Tag Archives: wonder woman

Kevin Keller, Sensational Wonder Man

spider-woman-1-milo-manaraIt hasn’t yet been even a month since the release to the public of variant covers by Milo Manara for the upcoming Spider-Woman series by Marvel.  In the wake of the release, many criticized the medium for once again making a mockery of female characters. Others fought back and defended the move, but once again it threw gender into the spotlight for the mainstream side of the medium of comics. Some focused on it from afar as editorials from Time and Elle criticized the pose of the character in such a way. Others simply highlighted what were other fan reactions to the same topic through such artistic and critical ventures as the Hawkeye Initiative.

The Hawkeye Initiative is an interesting one. Although often looking very amateurish, its premise is simple. It takes male characters and puts them into female poses, and even sometimes into female costumes. The outcome is ridiculous as expected, but in a different sense, it also highlights the focus of the medium to the big two publishers. While the big two of Marvel and DC sometimes blunder their way through their own popularity, other publishers are taking some more progressive approaches to their own titles.

Surprisingly for me, one of these came this week from an unlikely source, Archie Comics. I am not much of an Archie fan, not generally speaking anyway, but my wife buys Betty and Veronica Double Digest every month, and I usually get around to reading some of it (if not all of it.) The stories are goofy and old fashioned as expected, but while there are some anachronistic throwbacks to other times, it is surprisingly progressive at times, addressing among other topics human rights, bullying and the environment. One of the more interesting developments of characters in recent years is Kevin Keller, the gang’s openly gay friend from high school, who has been given his own monthly series. I hadn’t been keeping up with the stories at all, but on a whim I decided to check out this issue as it involved Kevin becoming a superhero in Riverdale, an unusual enough development in Archie Comics.

wwcover01The story was kind of goofy, though I guess it was fun enough, but it was not the story which was of note. I might argue that the characterization of the character himself was a little off, as his reactions to his crush is a lot more along the lines of how females are presented in this series (hearts in place of eyes) which could be borderline offensive to the representation of homosexual people. The more interesting part than the story or the character was the cover, particularly in this case the variant cover, which as far as I knew had drawn very little interest, although by rights it maybe should have. I am far from an expert on the subject, but comics are known for creating homage covers, often for previous covers in the medium. Such iconic covers as Amazing Fantasy #15, Detective Comics #27, Action Comics #1 or even Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. One of the these covers which is most often copied is actually also copied here, that being the second variant cover for Kevin Keller which is a variant of Uncanny X-Men #141.  Although the homage here is a lot more humorous, it is really the first that is more noteworthy. Sensation Comics #1 which introduced Wonder Woman is a fairly iconic cover, but it is one which is rarely paid homage to. In fact, this might be the very first instance of an homage to this cover, and if it is not first then it is among a small handful. There was an homage in the first volume of Wonder Woman (issue #288) but this was a case of the same character and so this may in fact be the first time that another character shared this pose.

wwcover03What is most interesting about this is that it is a male character taking the place of a female character, something which happens so very rarely in comics that it can be considered to be almost unique. Female versions of male characters occur all the time, with the likes of Supergirl, Batgirl or even a female Robin, but a male version of most female characters would end up in a ridiculous visual much like the efforts of those behind the Hawkeye Initiative. In this case though it occurs, even when the male hero of Kevin Keller looks nothing like Wonder Woman. As one of the counter criticism of the medium goes, if one wants to find better representations of minorities, or women or non-straight people, they only need to look to the independents. For the comic fan though, it is important to remember when saying this that Archie Comics is often pretty close to being an independent as well, if not necessarily in terms of content then at least in terms of context.

Review: Futures End Wonder Woman #1 and Superman/Wonder Woman #1

aa01Company-wide story arcs or events outside of the regular continuity of comic series can be particularly frustrating to regular readers, especially when the underlying concept or plot is of little interest to the reader.  Instead of reading the pre-planned progress of the series, fans are left with a choice either to buy into the whole event, or to take it piece by piece and to try to figure out how it affects a specific series.  Previous issues of Futures End have been fairly self-contained in terms of their content. It has been possible to follow along without understanding the bigger picture of the series, rather the event has just had the effect of creating a What If…? scenario where a potential future five years ahead is investigated. This is one the problems with the Futures End version of both Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman. Instead of being standalone issues, the two issues are tied together, a story arc within a story arc.

