Women and Comic Shops...

I was at the shop on Saturday and noticed a little girl (about age 9/10) walking around and checking things out. I hear her complain aloud about how there was nothing for her. She made note of all the men on covers and how she didn't much for a girl to relate to. She picked up a Spider-Girl back issue, but quickly put it down and told her brother the store was boring and she wanted to go home. This made me think about how nobody at the shop on staff came to ask her if she needed help. In their defense they were holding a gaming tournament and doing inventory/stocking their bookstore section. And later a young lady came into look for some sources for a Racial Tensions in Comics paper she was writing and the staff was very helpful as they generally are at said store, so I definitely think the little girl was an isolated incident. Overall I think a lot of stores have gotten so used to people being vets and doing for self and take it for granted that patrons can instinctively navigate the store. Anyways, I want to write less about customer service in the broader sense and more about how women view comic shops and their experiences there. Better yet, I'd like to ask you lovely ladies of the vine how you feel about this. I have some female friends that say they've never felt out of place, ignored, ogled, or generally disrespected by staff or fellow customers. Conversely, I have friends that say that it's a frequent problem and causes them to not want to go to LCS'. I'm very curious to know how often the latter is perceived to have occurred. Personally I can say that I took my ex girl friend to my local shop and she did not have a good time at all. She was very off put by the way women were drawn and depicted in statues. When she picked up an issue of Power Girl and said "really? This is supposed to make me interested as a woman?" I really didn't have any defense besides telling her about the character and how she's a strong, independent female character. She countered that with "I'm supposed to gather that based upon her looking like a flying stripper?" And yeah I tried the age old "Look at Namor, he's all ripped and shirtless for the ladies" rebuttal but to no avail.  


Best and Worst Runs in X-Men History?

Sweet, sweet nostalgia 
A few months ago I wrote a blog asking you guys how you felt about Chuck Austen's nigh universally panned X-Men run and I got some pretty interesting answers. Afterwards I read the first trade of Austen's run after he took over from Morrison (who's run I wasnt' too fond of...especially the end) and wasn't really moved one way or the other. Anyways I went to see First Class today and the appearance of Azazel in the film got me to thinking about Austen's run and I ended up talking about X-Men for a bout a hour and a half at my local shop after I left the theater. When I got home (after scoring the last arc of Dysart's Uknown Soldier in the discount bin!...Swag!!!) I hit the net and found a piece about the 10 goofiest moments in Austen's "Draco" (truly a retarded time in X-Men, but not even skimming the surface of Holy War). 
Kurt, I am your father!!!...And Satan, I'm also Satan 
 Someone in the comments happened to mention that it wasn't the worse X-Men or X book they've read. That got me to thinking, as X-Men fans we put up with a lot of crap stories and have weathered through some of the most inexplicably asinine stories in the history of comics, but we've also had some good, even great, times. I quit reading comics in a weekly format around 2000/01 and didn't start again until 2008/9 ish. Despite this I did keep up on my X-men pretty well through friends who read their books. Reading Uncanny has often been an exercise in extreme masochism. I started buying X-Men again during Second Coming because I found the story compelling and it was a good jumping on point since I had been following Brubaker/Fraction & Kyle/Yost's runs. I felt like his writing had improved quite a bit during Second Coming, then Five Lights happened and I had hit my breaking point. 
Emma, my poor, sweet Emma. What did that monster do to you?!
 Then something happened, Kieron Gillen started "co-writing" Uncanny and the heavens opened up. After Quarantine I was feeling really good about the future of Uncanny in Gillen's hands and have very much so enjoyed Breaking Point issues thus far. I've also been enjoying Mike Carey's time on Legacy despite Rogue and Mags hooking up last issue (BOOO!!!!). I've lived 23 years on this earth and while it's a short while in the grand scheme of things I can say I've been a life long lover of comics, especially X-Men. In that time I can say the best X-men stories I read occurred during the early to mid 90's. The worst, that I've sat through near beginning to end, was without a doubt Matt Fraction's. For that I consider myself lucky, because Fraction wasn't truly terrible in the grand scheme of things, just underwhelming. So What's the Best/Worst of the X-men you've experienced? 
This also happened...A LOT!!!

