Tagged: Clark Kent

John Ostrander Loses It

Twenty years ago this month saw the publication of the first issue of my twelve issue historical western, The Kents (which has since been gathered into a TPB and is on sale at Amazon, among other places; end of plug). The book chronicles how the ancestors of Clark Kent’s adoptive family came to live in Kansas and was set before, during, and after the Civil War.

Of all my work, this is one thing of which I’m exceptionally proud. I did a great deal of research for the project and while by no means a history per se, it has a great deal of history in it.

One of the goals I set for myself was to try to convey to the reader how the characters, the people, of that time felt about the events that engulfed them. We, of course, know how that conflict resolved itself but they did not. Was the nation going to tear itself apart? How many more would die? If I was a soldier, would I die or be wounded or maimed? Would my loved one live or die?

The same uncertainties apply to other conflicts, such as WWI and II, Korea and Vietnam. I recently saw the movie Dunkirk (which I found to be harrowing and brilliant) and, if you know anything about that story, you know how it winds up. However, what the movie makes so plain is that no one actually involved at the time had any real idea of how it would be resolved. If anything, they expected the British and French troops gathered at Dunkirk would be annihilated or captured.

Nobody today knows how our story will end. Over the past days / weeks / months of the Trump presidency, we’ve seen the country roil like a broken thing. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m 68 years old and I’ve never seen anything like it. I doubt not only the competence of the most powerful man in the world but his sanity. He lashes out not only at perceived enemies but at the very institutions that power our democracy.

All of us are in the middle of this story and we do not know how it will end. Do we all understand that it does not have to end well? Our country, our way of governing, is an experiment that could still fail. There is no reason that it has to survive. Every great country or civilization has fallen. Every single one. Some aspect of what they were may continue but the main substance collapses. There are those both within and without our borders who would see us ripped apart. And we appear to be doing it. Our survival is not a given and no one should assume it is.

How will our story be written, a hundred years from now? Will it be a story of triumph and, if so, whose triumph? Or will it be a story of tragedy and a fall from grace? Who will write that story?

Abraham Lincoln, in his famed Gettysburg Address, said, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated {to liberty}, can long endure.” That’s as true today as it was then.

Any bets?

Mike Gold: Wish I Could Fly Like Superman

Hey girl we’ve got to get out of this place, there’s got to be something better than this

I need you, but I hate to see you this way. If I were Superman then we’d fly away.

I’d really like to change the world and save it from the mess it’s in,

I’m too weak, I’m so thin, I’d like to fly but I can’t even swim

Ray Davies, (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman

Several years ago, I read a poll that asked if we could have any one superpower, which one would we have? Unsurprisingly, the ability to fly won hands down.

Never mind the “fact” that super-speed would be the most powerful super-power. Think about it. If we could travel as fast as The Flash, we could prevent a lot of bad stuff from happening, put out fires, save kittens from trees, and pretty much cover the entire second reel of Superman – The Movie. But, no, we want to fly!

Me, too.

In certain circles, such as ComicMix staff meetings, it is well-known that I do not like to fly in airplanes out of airports. It’s not that I don’t like to fly per se – I’ve jumped out of airplanes for sport until my daughter and my chiropractor and my surgeon told me to stop. I just don’t like being treated like shit, and I’ve already had my share of physical encounters with the Chicago police, thank you (there are better ways to fly united than on United). But the fantasy of flying sans aircraft remains compelling.

I don’t know if flying is the most popular ability given to superheroes. It appears it is, particularly if your character is only able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – like the Hulk does. Or have a strange hammer that, if you hold onto it really, really tight, will allow you to fly without wrenching your god-like arm out of your god-like shoulder socket.

It’s always silly to compare superhero comics to “real” life, even if there truly was such a thing. Besides, superheroes are escapist fantasy, so no matter how often Spider-Man punches out Doctor Octopus while enduring a very bad cold, let’s not confuse the two… except, of course, for the purposes of the remainder of this column.