As a pair of standalone issues they end up in a bit of a weird place. Wonder Woman is about to get a new creative team, and the current direction of Wonder Woman while being wildly popular with fans, is unlikely to continue. This version of the character, though successful from a creative and commercial standpoint, is therefore likely not the one which is going to be seen in the future, rather a different one presumably more tied to the mainstream of DC continuity. This works to the detriment of the story which is not particularly inspired anyway, at least not to start. The story aa02picks up some momentum as it gravitates away from the initial setting, but also loses it again with the appearance of Superman. So far the romance between the two heroes has a been of a misfire for DC. The initial novelty of it was perhaps of interest to some, but the  unnatural handling of their romance has not done much to in grain this among readers and fans.

This would appear to be to the detriment of this story as well but it really doesn’t end up like that.  Instead the writer here has used both series as a way around having limited resources to tell the story. Except for a few panels on either side, the second issues (that being the SM/WW issue) is almost exclusively focused on Wonder Woman as well. The payoff is not as good as one might expect, but it is still better than one is led into believing after the first issue of this small two-part story arc. It may be obvious, but it is still a nice touch to the current incarnation of Wonder Woman as the goddess of war. It is still hard to recommend these two issues, especially as they do not really cover any new ground, but it is nice to at least see the writers get the main character right.

Story: Charles Soule Art: Rags Morales/Bart Sears
Story: 6.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

Is Aquaman a Victim of Power Creep?

aquamanPower creep is a loosely defined term mostly because it is subjective in its application. Generally speaking though, power creep can be roughly described as the general evolution of character’s powers over time. For the fickle readers and writers of comics, these powers becomes part of the character’s canon, and represent abilities and powers which should be perpetuated. In the golden age of comics, Wonder Woman once found herself trapped in outer space, and needing a source of oxygen, she ground her earrings to dust, somehow releasing enough oxygen that she could safely breathe. It did not matter that this was a throwaway occurrence or that it made very little sense, but all of a sudden Wonder Woman’s earrings had the ability to allow her to breathe in outer space. The same kind of runaway powers are prevalent in almost every hero, with debates over who can smash a planet, or a sun or a galaxy.

The advent of power creep is not always to an infinite degree. Sometimes the creep comes and then goes. Many fans either applauded or decried the post-Crisis Superman as written by John Byrne. Gone was the outlandishly powerful character who could scarcely be stopped by any theoretical angle. It seemed as though that anytime that he faced a threat that he developed a hitherto unseen power and that this power became another part of his canon. Fans might even look to the extreme such as in the movie Superman II when he throws his S-symbol from his chest and it becomes a giant cellophane trap for his enemies. In contrast Byrne created a character, that while still strong far beyond human capabilities, still had some limitations. The new more approachable and realistic character was what some wanted to see and what others did not. Regardless, this character did not last long either before returning to near omnipotent powers.

Among the core members of the Justice League and of the A-list of DC Comics characters, Aquaman is the one that has received the most negative attention in the years since his introduction. He was long thought of a running joke among those that looked at the medium from afar, with numerous comedic jabs at his unimpressive powers being a staple of social media and some paid professional comedians. The question is though, how did the character end up as a running gag for so long.The main problem it would seem is in the setting of the character. The undersea world is a great one for exploration, with the likes of Jacques Cousteau having made a career just out of underwater exploration. The appeal of the underwater world is there, but equally in terms of how comics tend to allow power creep onto characters, it also became one of a limitation. For DC characters with such ill-defined power or ability inspiration as “Super”, “Wonder” or “Bat” it is easy to expand their abilities beyond those of those words, as the words can be taken to mean different things, even in the case of “Bat” which might only be a creature to some, but to others represents the night or sneakiness or resourcefulness. “Aqua” it would seem is a limitation in terms of how comic writers thought of powers to develop for the character.

Some writers rightfully pointed to the fact that a character that can swim underwater and withstand the great depths and pressures of the oceans would be equally be superhumanly strong, maybe not the levels of Superman and Wonder Woman, but well beyond that of a normal human. While there were some sensical derivations of his powers, others were goofy. The ability to speak to or command marine life might have been a logical power to attach to the character, but equally this power was ill-defined and also generally useless, at least when it compared to the ability to move mountains or walk through walls. Equally so, when the character lost his hand in the 1990s during a reboot/darkening of the character, it was replaced by nothing other than a small harpoon, the writers once again unable to think of anything for the character beyond the aspect of the sea. His power creep did not occur to a great degree, but it seemed that when it did, that the character just became a bit more aquatic than he had before. Even compared to a pretty aquatic character in Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Aquaman’s powers were very sea based as Namor showed the ability to fly.

aqotherTo be fair since the relaunch of the new 52, the character is one of the DC properties that has really taken off, now ostensibly holding down two separate series at DC, a capability that previously had only been able to be accomplished by Superman, Batman, sometimes Green Lantern and rarely Wonder Woman. It would seem that the serious tone for the character now is one which has aided him, at least in the public perception. As his own entourage of the Others provides his own superhero team, they fill out the slow creep into more powers that another character might have experienced since long ago. As to whether power creep is actually a good thing or not is up to the fans to decide, but for so long it seemed, at least until recent years that Aquaman was left behind in the balance of powers.

