Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For Crying Out Loud

Maybe some of you already know that comic book writer Gail Simone has a forum where she and her fans chat about things. She's a very funny, forthright author who loves to interact with her fans online. So, when somebody posted this page from the new, poorly-received Cry For Justice mini-series from James Robinson, she naturally had something to say about it.

"I could see Lady Blackhawk, actually. Two pilots having some sexy fun, okay, I get that.

But I hate to see Huntress get branded as a slut again. The whole point of the Josh story was for her to realize she deserved better.

And I can't see them doing a threesome, that affects their friendship, and the Birds were ALREADY one of the very few books about female friendship which is so fucking rare in comics it might as well be moonbeans captured in mason jars. Not that friends can't have sex, but once again, this is all about the man, and "Well played, sir" is just, ugh.

I love James Robinson. But I really feel like most writers of mainstream comics get the sex thing all wrong over and over. It's all wink wink nudge nudge and women as trophies and thumbs up and it seems so weird and off-character to me.

But I haven't read it in context and I'm just the dumb girl anyway.

But James Robinson is a great writer, he's never written anything I didn't enjoy in comics and I still think Silver Age is an underrated classic. Maybe I'm reading it wrong. But it does feel weird that people can read bop and still come away with the impression that THAT Huntress and THAT Lady Blackhawk would get drunk and be someone's sad Penthouse fantasy.

It just shows again that Bop was an important book for a lot of reasons and its absence is keenly felt in the portrayal of female characters in the DCU. Not my bop specifically, just the book overall."

She comments further on why this page is more than a little sexist and disappointing in the link, if you dig through the comments. I could say a few choice things myself but I'm trying to keep my blood pressure down lately.

. . . oh, what the hell. I'll say them anyways.

First off, I decided against collecting this series since I read the agonizingly boring and annoyingly self-righteous 5-page preview shoehorned into the back of my fun, entertaining issue of Power Girl. Yes, Hal, let's do lecture Wonder Woman about justice. You know, the woman who unflinchingly killed Max Lord and got whined at for two years about it? And hey, while, we're on the subject of smacking down villains, remember Parallax? I sure wish somebody had taken that power-hungry murdering maniac down permanently right about now.

You know, I really wish I could like Green Arrow and Hal Jordan. I like Black Canary, I like Guy Gardner, I like Kyle Rayner, hell, I like Arsenal and Kilowog. I know a lot of great fans that I respect who love Hal Jordan to death, so I keep trying to see what's so awesome about him and, to a lesser degree, Green Arrow. Still, I just can't get into these two characters because half the time I read about them, they're being portrayed as, well . . . how to put this politely? Asshats.

When Hal Jordan's quoting John McCain about bravery and Green Arrow's electrocuting his wife to end an argument, I just can't find much to like about either one of them. And "hey, ain't we studly manly men?" banter like this isn't helping my general disdain for their characters much.

Anyways, I know I'm probably being unfair to both characters by judging them only by the recent stuff I've read but, hey, you know what? Fuck it. If the Powers That Be at DC want to portray two of their most iconic heroes as self-righteous frat boys, then that's clearly how I'm supposed to approach the characters. And I really, really don't like frat boys.

Ahem. Anyways, since I try to be more of a "light a candle" than "curse the darkness" kind of guy, let me recommend some good comics with female protagonists in lieu of Snivel For Peace, Whine for Justice.*

Echo is about a woman on the run with powers given to her by accident via the death of another woman, a fighter pilot in an experimental flight bodysuit. Julie, the protagonist, is being tracked by another woman who is more than just a femme fatale. Julie has to try and reconcile the memories of the fighter pilot whose dangerous experimental flight suit has now become partially bonded to her, all the while avoiding the government, a deadly lunatic and more. Echo is one helluva read, a complex, interesting and smart sci-fi thriller.

The Sword is, to quote the creators website, "a modern-day fantasy series that follows Dara Brighton, a young woman whose life is destroyed by three powerful strangers. Her journey begins when she discovers a unique sword." I've been tradewaiting on this one due to poor finances and haven't yet gotten the new trade but this series has been consistently interesting, suspenseful and surprising. If you don't mind gore (the titular sword sure ain't used for slicing yams), it's a really great read.