Flying would be a hazard to air traffic. If everybody could fly – and this also applies to those flying cars Julius Schwartz promised us 60 years ago – rush hour would be indistinguishable from a total eclipse of the sun. I don’t think we’d be able to breathe while flying. I know this wouldn’t bother Clark Kent, but the rest of us weren’t born on a doomed planet only to come to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men… well, Clark… and Kara and Krypto and Beppo the Super-Monkey and the infinite number of Phantom Zone denizens, extant and yet to come.

I have a hard time with the floating-in-the-air thing. Sure, it’s cool and it allows for remarkably dramatic poses in all relevant media, but if it’s part of the ability to fly, I don’t understand how that can be so. Well, except for the “because the writer says so” axiom, which always trumps logic in both storytelling and in mathematics. Our pal, fellow ComicMix columnist and genuine comics legend Denny O’Neil, in his guise as a comics editor, used to advise writers “it might be phony science, but it’s our phony science.”

And what happens if said flying superhero (or dog, or monkey, or villain) gets the poo beaten out of him (or her, or it) while airborne? This happens all the time, at least in comics. Said flying being instantly becomes a meteor ready to create a crater the size of Nebraska or open a fault line or a tsunami that likely will be a hazard to nuclear power plants and fish.

Yeah. I know. Reality sucks.

And that’s why we all want to fly.

Dennis O’Neil: Mayor Green Arrow? Really?


What’s the pothole situation in Starling City? And the re-zoning hassle – that still a headache? And the business with the access lanes to the bridge – was that ever settled?

Since Oliver Queen’s been elected mayor, it’s reasonable to think that this kind of mayoral busyness is the better part of his days. At night, of course, he puts on a mask and hood and grabs his bow and arrows and kicks (or maybe punctures) miscreant ass. Oh, and his also training a bunch of wannabe vigilantes to help with the kicking/puncturing – and not always being Mr. Nice Guy while he’s doing it. (Maybe he’s got some marine drill sergeant DNA?)

The question is, who is better for Starling City, the politician or the archer? If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’d probably choose the archer because obviously anybody would be better than a politician.

But that can of worms will be left unopened. Tell you what: let’s reframe the question. Who’s more useful to a storyteller, archer or pol? I guess it depends on the kind of tale being told. A story by…oh, say, Aaron Sorkin or Robert Penn Warren or Allen Drury would perhaps fare best as political drama. The kind of fantasy/melodrama/action tale we’re considering here is better with an ass-kicker as its protagonist. Which leaves our man Ollie where?

mayor-green-arrowA kind of hybrid, one who favors the arrow shooting part of his persona, is where. That’s pretty much how it has to be. Nobody with a taste for adventures – that is, nobody who’s Arrow’s natural audience – is going to tune in to watch a guy in a three-piece suit behind a desk reading policy papers. We want to see some arrows shot and some of that good martial arts action! Leave that other stuff to CNN.

Casting a superhero as a civic leader, it seems to me, strains the genre. Part of the appeal of costumed superdoers is that they can do what duly constituted authorities can’t. Where a mayor’s job ends, theirs begins. One explanation for adopting a second persona – and it’s not a bad one – is that the disguise keeps the bad guys from knowing who to wreak revenge on. The other reason for a civic leader hiding behind a costume and fighting crime is that he couldn’t do as mayor what he does as vigilante because the vigilante must break the law to do his deeds. But whoa! Don’t mayors swear to uphold the law? We got us some hypocrite mojo working here?

Another deep appeal of double-identited heroes might require some psyche excavation. The idea is, we all have more than one identity lurking within us – we behave differently in different situations – and we might feel that the real us is one of those unseen lurkers. Costumed heroes manifest this idea and also give us a hook into identifying with the good guy.

