Feminism in Comics: How Wonder Woman, Lois Lane & Other Females Have Fared Over the Years

Categories: Comics

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Image from DC Comics Wonder Woman via the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund web site
Not exactly the image of strength people have in mind when they think about Wonder Woman.

According to Houston's Taryn M. Gray, writer Brian Azzarello who just finished a 35-issue run of Wonder Woman, was successful because, "He didn't focus on the fact that she was a woman. For 35 issues, it was just her being her and not using her body to sell the point. She became the god of war and took over for Ares--beat the crap out of him, in fact. It was about her doing her job. In the past, she herself has been the "woman in the refrigerator." She's had to count on being rescued by Batman, Superman, Steve Trevor - any man who happened to come along."

Gray, an employee of Bedrock City Comics on Washington and lifelong comics reader, will tackle this and other observations at a University of Houston - Clear Lake lecture on March 3, entitled "From Wonder Woman to Ms. Thor: Feminism in Comic Books."

Gray also writes reviews on comics for the Dorkshelf web site. Her lecture will depict how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society's anxieties about female liberation.

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Sorry, Hugh, There's Just No Room for Wolverine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Categories: Comics

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Twentieth Century Fox
We understand your frustration, Wolvie.
That Spider-Man will be joining his fellow heroes of the Marvel cinematic universe is a minor miracle worth celebrating. While his inclusion in the films was never in the realm of the impossible, it was thought by most to be pretty unlikely. Hollywood is a silly, complicated place, but in the end, money has a way of making complicated situations less so.

Whether they liked it or not, at the end of the day, Marvel needed Spider-Man to appear in these films eventually. Had they got to the end of Phase 3 with no Spidey involved, everyone would have understood, but it still would have been weird. It would be like DC making a universe of films with no Superman; they may not be at the same power level, but they're both the stars of their brand.

The side effect of all this is that the idea of Marvel bringing in other characters they sold the movie rights away to way back when doesn't seem so far-fetched anymore. Just imagine Hugh Jackman as Wolverine going toe to toe with Captain America.

No, seriously, imagine it. Because that's the only way you're going to see it happen for now.


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The Best Comics in January: It's Squirrel Girl Because Why the Hell Not?

Categories: Comics

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Effigy #1
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best books to review.

Effigy #1: I feel bad these days because I owe pretty much all my current interest in comics to falling in love with DC Vertigo at the turn of the century. If it had the Vertigo logo on it, I wanted to read it. Now that niche is mostly filled by the work coming out of Image, but 8th Dimension insisted I try out this book.

Effigy is definitely a one of kind title from writer Tim Seely and artist Marley Zarcone. It opens off the damned wall with a strange cartoonish space adventure where a team of teen space cops apprehend space pirates in order to save... space. Sound cheesy? That's the point because things turn south quick.

Turns out it was just part of a television show and we're introduced to former child star Chondra Jackson, who never escaped her teen idol typecasting and was forced to return home to become a cop in her little town of Effigy Mound. There she's struggling to matter and mean something as a real cop instead of a pretend one, but is little more than a meter maid and the butt of jokes from former friends amused by her fall from grace.

It's an extremely novel title with odd quirks you won't see coming. Chondra's fame-obsessed mother for example is a gift of a character that is so shallowly evil she's like some sort of super elegant maggot. Chondra herself is extremely likable and earnest, and when a chance to get involved in a real murder case comes along she jumps at the opportunity to prove herself. However, it gets real weird real quick. This is the sort of thing that used to make Vertigo the best place for comics, and it's good to say that once again.

Rating: 9 of 10

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The Best Comics in December Part 2: Welcome to Bitch Planet

Categories: Comics

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Bitch Planet #1
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Click here for Part 1.

Bitch Planet #1: Now this is the book that everyone is going to be talking about in 2015. Bitch Planet is the common name for a high-tech space facility where non-compliant women are sent to learn the error of their ways. The minds behind this marvel of misogynistic technology are called the Council of Fathers, and in the first issue we get a look at some of the women incarcerated there.

Our nominal heroine is an older white woman named Marian Collins, in for making threats against her husband when he had an affair. We see her story and his told like gears working into each other, and it paints this dripping red picture of how society has relegated women to their place as servile to men.