And speaking of female sexuality in comics, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the smart, funny and frankly adult Empowered. While James Robinson turns two established heroines into a tasteless threesome punchline, Adam Warren writes about mature, adult superheroines whose sex lives are yes, funny, but also hot, heartfelt and occasionally awkward - i.e., "real". Hell, there's more honest, heartbreaking interaction between lesbian superheroes in volume five of Empowered than in all of Greg Rucka's Detective Comics thus far - and that's saying something, given how much I'm loving Rucka's run on Detective Comics**. It's both funny and kind of sad that Empowered, the series that is supposedly "exploitative" enough to get slapped in shrink wrap and labeled with a "Mature Readers" sticker, treats it's female characters with more respect than a book that says "Justice League" on the cover.

Anyways, feel free to share your thoughts on the above page and Simone's response, 'natch but . . . you know what? I'd like this to be a positive post. Feel free to kvetch with me but I'd rather you go ahead and tell me what comic books you're really enjoying lately in the comments. I'm always looking for comic books that make me happy rather than make that tiny vein in my neck twitch.

*Bonus Points to all of you who know what I'm referencing with that joke.

**Oh, and Detective Comics is kicking all sorts of ass and looking amazing, but I'm sure you knew that already.


Sam said...

Oh yay, more recs for comics to read. I'm not super into modern-fantasy, but Echo looks right up my alley.

In a small defense of Green Arrow, my enjoyment of the character has always been his modern-Robin Hood persona, which isn't played up as much. The first time I really loved GA was in the pages of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, so I think that say something. And I like the classic team up of GA and GL, back when they were wandering the streets of America and dealing with some Serious Things, while GA was the voice of the "liberals" and GL was the voice of the "moderate-to-conservatives". That's just not done anymore, and I think they're very different characters. I've never been much of a Hal fan, so no defense for him, though. :)

I also had no idea that Gail Simone had forum she's active in, so thanks for that too. I feel like I should offer some sort of rec in return, but I got nothing. For now.

SallyP said...

It's true...Hal and Ollie ARE asshats.

I did find it interesting that Hal was startled, and a bit embarrassed that Ollie knew about his little escapade, which makes me think that there may be more to it than Ollie actually knows about. Ollie of course, thinks that the whole thing is just manly as heck, but then Ollie is pretty much an idiot.

K. D. Bryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K. D. Bryan said...

Sam - Echo's pretty nifty. I have a pretty solid distaste for the "Sword and Sorcery" genre in any era but Echo and The Sword are a lot of fun.

Yeah, GA was unarguably awesome in DKR. :D He's had some great moments. I've read some of Green Arrow's history as the mucho liberal guy and yeah, it's been one of his defining character traits. Unfortunately, so has his hypocrisy and his not being quite as liberal as he wants to be (yelling at Speedy being a junkie, for instance). Sadly, I do think you're right and that people play up the "hotheaded" aspect of the character more than they should. I mean, the guy's a liberal who adores calling people out on their bullshit, strong women and punishingly hot chili. By all rights, I should love this character. And yet. :(

You're welcome for the recs and the Gail Simone Forum knowledge. No need to repay me with recs; I do this just to spread the joy around. ;) The forum's a holdover from from her earliest days as a brilliant satirist, when she wrote a humor column for CBR called "You'll All Be Sorry!". I'm not sure if they've collected her columns in trade yet but if you can Google them, you should. They were pretty hilarious.

SallyP - Ha! I love you.

My actual alternate theory is that a roaringly drunk Hal got lucky at that bar form Secret Six where all the people cosplay as superheroes (including Blackhawks), the story he told about it got misconstrued and he just didn't have the stones/desire/decency to correct anybody afterwards. :P

Anonymous said...

My personal theory - as a fan of Hal and Ollie when they are being written properly - is that Ollie was making up the rumor about Huntress and Lady Blackhawk as a joke and Hal - being kind of dense and having too much ego to deny something like that - was going along with it as if it were true.

Because c'mon. Ollie heard about this from Dinah? I don't buy that for three reasons.

1. Hal wouldn't have kept his mouth shut about it if it had happened.

2. Ollie would have been the first person he'd told if it DID happen.

3. If Dinah found out that Hal Jordan had gotten two of her closest friends drunk and taken advantage of him, he'd still be in the hospital.