Posts Tagged ‘Batwoman’
cross posted on geek girls’ network
Geeky women feel constantly isolated, female comic book geeks most of all. Plenty of women are into sci-fi. Plenty more are into fantasy. Female gamer geeks abound in numbers that seem astronomical compared to the measly population of female Wednesday afternoon comics consumers. Some of my girlfriends read “graphic novels,” a term used mostly to make the more intellectually elite comics sound like something, anything, other than a serialized comic. Some of my girlfriends like Sandman, they like Watchmen, they LOVE Fables – but to date I’ve only converted one graphic novel girlfriend into a voracious cape & tights installment reader.
Every week, I bound into my comic shop to pick up my pull list. I have seen two other women there, ever – both employees. (I’m sure plenty of other women shop there. I just never see them.) When I make pilgrimages to Meltdown in Los Angeles, I might see one other lady in the store, but more often than not she’s someone’s mom, someone’s bored girlfriend, or she’s just popped in to pick up some “graphic novel” her hipster friends have been raving about.
(Understand, if the term graphic novel brings more readers to the medium, I’m all for it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think you sound like a snobby jerk when you say it. Are there pik-chers and words in balloons? It’s a comic. Stop kidding yourself.) Ahem.
While the influx of casual new female readers to the comics industry is a great leap forward, we still lag far, far behind in terms of week to week fandom, and even further behind when it comes to superheroes. The general female disinterest in superhero comics isn’t terribly shocking; comic book superheroes are thematically steeped in male wish fulfillment. True, movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man have made some heroes accessible on a wider cultural level to both men & women, but getting a woman to read anything other than the direct movie adaptation is still going to be a tough sell. Superhero narrative in comics has come a long way since Action #1, but it’s still laden with rock-em-sock-em, save-the-day, get-the-girl motifs.
The Big Two have attempted to market to women in a million different ways over the years. (Don’t get me started on Marvel Divas again.) We’ve had Wonder Woman shoved down our throats so much that we’ve choked on her. Writers like Greg Rucka and Gail Simone have certainly brought her out of bondage – literally – but at the end of the day she is fundamentally un-relatable for most women. Wonder Woman is steeped in male wish-fulfillment fantasies just as much as Superman & Batman are. A writer might be able to rise above that over the course of a single arc, but the truth remains that until we finally find the ret-con that works, Wonder Woman is still a reactionary warrior, a man’s woman. We don’t relate to her, no matter how much they play up the COMPASSION aspect, no matter how much they de-power or over-power her, because she’s not one of us. We need women we can relate to, women that fill a FEMALE superhero wish-fulfillment fantasy, not a warped version of the male one.
Which brings me to the modern Bat-family. I couldn’t relate one bit to Cassandra Cain, the until-recently Batgirl. Cass was socially handicapped and functionally illiterate, thanks to growing up in near-complete isolation. For Pete’s sake, she fought crime in a fetish suit. Her mouth was literally zipped shut in the thing. Even as Rucka and then Simone tried desperately to guide Diana out of the sub-dom bondage subtext, Cass Cain embraced it heartily. Cass Cain was a trained assassin at the cost of severe childhood abuse and some serious Daddy issues, she’s an over the top, beyond screwed up problem for Batman to swoop in and solve. And when Bruce died (sort of) Cass just gave up, passing the cowl to Stephanie Brown, once Robin, once Spoiler and now, something entirely new.
Stephanie’s Batgirl is the most relate-able since Barbara, if not more so, at least as far as so-called “regular women” are concerned. She’s young, she’s in college, she’s kind of a screw-up. True, she’s also a product of the hit-or-miss nineties comics industry, but Steph is just…normal, unlike most women in capes. The first arc of the new ongoing Batgirl book dealt with Stephanie desperately trying to grow up, to see something through and gain the blessing of her forebear, Barbara Gordon. And when she did, I wept. You see, I was kind of a screw-up kid too; I spent most of my early twenties desperately trying not to be total screw-up and generally failing miserably at it. Not everyone was a big mess of young adult flakey-flix, but the need to overcome, to be better than what you’ve been on a realistic human level – as opposed to trying to learn to read and be a little less traumatized by your assassin upbringing? That’s relatable. That’s interesting. That’s a story women who don’t read comics just might pick up. If they knew it existed.