I think part pf the storyteller’s task is to make the two identities distinct and that’s often a failure. I tried and pretty much failed to convince my Batman writers that Bruce Wayne should present himself as a tough-as-nails businessman, but as a good-natured bumbler. And I never liked Clark Kent as the best reporter in town. (Didn’t he win a Pulitzer?)

Of course, as always, the secret is in the recipe, not the ingredients. If the story entertains, the creators have done their jobs and they’re free to go watch tv. Wonder what’s on the CW?

John Ostrander: Making a Better Superman


As of last Monday night, Warner Bros grew a Superman problem. That’s the night that Supergirl started its second season on its new home, the CW… where one could argue that it always belonged anyway. The show guest starred Supergirl’s cousin, Superman, embodied on TV by Tyler Hoechlin.

tyler-hoechlin-supermanIf you don’t already know, DC – unlike Marvel – does not link its movie universe and its TV universe. Since DC Comics is currently in the Multiple Universe concept once more, it might help to think of their TV and movie universes as alternate dimensions. So we can have two Flashes, two Wonder Women – and two versions of Superman.

The DC movie version of Superman, as shown in Man of Steel and Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice Whaddee Do Dah, is played by Henry Cavill and is a darker, more brooding, somewhat more Batman-ish Superman. His costume is also darker, almost a blue-black. He is, we are told, a more “realistic” Superman. And that’s where I think the trouble is going to lie.

Supergirl’s Superman is a more traditional Man of Steel. He’s a brighter, more confident, more hopeful vision. And, not to slam Henry Cavill, Tyler Hoechlin is a better actor. As a kid he held his own with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig in Road to Perdition where Hoechlin played a starring role as Michael Sullivan, Jr. (Sidenote: not everyone realizes that Road to Perdition is also a “comic book movie” based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. Work that little factoid into your conversations. Amaze your friends. Go out and get a copy. Great read. End of plug.)

The Superman appearing on Supergirl is more my idea of who Superman is – confident, capable, friendly, powerful and, according to one character on the show, smells good. When he walks into the DEO, the government facility where Lara’s adopted sister Alex works, people just stop and stare. Superman works the crowd, smiling, shaking hands, setting people at ease not like a politician or even a celebrity but like a nice guy from Kansas which, for all his powers, he is.

Hoechlin also does a great Clark Kent, reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s great turn, having a deft sense of humor to the portrayal and making the bumbling aspect work. When his cousin secretly congratulates Clark on a well executed file fumble in the elevator, he tells her it wasn’t an act. That’s endearing.

Also, in the TV aspect of the DCU, there isn’t the underlying mistrust that the DC movie universe has for this strange person from another world. Batman wants to kill Superman because the Kryptonian could be a threat; one of the arguments leading to the creation of the Suicide Squad was who could stop Superman if he decided to burst through the roof of the White House and grab the President? On Supergirl, people trust the Man of Steel. Seeing him, or his cousin, inspires hope. While the darker portrayal may be more “realistic,” it’s not what the character is about.

I’m not looking for a return to the Superman of the Fifties as seen in either the comics or the TV show. To be honest, that one bored me even as a kid. The movies, however, makes him more angsty, more dour, and less Super. Hoechlin is only scheduled to appear as a guest star on the TV show for right now but he wears the tights and the cape – and Clark Kent’s glasses – quite well.

I know that in BvS: DoJ (spoiler alert, I guess) Superman dies at the end of the film but we all know he’s coming back for the Justice League movie. I, for one, wouldn’t mind if the movie Superman uses the grave as a chrysalis and pops out as Tyler Hoechlin. Or maybe they can have Tyler spin off into a series as Superman. I’d watch it. And I bet lots of others would as well.

And that’s going to be WB’s problem – the better Superman isn’t on the big screen; it’s on the small one.

