Happy Birthday Dian Fossey

Today's Google Doodle celebrates what would be the 82nd birthday of Dian Fossey, had she lived long enough to see it:

Dian Fossey is one of my personal heroes, as she combined the fields of conversation with science (even the combination was out of necessity.) Through her groundbreaking work in primate research (along with Jane Goodall and Birute Galdikas) she shed light onto creatures who are our evolutionary cousins, and whose behaviour is as complex as our own.

In the past few years, while I still maintain an interest in the comics medium, I have tended to move further and further away from the more mainstream comics from the big 2 companies, while looking more and more for independent comics or graphic novels. One of the most interesting that I came across last year was entitled "Primates" which looked at the science and personalities of these three women.

As opposed to a clear biography it didn't come off as strong or as in depth, but it was nonetheless still a thorough and worthy introduction to the lives of the three women and the paths which they chose. In this way, it is perhaps comparable to the Anne Frank biography which I read earlier this year, in that it could be used as an excellent starting off point for the historical people, whereas as to truly understand them requires a more in-depth approach. Regardless, while lacking a strong tie to comics, this graphic novel made the three of them come alive, and as Google gives a nod to Fossey today, so to do I, by encouraging comic fans to look a little outside of their usual spectrum of spandex clad heroes, and to occasionally look for a story in this medium which deals with real life heroes.

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This'll Slow You Up, Redskin!!

Generally speaking I try to keep this blog focused on comics, at least in spirit. This of course leaves a lot left unsaid in terms of my opinions on other subjects. Those who know me, even in passing, know that I consider myself to be somewhat left leaning in terms of my outlook on world affairs. Or call me a progressive or a liberal, it doesn't matter (even though I think judging someone's beliefs by labels is pretty narrow sighted.) One thing I am not is a sports fan, but despite this I am still exposed to sports, either when I forced to watch a game against my will due to social requirements, or when something creeps up in the news.

I can say that I am not a watcher of Fox News, only I get to hear the things from Fox News which are particularly incredulous. One of the things which I read recently was the debate over the use of the name Redskin for the Washington NFL team, with certain Native American groups thinking it is offensive, while others seeing no problem with the name. Without a firm backing in American history, it would still seem as though there are those who defend the name as it is some form of honour to Native American warriors (or at least so says Fox News co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck.) There also seems to be some Native Americans that think of it in the same way.

While I guess I can buy this seeing as many Native American do not find this name to be offensive, there is an interesting observation to be made (this is where the comics kind of comes in) and that is that the name is captured in pop culture from a previous generation as being something else:

From Western Fighters #12

In the history of warfare it is customary to address an enemy (even in this case if the Native is just an "enemy") as a term as something other than respectful. There are many examples of this, but most of them are racially offensive (I guess as a less racially offensive one, there is the term 'kraut' used to refer to a German soldier since the First World War.) In this case the white man is attacking or being attacked by a group of Natives, and the term that he uses is "Redskin", the specific term that is supposedly not offensive, at least in modern day. 60 years previous when racial sensitivity is not what it is now, the term was evidently used as slur or insult. I am not making the claim that one comic cover can explain the entire situation or what is deemed offensive, only that there was a time and place where this was offensive, and explicitly so.

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A New Nemesis

My disapproval/disdain for the Wonder Woman-Superman romance is obvious and not really something which needs to be mentioned (by the way minor spoilers below). Despite my opposition to the concept, I still begrudgingly accept that as a fan of the character that I do need to take part in it, at least from an academic standpoint, even when it does produce such hackneyed drivel as this:

The problems with the so called romance can be well established with the panel above. When has either of Wonder Woman or one of Superman's romantic interests ever talked like that? The romance in essence violates everything which is true to both of the characters for what amounts to a cheap trick to lure in readers that otherwise don't like comics/DC/Wonder Woman. If there could be said to be a positive out of this relationship, it hasn't occurred to me yet, or at least it hadn't until yesterday.

