Are Marvel's Most Powerful Women Also the Weakest?

So I was watching the X-men movies over again in anticipation of the "Days of Future Past" movie and I inevitably reached X3: Last Stand. I always felt Famke Janssen did just a wonderful job as Jean, she's always given it her all and taken the role very seriously. Sometimes actors get a superhero flick as built-in fitness regimen or as koosh job but Famke is one of the exceptional few who brought an emotional narrative with her acting to the character that was based in realism. Little else in this film is as intriguing, from Psylocke being a 2-liner character that was easily dispatched to Cyclops get offed within the first few minutes to "I'm the Juggernaut, BITCH!". But what really got to me was this....

It felt too cliche, actually it is too cliche because this happens so often. It's used a pathos-mileage for the male lead to a point where the woman is a canonized, beautiful angel of tragedy for years afterwards and serves his emotional development more than her own. Ever since Gwen Stacy everyone has tried to find a new slant on killing the girl in an interesting way to a point where it's more the norm than it is an exciting, unexpected, edgy exception. It's become almost as pervasive as the kidnapped wife/daughter plotline for every action movie ever made, it's expected, it's trite now, it's totally derivative. But what gets to me is that through Jean there's this typified notion that it's somehow different if the woman is superpowered. It's somehow different if a woman is ultimately helpless if she has occasional bursts of strength. But the period at the end of the sentence is always the same, the woman cannot handle immense power and must be offed or incapacitated with ease. In Jean's case, it's been so often it almost seems to be parodying itself.

I also have a hard time understanding how other characters like the Silver Surfer or Nova or Thor or Loki or Thanos have to be killed or hurt in these outrageous, elaborate ways because they are basically (or literally) gods. But with Jean she's so softened by her love for Wolverine that it bypasses the planet-killing Phoenix and enables him to kill her quite easily, too easily. I happen to really love Jean, I've found her character to be very interesting independent of the Phoenix, I've seen her written fantastically well too but the main event always seems to be her death which is kind of twisted and seems to raise the ire of fans who aren't as familiar with Jean and think her character only dies over and over again. There are also many incidences of Jean being massively weakened in between bouts with the Phoenix that hamper her character significantly.

It seems as though this another trend with massively powerful female characters, they seemingly have to have incredible deficits physically. Jean has been a victim of this and the equally powerful Scarlet Witch (my personal favorite heroine) has shown little in the ways of basic self-defense after the House of M. I happen to like Uncanny X-men but gee wiz, the Scarlet Witch doesn't even put up fight and during Avengers vs. X-men she's taken out by a Hope Summers for comedic effect.

It doesn't bother me that Wanda gets punched or stabbed so much as it bothers me how easily it happens, how unable she is to defend herself. She's a woman in her late 20's or early 30's who has voluntarily entered into a dangerous, violent profession since she was a teenager. She was first trained by one of the deadliest men in the world, Magneto, so she could aide him in what was basically guerilla warfare and then she went on to train with Captain America who is vet entirely dependent of physicality. I find it hard to believe she wouldn't be an effective physical combatant and with all the power loss storylines and methods of neutralization of powers we've seen, it should be a priority for one such as Wanda. Hell, all the times she's been brutally beaten would be incentive enough, is it not traumatic?

Speaking of Wanda, there was a time where any time she used her powers she would rapidly tire. And I don't mean she'd just be weakened, she'd get so depleted she'd pass out which is another accompaniment to massive power for Marvel women. For Sue Storm, it comes in the form of many, many nosebleeds which was especially apparent in the Fantastic Four movies. Contorting oneself or lighting oneself on fire and shooting flames never seemed to wear out Reed or Johnny.

Now nose bleeding isn't entirely uncommon with characters with mental powers across the board but in looking at this site I found that the incidences of men showing the same sort of tire or strain were much rarer. Emma, a master omega telepath, had 11 entries mostly wherein she's a victim of psychic assault whose challenged so much mentally her nose bleeds. Also, I noticed a real difference in the depiction of strain and exhaustion when using powers.

I understand there is the "kryptonite defense" which is that basically everyone should have some weaknesses and I can cosign on that. It's just that the powerful women I see have such incredible, outrageous weaknesses it can be ridiculous how they're so easily beaten, depleted, and dispensed of. Thor is a god, Iron Man's suit has an outrageous number of defenses suspiciously condensed within it, Wolverine dies all the time, and Hulk can start World War Hulk wherein he apparently beats just about everybody up. Nobody's auditing an excess of power there, maybe they even should. And, by the way, a lot of the predominantly physical male characters have telepathic immunity (Wolverine, Hulk) and a lot of them have the ability to shoot projectiles and are still formidable with melee (Gambit, Cyclops) so it isn't as though Jean, Wanda, or Sue shouldn't be able to compensate and defend themselves as well.

I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt in the sense that I don't think this is a chauvinist, sexist conspiracy. I think some thing become habit and comics are very old, these characters are very old but maybe it's time we start innovating them so they aren't infested with any pesky, silly tropes. By the way, I happen to think there are some women who don't fall prey to this like Psylocke or Monet but they are often not of the caliber of power or as prolific as these women are, Jean, Wanda, and Sue are among the first and most iconic Marvel women. There are female characters who are of that caliber like Storm have only just recently come back into the fold and less acknowledged as leaders where some, like Rogue, have been reduced in power. Anyways, maybe we ought to look at things like this as an opportunity to improve upon characters we love, I love Jean, I love Sue, I love Emma, and I certainly love Wanda so it's a matter of seeing them reach their potential and not be dismissed rather than inciting controversy.

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Shapeshifts: The Inconsistent Characterization of Mystique

I have to preface this by saying explicitly that I’m fully aware Mystique is not at all a shrinking violet in any shade of her many “shifts” both literal and figurative. Similarly to how I feel about Helena Bertinelli, one of the things I happen to love about her character is her unbridled aggression. Mystique always take things to the limit and I’ve often felt that her modus operandi is that of a crusader who considers anyone who attempts to curtail her overall mission to be fair game.

But as of late, I’ve just felt as though the Mystique torture has gotten gratuitous and some essential parts of her character have lost in melodramatic vertigo. These days, Mystique gets bored and a little angry then a massacre occurs, she plays dirty, says something scummy, and gets gutted for the 90 millionth time by Wolverine. At this point, she’s been stalked and hunted down by Wolverine, sliced within an inch of her life completely naked and been left for dead. Then she came back, she saved Wolverine from hell (though she initially played a part in sending him there) as a favor to her deceased son Nightcrawler but still got gutted by Wolvie while he was possessed. Then she tried yet again to save Wolverine from the Red Right Hand and was viciously gunned down by Lord Deathstrike then carved up and killed by Wolverine to boot (only to come back).

Honestly, it's kind of creepy. It's almost as though Mystique is constantly being depicted as some sort of misogynist nightmare, particularly during the whole "Get Mystique" arc. The art teetered dangerously close to looking somewhat like sexual violence especially when Mystique massages herself to shift into nudity for Wolverine, they tackle (and straddle) each other, it ends with her on her knees and him holding a gun over her head....need I tug the already paper-thin veil on the imagery this evokes?

Then there's the issue of her being singled out whereas other villains like Magneto, who've killed and betrayed just as much, are at least negotiated with somewhat…even celebrated (in Scott’s case at least).

In the past 10 years or so, this has been Mystique’s cycle of torment with a few dashes of fights with Rogue thrown in here and there as well. What confuses me is that Mystique’s most vicious acts were previously carried out rather as an agent of fate than just an angry, violent seductress with impulse issues. She killed Ms. Marvel’s boyfriend after one of Destiny’s prophecies predicted Ms. Marvel would do serious harm to her. Cold? Brutal? Yes and yes. But there was a motive at the very least, a semi or quasi (or deca) understandable motive with a terrible collateral.

Even in killing Moira there was an ultimate benefit which was the cure to the legacy virus, something Destiny predicted years ago. Mystique exploding the labs at Muir Island and creating a human strain of the virus ended up giving Moira the answer she sought. This role Mystique had as someone who doles out the world’s evils to contribute to a greater good gave her an interesting dilemma. What if someone knew the outcome of their actions, no matter how vicious and cruel, would ultimately contribute to a greater purpose? In a way, Mystique hasn’t any other choice but to be the villain, the most heroic thing she can do is to be a menace. I love that, it’s fascinating. Why oh why has that never been capitalized on? It's brilliant! Is anything Mystique does of this nature fully justifiable? No but it's interesting that she would view it as serving her fate and have an arguably valid reason for believing in that.

