Tagged: Spider-Woman

The Law Is A Ass


I’ll bet Matt Murdock wishes he hadn’t screwed up and gotten disbarred in New York. Because now’s when he could cash in.

It’s all because of what happened in Spider-Woman v5 #5, when Jessica Drew heard a woman screaming for help. She changed into her Spider-Woman costume and answered the call. She found a woman fleeing down an alley being chased by a huge, hulking costumed villain of some sort. Just as the bad guy was about to grab the woman, Spider-Woman leapt into action. Literally.

Spider-Woman-5-spoilers-preview-8 copyAnd, no, I didn’t say literally, when I meant figuratively. Spider-Woman leapt off a rooftop and dropped down between the attacker and the woman. She kicked the bad guy away from the woman and followed up by delivering one of her bio-electric venom blasts to his chest. After this, she flipped the attacker with a judo throw and threw him into a wall. Physical but efficient. After all, this wasn’t the story’s main obligatory fight scene, it was just the set-up.


When Jessica went to secure the baddie to a lamp post and call the police, she didn’t have to call the police. The assailant wasn’t a super villain. It was a police officer dressed up as a super villain. And the alley was already full of other police officers. Why even the damsel in distress was a police officer, pretending to be a scream queen. Who says there’s never a cop around when you need one?

Turns out Spider-Woman interrupted a how-to-fight-super-villains training exercise the NYPD was conducting. (And now we know why they say there’s never a cop around when you need one; they’re all in some rain-soaked alley somewhere taking down pretend super villains.)

Cut to the next day: Jessica Drew was in a holding cell in a NYPD precinct, where she’d been for twelve hours after being arrested for assaulting a police officer. She was playing Charades with the other women in her cell when Ben Urich, reporter for the Daily Bugle who learned of Jessica’s arrest on the Internet, got her released. Wasn’t too hard, Ben didn’t even have to post bail. Turns out NYPD didn’t even book Jessica.

Ben explained that the police “knew none of their charges would stick to Spider-Woman. They arrested her and kept her in general lockup all night so that they could post pictures of the super hero under arrest on the Internet and humiliate Jessica. “Sad fact of life: Cops don’t like super heroes as much as super heroes like to think.”

Here’s another sad fact of life: Stupidity like these cops engaged in is costly; to careers and to pocketbooks. As I said earlier, New York disbarred Matt Murdock, so he can’t handle the case. Too bad, too, as this case is a slam dunk. What case? Why Jessica’s lawsuit against New York City for wrongful arrest.

Wrongful arrest? How can it be wrongful arrest, Jessica kicked a police officer. Then she hit him with a venom blast and, finally, judo threw him into a wall. Any one of these would constitute assaulting a police officer by itself. All three of them is multiple counts of assault of a police officer; redundant and proof that super heroing, like comedy, subscribes to the rule of three.

Problem is, they don’t. Not one of the three acts of physical violence actually constituted assault of a police officer. Not kicking him. Not venom blasting him. Not judo throwing him.

There’s a New York statute which defines the crime of assault of a police officer. It’s New York Penal Law § 120.08. No, I didn’t know this off the top of my head. I can’t know all of the criminal statutes of the states, cities, and municipalities in this country. There’s a googolplex of them. So, I Googled it.

NY Penal L § 120.80 says someone commits the crime assault of a police officer when, “with intent to prevent a … police officer … from performing a lawful duty, he causes serious physical injury to such … police officer…”

Ordinarily, this might raise the question: Did Jessica cause serious physical injury to the police officer? In this case, it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how seriously the police officer was harmed; although it didn’t appear he was hurt too bad. The fact is, Jessica could have ripped off one of his legs and she still wouldn’t have committed assault on a police officer.

Look at the elements of the crime again. Study them. There’ll be a test later.

Okay, it’s later. (Hey, I never said how much later.) So, here’s the test.

“Jessica Drew didn’t commit assault on a police officer. Explain.”

