in the future and avoid paying a settlement to the Siegel heirs).

Now, comic fans know that with the release of DC's so-called 'New 52', WB/DC has been making some changes to Superman, most notably his costume and origin have been somewhat tweaked. This is no mere modernization. By making changes to the character they can argue in court that this is a different character and that they own the rights to Superman outright for decades to come! In other words, they are doing an end-run around copyright law by re-inventing the character. Whether this will hold up in court is yet to be determined.

O.K., now back to Wonder Woman. The thing is they already don't want a Wonder Woman in a skirt or go-go pants (see my link above about 'why there hasn't been a Wonder Woman film' yet). But mainly, Wonder Woman is the *next* DC character whose copyright is set to expire (they already took care of renewing Batman). Furthermore, remember that part about Greek mythology? Well Greek mythology is squarely in the public domain, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. WB doesn't 'own' Amazons or Aphrodite or Athena... but they do own Krytonians (a court already confirmed this). By making Wonder Woman a Kryptonian, ditching her traditional costume for 'armor' (with the added benefit of being able to sell more toys), they can renew Wonder Woman for decades to come too, with no fear of claims from 'greedy' heirs!

And that, my friends is why there probably WILL be a Wonder Woman movie (and why it will probably suck).

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My 1,000th Review

Interview With the Wanker

Breaking vampire stereotypes

For my 1,000th review on Comic Vine, I wanted to pick something special, so I chose this, Preacher Special Cassidy: Blood & Whiskey. Preacher was a consistently good series, and Irish vampire Cassidy was one of the highlights of the series.

The story takes place mostly in New Orleans, where Cassidy has stopped because he has smelled another vampire. This leads him to make the acquaintance of one Eccarius, a long-haired, florid-talking, cape-wearing self-described 'Lord of Nightfall'. In other words: a walking vampire cliché.

Eccarius takes Cassidy to a gathering of goth types that meet in a cellar, drink each others' blood, and beg Eccarius to make them like him. Cassidy is, of course, disgusted with the lot, roughs them up. One of the Goth crowd, 'Roger', who wears sunglasses indoors, writes poetry, and looks suspiciously like Neil Gaiman (writer Garth Ennis' rival at DC Vertigo at the time), particularly elicits Cassidy's ire. Cassidy then drags Eccarius away to get drunk. (Strangely, despite the title, there is no whiskey drinking in this comic - they drink blood, wine and lots of beer, but no whiskey.)

Sure, it's another one of Garth Ennis' cheap shots (most of Preacher involves him taking potshots at easy targets especially politicians, clergy and other authority figures), and once again lionizes Cassidy as a sort of punk rock vampire who uses slang expressions like 'bollicks' a little too much, in a way that seems to say the writer's trying too hard to make him seem cool.

But to fully appreciate Preacher: Blood & Whiskey, one really needs to remember what it was like in the 90s. In the wake of the film version of 'Interview with a Vampire', neo-Gothic Revivalism was at an all-time high, and New Orleans was pretty much ground zero. So, this comic would've been much sharper then, when legions of wannabe Goths were a lot more annoying, and fewer parodies of them had been made. There were also far less vampire films and comics, and vampires generally still mostly fit the traditional mold, so this story poking fun of the genre's clichés also would've seemed much more novel at the time.

But when it comes down to it, this is still a really good read. A self-contained Cassidy story that's still fondly remembered by Preacher fans. It's not at all surprising that it made Wizard Magazine's list of '100 Best Single Issue Comics Since You Were Born'.

(the original review page for recommending & comments)

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Women shouldn't be allowed to vote!

Don't lean on me, man, 'cause you can't afford the ticket!

Cover by Luis Dominguez; interior art by Noly Panaligan

In Weird Western Tales #27, Jonah Hex is in Kansas where he becomes involved in the women's suffrage movement when he's hired to protect the outspoken Mary Ellen Todd.

The problem is, a local cattle baron, Thraxton, doesn't want women to get the vote in Kansas because the same gubernatorial candidate that supports national female suffrage also supports a state's water-rights policy that would end Thraxton's control over the region's water supply.

Noly Panaligan's cinematic art style

One of the great things about this issue is that Noly is back on art. His artwork is definitely notable for its cinematic quality - he often chooses interesting angles on the action - something that was not yet common in comics in the early 70s.

If'n women ever get the vote, it's us men whut's gonna be the sufferers!
The idea of women voting is ridiculous.

But what's really notable here is the story. Writer Michael Fleisher creates a story that balances action with moments of humor in a story that also gives a lot of insight into the character of Jonah Hex. Not only do we learn he's a chauvinist, but that, while he's a hired gun, he stay's bought. In one conversation with Thraxton, Hex admits that he thinks women having the right to vote is "downright ridiculous", but he refuses to switch sides, even when Thraxton offers to double the amount Miss Todd is paying him (which would mean $1,000 - a large sum for the late 19th Century), saying, "In muh whole life ah've only switched sides once in th' middle of a fight... ...an' after thet once, ah swore ah'd never do it again, no matter whut!" This seems to reveal a lot about Hex's character. The likely supposition is that he's referring to something that happened during the war - possibly connected to the reason he still wears his Confederate uniform, or why certain Southern loyalists want him dead... but that's a story for another time.

No, Jonah, they'd NEVER do that!

Jonah Hex's views on women really aren't that out of touch with what most western gunfighters would've thought, and by not choosing to make him the heroic crusader for women's rights that most comic heroes would be at the time this was written is another way Jonah Hex was depicted as a complex character at a time, just post Silver Age, when such multi-dimensionality was pretty rare.