Gail Simone on the Reboot

She makes a solid case, and I'm glad she's optimistic and excited but I ain't drinkin' the Kool-Aid 
Hello everyone, welcome to the first of an irregular series of articles about whatever pathetic excuse for rational thought is going through my mind at that particular moment. If you prefer not to read the ravings of a befuddled redhead, at least skip ahead to the end, as I am introducing JUST FIVE MORE, where each column, I pick five things I love in geek culture to share with you, whether you want it or not.

Crazy week to be a DC fan, huh?

Reaction to the revelations this week regarding DC Comics and the vaguely terrifying and cryptic press releases we've seen so far seem to range from orgasmically positive to ferociously vengeful. Some of the slightly condescending comments from the first group to the second probably aren't helping matters.

I don't think, "calm down, it's just comics," or, "your old comics are still in boxes, you can read them whenever you want," are really the answers the second group wants to hear. These aren't the enemy, these are, many of them, long-term, loyal supporters, who have stuck with us through crazy times. Remember Superman with a mullet? That might be a bad example, because I actually like Superman with a mullet. Hmm. Remember when the bat-cowl had a mullet? Shut up, I'm making a point here.

These people are concerned that the stories they care about no longer "matter," or aren't in continuity. Or that their favorite characters might disappear completely. Those are understandable, reasonable concerns. Wow. Now I can't stop thinking of the bat-cowl with a mullet. Is there a El Bat Mulleto in Batman, Inc? There should be.

Let me point out why I'm excited about this movement at DC. I also need to say that I am not an apologist, nor is DC even aware I am writing this. These are just my thoughts as both a writer for the company and as someone who dearly loves the DC Universe above all things including dogs and self-respect. You may completely disagree, but I think this is going to be one of the most exciting times in history to be reading comics. Yes, really.

First... I don't believe it's a good thing when the readers know everything about a character. That is asking the writer to play poker with all his cards showing and his pants unzipped. You might win the game, but what FUN is it (except the zipper part)? Fiction is about surprise...it's about twists and turns and sudden reveals. And yes, you can still have those things in a great comic in current continuity. But how much more fun is it to be an explorer?

Remember when you first got hooked on comics, and you found that soulmate character you loved and just HAD to find out more about? How fun was that? How much joy did that bring you? Did you ever have a better, more wonderful time as a comics reader?

That's what excites me, here. We're going off-roading. We don't have to go the speed limit.

Right now, telling even the best stories in current continuity is negotiating a great many roadblocks and closed roads, set up by people who don't even work in the industry anymore, for reasons that no longer make much sense. It can be done, the detours are amazing. But September is giving us a hot car to drive and a huge endless horizon in every direction. No pre-built fences, no roadblocks erected decades ago for a different set of drivers entirely.

It's a little bit thrilling.

A DCU that looks less like the cast of the Andy Griffith show and more like the wide, vast group of people that attend NYCC and SDCC... that's exciting. And long past due.

Many of us in the industry are also seeing some of the other new projects announced for the first time (security was FIERCE!), and my inbox and twitter feed are full of pros, even some who don't work for DC, cackling like freshly-minted fanboys and fangirls. "Did you see Philip Tan's Hawkman?" "Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on WONDER WOMAN?"

I mean, this is just the first salvo and I am looking at a big stack of books I have to have already. Mr. Terrific getting his own book? Geoff and Jim on Justice League?

The morning when it was announcedFirestorm, the book I am doing with Ethan Van Sciver and Yildiray Cinar, was actually a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. Firestorm. Who could have predicted that six months ago?

Over the next few days, there's going to be a lot more news, a lot of unexpected stuff, new books, new writers, new artists, and some plans to bring a visibility to comics we haven't seen since the first Batman film. Hollywood has caught up with comics, guys. That means we have to jump ahead of them again.

Lest you think this is just an ad for the company that pays me, I assure you, it isn't. There were some painful decisions made, some I disagree with. Some YOU will probably disagree with. Every book is someone's favorite. Every character is someone's heart. And that is going to be hard in some cases...almost everyone is going to lose something they really loved. In some cases, this was every bit as hard for the creators as it might be for the readers.