Dennis O’Neil: Superman – What Do We Really Know?

lois_lane_1964_by_ shawn vanbriesen

“Someone has just thrown Lois Lane from an airplane and she’s plummeting Earthward. But today is Humtyglumf Day, the most sacred day in the Kryptonian calendar – a day on which it is absolutely forbidden to rescue falling females. But if I do nothing, in about a nanosecond Lois will squish…”

Full disclosure: I don’t really know if Kryptonians celebrate Humptyglumf Day. On the other hand, I don’t really know if they don’t. Superman seems to have a lot of information about his shattered home world – he seems to knows a lot more about Krypton than I know about, oh…McCausland Avenue where, I have it on reliable authority, I spend the first four years or so of my life. But nothing about politics or religion.

The profit motive partly explains this. I’m thinking of one of my favorite novelists, now deceased. His name was John D. MacDonald and his best known character was/is Travis McGee. McDonald and McGee were, for me, buy-immediately-upon-sighting as I checked out the fresh paperbacks. I don’t know how many McGee novels I read before I realized how little I really knew about our hero. McDonald gave us what seemed to be a heap of personal data about his creation – his friends, his houseboat, his car, his workouts, his opinions of certain cities, his party-timing, all this and more well covered. Yessir, after reading two or five of the books you knew ol’ Trav. But did you? Tell me about his parents, his siblings (isn’t a brother mentioned somewhere?), his home town, the schools he attended, his political preferences, where, if anywhere, he worships…You might be tight with Trav, but you couldn’t fill out his census questionnaire.

I think what McDonald was doing, consciously or not, was employing a bit of literary legerdemain – what Penn and Teller might call “misdirection.” He gives you lots of detail and maybe you don’t notice that he withholds anything that is crucial – anything that might prejudice you against the character. (You don’t like Presbyterians? Well, he’s no Presbyterian!) It’s fair to say that most, if not all, writers of mass-consumption worked a similar dodge. The radio programs and television shows and movies were populated by…well, Americans! Probably ate white bread. Probably went to church (though which church we didn’t have to know.) Probably voted. (But which lever they turned is really none of our concern.)

Comic books? Let’s see…there’s Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker and Tony Stark and Steve Rogers…Nope – not an ethnic name in a truckload. And none of these guys have lapel pins indicating political preference, either.

I can’t decide if this pop culture homogenization has been helpful or harmful to the general welfare. Maybe a bit of both? I have a hunch that its time is almost past, but that’s not today’s topic. Nor is Humptyglumf Day.

Art by Shawn Van Briesen

Molly Jackson: Editing Strength!



I’ve beaten back the technological revolt happening in my apartment! It’s a time for celebration and joy. So two days ago, I saw the Batman Vs. Superman Ultimate Edition at a special event in theaters. On purpose. Seriously.

Batman v Superman BRI purposefully dragged my fellow ComicMix columnist Joe Corallo because I couldn’t suffer through it a second time alone. For the record, he agreed to go and then was confused as to why he agreed. Also, I purposefully did not tell Mike, our fearless editor, that we were doing this since he tried to talk us out of seeing it the first go-around. (I only wish I could see his face when he reads this.)

A little backstory, I hated it the first time. I remember stumbling out of the theater wondering how the studio executives could have let that happen. How? Why?! Still, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I wanted to see it again. Perhaps to reconcile the movie in my mind.

I feel obligated to say spoiler alert. So hey, if you keep reading, you may be spoiled on the Ultimate Edition. Just sayin’.

After the first time around, I remember thinking that script and direction were the biggest issues with the film. That hasn’t changed much but I did discover a bigger issue was editing the film. The first release cut out parts that made the film coherent. Whole explanations were removed, which contributed to a lot of the complaints. You don’t have to guess as much at the characters’ motivations or decision making. Some, but not all, plot holes are closed and the scene transitions are better for it.

About those critical scenes. There was a naked Bruce taking a shower. There were a few scenes showing Clark investigating Batman and his actions against the people of Gotham. He talked with mom and Bruce had a really nice extra few lines with Alfred (who also chops wood, because…). Those really helped flesh out small parts of the film, adding connections to disjointed scenes. Now, from what I remembered from the original release, it appeared that the most significant extra (a.k.a. deleted) scenes were female-led storylines.