Right. The statute requires that she must cause the injury “with intent to prevent a police officer from performing a lawful duty.” Jessica didn’t intend to prevent any police officer from doing anything. She honestly and reasonably believed a hulking somebody was attacking a woman in an alley. Her intent was to stop a crime, not to interfere with a police officer.

Remember, Ben Urich told Jessica – and, thus, told us – that the police knew the charges wouldn’t stick. How did they know? They knew because they knew Jessica reasonably believed she was preventing an attack, not interfering with a police officer.

However, that means that the police arrested Jessica knowing full well that she didn’t commit any crime so they didn’t have probable cause to arrest her. They arrested her for the express purpose of posting pictures of her arrest on the Internet and embarrassing her. That’s what’s sometimes called a bad faith arrest. Not to be confused with pinching Buffy’s slayer friend for theft. That’s a Faith’s bad arrest.

When the police made a bad faith arrest without probable cause just so they could embarrass Jessica, they broke the law themselves. It’s NY Penal L § 195, official misconduct. It happens when a public servant, such as a police officer, knowingly commits an unauthorized act relating to his office with the intent to deprive a person of a benefit. Falsely arresting a person so as to embarrass her, would deprive that person of the benefit of her right to liberty under the Fourteenth Amendment. And by these actions, the police committed a crime, they also opened the city of New York up to a false arrest lawsuit.

Earlier this year, a law student in Brooklyn was parked in a bus stop. Two police officers chased him out of the spot, not because he was parked illegally but because they wanted to park there themselves so that they could go to a nearby food truck. When the student confronted the cops about their abuse of power, they cited the student with two counts of disorderly conduct. The student sued New York City for false arrest and reached an out-of-court settlement that netted him some money. And netted his attorney even more money in legal fees.

If that law student could successfully sue the city because the police cited him to make him stop busting their chops about their parking in a bus stop, imagine what a bona fide super heroine and former member of the Avengers could do with the police illegally arresting her for the specific purpose of embarrassing her. Hell there’s probably even be a federal civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lurking around in there somewhere.

And if the law student’s lawyer got an even bigger award in legal fees than the student won, there’s money to be had for some lawyer. Matt Murdock can’t take the case. Maybe Jennifer Walters will take Jessica’s case. And if Jen’s too busy being She-Hulk, I might consider getting my law license reinstated – I let it it go inactive after I retired from the public defender office – so I could have a crack at it.

On second thought, no. Jessica is a fictional character and her case a fictional case. So any damage awards or attorney fees would also be fictional. While the joys of being retired from the practice of law are all too real.

Ed Catto: You’re Number One

BitchPlanet_01-1_300_462 I always thought that more you know about something, the better you are at evaluating it. For example, movie critics who understand films, filmmaking and film-history evaluate movies more effectively than the rest of us. But this isn’t always true. Whenever experts evaluate something, they are blind to that thrill of experiencing it without baggage. So often they can’t, by their very nature, genuinely relate to the experience of someone who’s less knowledgeable about it all. In the advertising and marketing business, professionals often try to put their own experiences aside and listen to what “real” people say. And that’s exactly what I tried to do for this mad little experiment.

As you may know, I’m a comic geek with entirely too much knowledge about comics and the industry. My new neighbor is just the opposite. He’s a Millennial with a wonderful wife and two young kids. In fact, every time I see him and his family it’s kind of like looking into a window of my own past. But this guy doesn’t have that life-long fanaticism of comics. He read a few comics as a kid, and now, sparked by the Arrow TV show and the Marvel movies, has wandered back into reading comics. He’s usually a digital reader. He finds that works best for his commute into the city and for late nights with his baby daughter, when the lights are off to encourage her trips into slumberland.

Lately I’ve been passing along some of the very best comics to him. Sometimes it’s new stuff that I think is outstanding (FadeOut, WinterWorld) and other times its older comics that he’s asked about (“Who is this guy, named Deadshot / Hawkeye / Mark Waid?”). And as part of the population who is used to binge watching TV shows and bundling episodes on the DVR, he usually prefers that I collect several issues in a row so he can read them all at once, trade-paperback style.