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It was new comic book day yesterday! For those who have read some of the new comics, what have you enjoyed or disliked?

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Janelle Rambles – Some quick convention attendance math – Pretty close to the Facebook stats!

ICv2 – David Slade Directing ‘Powers’ – Can’t wait to see this show.

Kotaku – 11 Very Cool Takes On Wonder Woman – Some cool designs.

 

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Comic Vine – Armor Hunters #2

Comic Vine – Avengers Undercover #7

Comic Vine – Captain Marvel #5

Comic Vine – Daredevil #5

Comic Vine – Deadpool #31

Comic Vine – Death Vigil #1

Comic Vine – Detective Comics #33

Comic Vine – Fantastic Four #7

Comic Vine – Ghosted #11

Comic Vine – Grayson #1

Comic Vine – Green Lantern Corps #33

Talking Comics – The Life After #1

Comic Vine – New Suicide Squad #1

Comic Vine – 100th Anniversary Special: Spider-Man #1

Comic Vine – Rai #3

Comic Vine – The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #13

Comic Vine – Superman/Wonder Woman #10

Comic Vine – The United States of Murder Inc. #3

What’s at Stake: Wonder Woman and the “F” Word

wwbestofrest13It’s been less than a week and the announcement that comics writer Meredith Finch and artist-husband David Finch are taking over as Wonder Woman‘s new creative team with issue #36 is still an open sore, the constant media reminder of which continue to drive me into a fury. On the one hand, because half of the commentators hardly care or don’t see any harm in the creative change; on the other hand, because savvy writers who do get it are just as outraged.

Some might think “outrage” and “fury” are harsh, maybe even over-reactive descriptors. But consider for a moment our collective comic book fandom outrage when Orson Scott Card, homophobe extraordinaire, was slated to write 2013’s Adventures of Superman. Comics fandom won a major battle with help of media coverage, the artist Chris Sprouse, a petition by AllOut.org, and comic shop owners who refused to stock a comic written by Card. (This was not unlike the response to Gail Simone’s firing from DC’s Batgirl that got her quickly rehired.)

Recalling these moments in recent comic book history (hmm, both having to do with DC’s creative choices…), imagine now that Orson Scott Card had been asked to write a well-known gay or lesbian character, and that he had stated in interviews his desire to make the character decidedly “not that gay” or generally uninterested in the narrative purposes put to the creation of an LGBTQ comic book hero. We’d be burning down DC’s boors and firing Dan DiDio! (We should anyway after this.)julyww32

So why aren’t we now? To put my and other commentator’s frustration into context, let’s consider the facts of the Wonder Woman creative team change. On June 30th USA Today announced that Meredith and David Finch, a wife-and-husband duo, would take over Wonder Woman, signaling the end of the three-year and 36-issue-long era of Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, and to a lesser extent Goran Sužuka and Tony Akins. While this team defined an entirely new Wonder Woman steeped in the mythos of a redesigned Greek pantheon of hipster gods, badass goddesses, and an as yet unbeatable First Born, all good comic book runs must come to an end.

Alone, this announcement was a disappointment: Meredith Finch is an almost unheard of writer, unless of course you’ve read Zenescope Entertainment’s Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: Tales from Oz, a series of one-shots. Bleeding Cool, who wrote several articles based on “informed sources” starting in February 2014 about the potential for David Finch to take over drawing Wonder Woman and the suspicion that his wife, Meredith, would write, decided to take a look at one M. Finch’s oeuvre, reviewing it in view of the possibility that she might write the Amazon princess’ monthly. The reviewer, who badly needed a copyeditor, concluded that despite an abundance of sexist imagery, the comic displayed “a definite awareness of feminine stereotypes,” and, ultimately, was about warriors being warriors, “which is probably what you might want for Wonder Woman.”

oz10-600x922Zenescope Entertainment is essentially the Playboy of the comics industry, a company whose income is derived solely from comics based on public domain fairy tale and fantasy narratives that are populated with scantily-clad, huge breasted women and the warriorest of warrior men. Their “warrior women” usually look something like the image to the left, with dialogue by M. Finch. All of this said, it is exciting to see a new female creator come on board at DC, though her politics seem to accord generally with the “we’re not feminists” stance of DC’s creative heads.

