For the Birds

Elayne Riggs

Elayne Riggs is the creator of the popular blog Pen-Elayne on the Web. She was a founding member of Friends of Lulu, an organization dedicated to increasing the involvement of girls and women in comics, as readers and creators. She is married to inker Robin Riggs, with whom she shares two cats, and has odd love/hate relationship with Hillary Clinton.

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20 Responses

  1. Pasquale says:

    I am liking the White Viper! Bravo and Kudos!

  2. Russ Rogers says:

    Nice start. The art is expressive. The hidden Temple in the Himalayas has a sort of "Iron Fist" feel to it. The woman who gets munched by wolves is carrying two baskets. I'm assuming that her lunch was not in the second.I found the captions a bit of a distraction. The first pages seem to be narrated by the gratuitously naked girl. I'm assuming she is the White Viper. She says or thinks, "But I can tell you how it began." Is she talking to the reader, to herself or to the snake? I really can't tell.The tone of the captions changes dramatically at that point. It doesn't sound like a personal, internal monologue or somebody telling a story to another person. The narration takes on a third person tone, an omniscient quality. The line, "Hopelessness drives the climber to a final act of desperation," seems like it ought to be at the top of page 3, the act of tossing the babies down the side of the mountain. Or is the woman's situation at home, in her village, SO hopeless that climbing the mountain in the storm is the act of desperation. The first time I read this, I thought that the woman planned to toss the babies down to the monks below, like this meeting had been prearranged, but that there could be no contact or interaction between the two parties. Like this is an infant adoption that has to remain completely anonymous. But wouldn't it make more sense to slide the kids down a long slope then? Tossing them down onto jaggedy rocks makes it seem like she's trying to kill them. She says nothing, expresses no doubt or remorse. Is she mute? Maybe it's the approaching wolves that makes the woman desperate enough to heave two babies off a cliff.Is the woman trying to commit infanticide? Is she trying to KILL the children by heaving them down on the rocks below? Maybe this ambiguity is intentional. Did the woman have the children out of wed-lock? Is it because they are of a different or mixed race that she is driven to kill them? What makes her situation hopeless: the weather, the wolves, the bandits, society, her poverty?If this was a prearranged (or legendary) meeting spot between monks and desperate unwed mothers, this would make a perfect spot for bandits to waylay the monks. The bandits seem to know that the monks are coming. "Master" (whoever he is) really wants that broken medallion.If the monks (as I expect they will) end up teaching The White Viper super martial arts skills, why didn't they use any of those skills on the bandits? That fight seemed very one sided. If this is being narrated by The White Viper, years later and she got tossed down the side of the mountain, how does she know the woman got eaten by wolves? I'm very confused as to who is telling this story, why and how much they know.The narration on pages 5 and 6 is mostly redundant. It describes the action taking place in the panels. We can see the action, we mostly don't need it described as well.At one point the monk is called "Ta Moa," two panels later he is "Tae Mo." Are these two different monks or is that a gaff? Why use any name at all?If you are going to use thought balloons for Tae, why does the narrator have to tell us what he is thinking or hearing? The verb tenses don't make sense. "Tae Mo hears a noise in the distance and grasps for the sound that has moved him to continue." It's moved him since when? Childhood? He's heard this sound before? Should this read, "a sound that moves him to continue"? Could this whole bit of convoluted narration be replaced with the thought or word balloon, "Hrrn-? That sound! Is it the wind?"Why does Tah Moh speak in the next panel and use a thought balloon in the following? Couldn't he just say all of this? He seems like the kind of guy who talks to himself a lot.I'm assuming that one of the babies in the baskets (probably the one found by Tia Moo) is The White Viper, the late teen/early twenties nekkidy babe on the beach. That would make sense, since she's doing the narration. I'm still assuming that she is doing the narration. But the tone shifts and the narration is all in the present tense. This keeps the words exciting, but the White Viper is speaking about events that happened at least fifteen to twenty-five years in the past. It all makes my tiny pea-brain hurt. I probably have to just accept this and move on.Did the other baby get carried off by the Bandits? Has The White Viper met her missing twin as she begins to tell this tale? How does she know there were two baskets? And if she knows that the woman got eaten by wolves, why doesn't she know what happened to her twin?The situation is cool. It has that Lost Horizon, Iron Fist quality to it. OK, Iron Fist was based on Lost Horizon. Some of my thoughts of Shangri-La are based on the idyllic setting of the first page. What's a woman in the Himalayas (that's a mighty big mountain in the background), stepping out of burgundy monks robes, doing on a sunlit beach, unless this is some kind of lost paradise.The art is beautiful. But I did have a problem with the narration. At the very least, verb tenses and character names have to stay consistent. In general (and I'm really not the one to talk here, because I'm droning on and on) with narration, less is more.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      Ta Moa's misspelled name has been fixed on page 6. I wish it were as easy to fix my misspelling of Erin Holroyd's name in these comments.