But this time I thought I’d try something a little different. Lately I’ve been so impressed by all the great new comics debuting. I’ve also been curious as to how someone with fresh eyes would evaluate and engage with these new comics. Even before I read the new Image comic Red One, I’m the type who runs through an elaborate mental checklist of all the stories I’ve read from the talented artists of this series – what I liked, what I didn’t like and what I expect in this new series. I wondered what the reaction would be of someone encountering the creators, characters and situations for the first time? So here’s what I did: I gave my neighbor, let’s call him Fan X for this experiment, a stack of recent debut issues. My only instruction was “tell me what you like and why.” His reactions were insightful, interesting and in many cases surprising. Here’s what he said:

Red One #1 by Xavier Dorison, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Image

This was a big winner for Fan X. He explained how he loves spy thrillers, and that’s typically the genre of prose fiction he enjoys the most. He liked the bright red cover with the attractive girl, but the series wasn’t anything like he expected. He did say he wished that it wasn’t’ a period piece at first, but then found himself enjoying the backward glance at that 70’s elements like the Walkman.

Would he buy issue #2? Yes, he can’t wait.

Ah-hah Moment: He also explained how he’s really enjoying another female-protagonist spy series, Velvet, by Brubaker and Epting. In fact, that’s the series that has spurred to him on to reading the floppy issues – he just can’t wait until it’s collected as a trade paperback anymore.

Ei8ht by Raphael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, Dark Horse

Fan X was drawn to the art and the simplified color scheme, but wasn’t a big fan of the time travel elements or the two interlocking storylines. He explained he’s not a fan of those types of stories and gets impatient waiting for parallel plotlines to converge.

Would he buy issue #2? Probably not.

Ah-hah Moment: Despite the guide in the inside front cover, he didn’t get that the color-coding denoted different times and places Divinity #1in the storyline.

Divinity #1 by Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine, Valiant

Like his complaints about Ei8ht, Fan X was not thrilled with the time travel aspects and two parallel storylines. He explained that he was muddling through this, mildly entertained, until page X, when it’s revealed that the straight-laced protagonist has a secret girlfriend. That’s when the story grabbed him in.

Would he buy issue #2? He most likely wouldn’t follow this one.

Ah-hah Moment: He loved the heavy cardstock cover!

Dream Thief: Escape #1 by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood, Dark Horse

It took FanX a moment to remember Dream Thief, but when he did he said, “This one I liked.” He liked the rough lead characters and enjoyed Smallwood’s art, although his interviewer (ahem) may have prompted that observation.

Would he buy issue #2? Yes!

Ah-hah Moment: The fact that it was a four-issue mini-series, i.e. short with an end in sight, was something he liked.

Spider-Woman #5 by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez, Marvel

(While this isn’t technically a #1, it’s a first issue as the previous issue were part of a crossover).

Fan X likes female spies and thus was pre-disposed to like Spider-Woman. He enjoyed the fact that she used energy blasts, but most enjoyed the non-superhero moments.

Would he buy issue #2? He would.

Ah-hah Moment: Surprisingly, he didn’t enjoy the simplified art of Rodriguez. He much prefers his superheroes comics to look more “superhero-y”.

The Valiant #1 by Jeff Lemier, Matt Kindt and Paolo Rivera, Valiant

Here the switching up of timelines didn’t bother him at all. He liked Paolo’s art. He enjoyed Bloodshot, as a Punisher-type hero, and found the new character, Kay McHenry to be intriguing and relatable. He especially was drawn into the two-page spread where Kay speaks directly to the camera. (I did too!)

Would he buy issue #2? Probably, and he knows nothing of the Valiant Universe.

Ah-hah Moment: Again, he loved the heavy cover stock of the cover. And this is coming from a ‘digital guy’.

Bitch Planet #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, Image

He didn’t think he’d like this one. The cover wasn’t appealing to him. In particular, Fan X was put off by the logo and the pink color scheme. But when he read it, he found that he was hooked. He thought the character layers were fascinating and thought provoking.