But of course, shortly after her Legacy Virus saga, Mystique slit Banshee’s throat and killed Sunpyre as well as launched attacks on Paris of all places, all rather arbitrarily without a definite explanation as to why...ever. I'm sensing some characterization issues from writer to writer, it seems as though people have a lot of difficulty orientating Mystique's character on stable ground. Her episode with Banshee was never explained and then she would go on to get one last glimmer of purpose in her solo series.

The only time Mystique has addressed the X-Corps incident with Banshee

If you hadn't read her solo series, you must. If you've read this far, if you're this interested then it's worth it because this is one of the best solos I've ever read. I think it was the last time I'd ever seen Mystique informed by her character's history in a way that gave her dimension. It pointed out that, in spite of her villainous tendencies, Mystique is an intelligent, resourceful, strong-willed person who fought her way to the top and has a complex vision of what the world is and what she hopes (or demands, rather) it should be.

The series touched on Mystique’s almost kaleidoscopic identity, she’s never solely the villain or the hero but instead a mixture of both with many layers that intersect. There wasn’t too much drama with Rogue nor was there any unexplained resentments carried it out with vicious impulsiveness. She made plans, she made her motives clear, and at points she even exercised restraint and showed compassion. Finally, we have some sense as to why she hates Xavier and what her vulnerabilities are as well as why she has so many defense mechanisms and not in a psychoanalytic way but in a way that gave her character credibility.

As deplorable as her behavior can be, there is some semblance of sense to it and there's nothing more compelling to me than a villain who can make a case for themselves. At this point, she's been handled carelessly to a point where she's almost pathetic in her attempts to settle scores with Wolverine seeing as how she's brutally foiled again and again. It's all about melodrama for her these days whereas previously Mystique had always led a life of purpose. We're talking about a woman who infiltrated the Pentagon at one point using only her intellect, not seduction nor by blowing a hole through the wall. She's a woman who cleverly arranged a presidential pardon for her crimes in exchange for a government-funded task force of mutants called the Freedom Force. To me, that brought yet another interesting perspective to mutant politics that both Xavier and Magneto hadn't yet covered.

I envision Mystique taking on a role which isn't that of the overbearing mother or Wolverine's personal scratching post but instead one that's more political, a leadership position or at least something with more complicated agenda. Moreover, I think it's due time to see her behave in more humanly way and I do believe there's plenty to substantiate some softer, more sympathetic aspects of Mystique's character. She raised Rogue, she was deeply beloved by Destiny who seldom (if ever) showed even a hint of malice, surely she isn't a 100% "bad" person. As far as I'm concerned, she doesn't really fit the bill for your clinically-diagnosed sociopath and what's funny is that often times she's depicted as being reformed in alternate universes. In Age of X, she tended to the mutant children, she wasn't totally evil in "Age of Apocalypse" (maybe a little selfish), and in the "X-men: The End" series she ends up taking care of Rogue's children after Rogue is killed.

My ultimate point overall is that I don't see Mystique living up to the standards writer's once had set for her, standards that are the basis for her character's continual success and survival throughout different generations and many different incarnations. One of the things that largely distinguished the X-men from almost any other Marvel title (or comics as a whole) is that their characters are very versatile, they have much more fluid yet intricately-planned arcs that make them fully-realized and extremely fascinating characters. Mystique is a perfect example of this, like many characters her morality fluctuates but there's a consistent baseline that maintains her. Think about Magneto or the Scarlet Witch or Pietro or Rogue or Professor X, they've all made bad decisions for different reasons but came out much stronger through ambiguity and their convictions rather than playing up to a role.

Though there's still time for it to get screwed up but Mystique has showed some semblance of regret/introspection in Uncanny X-men lately. I just hope that one of these days a writer will see a little bit more complexity and moral ambiguity in her character because it really is the foundation everything since the beginning has rested upon. I suppose only time will tell...

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Reasons Why A Catwoman Movie WOULD Work

She's Popular

Everyone knows who Catwoman is. I would even go so far as to say she's among the upper 5% of comicbook characters people can identify because she's had so many incarnations. If you're in your late teens or early 20's now you've probably seen Batman Returns and if you were alive for it I imagine you could recall how heavily it was promoted. Then there was the animated series, the second animated series, and the 3rd after Batman Begins came out along with the 60's Batman TV show which gained a new vitality in rerun heaven during the early 90's. That's several Catwoman renderings within a generation which doesn't even encompass the comics of which Catwoman has been prominent in for quite a while now. Though people like to assert women can't carry a title, it isn't at all true for Catwoman. She's had 3 whole volumes of comics within the past 20 years that enjoyed long, successful runs as well as countless figures and other merchandise.

Think about Halloween or, rather, Halloween parties over the years. How many times have you seen a woman dressed up as Catwoman? Almost every year you see at least one or two in your social sphere and beyond that there must be millions more because every year there is a whole catalog of options for Catwoman costumes practically. What this says to me is that women appear to heavily identify with Catwoman as an icon throughout varying degrees of awareness when it comes to the comics themselves. Devotees to comics only account for a fraction of the audiences that go out an see movies, it's get people outside the "cult" appeal that's crucial. Women hadn't been seeing superhero films for a while now but the Avengers welcomed in a much bigger female audience than initially expected and ended up being one of the highest grossing movies (and definitely the highest grossing superhero movie) as result.

She's Profitable

This somewhat ties into my last point, think of how many different kinds of merchandise there is devoted to Catwoman out there. I've seen Catwoman binders, Catwoman notebooks, they had Catwoman shoes at one point, costumes (like I mentioned), I've even bought 4 different Catwoman figures within the past 3 years and I'm not a regular action figure consumer by any means. Catwoman's comic series is usually in the top 50-70 when it comes sales and appears to only grow rickety when the writing gets iffy. Catwoman was even given a significant role in the Arkham City game which is not the most accommodating platform for women in general.

The point I'm trying to make is that Catwoman is always being put out there again and again and again, this would not be happening were it not for the excitement her character is able to generate. It comes to a point where people are willing to shell out money to play as her in videogame, BE her for Halloween or a convention, buy her figures, buy a multitude of things with her likeness on it.

Anne Hathaway Is Awesome

While I know there are grumpy detractors, the overall impression after the release of Dark Knight Rises was that Anne Hathaway's performance was exceptional if not amazingly fantastic. In spite of tiresome questions of plot or whether or not it was as good as The Dark Knight, Anne Hathaway's performance fared extremely well and I was alarmed at the enthusiasm people had for it whom I've spoken with since. And from here it looks as though things will only get better for Anne Hathaway in terms of her broader appeal with Les Miserables just around the corner. Warner Bros also put in a submission for Anne Hathaway as best lead actress for the Oscars as well which I can't imagine will get through to a nomination but is an endorsement and vote of confidence nonetheless.

It Doesn't Have To Be A Sequel

Whenever the subject of a Catwoman movie comes up people say "But what's the point? Christian Bale won't do it" which could be very true. But I personally don't imagine there needs to be a sequel to the Dark Knight Rises for a Catwoman movie to happen, I actually wouldn't like it if that were to happen. I would like to see a prequel myself and in that case there wouldn't be any need for Bruce Wayne to be involved. Of course I imagine something of a smaller scale than the Batman films but then again, Catwoman doesn't really need very much CGI and doesn't really use a much technology as Bats so the budget could be considerably more conservative and still churn out a great product.

Another factor that always comes into play is Christopher Nolan and his involvement. Well, first of all, he was the one who coyly suggested that he hoped Hathaway's performance would "leave people wanting more" and, second of all, he has participated in projects like Superman as a consulting producer so simply because he wouldn't direct it doesn't mean he wouldn't want to have input. Furthermore, Anne Hathaway suggested she would do something if it remained in Nolan's "world" of Batman which didn't necessarily exclude the possibility, I think she was just trying to say she wouldn't want to go off on a tangent and have another goofy Catwoman movie. Not to mention, Jonathan Nolan did recently disclose he has a few DC investments in the pipeline....