  3. Elayne Riggs says:

    Um, what Russ said. :) Especially about the gratuitous first page. Very off-putting to anyone who doesn't possess a male gaze.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Nonsense, unless you think that all women who weren't offended by the splash page possess a male gaze. Which calls into question what sort of gaze Russ possesses.A quick flip through any of the women's magazines such as Vogue or Cosmopolitan will clearly illustrate such sensuality is not offensive to their substantial readership. There's a significant difference between sexuality and sexism — a difference that has always divided the American feminist movement, going all the way back to the split between Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It's made for some strange bedfellows, such as the coalition between certain anti-"porn" feminists and anti-"porn", anti-abortion cultists.Nonetheless, freedom of expression means publishers do not have to gear their wares to the most prurient forces within our reach, and those who object can (and, in my book, should) engage in healthy, respectful discussion.Like in these comments sections, for example.

      • Russ Rogers says:

        This started as a comment to Elayne's column, "Safe Space."…I'm guilty of the over-share and the under-edit. I'm long-winded and short-sighted. I'm argumentative and enjoy debating. I forget that for many people a public debate is analogous to a public flogging and arguing is just no fun at all. I have that very ego-centered NEED to show that I'm right.Yesterday, I ripped into "The White Viper." I felt pandered to, because the first page of the story featured a beautiful girl, stripping naked for no reason. It seemed gratuitous. So, I read the story closely and found a few mistakes. The only character named has his name misspelled in the period of just a few sentences. There are some verb tense mismatches. And the story structure is a bit confusing. These are quibbles. But I droned on and on and ripped "The White Viper" a new one, when really the art is very good and the story's beginning is intriguing. There is more there to recommend The White Viper than criticize it. It just needs a bit of polish.I have seen the Facebook, MySpace and Yahoo 360 pages that use sex (and that is a version of "the over-share") to sell. Tila Tequilla. The Girls Next Door. Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Is there any substance there beyond our prurient interest in pretty girls willing to Open Source their Boobs? It's porn. It's very, very soft core. It's soft-serve porn. But it's porn. MTV used to play music videos. Ah, what am I complaining about, the music video made soft-serve porn publicly acceptable. Frankly, I like big butts and I cannot lie.I will tell you this, if Holyrod and Giordanno put a pretty naked babe in every episode of "The White Viper," the number of hits ComicMix gets will SKYROCKET! The fan base for ComicMix will expand exponentially. The number of readers of EZ Street, Simone and Ajax and GrimJack will shoot up too. But that's lowest common denominator writing. ComicMix will be trolling for bottom feeders and serving up soft-serve porn.I've questioned "the gratuitous nude" in other ComicMix Comics like Jon Sable Freelance. Mike Grell draws really attractive naked people. Not all of them are women. But most of them are gratuitous and most of them are women. Jon Sable is a James Bond type of adventure hero. His prowess with women is part of the fantasy. But Bond has a long history of being soft-serve porn. Pussy Galore.Sex and nudity aren't the only things I worry about with ComicMix. Violence and swearing. God, I'm SO conservative! Really, I don't mind ANY of this stuff. I just know that these are the things that can EASILY become gratuitous and EASILY become appealing just for being gratuitous. It's so hard to argue against something when it is SELLING very well.For several years I tried to be a stand-up comedian. I mocked the comedians who had to resort to making dick-jokes, swearing and scat-humor to get a laugh. It only took a few years for my act to degenerate to that level. I didn't even notice it. I just woke up one morning with a set of jokes that three years earlier I had no respect for. I got out of stand-up comedy.

        • Mike Gold says:

          Some people are VERY conservative. That's fine; that's their prerogative. Some people think GrimJack is too violent and, by the way, anti-Christian. I know one creator who took major offense at Elayne's comments. Some of them won't like certain features on ComicMix. I can hardly imagine too many people liking everything we do, and I'd probably feel like we weren't doing our job if we get a lot of folks saying they like every pixel we shoot into the ether. It's possible that some of these people will be so annoyed that they will not visit our site. Well, we can't be everything to everybody. I'm more concerned about getting it right (certainly by the time the trade paperbacks come out!) than pleasing all of the nearly two billion people who have access to the Internet on this planet.This is an exciting opportunity. We don't know WHAT the market is for American comics — we have been so restricted to niche marketing, to playing to the capes crowd. So we'll continue to wander a bit and do all kinds of strange stuff.I hope.

