Although my comic book reading is way down from what it has been in recent years, there are still a few comics that I reach for and read almost immediately when I see them (as opposed to putting them on my "reading list"). One of these is Danger Girl, a series that I discovered relatively later than most, but one which I stick with for a lot of reasons that I have gone over before. Mostly the series is full of a bunch of stuff that I like about comics, though in this case with a more female twist. Even the main characters, though drawn in a sexual and provocative way, are still far more dressed than most female characters in comics:
While reading the most recent issue (from the miniseries MayDay) I was struck by something bizarre, not specifically about this comic, but rather by comics as a medium. As this is a story which is based on espionage and international intrigue, it follows the characters all around the world, in this case between Russia and Africa. That is where I have a problem though, as there is a bit of a difference between a country and a continent. It seems to me that it would be easier to go the Jason Bourne route, and to challenge the readers a little. In the third Bourne movie, the action takes places in cities on the North Coast of Africa, but doesn't take any pretense to disguise it in obscurity. Indeed the above photo is a representation of Africa as seen by the imperialists and as described in the stories of Allan Quartermain. It is a strange concept though to say only Africa where even a slight bit of description might light the way a bit more, for instance by just saying "the Congo" then people will get the idea. That this is an ongoing trend in a major medium in the information is puzzling, as before our time comics might not make it to other parts of the world so easily, but now comics can be read by people everywhere thanks to the proliferation of their electronic forms, even in "Africa."
There is going to be a new Thor, and he is going to be ... a she. This may have come as a shock to some fans, and many more might be claiming the end before even the beginning or even a worse fate for the character. My opinion on the matter is pretty optimistic though. Despite Wonder Woman being my favourite character, I have never gotten into other mythological characters, and this might be a way to pursue more of that. Equally worth noting is the fact that this kind of answers for me the question which can never be answered - "Who is the female equivalent to Wonder Woman at Marvel?" Usually this question results in an answer of Captain Marvel, Storm or Invisible Woman, but for the first time it would seem as though Marvel wants to put a female character completely to the front and center of its universe.
The above has been discussed though, and I am not really breaking any new ground among the many reacting to this news. What is interesting though is this treatment from a historical perspective, at least in the sense of the history of comics as a medium. On one of the many innovations of Marvel in its early years was to break into the idea of alternate universes and alternate realities long before others did, especially in the pages of the series "What If?" It took them all the way until issue #10 in 1978 to ask the question "What If Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor?" In the letter column for this issue, editor Roy Thomas mentions how ever since issue #7 (and even earlier) that they had been receiving fan mail for the series which composed primarily of requests or suggestions for the What If? stories. One of the first and the first acted upon was this very idea of a female Thor. Though there was no mention of how many people actually asked for this idea and concept, it was one which was enough to warrant a second version of the story, in this case where Rogue assumes the power of the Norse God.
To put this another way, Marvel is not really trying anything new with the re-imagining of a female Thor, rather it seems as though they are just finally getting around to something which has been rumbling around in the creativity of several creators and fans ever since the character was introduced. This development will affect a lot of long term fans, but then too, it would seem that this idea has been with some of them (a lot of them?) for a while anyway. I am a fan of the character, but not a reader, and as a outsider to the Marvel stories, I find this new development a pretty intriguing one, and a potential place to step onboard to the new (old) character.
To be honest it has been a while since I made it all the way through a story arc in Grimm Fairy Tales. I sort of put the entire universe aside before the Unleashed storyline, expecting to read it all at once, but I still haven't gotten back to it. At one point I was a huge fan of this series, but my interest waned a little bit as the stories tended a bit more towards superheroes than fairy tales. My initial reactions to this series were probably the same as most people, in that I judged the book by the cover. As I have mentioned numerous times before, the covers really do not (or at least did not) actually have much to do with the actual content, which mostly featured surprisingly strong female lead characters.
When I was first getting interested in the series it was as a bit of a joke. As a gag kind of review I tried to review a comic featuring the Titanic on the 100th sinking of the ship, and one of the few books I could find on this theme was from GFT. I was surprised at how captivating it was, but if I was going to get really interested I had to face the exploitation of women angle which is a common complaint among comics for me (and many female readers.) With this in mind, the second issue which I read was the first swimsuit issue, and despite not even knowing the characters it had a nice enough story about order over chaos mixed in with the characters in swimsuits. With this being the worst, I decided I might as well try it out, and I really liked it.
The problem with the series though is that it got a bit too far away from its original concept all the while exploiting women a fair bit on the covers. The luster wore off, and the series became kind of average (except for the Wonderland stuff which stays separate.) Some of the main writers tried other projects which kind of exposed some problems with their writing styles, proving that they might be more like one hit wonders than anything else. With all that in mind I came to the most recent Swimsuit issue and thought I might leaf through it just for a look to see what has happened to the series which I kind of gave up on, but always ostensibly planned to go back to (I am only about 16 issues behind of the main series at the moment.)