But the good news is, this isn't the end. Like every DCU that has ever existed, it is a canvas that has a lot of blank space in it. These launch titles are not the end. There's more room to be filled in. There will be some growing pains. But we, all of us, get to see the kingdom from a new angle, with new territories. And some of your favorite characters are coming back with a vengeance and a focus that they have never before had.

I was at a writing seminar as a guest recently, up at the wonderful Stumptown convention in Portland, to hear Brian Michael Bendis give a speech on comics. He said something that I found a real key to his success...that when something went wrong or contrary to his wishes, instead of falling to pieces, he saw that as an opportunity. It's not specifically DC that I'm so behind on with this plan, it's big ideas, giving creators room to try new, wide-open concepts. That excites me.

At some point in the early sixties, some very creative people realized that if they were going to bring back the Flash, it probably wouldn't work if he was still the guy with a lightning bolt t-shirt and a soup pot on his head.

I understand the concern, I sympathize. But at the same time, I really, really don't want you to miss the stuff that's coming. Yesterday was just the first salvo. No one's a bigger DCU fan than I am. I am a serious skeptic about stunts and events. But nothing DC has ever done compares in scope to this. It's a big idea, scary and exciting. It makes us explorers again, writer and reader both.

And that is what comics are all about.

No mullets were harmed during the writing of this column.

The Worthy and Their New Powers...

Insert MC Hammer Joke Here
So I'm a bit confused about how this all works. When they grip the hammers and become imbued with their powers do they become possessed? Are any of the worthy in control of their own actions? I would hope they are, otherwise I find this whole thing rather uninteresting and a bit lame. I know companies have a habit of absolving heroes for any negative actions they may take (Space bugs, brain washing, demons, evil twin/clone), but I find that removes the meaning of said actions. From what I've read it seems like everybody with a hammer I've seen thus far goes feral and then goes on a rampage while speaking some made up gibberish and screaming. Anyways I'm sure more of you are following this whole situation a bit more than I am, seeing 
Jugg's gon getcha!!!!
as how I'm only reading my regular titles and not the even or it's tie ins. Would somebody be so kind as to clue me in on these hammers? 

Price Tags and Page Counts

As I was ripping that creative, yet annoying Super 8 add out of my DC comics this week I decided to count the story pages. I had heard it mentioned that the 2.99 price would reduce story page counts. Honestly I had found the stories so engaging that It never seemed like I was losing pages. There were exceptions to this rule like Detective Comics because I couldn't help but notice the loss of the great Gordon Back up feature. Overall I don't mind losing two pages of story to save a buck. I read very few 3.99 titles, in fact the only one's I read are Invincible Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men and Punisher Max. I was curious as to how much Story I was getting for a buck more and whether it was worth it so decided to count up the pages in my copies of Uncanny 537 and Secret Warriors 25. Uncanny had 23 pages while Secret Warriors clocked in at 38 (I didn't count the intro page as part of the story). This got me to thinking about just how much more story I got from the latter book to the former, and how I paid equally for both. I was curious how do you all feel about the reduced page count in your favorite DC books? How many story pages do you think justifies your extra buck? For me I'd say about 32-36 pages is fair. 


Bruce Wayne...Sex God?

So I was reading an article online and it made me think of this one particularly racy moment between Batman and Roxy Rocket from The Adventures of Batman and Robin. Anybody else remember this. I remember one of my parents walking in as this happened and exclaiming "What in the world are you watching?!"



Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes

I recently started watching this show again an it hit me just how great this show is. Honestly I'd rank it up amongst Marvel's best animated series as well as one of the best animated adaptations of a comic book period. The voice acting was overall excellent and the characterizations were likewise. They chose great villains to appear in the series and the show had a great balance of humor and action. Anybody else a fan of this show?


What Defines a Geek/Nerd, What Makes One truly authentic?