I wish I was surprised, but I’m not. Why should companies focus on Lois Lane being a fearless investigator when Batman can have an extra-long fight scene with a truck? She spends a whole story arc to find the pathway to Lex’s maneuverings. We watch Lois push back against Perry White and Clark Kent in her desire to find the truth. She works with lab tech Jenet Klyburn (as played by Jena Malone in her unreleased role) to realize the metal bullet is experimental. She investigates the suicide bomber’s apartment, only to realize that he wasn’t planning on killing himself. And then she connects the pieces when she finds out from Jenet that the wheelchair was lined with lead. Look at the plot holes cleaned up with one paragraph.

The other storyline covered up was lead by Kahira Ziri, played by Wunmi Mosaku. Do you remember the woman who testified against Superman in the beginning of the film? She actually carries a storyline that humanizes Clark more while dehumizing Lex and still shows her finding her strength. She reveals to Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch that she was being threatened by Lex to denounce Superman. In the meantime, Clark tries to search her out and instead gets pointed towards the misdeeds of Batman. It added a crucial human connection to his story while showing a woman stand against corruption. All of this was cut, despite adding a compelling connection to multiple characters and storylines.

Upon seeing the Ultimate Edition, I realized that women were used to tie the story together completely but when it came down to a coherent story or a big fight scene, action won. And in a movie with two male leads, they will take center stage. Still, when your entire story movement hinges on women, maybe they should actually be included.

DC is trying with diversity, I won’t deny that. But for every male superhero, there is a traditional support system in place. For Batman, it’s Alfred. For Superman, it’s Lois Lane. But just like Alfred, Lois is a strong character independent of the hero. She has proven herself in the comics time and again, as a woman who doesn’t rely on a man to carry from place to place. Lois, as a realistic hero of the people, is a role model for girls and women everywhere. Sadly, she will never get her own solo film, so her chance to shine is in these films. Superman deserves a strong partner who can fight in her own way, not just at his side but on her own.
After seeing this, I still am not a fan of Batman v Superman. However, the extra scenes took the trainwreck of random scenes and made it a coherent, if not bad, story. With every successful superhero film, it works because the support characters are given the chance to develop and grow. Their story only serves to make the hero, and the film as a whole a triumph. Regulating the women to the DVD extras makes the story weak and the superhero star suffer because of it.

Dennis O’Neil: Caitlyn And The Real Us

O'Neil Faces

You! Yeah, you over there… you as sick of seeing pictures of Caitlyn Jenner as I am? I mean, they’re all over the place and the media are riding the story – paltry little story – like a merry-go-round unicorn.

What? You’re not sick of Jenner pix? Well, go dump your bumple – while I try to elide the above into something at least remotely appropriate for this column, which is supposed to be about comic books or pop culture or something. Here we go. I’ll assume for an as-yet undetermined amount of bandwidth that you have for the past month been on your bi-annual Zen retreat up there in those mountains, far from screens and speakers and media in general (which might explain why you’re not sick of Jenneriana) and so you don’t know that one-time Olympic medal winner Bruce Jenner has become an almost-transexual, posed for a magazine looking hotter than any 65-year-old, of any gender, ought to look, and in the process did a name-change: Bruce, look in the mirror and meet Caitlyn. Caitlyn apparently hasn’t had surgery – hence my labeling her “almost” – but in all other ways the transformation is a fact.

I commend her. Hers could not have been an easy decision to make. Let’s believe what she says – I have no reason to doubt her sincerity – and assume that all these years, from her winning Olympic glory in 1976 through semi-stardom in the Kardashian reality TV ventures after Bruce married Kardashian matriarch Kris, right up to her present notoriety glut, Jenner was hiding her real identity behind an assumed identity. “Bruce” was a mask; Caitlyn was the real person.