I was kind of shocked this time, by one picture in particular. I have even mentioned before how it is kind of a cheap trick to suggest that the strong females in these stories have some kind of lesbian inclinations. Not that I have any problem with lesbian characters, only it is appealing to the wrong kind of reader I think to take strong yet attractive characters and only want to have them in pseudo-sexual poses, like the best (read worst) case of a Girls Gone Wild! video.
I might get back to this series eventually, but pictures like the above really make me hesitant in investing time in this, time which I don't have as much as I used to for comics.
There is a story circulating throughout Canadian press recently about Jeffrey Baldwin. The story of this kid is a tragedy, as he was starved to death by his neglectful grandparents, locked in a room with little other than his own body waste. The one thing which brought some solace to this young boy was Superman. From a young age he was said to be a huge fan, and used to try to jump off of chairs to try to copy the hero's flying. After word of this tragedy began to spread, some people thought that it would be fitting to create a memorial for the boy, as a statement that child abuse is not ok. An Ottawa area man decided to combine the two together, that despite his tragedy, that Jeffrey might live on as a hero, being dressed like one, but DC said no.
“For a variety of legal reasons, we are not able to accede to the request, nor many other incredibly worthy projects that come to our attention" - these were the words that DC used, but in them and in the reaction there is something telling about the company. Some might argue that it is their copyrighted material, and should be controlled by them in a way which they deem to be the most responsible. This is a valid point and one which shapes a lot of decisions by companies, but there is something deeper here. The Ottawa man with the plan, Todd Boyce also said that DC does not want their characters associated with child abuse, which is also a fair explanation. There is a bigger problem here, at least as I see it, and that is the duplicitous nature of the comics, or to put that another way, DC wants us to make believe that there is a world where heroes exist, but in the real world they can get away with acting a little bit like villains. The morals of a character like Superman would not allow the character to do something like this - even most anti-heroes as they are written have a soft spot for such stuff - but the morals when it comes to the business executives are missing. The real hero for the executives and the legal team is the bottom line, and the morals needed to get there are non-existent.
And so this reaction to the tragedy of a small boy is maybe why the comic companies continue to battle as sales reach lows. It is maybe not because the medium is "outdated" or "silly" as are two of the common complaints about it, but perhaps only because the vision of those behind the books does not match the morals of the heroes within. If you can answer the question honestly of whether Superman would allow this and then compare it to the decision of the company, it is evident that there is a divide, and so our comics are just marketed to us on values which make us gullible, because the companies don't hold the values themselves.
In the most recent issue of Batman & _____ (this time featuring Frankenstein, though title credit is given to Ra's All Ghul), the plan of Ra's to revive Damian and Talia is revealed. It is no secret that Damian is coming back, not even when he was first killed, but it has been more or less confirmed with the solicits (which are even mentioned in this issue.) The connection to Ra's is to have the Lazarus Pit play a key role in the return, which is not surprising.
Death in comics comes in a different context for different characters. In Marvel if someone dies, then it is likely that a Skrull was impersonating the supposedly dead character. Other times we get explanations of the Speed Force or bizarre Kryptonian physiology, but the unifying factor is that the people really are not dead. In the Batman themed books, rooted more firmly in reality, death is a lot more real, and pretty much the only way to come back from death is by way of the Lazarus Pit (having played a part in the revival of Jason Todd, Black Canary, and presumably now Damian.) While it is fine as a plot device, it is overused, to the point that a character that has to return can effectively only come back via the pit. For people that yearn to see the return of a Bat-character that has passed, the only real intersection is by way of some story arc involving Ra's Al Ghul, at least by proxy. While there is nothing really wrong with this, it also comes across as a bit of a crutch. The return from the dead stories are dramatic, but the same plot device being used over and over is not. Instead it would be nice if writers, who are supposed to have both imagination and creativity as traits, came up with something new for a change. Of course, there are still the restraints of the reality of the Bat-books, but it is not so binding as to restrict a new explanation.
As many know, I tend to not get too involved in the hype surrounding movies before they are released. It is not that I am not excited to see new movies, only that I like the experience to be as untinted as I can. I am generally the kind to avoid spoilers at all costs, and aside from trailers I really don't look ahead too much. With the recent news of the direction problems for Ant-Man as well as the test footage from the "Assembling the Marvel Universe" television special, it is hard not to know a little bit about this upcoming film. While the roles of Pym and Lang have been cast, what is still missing is any knowledge about the secondary characters.
There has been a lot said recently about female characters for an Avengers movie, and specifically if there is going to be any attempt to even the gender imbalance. The original movie was Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow, creating a 5 to 1 ratio. The next movie is going to add Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Vision, while it is rumoured to get rid of the Hulk (for the next standalone movie) which would leave the ratio at 6 to 2. As the Wasp is one of original founding members of the Avengers, it leads to question whether she will be included in the Ant-Man movie, especially that Evangeline Lilly has been cast in the role, as she looks somewhat what someone would think that the Wasp might look like.