Recently on the interwebs there seems to be a backlash against models/actresses claiming go be geeks/nerds. I tend to agree with these articles over all (at least the more eloquent and well thought out ones), but I also notice that some of these writers are projecting some adolescent hurt. When someone makes note of how Megan Fox's attractiveness shielded here from being ostracized and gave her a chance at the popular kids's table I can't help but read a little resentment and unresolved personal esteem issues. FilmDrunk.Com recently featured a great video about hot women "Pandering to the geek/nerd market"

 After watching this video one thing that stood out to me, and was also noted was the battle cry of "I'm such a geek. I'm totally into Star Wars". Now I call steer shite on this reasoning because Star Wars is a multi-million dollar cultural phenomenon and liking it is now as common as liking beer and baseball. As I noted above, many call these women's cred into question because they feel they're attractiveness has kept them from going through many of the growing pains that the general geek population experiences growing up. And to some extent I get this reasoning, because at one time or another we've all had to earn our stripes and face some judgment for our enjoyment of the things we love. But that being said, we've never walked a mile in these people's shoes. How do we know that Megan Fox really loves Witchblade and Fathom and isn't just mentioning them because she's making a play for a roll or is already related to either of those projects? How do we know that Jaimie Alexander isn't a lifelong Spidey/Uncanny Reader? Well we simply don't my friends, we don't. 

Now I'll be the first to say that I don't buy the whole Fem-Nerd revolution thing. For starters as long as I've lived I've always known female geeks/nerds so they are nothing novel in the slightest to me. The only difference between the majority of these women and the one in the video is their general attractiveness. To paraphrase one of Clerks II's more eloquent pieces of dialog, the D&D playing, Lord of the Rings reading, Star Trek lunch box carrying girls I knew in school had all the sexual appeal to me of Rosanne cosplaying as Jabba. Olivia Munn is hot of an within herself, throw a Wonder Woman/Slave Girl Leia costume on her and she's exponentially hotter. I know it, you know it, she knows it. And we'd better damn well believe G4/Maxim/their publicist, etc. know it. At the end of the day that's how the world works, these women and Hollywood know that they can use it to try to appeal to the fanboys baser desires. Insulting yes, but also logical.

Moving away from the faux-nerdism that seems to be growing (according to some) in the female sector of geekdom, I'd like address something broader springing out of this. Reading over many of these articles written by both men and women it seems they don't buy these people's genuineness due to their attractiveness. I find this well a bit odd, but honestly can't say it's not my first time observing this. I'm an attractive, well dressed, black man, who has a healthy social life, and is generally successful with women. Most of the people who don't know me assume that I'd rather buy a pair of Jordans than an Iron Man poster. I've been both sides of the table and have been knocked for my love of comics, sci-fi, fantasy, video games, etc. and I've also been asked to "prove" my geekiness. 
This is me, I posted this because my brother did his thing on my tape line...and I'm a narcissist :P 

I remember when I first got to college I was more or less the only brother on campus who read comics, at least openly, and a lot of the guys at the local shop didn't really believe me when I told them. I had to damned near give a doctoral dissertation on what I found flawed about Civil War before I was taken seriously. When I and another friend of mine goes to shops we get quizzical and suspicious looks from others and sometimes even the staff. I took my Ex-still-kind-of girl friend once and she was surprised to find that not everybody there was white, overweight, out of shape, poorly dressed, middle aged and balding, or looked like they lived in their mother's basement or smelled like hygiene was optional, but unnecessary. Now I assure you that there was at least one of the previous mentioned fellows in attendance that day, but there were also "normal" people like myself there to strike a balance. I said all that to say this, it's bad enough we have to take crap from others, let's not give crap to one another. I know how it is to be judged  for my fandom, perhaps more so than many others. I assure you that knowing the lineup of the G1 Transformers and not the Gangster Disciple's book of knowledge was not smiled upon in my community. I also know how it is to have my cred checked or have people nerd-snob me because of my appearance. Neither is an enjoyable experience. At the end of the day what makes a true geek? And who has the right and, dare I say responsibility to guard the entranceway into our little guild? Are the poseurs really harming any of us? What think ye kinfolk?