Would he buy issue #2? Definitely, he would.

Ah-hah Moment: He said he also likes the TV Women-in-prison drama, Orange is the New Black.

Invisible Republic 1Invisible Republic by Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko and Jordan Boyd, Image

Fan X procrastinated about reading this as he assumed he wouldn’t like it. But in fact- he loved it. He enjoyed the sketchy, loose artwork of Gabriel Hardman, and in this case, he wasn’t bothered by the parallel plotlines. In fact, he was fascinated by the characters and the hints of what they would become.

Would he buy issue #2? He’s looking forward to it.

Ah-hah Moment: I found it fascinating how he expected to like this one the least, and it ended up being his #1 or #2 favorite.

So.. there you have it. His reactions were certainly different from mine. But they really got me thinking. I was especially surprised how Valliant’s cardstock covers appealed to him, especially as he’s ‘mostly’ a digital comics reader. I’m not sure what lessons we learn from this sampling of one reader other than one I’m always learning – people like the stuff they like for the reasons they like. Simple, but true. But now the question is – what do you think?


Tweeks: A-Force Assemble!


Last week when Marvel announced the all-female team of Avengers, you better believe we were stoked! We studied the A-Force artwork to figure out who everyone was and got right to researching the superheroes we didn’t know. Now, we’re even more excited and can’t wait  read Secret Wars in May.  In this week’s video we’ll tell you why A-Force is rad, which mutant powers we’d use to make lunch, and our thoughts on the girls not included (namely Maddy’s #2 favorite superhero, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). A-Force Assemble, indeed!

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #331: HE AVENGERS TAKE A.I.M. AT DIPLOMACY

Advanced_Idea_Mechanics_(Earth-616)_from_Secret_Avengers_Vol_2_3_001_(cut)I’ve been avoiding this one like the plague. Or The Stranger. Or other existential novels by Albert Camus. Read them in high school. Didn’t understand them. But, then, I didn’t understand some aspects of Avengers Assemble v 2 21, either. So I guess it’s onward.

Here’s what I can tell you. Spider-Girl, the Anya Corazón version– and don’t even ask about the May Parker Spider-Girl, who is the daughter of Peter Parker in either an alternate future or an alternate universe whose timeline started fifteen years before the main Marvel timeline, so May’s backstory is even more confusing than a Camus novel – came to the Avengers for help. New York had just experienced the Inhumanity event, when the Terrigen bomb exploded over Manhattan. The bomb’s mutating Terrigen mists covered New York and then, by way of the trade winds, covered the world even better than Sherman-Williams paint. The mist’s mutagenic properties either turned people who were latent Inhumans into super-powered Inhumans immediately or they formed Terrigenesis Cocoons around the latents where they would gestate and emerge with super powers later. (Terrigen Mists? Terrigen Bombs? Terrigenesis Cocoons? Gods, this is more confusing than Camus channeling Jean-Paul Satre.)

Anya’s social studies teacher, Mr. Schlickeisen, was one of the latents who went into a cocoon. Mr. Schlickeisen was taken to a hospital for observation. But someone stole both his cocoon and the cocoon in the bed next to him. Now Anya wanted the Avengers’ help in tracking down her missing teacher.

Most of the Avengers were busy battling Inhumans’ Inhumanity to man, but Spider-Woman and Black Widow went to help Spider-Girl find her teacher. Black Widow eschewed the suggestion that they go to the hospital where Mr. Schlickeisen had been. Somehow she knew – maybe it was her spy-der sense – that A.I.M. had taken the cocoons and where they had taken them.

Trouble is that A.I.M. wasn’t the Advanced Idea Mechanics of old. They were no longer the R & D branch of the terrorist organization Hydra. They were no longer a group of brilliant scientists who wore silly yellow beekeeper costumes and are dedicated to overthrowing all governments by technological means. At least not overtly. Seems a while back A.I.M. bought the Caribbean island of Barbuda and formed an internationally recognized government there. So now A.I.M. is a sovereign nation of scientists who still wear silly yellow beekeeper costumes and are dedicated to overthrowing all governments by technological means, but covertly. And that caused complications for the Avengers.