Maybe she is and maybe she isn't though. It has still to be confirmed exactly what her role is to be. As with the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, Marvel Studios does not seem to mind too much to mix some things up, especially in terms of character backgrounds. I am pretty sure that the gender imbalance is such a big deal for the producers either, they just want to make movies that will sell to fans. Another factor though, is the golden plan behind studio head Feige's direction. There are said to be movie in the franchise ready to go on for another 15 or so years, and as with the easter eggs dropped in other movies, it is never possible to know who will be up next. If the rumoured direction of the stories is going to be World War Hulk, then it is quite possible to see She-Hulk show up at some point, and who is to say that the post-credits scene from Guardians of the Galaxy will not include Carol Danvers. For the moment fans have to wait to find out where Ant-Man fits into the bigger picture, and which characters it brings along with it.
Rumours have been swirling recently that `most beautiful person alive` Lupita Nyongo might be joining the cast of the next Star Wars movies. While this has yet to be decided absolutely in one way or another, a bit of extra movie news has been given to us in the past few weeks about actual signings, one including Daisy Ridley. Nothing has been revealed as of yet about the character, and the actress`s experience is not much to judge off of either:
What is striking about the character, at least from the above picture is just how much she looks like Natalie Portman, not as in a twin, but reasonable to assume that one was the grandmother of the other. In the realm of the new movies though it would be nice to see a departure from this line of female portrayal. While in the 1970s a spacefaring princess who doubled as an espionage agent, rebel and saboteur was a pretty advanced role for a female character, it is not so much anymore. Instead the princess aspect of such a character can easily be lost, and to just make the character into an espionage agent, rebel and saboteur in her own right. That she looks a lot like she could be the next branch in a family tree of the Jedi clan is obvious, but maybe it is time for the Star Wars universe to get a little more modern in its portrayal of female characters and to lose the princess title.
Last night yielded an unexpected journey to the cinema to see the newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Going in I was a little hesitant, both as Captain America is not among my favourite characters, and yet I am also fairly familiar with the Winter Soldier storyline. Somewhat surprisingly though I loved this movie, in fact it might be the best of the entire Marvel run thus far, and it has done what few others have done by improving on the original. That being said, with a little bit of deduction combined with the previous knowledge from the comics very little was truly surprising for me (minor spoilers follow after this.) What surprised me more so though was that I was able to figure Steve's neighbour Sharon as a SHIELD agent as soon as they showed her, but that I didn't figure out that it was Sharon Carter (duh). I also somehow missed seeing her on all of the promotional posters which I have since found on the internet.
That having been said, there is something left to ponder. At the end of the movie, it seems likely that the Black Widow, will either not be back or be back in a limited role for the following Captain America movie, and it seems likely that Sharon Carter takes a larger role. I think this is the first time that I have ever seen the actress in anything (despite the fact that she is Canadian, and got her start on Canadian tv shows) but it makes me wonder if the franchise is ready for this actress taking on a bigger role in the following movies. The character of Sharon Carter is vital to that of Captain America, but in terms of the character development thus far, it seems like a secondary unimportant character. The development of Falcon, as a veteran of the Middle Eastern Wars - and dealing with PTSD - was an interesting spin on the character, but Sharon thus far is one dimensional, her most important character development being that she listened to Steve at the right time.
With her role in the tv series Revenge, it seems as though Emily Van Camp is ready for stardom, only it seems as though more work needs to be done to establish her in the MCU.
A couple of years ago when I had first started running the roundtables, the thought occurred to me of doing a roundtable based on fairy tales, especially so that I had just taken an interest in Zenescope, and that fairy tales in comics gained so much in popularity (and remain so.) One of the questions which I asked pertained to the lack of most fairy tale characters in the Big Two. In my eyes, there was not a huge amount of difference between incorporating in characters from myth for Wonder Woman or Thor, and incorporating in similar characters from fables. There are a few challenges to doing so of course, one that fairy tale characters are rarely as powerful as comic characters (another that fans resist new characters in the Big Two.) I was going back over the roundtables recently and I ran across this question and it occurred to me that there might be a path to this.
It happened a lot in the earlier days of comics, but it was fairly common at one point for comic companies to buy out one another. I am not at all aware of the financial stability of Zenescope for instance, but it could be the point that one day it is in the position of needing a financial save, and as its characters are more superhero like than most fairy tale characters, it might be an easy fit into a superhero world, especially as DC has done this many times in the past with other companies (as recently with Flash Point & the new 52.)
I am not hoping that Zenescope sees the end of its success, only that the thought occurred to me that this might make an interesting match and might be a reasonable way for the big two to incorporate in one last genre that they have mostly left untouched.