Some High (And Low) Lights From the Wonder Woman Pilot

Props to Chris Sims of Comic Alliance

A few weeks back, ComicsAlliance reported that after initial word that it had been shelved, a pilot for a Wonder Woman television series written by veteran showrunner David E. Kelley had been picked by NBC -- and it wasn't too long after that rumors of a leaked first draft of the script started to float around the comics Internet.

As you might expect, a copy eventually came across our desk here at CA, and having read it, I've got to admit: As much as it's all over the map in some (read: most) parts, I can't actually say I didn't like it. Then again, while I've never been all that into Wonder Woman, I actually am a fan of Kelley's work on shows like The Practice, so I'm pretty much up for anything that gets us a step closer to James Spader going back to the well of Boston Legal's Alan Shore to play a tall, handsome, completely amoral version of Dr. Psycho.

But before I move on to my thoughts about the script, a quick caveat: As much as this has been touted as being Kelley's script, I'm not actually sure if it's the genuine article. And even if it is, it's a first draft, which means that there's a good chance that the entire thing could be completely overhauled by the time it makes it to the final shooting script, let alone if and when it makes it to air. That said, there's a lot in it worth talking about, whether it's GoodBad, or just downright Crazy.

For starters, there's the one thing I absolutely loved about the pilot: it does not waste time with an origin story. That's not to say that Kelley just drops viewers right in without addressing anything from Wonder Woman's past, but it's worked in with the main plot through quick flashbacks that hit the high points to give you everything you need to know, and it does a fine job of boiling things down to the essentials.

It's the origin story that Wonder Woman fans are already pretty familiar with: Diana is from a hidden island of immortal Amazons called Themyscira where she was trained to be a great warrior, and came to America after military pilot Steve Trevor crash-landed.

The difference is that by the time the show starts, all that is in the past. Kelley's verison of Wonder Woman is already a well-known figure who has been in America for at least four years as a super-hero celebrity. She's a crime-fighter who also runs her own billion dollar company, a pretty interesting take on the character that's highly reminiscent of Greg Rucka's run on the comics, only with the international politics of the Themysciran embassy replaced with the corporate intrigue of the awkwardly named Themyscira Industries.

In setting the show at a time when Wonder Woman is already established and building her backstory in a slightly more organic way than just starting on Paradise Island, Kelley's managed to accomplish something most super-hero movies and television shows don't: He's eliminated the need for the boring parts. We already know that Diana ends up in America, fighting crime as Wonder Woman, so why not just go ahead and skip the boring parts that lead up to it?

Right from page one, that puts it a step ahead of Smallville.

Kelley takes advantage of it, too, hitting the ground running with a story that immediately pits Diana against another element lifted from Greg Rucka's run, Veronica Cale:

If the pilot script is anything to go by, Cale -- who was created, according to Rucka, to be Wonder Woman's equivalent of Superman's foe Lex Luthor -- will probably take a spot as the main villain of the series, and again, that's a pretty telling choice. By going with Cale instead of a more traditional Wonder Woman enemy like, say, Ares, it seems like the show is downplaying the mythological aspects of the character in favor of something slightly more grounded in the real world.

This plays to Kelley's strengths, of course -- anybody who's seen an episode of The Practice or Boston Legal will most likely be aware that sinister corporations are one of Kelley's favorite targets -- and it goes without saying that an evil pharmaceutical executive is way easier on a TV budget than, say, the Cheetah or the Silver Swan.

But it seems like there's a deeper meaning there, too: Cale is thoroughly corrupt, dosing people purchased as slaves with untested drugs, buying off politicians and using the law as a shield to hid her own evil while trying to chip away at Wonder Woman's righteousness. Considering that Wonder Woman is often defined by her commitment to the Capital-T Truth, a character who uses lies and trickery as weapons makes for a good foil.

The conflicts aren't only metaphorical, though, and that leads to somethign else I really enjoyed about the script: Wonder Woman kicks ass.