Joining Marian are Penny Rolle, a massive, Amanda Waller-esque figure who instigates a riot almost immediately with the violent battle cry of, "Where'm I s'posed to put my tits?!", and Kamau Kogo, a quiet but brutal capoeira fighter who uses her skills to try and make a difference on Bitch Planet.

Every page is just filled to the brim with a blistering commentary on the state of the world and how women are viewed in it. As writer Kelly Sue Deconnick says in the back, "The striking thing about Bitch Planet is that we're already on it." Hopefully this series will show some women who think feminism isn't necessary anymore just how wrong they are.

Rating: 10 of 10

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The Best Comics in December Part 1: Addressing the Transphobia in Batgirl

Categories: Comics

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Batgirl #37
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.

Batgirl #37: It's probably the most controversial issue of Batgirl since Gail Simone took Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair. #37 finds Babs pursuing a fake Batgirl using a blinged out costume, hard partying instagram account, and petty theft to draw attention to herself. Eager to try and salvage her reputation, Batgirl tracks the impersonator after seeing images of herself in a wheelchair at a local art show.

The impersonator turns out to be a desperate male artist going by the name Dagger Type, whose mysterious patron laid out his plans and told him to kill Batgirl and take her place. Obviously in a medium where trans people of any kind are thin on the ground this raised the hackles of a fair number of trans comic readers.

As a cis-straight white male I have enough sense not to wander in here and try and defend the actions of Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. The creators have already taken to social media to apologize and promise to listen hard to the stories being told by outraged and hurt fans. If you want a textbook example of how to compassionately respond to a controversy then this is probably the best you'll get.

I do see what they were going for, though. The book itself is a pretty interesting commentary on identity and more importantly the worth of a real one. The public of Burnside is happy to explore Batgirl as an icon through art, but when it comes time to have the big reveal Type was looking for they turn in disgust claiming "everything cool is always an ad". That's a very powerful message that is very relevant in this age of so much anonymous and misleading online personalities.

Maybe the creative team felt that having a man try to supplant Gordon was an interesting shake-up and twist. Heck, maybe it even is, but it was still a misstep in a book that has already done wonders for the positive portrayals of trans people in the form of Barbara's friend Alysia. The fact that Stewart and company could recover so magnificently from that misstep and still deliver a gripping read reaffirms my faith in a book I stopped reading when Simone left. Time to give Batgirl another chance, for all of us, I think.

Rating: 8 of 10

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The Best Comics in November Part 2: Tony Stark Is Such an Ass

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.Click here for part 1.

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Multiversity: Pax Americana
I'm one of the people that has called Grant Morrison's Multiversity this generation's Watchmen. It's still an incredible book, but I do think I'm going to have to walk back that statement.

Pax Americana is a fantastic read, don't get me wrong. The Question gets to take center stage for much of it, and Vic Sage is always worth reading about. He is such an unforgettable mix of genius and insanity that he damn near flies off the page. On the other hand, Morrison is so beholden to the Watchmen legacy that this issue is more of a homage than something that stands in its own right. Sage is essentially Rorschach more than The Question, and jokes to that effect never stop coming. His relationship with Blue Beetle is a mirror to the relationship Rorschach has with Nite-Owl, and even his speaking patterns take on the aspects of Alan Moore's creation.

Then there is Captain Atom as our Doctor Manhattan. He's a terribly fun character, full of meaning and depth, but no matter what he does it's clear that we're meant to simply be looking at Not-Doctor Manhattan. Add in the trendy, edgy backwards assassination in the first few pages and the homage feels kind of desperate.

Watchmen is the iconic book it is because it both explored things in comics that have never been explored before, but it also tapped into the world it was a part of of at the time. it was relevant (And remains so). Multiversity more and more feels like it's really just concerned with comics themselves and what they mean. That's fine and good, but it's navel-gazing when greater things could be happening.

Rating: 7 of 10.


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The Best Comics in November Part 1: Alice Cooper and Haunted Gotham

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.

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Tooth and Claw #1
Kurt Busiek's newest epic from Image comics had the potential to be one of the greatest fantasy books of all time. Though I'd still say that nothing can top Saga at the moment for sheer sprawling wonder, Tooth and Claw is a very close second.