Halle Berry Ain't Got Nothin' On It

Speaking of that other Catwoman movie, I've heard some say that if the Halle Berry movie didn't work then why would an Anne Hathaway movie work? Well, firstly, it preceded the Batman Begins and came out at a time when the superhero movie had yet to be more clearly defined. Spiderman had only just come out, same with the X-men movies and Batman was certainly not even on the radar given the Joel Schumacher debacle. But even more so, the liberties taken with the character along with it's questionable production value was the ultimate failing of the movie not Catwoman. To me, that's a very limited perspective to take, why should a studio's extremely poor decision-making result in the damnation of Catwoman?

It Has A Spectacular Lead In

In spite of however you might feel about the Nolan Batman films, they do have a level of credibility. Even looking past their financial appeal, Heath Ledger ended up winning an Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker which suggests to me that Batman definitely broke down many barriers when it came to what a superhero movie could be. Joss Whedon even said that Nolan and Raimi invented the superhero movie and that, despite The Dark Knight Rises' competition with the Avengers, he would gladly see it anyways. The support for Nolan and his re-imagining of the Batman series has been met with extraordinary success. And all you kool-aid drinkers looking for the next reboot can chill, it'll happen eventually. You can get ya excessive gadgets, boy wonder, and 3D/CGI when Warner Brothers pushes "The Batman" into production in 2016 or whatever.

Regardless, I would say the Nolan trilogy is a huge boost to the appeal of a Catwoman movie. The Catwoman we saw was not like Halle Berry's and this sort of spin-off would be nothing like Elektra (which sprung from a panned movie anyways), it has a draw that could be very effectively capitalized upon if done correctly. The acclaim Anne Hathaway's performance received and the continued interest Catwoman has garnered over the years is enough to substantiate a decent if not good or amazing movie.

AND THAT.....IS ALL!

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5 Things That Would Make Arrow Better

5) The Black Canary

First, she was a teen with telekinesis in "Birds of Prey", then she was the mother of that teen who was quickly dispatched within one episode, then she was conservative radio talk show host on "Smallville", and now she's a lawyer with a Captain Stacy-esque and disapproving father and damsel-like tendencies. As far as I'm concerned, none of these incarnations even sightly resemble the Dinah Laurel Lance we know and love which has me simply asking......

"WHY?"

What is so deficient about her that causes writers to tweak her in peculiar and ineffective ways? The Black Canary is a hugely successful character, though not on par with Wonder Woman or Catwoman, she is a constant fixture in the DC Universe with a sizable following. People particularly warmed up to the Black Canary and Green Arrow as a couple which almost never involved Green Arrow saving her from danger but rather out of a mutual respect and admiration for one another. Hell, "Birds of Prey" (the comic series, not the show) was largely successful and very much centered around the Black Canary, Gail Simone had even resorted to bringing her back when the attempt to distance her from the series failed.

Without her canary cry or at least her combat skills....this "Laurel" Lance (another arbitrary alteration) is basically Rachel Dawes without the belivability. Katie Cassidy is really, seriously not convincing as a lawyer and it's also really hard to see her flailing her arms and fleeing from danger when the real Dinah could easily thrash just about any thug. As a matter in fact, she did thrash a thug recently then reverted back to helplessness within the next episode.

My advice to the producers - Read "Birds of Prey", sign Katie Cassidy up for some judo classes or something.

4) More villain screentime

Arrow has been accused of "borrowing" from Nolan's Batman a lot and while I don't particularly find that to be a charming trait of the show, I feel like if you're going to swipe anything from the Batman franchises then it should be the compelling rogues gallery. Let's get some character actors in here, some recurring villains, no more villains of the week whom we'll never see again.

If Deadshot's going to come into the fold, let's make him relevant to Arrow's story in some way so that he brings out interesting aspects of Arrow's struggle. They almost struck gold when Deadshot implied Arrow was a killer but then, SPOILERZ, he's got an arrow in his brain pan a fraction of a second later. I don't know which is the sadder casualty- the death of Deadshot or the death of a potentially fascinating inner moral conflict within Oliver? Let's not forget, Deadshot made a GREAT point. Oliver's killed like 25 security guards alone by this point! This is why we need villains. They confront the flaws of our heroes without reserve and ultimately strengthen the integrity of their character.

3) No more anecdotal monologues or over-illustrated points that solve all emotional problems instantly

Listen, in real life, we're all huge pains in the asses when it comes to our emotional issues. How often do people effectively communicate and find the right words to deal with an emotional between intimates or family members? Next to never! When it isn't us and we're seeing dynamics played out on TV there is some leniency in that regard being time is of the essence and other storylines are going on simultaneously. BUT Arrow is somewhat out of control in this regard, I wonder why they can't let more things just stew.

Speedy is a junkie for a few episodes but her mother manifests the perfect analogy to her situation by bringing up a story about a stray cat that involves her dead father. Voila. Mommy and daughter reach a new understanding. Speedy doesn't like the way Oliver is acting so she takes him on a field trip to his own grave to help articulate the point that she felt closer to him in death than life. Now everything is perfectly okay between the two of them.

People don't act this way, as a matter in fact, people so totally don't act this way that it makes the emotional dynamics significantly weaker as a result. You can say "This is an action show" or "This is for men, none of that soap opera crap" or whatever to rationalize poorly conceived and one-dimensional relationships in this series but I think Arrow can do better. Why can't it be action-packed and emotionally informed?

This isn't 7'th Heaven, we don't need a clearly defined moral at the end of every story.

PS- 3.5 Please, no more voiceover filibustering about justice or injustice. We get it.

2) Less Super Sexy, Hot, Steamy, Model Sidecharacters

The hot IT girl, Laurel's hot friend at work, Laurel's hot father (played by an actor who's only 43), the bodyguard's hot galpal....yes, TV is a place of pretty people but if it's noticeable to the point of absolute ridiculousness on a TV SHOW then you know you're really pushing it. It's just goofy. I'm not saying there shouldn't be any pretty people or that there's anything wrong with being pretty, it just gives the show a distractingly synthetic vibe that doesn't do any favors for it's alleged "grittiness". I'm uncomfortably attracted to Laurel's father and this IT chick looks like a Playboy bunny infiltrating a major corporation by pretending to be an IT chick using a naughty librarian porno as a reference.

Come on, people, this doesn't reflect even an approximate reality and this show isn't so extravagant it can get away with it. Let's see real people. There's enough sexpots on the cast, they aren't hurting for sex appeal over at Arrow so let's dial it back a little.

1) Better Acting

This sounds condescending to say but I do actually mean to say it with compassion- Most of these kids are in over their heads and I'm starting to feel bad for them. I don't hate anyone on the cast actually, in a strange way, I'm almost rooting for them in spite of my cringing through their performances. Stephen Amell is so cute and sincerely trying but he's just not hitting the mark, it's like watching a golden retriever try to be a jackal. Katie Cassidy is even kind of likeable but there's no sass to her performance, no palpable assertiveness. I think Willa Holland could be great but her faux rebelliousness is more soap operatic than it is endearing.

Here's what I would suggest as far as the leads are concerned.....

- Stephen Amell needs a character actor as a villain, a classic stage actor, something and anything he can work off of and he also would largely benefit from a romantic interest of a similar caliber. Think George Lazenby and Diana Rigg in the Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" - a struggling actor paired with a thespian or acclaimed actor. George Lazenby got terrible reviews but he had A) less time to prove himself and B) a lot to live up to but in through a retrospective lens it is one of the best Bond films. Why? Diana Rigg compensated for Lazenby as Bond and the romance became the focus. Actors learn from other actors! Just look at David Boreanaz, he started off as kinda iffy on Buffy but by season 3 Joss Whedon felt he was capable of carrying his own show when he saw how much his scenes with Sarah Michelle Gellar strengthened his acting skills.

- Katie Cassidy or Laurel Lance, rather needs to get out of law and go straight to superheroics. Granted, there has to be a transition but with her I could see a much more fruitful path taking up a Lynda Carter-type role as Black Canary. Lynda Carter? Not the best actress. But when she put on the Wonder Woman suit it seemed as though it were easier for her to feel the character and play the role with more sincerity. Katie Cassidy needs that, she needs something to work with.

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Catwoman's New-ish Origins

When I heard Ann Nocenti was taking over Catwoman I was somewhat impartial but also somewhat hopeful. I wasn't familiar with her work overall but what I was familiar with was Typhoid Mary whom I happen to like and I also happened to like her mini-series "Typhoid"...for the most part. The only thing that aggravated me were her not-so-subtle digs at Quentin Tarantino...