The storyline of the Superman Wonder Woman series has to deal with Superman facing off against Zod for the first time in the new 52. Zod is evidently playing him somewhat, and he more or less gets Superman to do as he wishes even if Superman doesn't realize it. The end result is the image below:

Zod has done what he has done to free Faora from the Phantom Zone. I am not really sure where the immediate aspect of this story will go, but one place where it might go would be someplace interesting. I have in the past complained about the lack of super villains for Wonder Woman as the majority were created in the golden age and have been bent to modern day with different success. I am certain that one day the Superman-Wonder Woman romance will be no more, it is after all comics, and nothing is free from change. If an enduring legacy from the entire thing was the establishment of Faora as a major villain for Wonder Woman then that would at least be something of use. In Wonder Woman's enemy list there are very few that can match her powers, and Faora could be an interesting mainstay to go along with the few that already can.

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Battle of the Bikini Armour

It has been a while since I pitted two intersecting comic book themes against each other. I have previously tackled the use of panamaxes, chokers, in-flight emergencies, grunts and fishnets (the latter was the first blog about comics that I wrote exclusively for this site). After a semi-retirement of this theme, it is time to have another examination brought on by the second issue of Sharazad and the promo art for the third issue. Granted throughout that the eponymous main character is not portrayed as fully clothed, but this takes it to a different level. Granted that female armour in comics is often portrayed in an unrealistic way (mostly through the influence of Red Sonja) but it is still possible to portray female armour as being sexy and at the same time at least marginally useful. In this case I am not exactly what the utility of this stuff would be, maybe if the main character was in the Tron universe or something like that, it might work well for its shininess?

Compared to the Red Sonja armour I am not sure which is less useful:

I guess being a female comic fan means generally having to look the other way when it comes to a lot of the depictions of women if I want access to the stories and the genres. In the case of such armour though, it is almost impossible to not be overwhelmed by the sheer ridiculousness of it.

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Chrono-Montage

One of the interesting design challenges of comic books is that they are often given the task of telling a story much the same as in other works of fiction but with the constraints of the visual medium. In a lot of cases this can be quite beneficial to the stories, as harder to include concepts end up being shown, whether that be ancient gods or other worlds. Equally though, comics can be limited in a different manner. For a more evocative exposure to a setting, one would probably choose a novel, for a more action focused approach, live action is better (think about watching a choreographed action sequence versus seeing them panel by panel). One of the most clever applications that I have seen recently was in the comic Shahrazad. The character is shown in three different time periods and periods of her life which act as a form of a montage. I am still not exactly sure what to make of the series itself, but that one image was evocative enough to make me think that both the artist and writer have a good idea about where to take this.

Such a simple yet effective message would not be possible in another medium and so the creative team here requires some credit for what they have conceived of.

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Silicone Dream

My most recent foray into the free material at the library netted me an unconventional choice, at least for me. I am mostly not at all familiar with the MC2 line from Marvel despite having read a few Spider Girl comics. The general concept is pretty interesting to me, as I love to re-imagine comic book worlds where characters have a slightly different spin and this is essentially what this is. Spider Girl was not for me though, instead I picked up a copy of the trade paperback of the American Dream miniseries:

The entire thing was a pretty fun story, kind of light at times, although it tried to tackle the important issue of illegal immigration. One thing which irked me was a scientific transgression so evident that is almost painful to mention:

Which was repeated here:

In both cases it is evident that the "scientists" are in fact referring to silicon, not to silicone. Silicone is indeed made of silicon, but there are a lot of other things thrown into the mix, giving it a mostly flexible nature. Silicon itself seems to be what they are referring to as the bad guys exhibits rock like characteristics and properties, not being extremely flexible (or ... ahem ... having well endowed bosoms). In the end the main bad guy fixes his own mistake:

It makes me wonder though why the writer didn't bother with a simple spell check seeing as he was using two separate words throughout, not knowing that they were not the same. Not a huge deal I suppose, only that attention to detail can make such creativity more fulfilling.

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Sinestro Corps Recruit Natu

I missed the news on Friday that there is going to be a new ongoing Sinestro series. After reading all of the Johns run on both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps (pre-new 52) I also started off in the new 52 reading the Green Lantern associated titles as well. Then I stopped reading Green Lantern Corps because I couldn't handle Guy Gardner, then I stopped reading Red Lanterns because of the plot veering off to somewhat ridiculousness. Soon I was reading only New Guardians, and then even not then, my interest in cosmic DC waning after an initial interest.