At the other end of the Bat-spectrum, we’ve got Kate Kane, the awesome, punk rock, redheaded, kick ass grown up holy crap-I-want-to-BE-HER Batwoman. And oh yeah, she’s a lesbian. Of course, her sexual orientation is more a matter of fact than a matter of narrative. Batwoman is not an after school special. Kate is the cool senior girl we all wanted to become when we were freshmen. She’ll throw an elbow and kick you into the wall, and she’ll do it in full body armor with her boobs covered up. She’s got awesome hair, badass tattoos and sweet red stomper boots. While Kate gets ground support from her Colonel Dad, she doesn’t need the him or the Oracle in her ear to tell her to watch out for marauding frat boys. In a way, Steph is what we were, and Kate’s who we wanted to be.
Too bad neither one of them actually has POWERS. Even Marvel let the ball drop here. While Marvel technically has more high-profile powered women than DC, most of them are, as Wonder Woman, completely unable to connect. Storm was a princess turned orphan turned queen, Jean is so over-powered they had to turn her into a metaphor for PMS, Emma connects a bit, but only because she’s totally that one girl we ALL hated (admit it, you still know the first and last name of the first girl who told you she was better than you.) The Marvel women we DO relate to on some level, we relate to in the most depressing ways. Rogue is a runaway who hurts everything she touches, we might relate to that on some level as well, but there’s just no happy ending for her – be it in marriage or gratuitous sex or just, you know, being able to be close to ANYONE she loves physically.
And Kitty? Mommy and Daddy loved her so much they sent her to the special school where she could learn to be more specialer. Her biggest problem was that her boyfriend died for, like, ten minutes. And when it comes to Sue Storm, you kind of expect Reed Richards to start humming “Under my Thumb” at any given moment.
Granted there are slightly more obscure female characters that might resonate more with some women, on some level – but when it comes to solo titles, women aren’t buying female-hero helmed ongoings because, for the most part they (a) don’t exist or (b) don’t speak to women. At all. This is beginning to turn over a bit with Kate (+Renee), Steph, and Jessica Drew all heading up their own books right now, which is great – except most women have never even heard of these hero identities, much less the women under the cowls. And the Bat & Spider prefixes don’t help, unfortunately, most women hear _____Girl or _____Woman or Lady _____ and lose all interest.
Pink trade paperbacks and Sex & the City with tights rip-offs aren’t going to bring women around on Wednesdays. Comics only recently became remotely socially and intellectually acceptable for dudes, it’s going to be a while before boys don’t double take when they realize that, no, I am not messing around, I really do know way, way, more about Wolverine than they do. Marvel’s recent Girl Comics is a step in the right direction, celebrating not only female characters but also female creators. The only thing is – why do we need to get our own special book? Why aren’t female characters and creators just standard issue? Women will start reading comics in droves if we can ever get the word out that, holy crap, some of these are good. At this rate, we’ll all be reading comics projected onto the wall by the implants in our brains by the time female creators are standard issue instead of rare & novel. But to get there, we need well written, relate-able, at least vaguely plausible female ass-kickers, not gimmicks and women desperately trying to fulfill male fantasies while kicking half-naked through the air.
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A new decade has begun, and with it, High Five! Comics will soon be unveiling our special “20 (Or So) Best Comics of the Decade” event (take THAT, Siege). But before we reveal the big list, we’ll start with a series of supplementary entries from HF!C’s contributing writers about those comics we each individually loved, but that didn’t quite have the mojo to make the final ranks.
Today, Maggie talks about some of her personal favorite books from the last decade.