When you're writing a story about a semi-misandrist, sometimes-prostitute dominatrix who slices her opponents to ribbons with katanas are you really in a position to take at dig at Quentin Tarantino's penchant for exploitation? And Quince Taranova? Boy oh boy!

But I did shell out the cash for the digital comic version of Catwoman #0 for my Android so obviously I was at least willing to give her a shot in spite of our differences of opinions. Now, if you've already read Babs' review of Catwoman #0 (which you should if you haven't) it very pointedly remarks on Nocenti's "borrowing" of the Batman Returns origin for Selina Kyle and how it came off moreso as unoriginal. Seconded! She gets thrown off building, revived by cats, is a secretary...I LOVED the movie but I own the video casette and the DVD and have every line memorized by this point.

Tim Burton's vision for Catwoman works in Tim Burton's world but in mainstream continuity? Eh, it doesn't have the stylistic emphasis of Burton to back it up. I also feel like it's somewhat of an F-You to the current major motion picture version of Catwoman portrayed by Anne Hathaway. Either way, the movies shouldn't effect the original product too much as far as I'm concerned but if you're going down that avenue then why borrow from something 20 years old that everyone has seen? So there's Grievance Number 1: Lack of originality.

Grievance Number 2? This is a serious question, you'll have to bypass anything your common sense might tell you about a woman who dresses like a cat and think about it in terms of comicbook believability. Why can't people take Catwoman seriously as a master thief? Most of us have stolen, some of us have shoplifted, but does anyone have any idea how hard it is to pull off a heist or a successful and intricate robbery? I would imagine it's very complicated, I've researched it and a lot of the world's best cat burglars are extremely intelligent, intuitive, and complex. Yet the way Catwoman steals, you'd think she was picking up laundry. After a date gone awry, this happens in Catwoman #0...

"That date sucked, I think I'll just slink through an open window a few stories up in this apartment complex and see if anyone left their jewelry box open while still stuffed with expensive diamonds and pearls"

This was the same issue I had with Frank Miller's Catwoman, you'd think she was just a bored and impulsive kleptomaniac. She's being treated with kid gloves, the theme with Catwoman is almost that she steals mainly because she's emotional and damaged, not because she's talented or smart or clever. Yes, there are some emotional reasons for why someone would want to steal but it doesn't make her better at executing thefts.

Why don't we ever get to see how Catwoman steals? And, especially in this issue, how she learned? And I don't mean doing flips over laser beams or wearing a wig to a party and seducing a security guard to get clearance to a cache of bounty. I would imagine Selina learned small things like how to pick a lock or remove magnetic strips from clothing in department stores then learned about security systems and so on and so forth. That, to me, would be fascinating to explore. We've seen Catwoman steal a million jewels through bedroom windows but is it always really that simple?

Also why can't we see how she learned to fight? Or what makes her want to steal so badly? There's somewhat of an explanation as to how she learned but not sufficient as far as I'm concerned....

So Miss Oliver is a woman who runs a group home makes the kids staying with her swipe things for her own benefit. This was the one thing Nocenti did right! Brubaker's Catwoman origin story was flawless and a character in that was a woman named Mama Fortuna who ran a gang of child thieves Selina was apart of. Personally, I think Mama Fortuna was a better name than "Miss Oliver" but that's a matter of taste. Speaking of Brubaker, I haven't missed him more than I do now!

Which leads me to Grievance Number 3! So many people still don't know about Catwoman's origins Pre-52. She's been a prostitute, a flight attendant, a dominatrix - it's all very confusing to anyone reading Catwoman for the first time and none of those origins were air-tight. When Brubaker finally got a hold of her, he did a fantastic job of keeping what worked and disregarding what didn't. Nocenti alluded to Selina being of possibly Russian origins which would ultimately mean her name is not in fact Selina Kyle and that someone cooked up a plot to put her in the mayors office by inventing a fake state program to help homeless teens by employing them in the mayor's office. So...uh...yeah. : / Selina pre-52 had a great origin story, it drives me nuts it would even be an option to revise it so thoroughly. It actually made sense.

Here's a little history lesson in case you don't know it.....

Selina grew up with an alcoholic father and distant mother who preferred the company of her cats. One day her mother, who is somewhat of an invalid, becomes so depressed she kills herself and leaves Selina and her sister Magdalene without a mother. Her father can't stand the sight of Selina as her resemblance to Maria is a constant reminder of her, he drinks himself to the grave and Selina and Magdalene are then orphaned as a result.

Separated by the system, Selina ends up away from Maggie in juvenile hall for bad behavior. The person running the juvenile hall turns out to be an embezzler, Selina comes to discover this and is almost killed as result. She survives having been stuffed into a bag and thrown into a river then manages to blackmail the administrator into erasing her identity from public record and bags a necklace of her's for good measure. Selina encounters Mama Fortuna, whom I previously mentioned, masquerades as a child prostitute to steal money then becomes a thief.

For me, that actually worked. It informed who Selina is and why she became Catwoman. The cat motif comes from her mother and always having wanted her mother's approval and to be like her mother. Selina's relationship with men and her issues with Batman's authoritative nature towards Selina all roots back to her relationship with her father. And throughout, we see Selina being a survivor who relies on resourcefulness, strength, intellect, and charm to become the cunning cat burglar she is today.

Now we're in the throws of something more convoluted and messy than necessary at all, I'm almost offended because it would appear as though the editors went in with an attitude that Catwoman didn't have a sufficient enough origin story so they had to spice it up. Why change Selina from having a sister to having a brother? Why go down the cliche parentage route that will inevitably result in a contrived conflict of identity that would already be there in the first place? And how can you screw with a name like Selina Kyle?! It's a beautiful name!

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Helena Bertinelli: The "Interesting Life", The Unfair Loss

As many of you know, Helena Wayne recently bid adieu to her "alias" Helena Bertinelli. And in case you didn't know, here's how it went down....

To me, this is an absolute tragedy and, in a sense, a travesty as well considering how cavalierly she's treated. "She served me well", "I only borrowed her", and "Shame to waste an interesting life" all were lines that dug pretty deeply into any Helena Bertinelli fan. I believe the implication behind what Wayne is saying is that she took her own life seeing as how the only person who could effectively "waste" a life would be the person in possession of it. Regardless, us Bertinelli fans were both deceived and blindsided by this development as it looked as though with Huntress solo series DC was re-realizing the versatility and potential of Bertinelli. No such luck. To be fair, Wayne did come before Bertinelli but that's just about where all the fairness ends as far as I'm concerned.

Here's my main gripe: I just don't really think if it were to come down to Bertinelli vs Wayne (as far as character is concerned) there would be any good argument for choosing Wayne over Bertinelli. It's not that I hate Wayne per se, I just don't know how you could throw away Helena Bertinelli in favor of her. The line about wasting an interesting life is both an understatement and perhaps the truest thing a comic book character could say in unintentionally breaking the fourth wall. Bertinelli had a fascinating life if you ask me.

First, there's her origin story. There are more orphans in the superhero line of work than there are in the cast of Oliver Twist. It's quite generic for superheroes to be motivated or at least semi-motivated by the death of a parent to fight injustice. This is, in a sense, how Helena gets started as well. However, what sets Helena Bertinelli apart is this...

Often times a hero or protagonist will have an "innocence lost" arc which becomes a formative point in their journey towards becoming hero. Not so for Helena! She was never actually given a chance at innocence, having to witness her father beat her mother routinely in between shady dealings with the mafioso. Unlike her peers, Helena wanted her father to die, I've never really seen this before in an origin story ever. The next panels after the above depict her entire family getting gunned down. This can only mean further angst, Helena expresses her wishes that her father would perish and within minutes it is done but with uhm...excessive results given her mother and brother also die. This explains her religiosity later on given that this must've stirred up a fair amount of guilt in poor Helena. Nonetheless, this moment alone is reason enough for why Helena was not your average heroine. It's a compelling spin on what could've easily been a generic, tired superhero cliche.

But the childhood trauma doesn't stop there! Helena later discovers her surviving that incident was an accident and not only was her survival an accident but she herself was an "accident" according to her biological father. Santo Cassamento was from a rival mafia family which ended up really complicating that whole extramarital affair he was having with Helena's mother, Maria. Santo explains this in "A Cry For Blood"....