For a show about a super-powered warrior, it takes its time getting to the action scenes -- which I imagine is an inevitable by-product of having to do setup, even if Kelley does neatly sidestep the full-on origin -- but when it hits, it hits. At the climax of the show, Kelley has Wonder Woman taking on 20 guys who are jacked up on what essentially amounts to Captain America's Super Soldier Serum, and he treats it like an actual fight. She hits, gets hit, thrown around, and dogpiled, and eventually just beats the hell out of them.

It's not at all unexpected, but -- and again, keep in mind this is just from the script, and visuals can make or break this sort of thing -- it's set up far better than I expected. There's even a part that couldn't possibly make it to the screen that I think really says it all: For most of the script, her lines fall under the heading of DIANA. When the fighting starts, though, she's WONDER WOMAN.

Unfortuantely, the script is not without its flaws, and there's one pretty obvious misstep: It is the year 2011. One would think that we could have a television show about Wonder Woman that did not involve her crying over heartbreak.

Admittedly, it's not as bad as it sounds -- Wonder Woman's relationship with Steve Trevor is the cause, and there's an actual twist to it that's pretty interesting -- and it almost works in the context of what the script is getting at, but seriously: In her first episode, Wonder Woman cries twice, and she's shown on the verge of tears a couple more times besides. I'm not against emotional content in my stories, but for real, twice?! That's pushing it.

It all stems from a character choice that's just mystifying to me, in that Wonder Woman is simultaneously a confident, successful businesswoman and super-hero who is also homesick and feeling alone in the big city. Again, I am totally behind walling off Themyscira as a mystical dimension that she doesn't know how to get back to, and I'm even completely with the idea that Wonder Woman would debate her place in the world she's trying to change. But when this leads to Wonder Woman ending the episode by having an ice cream-filled slumber party with her BFF --seriously -- you've lost me.

There's another weird element to this too, in that Wonder Woman's desire to fit in and have a normal life leads her to create the "secret identity" of Diana Prince, who works as an ill-defined employee of Wonder Woman's own company. This feels like something that was lifted wholesale from Superman -- Kelley even has her rocking a pair of Clark Kent glasses when she's incognito, just like she used to back in the day -- that just doesn't feel right for Wonder Woman, especially if she's already running a business and fighting crime and hanging out getting martinis with Myndi Mayer.

Also, while it's clear that the script is drawing a lot from George Perez and Greg Rucka -- probably the two best runs the title's ever had -- it's also going way back to the Golden Age to include Wonder Woman's original sidekick (sighEtta Candy.

Really, guys? We're going to keep Etta Candy around for another few years? Thankfully, she doesn't appear all that much.

And then we have the rest of the script, which is just ridiculous enough to go either way. Starting with Wonder Woman's gang of teenage sidekicks. Yeah, you read that right.

In Kelley's version, Wonder Woman employs a dozen hip young people to help her gather evidence in what basically amounts to her version of Sherlock Holmes's Baker Street Irregulars, except that they live in her basement, which is described in terms that make it sound like the Foot Clan hideout from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, and occasionally break out into a Kanye West dance party.

Seriously. That's all in the script. The only part I left out was that the basement is actually called "the Dungeon," which is somehow even weirder.

It's also worth noting that the Wonder Woman of the TV show can't fly -- she's described as being super-humanly strong and fast and has the golden lasso, which is inexplicably described as torturing people (?!) -- which leads to her airplanes. Plural.

The invisible jet is discarded, but in its place, Wonder Woman has a fleet of super-small, super-high-tech planes, done up in different bright, primary colors. Meaning that instead of one invisible jet, she has a whole bunch of extremely visible jets, which I thought was pretty funny.

It also leads to what might be the absolute craziest part, in which Wonder Woman gets into her special one-woman aircraft that has battering rams on the front of it so that she can crash a plane into her enemy's building in a scene that defies even video game logic. This is... problematic, but --

Hang on. A highly advanced aircraft no bigger than a sedan with battering rams on the front that's flown by a member of the Justice League? Guys, I'm 90% sure we might be seeing the first TV appearance of The Supermobile:

I take it all back. If that thing makes it to TV, this will be the greatest television show of all time

So after reading that who else is sad they didn't get to witness this Hindenburg personally?