Claiming one’s truth is a noble act. But I can’t help wondering why it was done so publicly. The Vanity Fair cover, the television interviews, all the spangly show-biz… it’s almost as though she’s plastering a new mask over the old Bruce one. (Norma Jeane Mortenson, meet Marilyn Monroe.) And basking in the fleeting warmth of the spotlight? Again?

Some of this may seem familiar to comics fans. Ever heard, or even participated in, a debate over which is the real person Bruce Wayne or Batman? Clark Kent or Superman? Part of the appeal of the double identity trope, which isn’t limited to superheroes, is that it acknowledges and delineates basic human reality: we all present different faces to the world depending on the occasion. The you who has pizza with pals is different from the you who has dinner with grannie – and many of us, I suspect, feel that the individual society sees is not the real us. (And it probably isn’t.)

Part of me chooses to believe that Caitlyn is moving toward something valid that’s not just her ego finding another way to demand attention. (Is Batman an exhibitionist, despite his penchant for shadows?)

Now, your turn. Go and get a mask and put it on. Then find somebody who might want to look at it.


Mindy Newell: Full Of Sound And Fury

First off, “I just think he’s hot.”

That’s a line from the end of Man Of Steel, which I watched again last night. And the captain who says it is right. Henry Cavill is – im-not-so-ho – hot. Extremely so. Perhaps more importantly, the man can act. Given a script that does not serve Mr. Cavill, in its, let’s say, frugality of characterization, exploration, and screen time of Kal-El alias Clark Kent actually being Kal-El alias Clark Kent, Mr. Cavill does a helluva job in conveying the confusion, loneliness, guilt, anger, and prickly emptiness inside this alien immigrant from Krypton.

The first time I saw it, I thought it sucked. This time, I thought, well, it doesn’t so much suck as it does come up empty, running on fumes instead of a full tank. And, no, it’s not because *gasp* Superman Kills Zod! *gasp*which is what got so many bowels, including mine, in an uproar. Given the (truncated) emotional journey that Kal-El alias Clark Kent is on in the film, it’s – im-no-so-ho – the right action at the right time, for not only is Kal-El alias Clark Kent killing the warlord, he is also killing Kal-El the Kryptonian (and by inference, finally laying to rest the planet of Krypton) inside of him, killing the “otherness” that has haunted him all of his life. In that moment of final brutality, he transforms into Clark Kent alias Superman, born and raised in Kansas, U.S.A., and citizen of the planet Earth. As Clark Kent he will love Lois Lane; as Superman he will love Earth.

The problem with the film as I watched it the second time was that I had trouble staying awake to watch the very, very, very protracted battle scenes. Frankly, it got B-O-R-I-N-G. Director Zack Snyder, like George Lucas before him, is not interested in “what makes people tick.” He’s the toddler who knocks down his building blocks because it makes a big noise. He’s the kid with the Erector set building a giant John Deere crane that can knock down his Legos Empire State Building. He’s the adult ultimate SFX and CGI geek that is given a zillion dollars to play with.

And so in Man Of Steel we got an eternity of destruction played out before our eyes. We got IHOP and SEARS demolished real good. We got shockwaves of roiling dust clouds rolling across the Kansas plains. We got tidal waves sweeping across the Indian Ocean. We got F-16s and alien ships crashing to the ground. We got skyscrapers collapsing. We got pummeling and we got blood-and-guts – only there was very little blood and there was absolutely no guts. We got death without bodies.

It’s not really Zack Snyder’s fault. Nor is it the fault of so many young adults, mostly men, who have said to me, “Man Of Steel was so cool! The best part was the fight between Superman and Zod, and when Superman killed him, that was the best!” For they are all part of a generation that, as kids, saw the real towers fall down on television. Too young to really understand what was happening, too young to think about the political implications, too young to grasp the murky history of the Middle East and how it led to that moment, 9/11 and its aftermath, the televised “Shock and Awe,” was the ultimate video game, with explosions and lights, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.