Just when you thought it couldn't get more painful, it's exponentially more devastating. As it turns out, her scumbag father was not really her father but instead another scumbag who was responsible for her whole family's demise and really resents her being alive to tell the tale. It's unimaginably tragic and it really gives you insight into the rage that motivates Helena. She's not a monster or a malcontent or simply just hothead but a person who's never known any kind of tenderness. Her whole life has been at the mercy of violence and chaos and her only solution to the torment of it's influence is to fight fire with fire...and boy does she ever....

This is another thing I love about Helena, she's often more of a vigilante. She's not against using guns, bats, and anything else to get her point across which isn't something you'll often see in female comicbook characters. Mystique had a great stint as an anti-hero in her solo series but of course she just had to turn back to villainy. Wolverine or Deadpool or Jason Todd can walk the line but for whatever reason it's much harder for women. You either have to be loveable or damnable. Speaking of damnation and anti-heroics, one defining moment for Helena that I was very fond of was when she "silenced" Santo for good via her uncle Tomaso. Her love interest at the time, the Question, wasn't very keen on this...

This a moment I just love. It's cropped out but what Helena is doing on the last panel is tossing her cross necklace into the ocean off the docks. It's the perfect ending to an arc that so beautifully describes the Huntress ("A Cry For Blood") because she's among the most sensitive Batman characters, the most emotional, and as a result she is one of the most flawed. She's driven by a lot of the same impulses that others in her profession are, the only difference between her and them is that she'll often take the risks they won't. How many times have we seen one character lecture another about not acting upon vengeful motivations which leads to the protagonist or foil to ultimately succumb to their sense of ethics? Helena just killed her enemy and bypassed the morality discussion. I like it, it's definitely not model behavior but you understand her motivation. It's deeply rooted in a trauma no one can understand. She's unconventional, her morals are flexible but her conscience and her own self-awareness prevail which humanizes her.

Speaking of moral authority, obviously the Huntress couldn't go too far without encountering ole grumpy Bats. And, believe you me, that was a strong and tempestuous dynamic...

This was the very first thing that attracted me to Helena way back in the "No Man's Land" days, she was really never afraid of Batman. There's really nothing better than an insubordinate, defiant sidekick though, right? Just look at Jason Todd! One thing that really doesn't uhm....resonate with me about Batman lately is his sidekick situation. We've got an orphanage of little boys, scrapping in the streets just asking for murderin' wherein Batman would be plagued with guilt for endangering them to start with. He's got TWO kids now, an adult daughter and a son as well...is it just me or does it elude anyone else that Batman's become such a family man? Who's next in the Bat family? A maid named Alice? Or does Alfred already fulfill that role? At any rate, I really miss Batman having more adult interactions. Back in about 2000, it wasn't so much about him being Daddy Bats but rather Paternal Mentor Bats. Even when I was growing up the Dick Grayson I knew from the animated series was in college and Chris O'Donnell was in his 20's when he played Robin. But that's a whole different discussion!

Anyways, a definite highlight of Batman and the Huntress' relationship (as well as the tension that always had a grasp on it) was when she started masquerading as Batgirl during "No Man's Land". She capitalizes on the silhouette of the ears and the cape and mainly intimidates street thugs and unadulterated wickedness ensues...

I love it. Helena hasn't earned the title, it's definitely going to irk Bruce, and she's just.... so not Barbara Gordon, you know she won't hold back if she gets her hands on you! Of course, like most of her interactions with Batman, it ends badly....

What I like about Bertinelli Huntress & Batman together is that they work off one another in a way that you don't often see with the rest of his allies. In a way, he wants the best for her and hopes to be a positive influence on her but he also hasn't any patience for nonsense so they're always at odds. He tried to set her up with the Justice League so she'd be around positive influences and it resulted in her trying to kill Prometheus. I wouldn't be surprised if he also had some say in her being in the Birds of Prey as well but it was always unclear as to why she was recruited other than that it was a motion to correct her past behavior. At any rate, it was a relationship that tested both characters in a compelling way. For Helena, it was more of a daddy complex that was addled with both resentment and desire for approval whereas for Bruce it was a test of his unflinching stoicism and reserve. At his core, he's just as emotional as Helena but keeps his emotions within the firm grip of his disciplined nature but Helena is most certainly a challenge to that. In a way, she's a more sympathetic version of Jason Todd but someone who can get a whole lot closer to Bruce if need be. It would've been quite interesting to see how that relationship developed but alas, it was largely ignored after "No Man's Land", I don't think DC realized what they had with that one. What a shame. Though Helena did have her moment with Bruce when she managed to fend off the Joker and his gang while taking a few bullets in the process....

Do you realize at this point I haven't even gotten to "The Birds of Prey"? There was enough here to provide for a hefty blog post and yet the thing she's arguably most famous is a few paragraphs in. That should be indication enough as to the power and complexity of Helena Bertinelli's character. Here she takes on Lady Shiva during one of the last "Birds of Prey" arcs....

Helena's perseverance pays off mightily here, she withstands Lady Shiva's blows just long enough to outwit her and throw her off her footing. It is then that Lady Shiva deems her "Iron Owl", a name that I doubt the Huntress would take to but nonetheless this is a telling feat.

The Huntress amongst her gal pals in the Birds of Prey is a whole different Huntress mainly because she's amongst truly nurturing souls like Dinah Lance and Barbara Gordon. She's a bit softer, more compassionate but still the wild card who's the first to dole out the thrashings when the going gets tough. I understand how Shiva fans object to their mistress being bested with such ease but Lady Blackhawk's line is the most telling of the series about the mental and physical constitution of Helena Bertinelli. She's enduring, she's stubborn, and she never rests on her laurels, the strength in Helena's character lies purely in her uncompromising will.

Ultimately, Helena Bertinelli beats the hell out of a path that is all her own. She made choices uncharacteristic of many heroines and heroes and her greatest journey is her internal struggle as a result of those choice. She wants peace but wrestles with relentless impulses that are influenced by everything to the contrary, she's unresolved and yet very complete in the sense that she knows who she is and what she believes in. If you ask me, I think DC is making a major mistake in benching Helena Bertinelli. I've never seen a character like her. Ever. She isn't the heir to Selina and Bruce's legacy and yet still somehow she encompassed some of the most intriguing facets of their characters. She has Selina's fire, her juvenile nature, her rebelliousness and she has Bruce's trauma, his unyielding conviction, and his relentlessness. Helena Bertinelli had enough material to stand on her own two feet outside of being associated with any other hero which I consider a great triumph.

I would, of course, be more forgiving if Helena were to return for a little Huntress vs Huntress face-off. Because, after all, what happens off panel is hardly a sufficient seal on any comicbook character's fate. But until that day, if it comes.....what a waste of an interesting life....

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The Pros and Cons of a CRAZED Catwoman

So, like many of her DC colleagues, Catwoman is in essence the same girl we know and love but the relaunch has left her a bit...tapped. For me, personally, a child of the 90's who was all about the nutzo Michelle Pfieffer Catwoman it's been pretty entertaining. So many superheroes are noble, ethical, non-contradictory and safe and so many supervillains are calculated and take ridiculous, sometimes overly elaborate precautions to ensure their dirty deeds stick, it's nice to see someone who's just sort of winging it. It's relatable for those of us who are a complete and total mess which is, let's face it, most of us. Selina cashes in on whatever good luck comes her way and runs on fumes till the sweet satisfaction of a damn good heist has her momentarily living good.

But after a particularly brutal moment in her last comic, I felt as though a proper assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of her Catwoman Interrupted phase were worth noting. What brutal moment you say? Angry sex with Batman? Almost beating a guy to death? Ermm, well, they're good candidates but here's what I had in mind....

YOWZA. Your eyes do not deceive you, this is Selina pulling a Tyson to get herself out of fix. A part of me has a fondness for this image because it reminds me of my own cat when she's cornered but I must say it really shocked me.

So without further adieu, let's get started.

PRO - It's Realistic

Look, someone who dresses up as a cat and goes out of thieving sprees after a tormented childhood lush with abuse and abandonment is bound to behave strangely. Not that comicbooks should reflect complete and total realism but I've found that in any form of expression, a basis in reality is key before things get too tangential. Part of the reason for why Holly temporarily took Selina's place as Catwoman (from an editorial standpoint) was because she was less "polished" than Selina which would provide for some entertainment. No offense to Holly but there's only one Catwoman for me. As far as I'm concerned, Selina doesn't need a foil to play out darker or lighter sides of her personality- she is (as the fable goes) the cat who walks by herself (and fans of the animated series in the 90's will catch the reference *wink* *wink*). She's got enough reasons to be a nut, let her ride it out! What's a character without inner-conflict? Boring. And it's important to me that Catwoman be anything but.