There are a few problems with the new 52 as a whole, and both of these affected the space as I knew it from before. One of the most difficult is that it uses companion titles for mini crossovers which are thereafter impossible to read alone. Cosmic DC did this with both the Third Army and the First Lantern which made following the story line a four issue per month dedication, which I was hesitant about, especially after dropping GLC because of really not liking the characters at all. The other main problem with the new 52 is the departure from older casts for the characters, as well as the disappearance of some characters. AS those who know my comics tastes will know, one of the biggest departures has been Soranik Natu, and the prominent role that she had in GLC before the reboot.

This is where the Sinestro series comes in. There are those who think that Sinestro is the greatest GL ever, or that just think that he is an amazing villain, but with the announcement of this series, it is the first time in the new 52 that something has really caught my attention about cosmic DC. It could be that as comic writers are apt to run out of ideas that the relationship between Sinestro and his daughter is re-explored, and perhaps seeing as he is trying to rebuild both Korugar and his own corps, that maybe she would be a desired recruit for him. I am not predicting that it will happen, only that with Sinestro headlining a series that there is a strong chance of a more prominent role for my favourite GL, and especially to explore some aspects of her character which were never looked at.

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Queens of the Jungle

One of my favourite new comic characters over the past few years has been the Grimm Fairy Tales version of Mowgli from the Jungle Book. The GFT version of the Jungle Book was a well told story of guilt and revenge and the costs of both on the protagonist, a solid departure from the source material. One of the hallmarks of Grimm Fairy Tales is to take male characters and make them female (or to take dour females and to make them much sexier.) The end product is usually not so much of a truly sexy character, as Grimm Fairy Tales still has some of the best written female characters in comics, at least in terms of depth of character.

Initially though the idea of gender swapping a lot of traditionally male characters (for instance done with the Mad Hatter in the Wonderland series) is that it does depart a fair bit from the source material, which veers towards losing too much of the original essence of the fiction. As I recently learned though, the female nature of Mowgli actually pays homage to a much earlier era of comics, even if the creators didn't intend to do so. Ask the casual comic fan who the first female character was to have her own comic and most people will invariably guess that it Wonder Woman (as I would have guessed myself), but in fact it was Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, predating the Amazon princess by a few years. Although the concept of the jungle is a misapplied one, the jungle nonetheless was a common staple among early adventure books (owing to an influence by Kipling among others) and so in fact the early successes of comics as a medium owes its strength to this particular sub-genre. Modern day Mowgli is just as inadvertent throwback to this more idealistic time, when the dark reaches of the jungle held preying eyes.

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Book Review - Comic Con 40 years of Artists, Writers, Fans and Friends

The topic has come up before in my interactions with people about my interest in reading comics, and that is why is it that I like comics. In terms of a concrete answer I don't really have one, though the explanation of vicarious escapism is not the one which immediately comes to mind. While I associate with the characters I don't often get this impulse to know "what is next?" In my mind that is one main reasons that I think of that people hang around comic book stores for hours (or at least from what I have observed.) When I think about comic book conventions I have the same general idea, that it is a place to buy and sell, talk the talk, and in the case of cosplayers to maybe even talk the talk for a day or two (admittedly I have never been to a comic book convention.)

My last trip to the library got me a copy of the above mentioned book which looks in detail at the history of the San Diego Com Con, in its roots with a gathering of 300 or so people to the tens of thousands who frequent the Convention now. While some parts of this book reaffirm some concepts that I have of the conventions themselves, this book also does a good job of describing two other interesting aspects of this giant meetup. The first is that it showcases a human side, well demonstrated here by the annual Heinlein blood drive, which before reading about I had never heard of before. The second and perhaps more important to the average comic fan is that amount by which comic cons are not just a collection of comic interests, but rather by which they shape the development of the medium itself. Many heads come together at such a place, and invariably with so much creative talent there is also bound to be a lot of ideas being flown among them, some of them for not, but some of them also for good.

In that sense, I would think that this book is quite an informative one, be it for the Comic Con devotee, or for those who avoid them. Either way this book highlights an interesting aspect of comic fandom and I would recommend it to all.

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Mary's Wow Skirt

This is just something I noticed while browsing the wiki. I was looking at a series from the 1940s called Wow Comics, which was most notable for featuring Mary Marvel for most of its run. What struck me as interesting was the appearance of Mary Marvel on the cover over her first four appearances until afterwards:

After being essentially a miniskirt, the skirt went back to knee length where it stayed for most of the remainder of the series:

Even staying near knee length when upside down:

It is pretty different from the modern version, which is more like the length of the original:

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