They did not know that it was a tale told by an idiot.

And now Superman has a new power. An incredibly destructive and unstable power, to quote writer Geoff Johns. Because heat vision and telescopic vision and super-duper strength and invulnerability and x-ray vision and the ability to fly at super-sonic speeds and across space and into suns and to cross the time barrier just isn’t enough anymore.

Because, you know, all that stuff can get so B-O-R-I-N-G.


John Ostrander: Choice, Character, and Freedom

GandhiWhich would you trust more – what a person says or what a person does? Almost anyone with life experience would say they’d trust what a person does more. Mind you, although we know better we often go with what a person says: con men, politicians and advertisers (that may be redundant) count on that.

It’s what we do with story – character is built upon choices, good or bad, which the individual makes. That’s why the writer puts them in difficult and even life-threatening situations. My late wife Kim used to ask me how I might react in a given situation. My response invariably was, “I don’t know. Ask me when I get there.” I know how I’d like to think I would act but the reality is, until faced with the given situation, I don’t really know. Nobody does.

I don’t believe it when someone says “I could never kill someone.” I think Gandhi was capable of killing given certain circumstances. The likelihood of him killing might be small, but he was human and any human is capable of the act. It’s part of our common humanity; a dark side of it, I grant you, but still part of it.

It’s not only big choices that we make that proclaim who we are (or who a character is); it’s the small ones as well. The artist in a graphic narrative, for example, must decide what a given character might wear. What we choose to wear projects how we want to present ourselves.

“Hold on there, Horsestrangler,” some of you might be saying. “I don’t care what I wear. I just throw something – possibly clean – on and go.” (Guys are more likely to say this than gals who, as usual, know better.) My response is doing so is a choice of its own and makes it own statement; it says “I don’t think that sort of thing is important. It’s shallow and trivial and doesn’t represent who I am.”

Except it does. It rejects certain values and/or it says you want to look like everyone else and blend in. Do you dress for a job interview the same way you dress for hanging with your homies? If so, good luck getting the job. If you’re going on a date with someone for the first time, how do you dress? How do you present yourself? If you had to go to a funeral, what would you choose to wear?

Different characters in comics will dress differently. Peter Parker shouldn’t dress like Tony Stark. Clark Kent shouldn’t dress like Bruce Wayne. I remember that in an early episode of The Sopranos, the producers dressed Tony in shorts and flip-flops for a backyard party to suggest more strongly the underlying suburban setting. Advisers to the show said that Tony would never dress like that – and he never did again.

Why do people wear clothing emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo or the name of their favorite sports team and turn themselves into walking billboards for that product? Because it suggests a certain tribal affiliation the same way that inner city gangs wear certain colors. It proclaims us and marks us as part of a greater, possibly stronger, whole. At least, we may think it does.

That’s a choice that people make and it’s something that writer and artists working in the graphic medium have to keep in mind. There are hundreds, thousands, of ways of communicating to the reader who this character is, what the setting is, what’s at stake and what’s going on.

Are there exceptions to this rule? Yep. Sure are. There are situations when you have no choice to make. You can’t choose which shoes to wear when you can’t afford any shoes. Choice exists only if there is more than one thing from which to choose. Otherwise, you have to take what is given.

There is no freedom where there is no freedom of choice.


Mindy Newell: Lois Lane – That’s All

Newell Art 131230God bless my friend Corinna Lawson.

Or maybe not.

Though she did nothing wrong, and she’s totally innocent in this.

I was sitting here tonight wracking my brain while absentmindedly watching The Devil Wears Prada for the zillionth time (Meryl Streep just completely rocks as Miranda Priestley, a thinly veiled “version” of Anna Wintour of Vogue magazine) and surfing the web for ideas when I decided to check out Corinna’s column, Cliffs of Insanity, over at GeekMom.com. (Yes, I can multi-task.) Her November 15th column caught my eye, dealing as it does with a woman also close to my heart, though this woman only exists as a trademark of DC Entertainment, nee Comics.