Say what you like about Judd Winick, I know I certainly did when he couldn't get through an interview about Catwoman without gushing all over her "sexiness" but I've been pleasantly surprised by the grit and brevity he brings to her character. He's spent surprisingly little time on the more superficial aspects of her character, avoided animal sounds like "mrrrrrooooow!!", and actually dug a bit deeper into Selina's compulsive stealing and what it means. In her first issue, Selina says she needs a "gig" to quell her restlessness and to me the frantic nature of her heisting and pilfering is more believable than a woman in a ball gown drinking merlot casually deciding to rob a museum or prostitute turning her profession into theft over one grudge and a desire for attention.

CON - Immaturity

I'm not a prude, I can appreciate that Selina enjoys a good lay with Batman as it was the innuendo of all their scenes beforehand. That being said, I do think that their chemistry also roots from a deeper understanding of abandonment, passion, along with accents of self-loathing and despair. I like Batman dragging her away from the edge in a sense but I also think it's important that we see how Catwoman liberates him as well and not just sexually but emotionally. I don't mind Selina loses her marbles but being reduced to a child throwing tantrums isn't something I want to see either. I like Batman scolding her in some ways but I would also like to see her be his intellectual equivalent more often, it's not as though he's a vision of sanity and clarity either...

PRO - It's EXCITING

When I first saw this...

... I was like "Wa-oh, it's ON, Catwoman is going to do the deed and nix someone completely" yet this is what happened...

Okay so she didn't kill anyone but that we may have believed for a fraction of a second that she would is not only interesting but riveting. Batman won't kill, Superman won't kill, hardly any superheroes enable themselves to cross that boundary but Catwoman isn't necessarily a superhero. It did make sense to me that she was never in favor of killing but who, in her position, wouldn't at least struggle with it? Or entertain the possibility? Her profession puts her in the company of degenerates on a daily basis and when one tortures and murders her friend is she wrong to seek revenge? I don't think so.

We see leads in comic books show up in the nick of time or have moments of deus ex machinas where they were actually the puppetmaster all along and a whole slew of other cliches. Even in those more morally complex like Wolverine you know his modus operandi, with the Catwoman we have now you have to let the chips fall where they may (second BTAS reference) and see what happens next. Genuine suspense is something hard to come by in a character so old, you gotta appreciate the freshness of it all.

CON - It Can Be Sorta Depressing

If it elicits a strong reaction, the artist or author did their job but every now and then characters deserve to have a good time and Catwoman is no exception. I invite the dysfunction but at the same time we've seen so many characters become so dark and serious it can get cliched and overly cynical. Catwoman is no Rorschach, a lot of the finesse of her character is joviality and self-satisfaction and I don't want to see that fade in favor of her darker struggles. Granted, I hate to see Catwoman poorly written, overly campy, and trivialized but she does have a humor and lightheartedness about her as well that accents that darker aspects to and I hope to see more of that.

VERDICT

I'm pretty happy with Catwoman at the moment, I feel as though Judd Winick has really given her something to do other than be either a cavalier, thieving sex object or a boring softened villain who's too indecisive to a hero. While there is room for improvement, I'm glad Catwoman is staying within parameters of what she should be but playfully defiant of that as well. The sex appeal, the visual aspect of her character is always going to be there so capitalizing on her as a person with feelings I think is paramount. I loved the Catwoman we've seen over the past decade and I'm glad to see she's not lost on this new incarnation completely but instead, rather, something this Catwoman could aspire to and eventually become. If she had it all figured out there wouldn't be a journey, there wouldn't be any growth which is essentially the sole duty of comic book creators and the characters themselves- to tell a story .

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Daddy's Little Demon-Head: Should Damian Be in Action?

DC's Relaunch caused waves of resentment, praise, and controversy amongst the masses who filed in to see their favorite characters revived in yet another attempt to keep the classic, iconic appeal of some of the world's most famous heroes whilst still maintaining a certain freshness. Some things, as documented in my blog, didn't end up becoming tantalizingly fresh so much as tired and rotten but in light of those particular issues some smaller but possibly equally important characterizations definitely have at least me scratching my head. The most prominent for me? Damian Wayne.

Take it from sitcoms, nothing says jumping-the-shark like introducing a cute little kid who suddenly becomes the main character's responsibility. Even Leonardo Dicaprio, one of the best actors of our generation, wasn't able to entice the "Growing Pains" viewers into investing in another few seasons. Was it because people are repulsed by little kids? In some instances but I think more importantly it messes up the dynamic. Dawn on Buffy worked (mostly) and Valeria and Franklin in the Fantastic Four comics were successful as characters but when you take a character such as Batman and try to turn him into a father all sorts of things are trifled with.

Personally, I feel that Bruce Wayne doesn't quite have the paternal instinct to be responsible for a child. It's difficult for him to be emotionally available, he very seldom allows himself to be light-hearted about pretty much anything, but most importantly...he someone incorporates all the young men in his life to crime fighting. With Dick Grayson, it maybe sort of made sense in part because he was always depicted as having been more mature than other Robins. In the animated series he was a college student, in Batman Forever he was played by Chris O'donnell while he was in his late 20's, in the 60's show he was depicted as at least post-pubescent, and even in the golden age days (rife with possible sexual innuendo) he never felt as though he were a child but rather a smaller, more happy-go-lucky and exuberant contrast to Batman. This is arguably true for Tim Drake and Jason Todd as well, they were "kids" but not quite children yet Damian is a mere 10 years old which causes me to ask myself: Would Batman really let a child, furthermore his own biological son fight crime?

Just think for a moment- Bruce Wayne has never been able to fully recover from the death of his parents. It's tortured him for years and caused a ripple effect of issues within his life that would plague him for years. Would he really risk the highly probable chance that his son may witness his very own death some day in an even worse scenario than the ones his parents died in? Think about his villains, if any one of them had the chance to really make Batman suffer before the eyes of his child would they just shoot him? Or make it excruciatingly painful? I tend to think the latter.

Now, I know Damian Wayne was raised to be a warrior but that provides even more reason for why he shouldn't be in the line of fire. He was raised to be a warrior by Talia and while I love Talia, she's just all kinds of nuts about living up to her father's expectations by way of men she believes could be his successor. Her attempt at approval caused Damian's childhood to be very thoroughly corrupted to a point where's he is a bit to chillingly devoted to the cause. Shouldn't a child be allowed to have a childhood? A sense of relative normalcy that makes it easier for him to relate to the rest of the world? Something Bruce was unfairly robbed of very early on?

Is it because Damian is his son that drives Bruce to push him into this position? Are Dick or Tim not sufficient enough to fulfill the role of Batman when the time comes for Bruce to retire? Or what about Barbara even? They are all capable and effective allies who've been able to transition into adulthood while maintaining most of their sanity so why disrupt the life of a child? It's always been a question whether or not Batman should have such young sidekicks but this seems like even more of a hole in the logic of Bruce Wayne as person, as a man, but most importantly as a father. I thought for sure it would be one of the first things about Batman to change but I find myself really ill at ease with the whole idea now.

Whaddaya you think?

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The Month DC Brought Sexy Back...Sorta.

I’ve always been a major advocate of female superheroes as well as representation of women which usually prompts a reaction that is not unlike an elderly relative. “Again with these female superheroes! What is with you and those female superheroes?” they ask me with what I imagine to be emphatic gestures of frustration. Yet, as always, I see this recent point of contention as being a great window of opportunity for myself and those of us who are like-minded to be heard to express our opinion in the most articulate, non-argumentative way possible.

The number one argument from most people of an opposing opinion is that comics are mainly bought by a male audience and that women are rendered and written to be appeasing to that specific audience. Fair enough, it’s not as though it isn’t true but there’s a much harsher reality that blows the former right out of the water. Nobody reads comics right now. Man or woman, black or white or anything in between. That’s why DC is doing a relaunch, that’s why we have digital comics to take the place of illegal scans because earlier this year comics sales were at a record low.