A.I.M. claims diplomatic immunity and officially the Avengers can’t approach them. Fortunately for the purposes of this story, Black Widow was a former spy who specialized in unofficial missions. So she and her Arach-Pack went to an A.I.M. temporary lab somewhere in the Meatpacking District in Manhattan’s lower West Side. They broke in and incapacitated most of the beekeepers they found. But this wasn’t some A.I.M.-less operation, the Arach-Pack kept one A.I.M. flunky conscious so they could interrogate him.

Which they were doing, when some twenty-one other A.I.M. operatives in the facility arrived, all aiming high-tech weaponry and took our heroines captive. Things looked bad for the Arach-Pack, especially when the A.I.M. leader showed up.

No the leader wasn’t A.I.M.y Semple McPherson. It was Kashmir Vennema, But is that name really any less silly? Kashmir Vennema? Who’s her brother Khamilhare Kolonic?

Kashmir told her underlings to kill the Avengers. She wasn’t worried about any consequences for killing three Avengers, because, A.I.M. has “diplomatic status,” and because under “castle law, the minute [the Avengers] busted in here I was entitled to confront [them] with lethal force.”

Things looked bad for the ladies. Did they escape? Were they killed? Well, that’s another story. Okay, it’s the same story, but it’s the story of another issue, because this issue was only the first part of a five-part story and it pretty much ended on this cliffhanger. So, in keeping with the story, I’m going to leave you hanging and go into the legal analysis stuff. (Okay, the Avengers weren’t killed. Duh.)

First, the castle doctrine. We discussed it last week and here it is again. You may remember, and if you don’t here it is again, the castle doctrine says people who are in their own house don’t have a duty to retreat before using deadly force to repel trespassers; as long as they reasonably fear the trespassers pose an immediate threat to inflict death or serious bodily harm. But unless the A.I.M. operatives were also living in this temporary lab somewhere in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, this building was a place of business, not a dwelling. The New York castle doctrine found in PL § 35.15 limits application of castle law to one’s dwelling and doesn’t extend it to one’s place of business. So, the A.I.M.-moral bad guys didn’t have the right to use lethal force as soon as the Avengers trespassed into this not-a-dwelling. Moreover, as the Avengers were bound to chairs and seemingly helpless – so didn’t pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to anyone – lethal force was off the table even if some of the beekeepers did call it hive, err home.

Now how about the other claim, “diplomatic status?” Well, Ms. Vennema pronouncements of immunity law may have been as expansive as maternity pants.

Yes, ambassadors from foreign countries have diplomatic immunity, so can’t be arrested or prosecuted. Nor can members of the ambassador’s administrative or technical staff. But other members of the diplomatic mission – the service staff, the consular officers, the consular employees, and the like – don’t enjoy such diplomatic immunity. They can be arrested and prosecuted for crimes.

The story didn’t give us any indication of Ms Vennema’s status Or of the gunmen serving under her. We don’t know whether she and they were part of the diplomatic mission of Barbuda. But we do know is that they were engaged in some illegal activities – kidnaping people encased in Terrigenesis Cocoons and selling those cocoons to other interested parties. And they were doing it out of a nondescript building in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan.

If A.I.M. has a Barbudan embassy, it clearly ain’t a nondescript building in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. So the people found inside this facility were not the embassy staff and I doubt they were part of Barbuda’s diplomatic mission. So they probably didn’t have diplomatic immunity.

Why do I conclude that these less-than-A.I.M.-iable individuals aren’t part of the diplomatic mission? Well think about what they were doing. They were stealing Terrigenesis Cocoons and the Inhumans who were inside said cocoons and selling some of those cocoons, and the Inhumans inside them, to other interested parties. In New York those acts would constitute kidnaping and, depending on what those other interested parties wanted to do with the cocooned people after they hatched, human trafficking. (Or would it be Inhuman trafficking?) It’s unlikely that A.I.M. would have anyone so obviously engaged in such obvious criminal as part of its diplomatic mission. Why? Because, if they were part of the diplomatic mission and were doing such obviously illegal things and got caught, it would be embarrassing for the government of Barbuda. Governments tend not to put the obvious criminals on their diplomatic missions.