The story of a Dr. Doom-esque supervillain and a sort of intellectual precursor to Waid’s smash hit Irredeemable, Empire asked “So what does a supervillain do once he’s actually managed to take over the world?” Golgoth, the despot in question, is the most heartless bastard I’ve ever seen in a comic, utterly beyond redemption – maybe even uninterested in it. Waid & artist Barry Kitson published the first two issues independently before going bankrupt, and the series was completed under the DC imprint. Well – maybe not completed. Empire‘s final issue drops off abruptly, the victim of editorial shuffling. Still, Empire is full of great twists and turns, you notice more and more detail each time you read it. If you like Irredeemable, you’ll like Empire.
The ex-West Point cadet lesbian step-daughter of an heiress, Kate Kane is both highly improbable and yet more realistic in origin than most other DC heroes. Greg Rucka and JH Williams III’s Batwoman run in ‘Tec made Kate sexual without sexualizing her – or turning the book into an afterschool special about lesbianism in comics. Williams’ inspired panel design and his ability to shift art style from page to page truly made Detective Comics a cut above the rest.
Two other books would have easily made my top twenty if they were more than two issues in. BOOM! Studios’ NOLA & Th3rd World Studios’ The Stuff of Legend. If this were best of the year rather than Best of the Decade, they’d easily be top ten.
And somehow, I forgot to put Mouse Guard on my top twenty when we started this whole project. Dangit. Mouse Guard rules.
Posted October 12, 2009on:
At High Five! we’re usually more into goofing off than reporting industry news, but the DC news out of Baltimore is pretty awesome, so I’m going to chatter about it a bit.
From CBR’s article on the Diamond Retailer Summit in Baltimore:
DC Comics took the stage to wrap the event with VP of Sales and Marketing Bob Wayne quickly announcing that the publisher would take advantage of its “Blackest Night” skip month by resurrecting a slew of former DC titles which will pick back up at their previous numbering. Some of these comics will feature the original writers who were behind the titles back in the day like “Suicide Squad” #67 by John Ostrander and “Starman” #81 by James Robinson, while others will include new writers continuing the stories of classic characters. Those included “The Atom and Hawkman” #46 by Geoff Johns, “The Question” #37 by Greg Rucka, “Phantom Stranger” #42 by Peter Tomasi, “The Power of Shazam!” #48 by Eric Wallace, “Catwoman” #83 by Fabian Nicieza, and “Weird Western Tales” #71 by Dan DiDio.
What a great way to keep things interesting (read as: get our money) in a skip month! Still, I can’t help but wonder just how long these resurrected titles will stick around. The first relaunch issue sales will be decent, I’m sure, but I imagine a lot of these titles will have HUGE sales drops as they continue. That said – Hurray! Renee’s going to have her own book! I’m curious as to how this will affect the Detective Comics Question second feature. Perhaps we’ll end up with TWO Question & Batwoman-heavy books? Hopefully the relaunch succeeds, Renee’s book stays afloat and Kate gets to have her very own solo ongoing title when Bruce gets back from being dead (sort of) and wants Detective back.
So. Which relaunches one-shots are you guys jazzed for?
UPDATE: More clarification! Looks like commenter Kelson was right! These issues are just going to be one shots! Kind of a bummer, but makes WAY more sense. Now, to decide which ones to pick up…
Wayne also announced that DC would release a book to be sold on December 30th: “Blackest Night” #6. Since the comic would have to ship a week before its on-sale date, Wayne told the retailers that threaten future opportunities like this with death if anyone breaks the set street date for the highly-anticipated book.
I honestly think they’re just testing everyone. If I were a retailer, I’d be a terrified. Odds are that someone, somewhere is going to leak the book. Comics fans are on the whole a pretty loyal lot, but with an event this huge? Yipes.
Even with the risk of a leak, this is wonderful for retailers. Blackest Night will bring the regulars in during a week that they’d normally stay at home, and we’ll all be swimming with Christmas cash. Way to support the direct market!
Allright, so I caught Rorschach in the background the first time around, but I didn’t recognize 1979 Movie Captain America until I re-read “Gifted” today. And I only recognized him because the dude who played the part was signing autographs at Long Beach Comic Con last weekend. Got me thinking, anyone recognize any of the other background folks in this panel? Seems to me that if 2 of the 6 are referencing something, the other 4 might be too. Click to embiggen and get to it!