We have characters like Bat Wing and the new Ultimate Spiderman who are meant to appeal to an untapped black and latino audience and over the years there has been much more exposure in terms of other minorities as well such as Asians and the homosexual population. With each and every attempt there may or may not be a palpable response but when you target a group as broad as females there is a whole spectrum of different races and orientations of which these comics could appeal to that are not being properly appealed to. If you want to come at this from a marketing standpoint, the numbers don’t lie- something about comics just isn’t doing it for most *people* regardless of what category they fall under. Women make up half, in not more than half, of the population so if you’re churning out a product that’s not doing so well with just a male audience and there are women who feel alienated by it and are outraged then there is a major, major problem. Why someone would stop the dialogue at “Well, women don’t really buy comics anyways” is beyond me.

The second argument that usually follows is the argument that men are equally as objectified as women. To me, this is an outrageous comparison that is completely disproportionate. Speaking of proportions, usually as a supporting point people will say “Well men are depicted as being extremely muscular and are frequently shirtless” which is true to a certain extent. Bruce Wayne works out shirtless, Superman has occasionally been rendered shirtless after the occasional tussle, and Wolverine has gone on quite a few naked rampages. But for every one of those instances there’s a slew of female characters whose costumes, the outfits they wear when they engage in combat, look not unlike FHM models. Exposed legs, exposed waists, ample cleavage, and ass-cheeks with their own zipcode galore and not just in contextual situations like a shower or as an undercover guise but as their normal day wear, as the things they carry out arduous daily activities in.

Furthermore, musculature is something that doesn’t appear to alienate or offend men otherwise how would you account for these action movies predominantly male audiences go out to see that have bulky, ripped men running around and exploding things? It’s par for the course, it makes sense someone who beats people up for a living would need those. But is it necessary for a female assassin to wear to a thread between her butt-cheeks meant to resemble a thong out on the job? No. More importantly, it shows anyone on the outside that characters like Witchblade or Vampirella or Psylocke prioritize looking sexy over looking like a formidable opponent. In order for women to garner or generate any kind of excitement, according to the editors, they need to be scantily clad above all else.

Another harsh reality about comics is that the outsider perspective of them isn’t really a favorable one either. The public perception of people who read comicbooks is that they are usually small, squirmy men who leisurely wear Darth Vader masks and shamelessly turn to puddles of sweat at the mere sight of an attractive woman. They based a successful TV show on that premise called “The Big Bang Theory” as well as many other franchises. It’s not necessarily an accurate portrayal of every comicbook aficionado but having women with spherical breasts and blow-up doll lips extending themselves in conveniently sexual positions doesn’t help this perception- it perpetuates it. So long as that is true there isn’t going to an upsurge of interest in comics, people will just assume it’s a phenomenon with an exclusive, cult following rather than the all inclusive, versatile, and multi-faceted landscape it truly is. Not to mention, it talks down to comicbook readers and men in general alike to say that they can only be engaged in what female character is doing if she’s half-naked.

I think the response to this from most people from an opposing standpoint is that of someone answering to charges and though people have certainly blown the whistle on sexism we’re all still in it for the same thing. Everyone wants comics to be successful and there’s no movement that I can see to ban any sort of sexuality or sexual innuendo for comics, it’s a big part of their inception into modern day pop culture. I wouldn’t brand anyone “sexist” off the cuff because I’m offended but that doesn’t make my plea any less either. For me, it’s about taste, it’s about inclusivity, and it’s about respecting the product that is being marketed to millions of fans. Starfire is a product, Catwoman is a product, Wonder Woman is a product and even moreso they are legacies of other writers, artists, and editors that need to be dealt with in the most careful, thoughtful way possible. These may be fictional characters we’re speaking of but they resonate with millions over generations, people not only look up to these characters but they look to them with certain ideals in mind- they may not all be met but it’s important that the effort is exerted anyways.

By the way, simply because I feel this way it in no way means I’ll turn my back on my dear Selina Kyle. I absolutely love Catwoman and furthermore I felt the scene in which she had sex with Batman was perfectly tantalizing and fantastic because it seemed as though it would be something they would share together. She longs for Bruce, Bruce longs for her, hence the sexual explosion on the final pages…it’s only logical. I actually think Judd Winnick’s characterization of Catwoman was fair and true to her as well as his observations and assessments of her character but if I am to read a comic about her I want to be able to see her face and not her cleavage predominantly in it’s place. One doesn’t have to push the envelope with Catwoman, it’s been long pushed for decades now the sex is there no matter what, it’s not so crucial to emphasize on it above all else.

Gratitous sexual exploitation like Marvel’s flimsy attempt at capitalizing on the X-women with Milo Manara and Chris Claremont doesn’t entice me and I think the world could do without, same with tentacle porn wherein captive women in fear for their life and in fear of being violated is sexualized. If you get your rocks off the X-women or Wonder Woman or even Granny Gooddness without having to pop a viagara you have my stamp of approval but not when it conflicts with the mainstream comics and the unmet needs of people who don’t share your particular fetish. I’d like to see Batman in the buff but do I expect it when I read his comics? Does it compel me to read his comics? No. Theoretically I could just whether the gore storm of American Psycho if it was something I really wanted. This proposed theory that men will only be engaged if constantly aroused is utterly ridiculous as I’m sure most have sought refuge in internet porn.

All that I would personally ask is that women are afforded the same comfort with their sexuality that men are. You don’t see a lot of male superheroes who are exhibitionist, who try to lean in a way that perfectly accentuates their arse, who are put into conveniently overtly sexual positions on a routine basis. That is comfort with one’s sexuality, the ability to insert it into situations cleverly and believably not dressed as a Scores employee fighting crime on a cigarette break. Nudity, sexuality, discussion of sex…it all has a place but when it begins to define a character or diminish a character it just devalues their worth to something far more superficial and I don’t believe banking on that is a long term solution for comics in the state they’re in.

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The Scarlet Witch's Truest Valentine

     In lieu of Children's Crusade number 7 (AHEM, editors of Marvel, September? Really?) I've decided to devote a post to my absolute darling Scarlet Witch aka Wanda Maximoff. It should go without say that she's among the richest characters Marvel has to offer, she's never been subject to revisions or retcons the way other characters have been and "fleshing out" her story has never been necessary. Wanda is a well of lush opportunity for any story arc, a very viable source of the drama and intrigue the miltiaristic Avengers have been lacking as of late. She's the Elizabeth Taylor of the Marvel Universe, she's gorgeous, spell-binding, vulnerable, an immensely powerful presence, all wrapped up in a neatly tied bow of melodrama. Naturally, where there is melodrama there is often romance and there's never been as sort of shortage of that in Wanda's history. The Vision, Wonderman, Hawkeye- Wanda's reeled them in with a seamlessly seductive yet subtle influence. But this will not be a contest between Vision and Wonderman or anything of the sort...oh no, I have a far better option for Wanda to which many would raise an eyebrow to. And it's NOT Pietro for god's sake....
 

 

Yes. Cap. And this is coming from a Scarlet Witch connoisseur. I think most would relate her romance with Cap to the House of M catastrophe wherein many fans have many mixed feelings about her characterization and dissent, it's a major point of contention. Some would even quite possibly consider Wanda's infatuation with Cap to be a manipulation of her's at the height of her mental breakdown but I would look no further than her earliest days to contrast that assertion as Wanda has always had a certain affection for Cap...
 
 
  
Before Vision or Wonderman or even really Hawkeye had come into the picture Wanda was simmering quite powerful feelings for Cap. Granted, this could all be attributed to a simple Silver Age crush, she isn't the first comicbook heroine to shed a tear in awe of a heroes valiant nature or musculature but I think her repressed longing for Cap actually makes sense with the psychology of the character. Wanda's life, particularly in her inception to the Brotherhood, was dominated by men who mostly sought to either over-protect her or exploit her completely....
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pictured above, Mastermind makes his first and second attempt to appeal to Wanda by way of some very aggressive means. Both Magneto and Pietro intervene always just before Wanda is about to defend herself, something that was commonplace for Wanda at the time. No matter what, in the end of the day Pietro was always on guard when it came to Wanda to a point of sheltering so extreme it fed the notion that they shared an incestuous co-dependency in the Ultimate franchise which I find to be absolutely ridiculous. Pietro's attachment to Wanda isn't necessarily heavily emotional but rather a matter of obligation and survival. Remember, the debt they owed to Magneto was as a result of Wanda's powers malfunctioning and causing fire which led to an angry mob attacking them both. He's the only one who'd ever seen Wanda's powers in full-effect and as such was the only one who knew what a threat she was to opponents for quite some time. Nonetheless, he was very vocal about his disapproval over her relationship with the Vision and made many efforts to negate Hawkeye's sleazy attempts at catching her eye as he knew the emotional impact of her situation tended to inform her powerset. 
 