  4. Linda Gold says:

    Sorry but I disagree with both Russ and Elayne. I did not find the narration intrusive or hard to follow at all and not everyone who isn't male finds a beautiful naked woman off putting. I thought she was simply lovely to look at.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      I don't mind seeing a beautiful naked woman. And Dick Giordano has drawn a lovely naked woman. But shouldn't there be some reason for it, some justification? A beautiful woman gets naked in order to talk to an albino snake; there's something very Freudian going on here!Let's try this for a first page naration: "Like a snake, I'm always happiest when I can shed my skin and lie in the sun. Maybe it's because my earliest memories are of bitter cold … I can tell you how it all began."Maybe my bit of narration is too straight forward, subtle as a flying mallet. Maybe you lose some of the mystery and poetry of the moment that Erin Holyrod and Dick Giordano are trying to create.

  5. Larry Shell says:

    Nice, reminiscent of a 70s comic, and the art by these new kids, Giordano and McLaughlin isn't too shabby. I'll be interested in seeing how the story develops.

  6. Neil Ottenstein says:

    Well, I haven't read it yet, because from the cover and comments I'm not sure it is "safe to read at work"

  7. Matt Mako says:

    Gratuitous nude??I must say I do not know enough yet to make or refute that question.I do know that I am not yet comfortable enough to suggest the story to my 16 year old son, who read Grim Jack here, and from the boxes in my attic.Since I don't know why the young lady is nude in paradise yet, I still reserve judgment.In some ways I like having free pages of comics at my finger tips – in some ways I am frustrated by the fact that it ends so soon.

  8. Jeff McLaughlin says:

    I just read the story and my first thought about WV being nude was that she was just another 'creature of the forest'. In real life would Tarzan be wearing a bit of cloth (would he feel 'shame'? living with gorillas and not humans?) or is that something that was needed to cover up his 'Johnny Weissmuller' on the movie screen? I find the comic doesn't fit my screen well – either too small or too large. however, I think this concept of a 'live' letters page is a real winner and adds a lot to the experience!

    • Russ Rogers says:

      I could accept the "creature of the forest" notion better if she started out the comic nude. If she walked into the first panel nude. She doesn't. She starts off wearing a something that reminds me of a monks robes. And she strips. She doesn't look like she casting aside her monks robes, this doesn't seem to be a rejection of her role. She's just getting naked. Why?Monks don't wear underwear? Monks don't wear bathing suits? Personally, I find a woman stripping naked more provocative that just a naked woman. To over-intellectualize, it's an implied shift in state from sexual modesty to availability.Why is there a prologue with a naked girl? Obviously the start of this story is BLEAK! A woman tries to kill two innocent babies by tossing them off a cliff. That woman is in turn eaten by starving wolves. The babies end up at the feet of a group of monks who are massacred by bandits. Having a happy, naked, pretty girl in the opening page promises that this story isn't just going to be endlessly morbid.Part of the problem here is that the stories on ComicMix are dolled out just a few pages at a time, once a week. The explanation and justification of this girl stripping naked might be right there on page EIGHT. We won't know until next week.Maybe the naked woman is there on the first page as an advertisement or warning of sorts, that MORE nekkidy babes will be appearing in this story. If the naked people didn't start regularly showing up in the story until say, page 32, well then the people who had gotten involved reading the story (and ARE offended by nakedness) might feel conned, offended or outraged. "Hey, I didn't spend the last month and a half reading "The White Viper" just to have NAKED people show up!" Then again, a naked girl on page ONE of a comic sends the message that naked people are going to play a regular role in the comic. Some readers will be disappointed if the next beautiful naked girl isn't until page 32.I'm not offended by the naked girl. But I don't see any reason for her getting naked on page one. None is provided. I just felt pandered too. I'm enjoying The White Viper. I'm enjoying this discussion. And the "LIVE" letters page is a BIG plus!

      • James says:

        Getting only a few pages at a time it is tough to see the whole story…but isn't that the fun of it? As far as the naked woman is concerned it looks to me like she is drying off after a swim. I doubt in this seemingly remote area she needed clothes! I think we are getting in line for a great ride. I can't wait for the next installment.

        • Russ Rogers says:

          You may be right. I considered that might just be a giant Turkish towel, instead of "monk's robes," that she might be drying off and not stripping. It's the color of the cloth that read "monks robes" to me. It's funny how subtle things affect the interpretation of a panel.