Also, Batwoman cameoed in Cry for Justice #4! I wonder if she was there for a specific reason or if this was just a fun little cameo. We’re pretty sure we saw her chillin’ on a gargoyle eavesdropping on Our Heroes earlier in the book.
The absolute best thing about the new Long Beach Comic Con was the MASSIVE artist’s alley, which took up most of the exhibition floor. We picked up a couple of little sketchbooks and went ’round collecting cool sketches from artists we like – some big names, some little ones. Check ’em out (and click to enlarge)!
My friends will tell you, I can grow one hell of an Alan Moore beard. I love walking around shirtless while listening to Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald” on repeat. For every glass of water I drink, I have three glasses of beer. I have man hands and I have man feet and I have man junk. I am a man.
Now that I have that out of the way, I’d like to tell you about Renee Montoya, Helena Bertinelli, Kate Kane, Carrie Stetko, Tara Chace, Elektra Natchios, and Diana Prince. Any one of them could kick the ever loving shit out of me without even trying. Who do I have to blame for this?
His current run on Detective Comics is the best example of how formidable his female characters can be. This title’s main feature is Batwoman (who is putting up one hell of a fight against this weird-ass Alice and her Cain cult). My favorite, however, is the second feature starring the Renee Montoya version of the Question. [Astute readers will recall that Renee first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series as a Gotham cop – M]. Rucka previously worked with the Vic Sage version of the Question in Huntress/Batman: Cry for Blood and has pretty much been in charge of Montoya since Sage passed the torch to her in 52 (which Rucka wrote with Johns, Morrison, and Waid). Rucka wrote for Montoya again in Five Books of Blood and in Final Crisis: Revelations (which is my absolute favorite tie-in to that event). I think Rucka put it best with what he wrote across the cover of my copy (and Maggie’s copy, and probably a lot of people’s copies) of Detective Comics #854: “She kicks ALL the ass.”
I never much cared for Wonder Woman books before I picked up a copy of The Hiketeia at San Diego Comic-Con. Holy fuck, that book. The premise is that a girl murders some pornographers in Gotham City, runs to New York, and requests shelter from Diana with some weird plea ripped from “the Iliad.” Diana has to take her in, despite Batman wanting to bring the girl to justice. Fuck yeah, you gotta find and read that book. His run in volume two of Wonder Woman expanded on the idea of Diana Prince being completely willing to sacrifice everything (up to and including her fucking eyesight) for the greater good.
Oh man, and his Oni Press ladies. Carrie Steko from Whiteout [Now a major motion picture! -M] kicks ass after getting her fingers chopped off Margot Tenenbaum-style (if Margot’s birth family lived in Antarctica). Then, she goes back for fucking seconds. In the first issue of Queen and Country (the entirety of which is linked to in the “Gateway Drugs: Your Mom” post), Tara Chace, alone in Kosovo, snipes a dude in the dome and escapes with nothing but a UN jacket and a naked photo of herself (yes, I know, that sentence was weird to type, too).
Unfortunately, I have yet to read either Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra or Huntress/Batman: Cry for Blood. They’re both pretty much on the top of my want list and I’ve been trying to hunt down a copy, but to no avail. Hell, the only time I’ve ever actually seen a physical copy of Cry for Blood was in the hands of some guy in a Mexican restaurant after preview night at SDCC. I stood there staring at it until that awkward realization that his entire table was starring back. Hey, Mr. Rucka. If you read this, wanna tooootally hook me up with one (pwetty pwease)?
Needless to say, Greg Rucka, you are gifted at writing for women that make me feel like a namby pamby little puss-puss. I commend you on that. If I had to read one more comic where the females either seems helpless or seem to fall out of their clothes every other page (see: 90% of comics in the 1990s and a weird, disturbing little percentage in the 50s, eek), well, I’d pretty much give up on comics being anything but a fucking circle jerk. Well done, Greg Rucka. Your female characters have made my testicles retreat into my torso, but you know, in a good way. Wait. What?