I’m talking about Lois Lane, of course.

Corinna’s column, Lois Lane and Comic Culture, is ostensibly a review of the recently released Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years, and, although I haven’t read it (more on that in a bit), Corinna doesn’t hesitate to point out that Lois has and is a bellwether of the status of women in comics. Quoting Corinna:

When there was a great movement to more independent women, Lois was smart, strong, funny, tough, and worthy of admiration. When there was a backlash after World War II, she morphed into something less admirable. Later, she regained some of her original intelligence and focus on journalism. But recently, not so much.

As society moves forward, the comic industry seems to be going backward.

I cannot help thinking the stories I hear constantly about numerous, well-known comic pros basically running their own version of “casting couches” at conventions, about those employed by the big two companies who create a hostile environment for female characters and creators, and about the ever-present dismissive attitude by a very vocal group of male comic fans who are hostile to women even reading superhero comics, has something to do with Lois Lane’s devaluation of the last few years.

Lois was created at a time when women were starting to have careers. In every telling of Superman’s origin, Lois is there, not necessarily as a love interest, but always as a tough, professional woman…”

Especially in the Fleisher Studio theatrical Superman animated shorts of the mid-1940s, in which Lois was snarky, resourceful, sarcastic, brave, contemptuous of Clark Kent, and didn’t moon over Superman.”

Yet Lois’s history is loaded with stories that are somewhat cringe-worthy.”

Yeah, they were. Especially in the Silver Age: Lois Lane: Bearded Woman; Lois Lane: Conehead; Lois Lane: I Married A Monster From Mars And Superman Was The Best Man!! (*choke*sob*) But those stories, silly as they were, are understandable as part of an era (which Corinna points out in her column) in which it behooved the U. S. government to get Madison Avenue and American industries, including the publishing industry, to make a concerted effort to get Rosie the Riveter out of the factory and back to kinder and kuche.

But Corinna also makes mention of some good stories about Lois, which I remember reading and also enjoyed: Wonder Woman #170, written by Phil Jimenez, in which Lois spends a day with Diana, and they get to talking woman-to-woman; and Adventures of Superman #631, by Greg Rucka, which is “Lois Lane: War Correspondent.”

But here’s where I started seeing red and getting really pissed off.

And I asked myself…

Should I write a column about how pissed off I am that (a) I didn’t even know about this book because no one from DC approached me about it; and (b) apparently, from Corinna’s review and from the book’s Amazon page, there is no mention of my Lois Lane 1986 mini-series, When It Rains, God Is Crying.

I mean, it’s one thing to understand why the press didn’t want to hear that I “beat” Gail – from Gail herself, I must add – at being the first WW writer in the history of the character, because if she isn’t, there’s no story and the DC PR department would have egg on their faces…

But to ignore a “seminal” Lois Lane story, seminal in that it was her book, the first in many, many years, and that it didn’t feature her running googly-eyed after Superman to prove he was Clark Kent, but dealt with an important issue which hasn’t gone away, and if anything, has gotten worse – there’s a reason Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is on television 24 hours a day…

…To ignore a story with absolutely magnificent artwork by the late, great Gray Morrow, who told me he was honored to be part of it…

…To ignore a story that Robert Greenberger, as editor, sweated over as he encouraged and guided me and Gray to do our best work…

…To ignore a story I researched and spoke to the FBI and state children’s services and policemen and doctors and nurses…

…To ignore a story into which I poured my heart.

And I wasn’t going to write about this, because it certainly wouldn’t be a smart thing to do, burning bridges and not “politically” advantageous and all that, but then, well, I figured, hey, I like to think of myself as an honest writer, I’ve written about my struggles with depression, I’ve written about my dad and my mom, I’ve shared a lot of things here, so fuck it, I decided, I’m going to share this too.

Yeah, it really pisses me off, people. And it hurts.

As Miranda Priestly would say:

“That’s all.”