WonWoman

“Hey, there, stud. I’m not a man-hater, just a strong woman.”

Turning away from Meredith’s inexperience, her husband, David Finch, is not the greatest artist for female characters, and the art he supplied for the “big reveal” is atrocious, unrefined, and cookie-cutter. His is a Wonder Woman who looks like she works at a strip club in order to show how empowered women are by showing their skin. In other words, a “strong female character” made for men, like basically everything else. For a discussion of some of the problems with the strong female character trope, see Shana Mlawski’s poignant article.

These were just my thoughts from the night of June 30th. Then came July 1st and the Comic Book Resources interview with M. and D. Finch. Some highlights of the interview include David Finch’s curt “No.” to the question “Have the two of you collaborated on a creative project together, either in comics or outside of it?” and the quick follow-up by Meredith, in which she points out that, in fact, she’s helped him on plotting and layouts for years. Finch then came up with a brilliant save by pointing out that he probably ignored any advice she gave, complete with “[Laughter].” What a guy!

When asked what direction the team will take, either following Azzarello’s mythos or not, Meredith responds that, “we’re definitely going to steer the book a little more into a more mainstream — I guess I’d say there will be some superhero stuff in it. It really will still be a very character-driven book, though.” The desire not to tread on Azzarello’s heels in understandable, especially for a complete newcomer to superhero comics writing. But, for me and many other readers, Wonder Woman of the New 52 has been defined by Azzarello’s reluctance to bring the book into the larger DCU, especially his resistance to incorporating Superman as a love interest. As noted in their interview, M. and D. Finch fully intend to bring in Superman.

WonderWomanV5

“I’m not a feminist! Just strong! And sexy…”

Thus far in the interview we’ve seen variations on viewpoints regarding the type of character Wonder Woman is and should be, the genre of narratives she should be engaged in, and her level of involvement in the DCU. Azzarello’s reluctance to bring Wonder Woman into the DCU is, of course, a point of frustration for many readers, and though I highly admire his Wonder Woman run and would love to see it continue for a hundred issues, the character’s critical presence is lacking from the DCU in a major way that Superman and Batman, who have multiple books to themselves, are not. Eric Diaz at Nerdist has some solid thoughts about Wonder Woman and her current place in the New 52 line-up.

The interview ends with a question about what aspects of Wonder Woman the team hopes to play out in their opening issues of their run. M. Finch wants to write a Wonder Woman of the 1970s, a female icon of power and strength. D. Finch wants to draw “a strong — I don’t want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.” With these closing words, D. Finch articulates the central concern of this creative team change. With his final lines he highlights the greatest challenges for female characters across all media today:

  1. Strong women aren’t by default feminist because
  2. Feminist isn’t something we want to label female figures of authority
  3. There is an inherent and contradictory relationship between attractiveness and strength
  4. Superheroines must be overcome this contradictory relationship by being beautiful and strong, resulting all too often in hypersexualizations like Power Girl

I’m not the first to voice my objections: Susana Polo at The Mary Sue offers a summary of the issue, Janelle Asselin at Comics Alliance gives a short background to Wonder Woman’s entirely obvious feminist legacy, and Jenna McLaughlin at Mother Jones provides some insight from the director of the documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.

Whether commentators and Internet trolls like it or not, Wonder Woman has had obvious feminist deployments by comics writers and in the feminist movement in general, and her origin in William Moulton Marston’s bondage and male-dominance stories of the 1940s hearkens to a history of radical writers, mostly female, suggesting that the patriarchy get a taste of their own medicine. Wonder Woman’s Themyscira was an updated, superheroic version of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist utopian Herland (1915). Utopian visions of female-only worlds abound in the history of science fiction and fantasy literature.

9780415966320_p0_v1_s260x420I do not mean to suggest that feminism advocates for a replacement of the patriarchy by a matriarchy, one in which women rule over and enslave men. Rather, these examples serve the point that, like it or not, Wonder Woman is a feminist icon. However, as Lillian S. Robinson warns in Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes, we should not confuse her iconic status in the history of women’s rights and the feminist movement for feminism in general. As Shana Mlawski points out, strong female characters on their own, can harm the fight for equality for women by using scantily-clad, sexy, but strong kick-ass women to cover up the lack of social equality or justice outside of the comics, movies, and films populated by Xenas, Buffys, and Wonder Womans.