It follows a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, each species segregated into castes. For instance, the Buffalo people are bottom feeding nomadic near slaves, while Eagles and Dogs live on high in floating cities. It's an amazing world that's beautifully rendered, but it is also dying as magic fades.

The answer from one wizard is to reach back through time and try to draw from antiquity a champion to open the gates of magic once more. It's like the Manhattan Project of sorcery, with even more tragic results. The giant-sized first issue is nearly a tale all on its own, and more than worth the cover price to check Busiek's strange and glorious vision.

Rating: 9 of 10


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The Best Comics in October Part 2: Edward Scissorhands Returns

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Yesterday we ran Part 1.

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Goners #1: Jacob Semahn has an interesting new book out from Image about a famous demon-hunting family. There's not enough Belmont homages in the world for my tastes, and Semahn pulls out a great legacy showing exactly how something like an ancestral line of monster hunters might adapt to the modern world.

In this case they decide to start a reality television show. Good idea, but there's a reason they don't take TV crews into hostage negotiations and active battle zones most of the time. Needless to say, this idea goes quickly to shit.

It's honestly a little hard to follow this book. The dialogue is amazing, but the characters swirl in and out of recognition sometimes thanks to flashbacks and sudden appearances. It was also cool to see the bakaak (which I was raised to call the bay-kok) make a showing as a monster in a comic. The liver hunters always scared the crap out of me as a kid and aren't used nearly enough, in my opinion. Special love goes to artist Jorge Corona, who keeps things pulp but warm in his drawings.

Rating: 6 of 10

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The Best Comics in October Part 1: Harley Quinn Makes a Friend

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Check out Part 1 here.

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Axis #3: Yet another X-Men/Avengers mega-event? It always seems weird to me that Marvel spends so much of its time making great personal stories but just can't seem to not have some mighty universe-wide arc going on every five minutes. It's literally like watching a Bryan Fuller drama and the third installment of a Michael Bay action franchise at the same time.

Where we are now in Axis is that the Red Skull has taken over the brain of Charles Xavier and has now unleashed Professor X's near-limitless psychic power to become Red Onslaught and start his Eternal Reich. In this he is aided by Iron Man's adamantium sentinels, designed as fail-safes against the world's heroes should they go rogue. The combined force of the X-Men and the Avengers is quickly decimated.

In a tremendous fight scene, Magneto leads an army of villains into the fray, including Carnage, Doctor Doom and the Absorbing Man. The huge battle is easily the best part of the book and a big reason why Marvel manages to keep pulling off the crossover events. Carnage alone is worth the cover price, as is Doom and Loki's bickering. This is supposed to be a series that shakes the Marvel universe to its core, and as annoying as that often is, it is also pretty fun.

Rating: 7 of 10

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The Wild World of High-End Comics Collecting

Categories: Comics

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Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
This nearly-pristine copy of Action Comics #1 was purchased for $3.2 million dollars in August by Metropolis Collectibles in New York City.

When a person attends a comic book convention, there's an expectation of seeing people in Spider-Man T-shirts and brightly-colored Spandex costumes. However, at the Metropolis Collectibles booth in New York City, the dress code is more Wall Street than Wolverine.

Sharply dressed men in suits and ties engage in intense conversation, peering intensely at old comics safely ensconced in hard, clear, plastic cases. Some are those presented for consideration by hopeful sellers. At the other end of the counter, a man in who appears to be in his fifties quietly passes over a $3,600 check to purchase one of the offerings. No one at the booth appears to be younger than 40.

At the top of each of the plastic comic cases in bold lettering is a CGC grade. CGC (short for Certified Guaranty Company, LLC) is a third-party service that evaluates comic books and grades them according to their condition by specific criteria, just as a jeweler might grade a diamond. In diamonds, one looks at cut, color, clarity and carat weight. In comics, evaluation criterion includes cover, color and condition.

Everything is looked at during CGC's grading process. Are there creases in the cover? How white are the pages in areas that were not inked? Are there color breaks or misaligned staples in the spine? Does there appear to have been any restoration work done and what was the quality of that work? After evaluation, the comic is encapsulated in the clear, hard plastic protector and a grade from 0 to 10 is assigned, with "10" being assigned only to completely flawless comics.

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