Regardless, the influence of Magneto and Pietro weighted heavily on Wanda's relationship with men. I mean, your father coercing you into guerrilla warfare using guilt then throwing you at a world leader to exploit your sex appeal to further his persuasions is bound to take a tole on your overall understanding of human relationships. And I imagined this only deteriorated as time went on given that Magneto would use other means to manipulate Wanda that were even more ethically devoid- redirecting a bullet so that it grazed Wanda's head just enough to temporarily hinder her powers for example...not very noble. 
 
So it only makes sense that the object of Wanda's affection would be A) a man that could be vulnerable around her but also B) a man that was emotionally unavailable to her. Enter Vision, a synthezoid with a limited understanding of the wide spectrum of human emotions. For once there was a romantic relationship Wanda could have that would be at least partially on her terms. I think Wanda's nurturing instinct compelled her to look after Vision because she felt she could finally be granted the space and time to protect another person for once. Though of course that had certain repercussions from the very start. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And this would be the pattern of Wanda and the Vision's relationship. Perpetual adandoment. I know that's somewhat harsh to say and given that there were points in which the Vision was inhibited unwillingly I don't penalize him too heavily for any of it. But is it conducive to the sort of relationship Wanda always wanted? Not very much. Whereas before she was being tossed around and protected left and right, she had soon become the anchor in her relationship with Vision. As someone whose very power hinged on chaos, this didn't provide enough emotional stability for Wanda as she was always getting the Vision back on to have him ripped away from her completely. In a different time, perhaps through different means they may have worked but clearly Wanda impregnating herself to provide a human life for Vision was an early sign that this relationship was on a rickety foundation. 
 
Which leads us to bachelor number 2..... 
 
Simon wasn't a bad guy per se, he wasn't even the disagreeable sort. But the single blaring indication that he wasn't the right man for Wanda was that he was the basis for the Vision's design. Worse? The longing Wanda had towards the Vision for emotional fulfillment transferred from him to Simon. Wanda at first rejected Simon's advances but in a pivotal encounter with the Vision, a reunion years in the making, Wanda opted to "move on" with her life when the Vision's memories and affections for her came back. The next step? Wonderman. Why? Because the Vision had tried to destroy the world, been destroyed himself and recovered, and showed a consistent struggle with his own sense of empathy and compassion. The back and fourth of his corruptions and hindrances weren't in his control but they cost Wanda a multitude of times. 
 
And once again, here's where Wanda's unstable powerset came in to remedy her emotional struggles. Not in the most healthy way though as she had revived Wonderman, re-materializing him from the energy he was composed of under the tutelage of Agatha Harkness. Like her later reality manipulations, I suspected Wanda's attraction vulnerable men in combination with her devastating hunger for emotional security after having lost both her parents (twice over in an emotional sense if you count Magneto and Magda) created an all too unhealthy platform for her relationship with Simon. The two carried on for a time but Simon, much like Vision, abandoned Wanda in order to start a foundation in Los Angeles. Wanda initially was distressed at the fact Simon had, even after being resurrected by her, found something to strive for that was more fulfilling to him. She got over it fast but was that because she wasn't hurt or rather...that she instead was used to the disappointment. Ah, a female superheroine who doesn't have a thousand men vying for her at once and loses at love, a rare breed. 
 
So then why do I believe Cap is the guy for Wanda? Well, if you look at the aforementioned there are a lot of things that would a step-up from two men of similar origins. But it isn't even about the competition between the three men. Cap, almost without knowing it, surpassed the Vision and Simon for numerous reasons. The first being that he was the first man in Wanda's life that influenced her to live up to her potential. Think about it, Wanda's transformation from unwilling mutant guerilla waif, joined at the hip with her brother began after she became an Avenger. It was then that Wanda was permitted to not only find her own strength as a sorceress but as a woman as well, going against the wishes of her brother more often and much more ease, opting to make decisions for herself like her relationship with the Vision. When Cap briefly split from the Avengers, she had actually stood up to both Hawkeye and Pietro's snide attitudes and advocated for Cap's leadership skills.   
 

 
Even in the earliest of her appearances in the Avengers, Wanda displayed a certain tenacity under Cap's influence that hadn't been seen before.....
 
This influence was something that Wanda would later touch upon with Steve shortly before their affair where Wanda expresses that she had always "admired" him....
 
When Wanda and Cap began their affair, Wanda became reflective of her troubled past in a way that seemed to have left a peacefulness in her, the calm before the storm if you will. There's a certain self assurance Wanda had with Cap that we didn't see previously, rather than her powers or her emotions setting the conditions for the romance she asserts herself calmly and intuitively, ushering her former mentor in from the cold with a form of nurturing that doesn't require she rehabilitate him but rather that he become a better version of himself. There's a very full-circle aspect to their romance in this way, Wanda is returning the favor to Cap.  It's not only a refreshing role reversal but also a nice display of Wanda's newfound wisdom, she's developed from having been a vulnerable child to a fully capable adult with perception, with confidence....
 

Just look at the power of Wanda's words. She's no longer the victim or the star-crossed lover, longing for acceptance and stability the way she was with the Vision, she opens herself up to the prospect of romance with a peace of mind she's never had before. Instead of being the one consoled or tended to, she's consoling and what distinguishes this from her relationship with the Vision is that she knows her effect on Cap is well-placed because their working relationship initially required that she lay her life in his hands and he certainly never failed to protect her. 
 
Yet, I'm plenty aware that this was all before/during a breakdown of Wanda's which leads me to an interesting theory of mine. I actually believe that amongst all of the other hexes Wanda's shattered mind cast as her reality-altering powers spun out of control, the one thing meant to be the failsafe in all this was Steve, the only person who could potentially appeal to her sanity amidst all the psychosis. The lingering insinuation of her  attraction to him is, in real time, over 40 years old, it stretches all the way back to the very first Scarlet Witch-involved stories so the sexual component was always there. But I think what's more important is that on some level Wanda knew that if anything were to happen to her the person she could rely on the most for support would be Cap above all else. Unlike Pietro or Magneto or the Vision, who've all faced different forms of corruption, Steve is among the most moral and unswayed in the Marvel Universe. Not only that but like Wanda he is very in touch with his emotions, his convictions to a point where it informs his heroism even more than his expert tactics. He was always a soft, compassionate sort whose strength was not necessarily brazenly expressed but always there- again, much like Wanda herself. The most literal catalyst, however, for Wanda's revived interest in him seems to have come from this little snippet....
 
Couldn't be more overt. Cap consoling a child sealed the deal for Wanda, it was a tangible option for what could be the fate she'd always wanted for herself. But I feel as though it was too little, too late and the toll of losing her sons had already torn her up inside on irreparable levels. But Cap, being the kind of guy he is, still stood up for Wanda when the odds were stacked against her and not only that but he stood up for her on his own, on the brink of expressing deep feelings for her....
 
 Cap confronts Wanda and her hallucinations alone, head on
 Cap standing up to Logan over the decision of whether or not to kill Wanda

 To me, this speaks volumes to Cap's character and not only that but I think it substantiates the real love and affection they had for one another. It wasn't a fling, it was the entirety of Wanda's career as a Avenger that brought her to Cap. He taught her to use her strength in a way where she would no longer have to ask permission or be the first to fall, he never exploited, dismissed, or abused nor did he ever take his devotion and responsibility to her lightly. 
 
Though Wanda's fate is currently to be decided and Steve is involved with Sharon Carter, I have hope that one day this relationship will be touched upon once again. How could it not? Even recently Wolverine, in his usual irrational fury, suggested Cap still possibly loved Wanda and we even saw Cap take quite nicely to Wiccan during the Children's Crusade. But for the time being, I think this little pocket in time wherein Wanda consummated things with Steve was one of the most vibrant examples of how wonderful of a character she truly is. A piece of her history, something over 40 years old shoots enough sparks for me to write all this so surely there's no end to the depths and complexities of Miss Wanda Maximoff!
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