(please recommend this mostly spoiler free review here)

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It doesn't matter

It doesn't matter how much time I spend reading and reviewing comics. How much effort I put into writing insightful critique while avoiding spoilers and looking at various aspects of not only an issue, but how it fits in the larger scope of a body of work. Nobody's going to bother reading, commenting or recommending.

I could just turn on my webcam and ramble and upload a video. It would be short-shrifting the material, but even if I edited in some flashy graphics, it wouldn't take as long as it does to thoughtfully compose a written article with embedded images and links, and would probably get way more views. If I was a cute girl it would probably even go viral every so often.

Professional critics for newspapers used to make their whole living putting in less time reviewing than I do. Yet even if posted to the forums they'll go unseen, as endless "ask (insert username)", RPG and battle threads clog up the front page and the second and third pages... Sometimes wonder why I bother.

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Are Westerns Inherently Racist?

Are Westerns Inherently Racist?

Jonah Hex forces us to confront our uncomfortable past

As I sit down to write a review of Weird Western Tales number 22 from June of 1974, I feel I have to talk about one of the big issues that confronts a contemporary reader of vintage Jonah Hex comics... the apparent racism in the stereotyping of the characters.

In this issue Jonah Hex is sheltering from the rain in a crude lean-to when armed robbers happen by. He dispatches them with his six-shooters, and realizes that they're the men he's been tracking (he's a bounty hunter).

Unfortunately, in the gunfight his horse was killed by a stray bullet, and he's forced to carry his gear on foot, until a passing stagecoach happens by and offers him a lift.

The coach contains several passengers, including a deputy who's escorting a huge negro criminal, named Blackjack Jorgis, back to the town of 'Hard Times' for trial, and a mysterious stranger who recognizes Jonah Hex from a Confederate Army photo.

Is Jonah Hex a racist?
Blackjack with his trademark watermelon

This is where things can get a bit iffy for the modern reader. The stagecoach is attacked by Blackjack's cronies who free him and then flee. All the 'good' citizens aboard the stagecoach seem to be Anglo caucasian, including the driver who's killed by Blackjack's men. Blackjack's gang, on the other hand is made up of two Mexicans, Sanchez and Esteban, who are portrayed as dirty, greasy, reprobates, and an 'Injun', who seems to only be there to look menacing... and then there's Blackjack himself, who's a watermelon chomping black stereotype.

The drunken sheriff - cliche, genre staple, or both?

But then racial stereotypes aren't the only stereotypes present. The southwestern townspeople are illiterate yokels, the sheriff is a drunk... but wait a minute, isn't that a common Western trope? The drunk sheriff? Dean Martin in Rio Bravo, Robert Mitchum in El Dorado, the list goes on and on... the entire Western genre is built upon certain tropes, cliches even... if you take out too many of them, it almost ceases to be a Western (imagine a western where nobody could be shown wearing cowboy hats, riding horses or using guns).

Illiteracy rates in the United States

What about historical accuracy? A lot of Western frontiers types were alcoholics - or at least very heavy drinkers - it's a pretty well documented fact. A lot of people, especially out west were illiterate - even to this day the southwest U.S. has some of the highest rates of illiteracy (and the highest if you take out California, New York and Florida, the states that are skewed by the biggest immigrant port cities).

When it comes to racial stereotyping, stridently anti-racist rapper Ice-T said that people need to listen to the whole story, while it's a racial stereotype he admits to loving fried chicken and watermelon - going so far as to record a song called 'Fried Chicken'. Ice-T it's worth noting actually had a reason for saying 'listen to the whole story', he was famously accused of glorifying anti-police violence by writing the song 'Cop Killer', but he could just as easily be accused of glorifying police work in his long-time portrayal a cop on TV's Law & Order.

Jonah Hex - traitor to the South?

The point Ice-T was making at the time is that any work of fiction has to be judged as part of it's whole. Should Quentin Tarantino avoid using the 'N' word in his movies as Director Spike Lee says? Or would a Western like Django Unchained be less realistic had it done so? That's where we come back to this issue of Weird Western Tales. Jonah Hex, at this time was a complex character - what's behind the whole 'shove a tamale down the greasy Mexican's throat' line? Here's a character who first appeared (and still does) wearing a Confederate army uniform - something that turned me off about this 'hero' when I was a kid. But does he really hold the values of the Confederacy? This issue casts some doubt on that point, as he's tracked and marked for death by 'patriotic' Southern loyalists.

And then there's the issue of era. These Weird Western Tales comics were written in the early 1970s. I've gotten a lot of enjoyment poking fun at how blatantly sexist Silver Age comics are - but they were pretty much a reflection of what was 'normal' for their time. While the 1970s were the early post-civil rights era, whether or not society was any more racist than it is today may be debatable, but what's less debatable is that 'political correctness' had yet to become commonplace in popular culture. Westerns shamelessly portrayed 'Injuns' as bloodthirsty savages - and if they were talking about Apaches, weren't they more or less accurate, at least from the point of view of any non-Apache? And are even modern attempts at politically correct Westerns such as the 2013 Disney The Lone Ranger film (with Johnny Depp in 'redface' makeup) any less racially stereotyping despite their best intentions?

A mixture of genre tropes and complex characterization makes any Jonah Hex comic difficult to explain to anyone that hasn't read it, but the added dynamic of early 1970s social norms in popular fiction compound that problem. This issue's story, 'Showdown at Hard Times' is particularly difficult (especially in a review without spoilers) to summarize to the unfamiliar - as a Western, it's as good as any Jonah Hex story - how palatable such racially thorny escapism is to you is probably best made by yourself and best made by actually reading and judging the material first hand - so consider that an endorsement of this comic whether or not you think you like such stuff.

(recommend this here)

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