Moreover, “feminism” is a continuously evolving, often overlapping, and sometimes contradictory set of individualized, group-specific, and differently-theorized feminisms. Feminism is not a monolith, but a nexus of ideas about social justice and equality. Characters like Wonder Woman may stand as an icon, but they are far from descriptive of feminism as a whole; they describe particular feminisms. Janelle Asselin at Comics Alliance, for example, offers a critique of the current Azzarello and Chiang run, arguing that the retconning of Wonder Woman’s born-of-clay origin and the revelation that she has a father, namely Zeus, was a negative change for the character. Her biological attachment to Zeus undermined her self-made status.

Sensation-WW-1-537676042a9e82-07339885-3496f

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1

What’s at stake, then, in denying Wonder Woman the feminist title is not necessarily denying that she can be analyzed as a feminist character or, even, that she will cease to be used as a feminist icon in the ways that she has been for 74 years. It is instead a misogynist attempt to rein in positive social change in the mainstream comics industry, to deny readers’ desire for characters that bring about social and ideological change not just in the DCU or the Marvel Universe, but in our world as well. It’s also a slap in the face to common sense: there’s just no humane reason not to be feminist.

We want heroes who make change, and heroes cannot make change if they are denied identities that advocate for social justice. We want a Wonder Woman who’s not afraid of the “F” word and a creative team who understands that.

At the very least, come August we’ll have a new Wonder Woman comic to turn to: Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman.

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The weekend is almost here! How is everyone spending it?

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The Mary Sue – Oh, The Feels: 501st Legion Send Stormtrooper Suit To Another Bullied Girl – Bravo.

GamePolitics – Supreme Court Decision Questions the Validity of Some Computer and Software Patents – Interesting.

CNN – CNN Wonders Why Anime Child Porn Isn’t Banned in Japan – Sigh.

 

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Talking Comics – Amazing X-Men Vol. 1

Comic Vine – Archie #656

Comic Vine – Batwoman #32

Comic Vine – Elektra #3

Comic Vine – Green Lantern: New Guardians #32

CBR – MPH #2

Comic Vine – The New 52: Futures End #7

Comic Vine – Sex Criminals #6

Comic Vine – Silver Surfer #3

Kotaku – Snowpiercer

Comic Vine – The Wicked + The Divine #1

CBR – The Wicked + The Divine #1

Talking Comics – Winterworld #1

Talking Comics – Wonder Woman #32

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It was new comic book day yesterday! What did everyone get?

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The Beat – HeroesCon unveils harassment policy – Your move SDCC.

ICv2 – Fox Nabs Rights to ‘Malignant Man’ – Congrats!

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Comic Vine – Batman and Robin #32

Comic Vine – Batman Eternal #11

Comic Vine – Daredevil #4

Comic Vine – Harley Quinn #7

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Comic Vine – Thor: God of Thunder #23

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Comic Vine – Unity #8

Comic Vine – The Witcher #4

Talking Comics – The Wicked + The Divine #1

Comic Vine – Wonder Woman #32

Rumor of DC’s Movie Line-up. Take it With a Grain of Salt.

Justice League RevampThe rumor mill was churning today, with news being passed along like a bad game of telephone. A report today came out from Nikki Finke, former Deadline honcho, claims to list DC‘s upcoming movies through 2018.

May 2016 – Batman v Superman
July 2016 – Shazam
Xmas 2016 – Sandman
May 2017 – Justice League
July 2017 – Wonder Woman
Xmas 2017 – Flash and Green Lantern team-up
May 2018 – Man Of Steel 2

 

 

 

 

There had been talk of a Metal Men and Suicide Squad movie for sometime in 2016 but that project fell off the schedule.

Finke claims to late start to Batman V Superman is due to DC attempting to get this all settled down.

There’s numerous reasons I expect this all to be bullshit and click bait. One is, it ignores projects we’ve been told are being worked on, like the Justice League Dark film. The second big reason I don’t believe this is the history. It was about this time last year that it was rumored Cable, X-Force, Deadpool, Aquaman, the Flash, and Wonder Woman were all being announced as movies at SDCC 2013. We all know how that turned out.

While I’m sure DC is putting a plan together, I’ll believe this when I hear it directly from DC.

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It’s a new week! What awesome comics did everyone read over the weekend?

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YDR – Ky. man auctioning rare comic book collection – A cool opportunity.

DC Women Kicking Ass – Wendy’s Offers Superman and Wonder Woman Toys; Original Comic Book – Guess I’m going to Wendy’s a bunch.

ICv2 – New DC SVP Sales and Biz Dev – Congrats.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

CBR – Brass Sun #1

Talking Comics – Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird #5

Talking Comics – Harbinger #23

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