So, if Ms. Vennema or her staff isn’t part of A.I.M.’s and Barbuda’s diplomatic mission, and they probably aren’t, they have neither “diplomatic status” nor diplomatic immunity. New York would be free to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law for murdering the Avengers.

Hey, Kashmir, next time you want to cl-A.I.M. diplomatic status, you might want to check on your actual situation. If you don’t, you might find out your bosses have left you hanging out to dry. Like your sweatery namesake.

Mindy Newell: Message In A Bottle – Or On A DC T-Shirt

Over the past three decades, there has been a steady rise in the share of women, especially mothers, in the workforce. [Collected data shows that] the majority of women and mothers work, and many work full time and full year. This dramatic increase in women’s working hours has had a substantial impact both on household earnings and the economy more generally. Our analysis finds that middle-class households would have substantially lower earnings today if women’s employment patterns had remained unchanged. Had that been the case, gross domestic product, or GDP, would have been roughly 11 percent lower in 2012 if women had not increased their working hours as they did. In today’s dollars, this translates to more than $1.7 trillion less in output – roughly equivalent to combined U.S. spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in 2012.The Economic Importance of Women’s Rising Hours of Work, A paper presented at the 75 Years of the Fair Labor Standards Act Conference at the Department of Labor, November 15, 2013.

The number of working-age women with a full-time job has surged from 28.6% in 1979 to 40.7% today, and the increase in working mothers in that time is even more remarkable – from 27.3% to 44.1 percent. So why the fuck do corporations go out of their way to alienate women, when all economic indicators point to the power of the dollar in women’s hands? Yep, those crazy people – “Corporations are people, too!” said Mitt Romney during the 2012 Presidential campaign – seem to do it all the time.

Last month it was that cover from Marvel. This month it’s DC Entertainment’s turn, with those t-shirts.

If you don’t know what t-shirts I’m talking about, take a moment to click here and read Martha’s column from Friday. Be sure to clink on the “stupid” link, which will bring you to The Mary Sue website, and the column which inspired Martha’s piece (and inspired this one) and includes handy-dandy pictures of said t-shirts.

Yeah. They piss me off, too.

You might think it’s weird that the woman who didn’t get upset about Spider-Woman’s butt is all pissy about t-shirts that proclaim maxims that belong in the 1950s and not in the second decade of the 21st century. But I grew up in the era of Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem and bra-burnings. Okay, so I never actually burned my bra, but I sure as hell got the message, and I was all of 15.

And the message was: I belong to myself.

That was 45 years ago. Almost 46, since my birthday is in 19 days. And 45 years later, there is definitely a concerted effort happening. An effort to put women back in their place, back in the kitchen, just back.

On Thursday the United States Court of Appeals (Fifth Circuit, New Orleans) gave Texas “permission to require all abortion clinics in the state to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards as hospital-style surgical centers,” which forced thirteen Texas abortion clinics to immediately close and leaving the state – “with 5.4 million women of reproductive age, ranking second in the country” – with only eight open clinics.

Listen up, people. Texas is full of crap. This is a total bullshit ruling. The way it reads makes it sound as if these clinics are nothing more than the dirty, dark, “back room” holes-in-the-walls of crumbling tenements in the worst part of the worst neighborhoods and ghettos in Texas, like the one that Natalie Wood goes to in Love with a Proper Stranger. I am here to tell you, truth to power, that abortion clinics must meet the same standards as any “hospital-style surgical center.” They are not staffed by fairy-tale witches holding out poisoned apples to Snow Whites or by cackling crones who haven’t washed their hands or seen a dentist in a hundred years. These clinics are non-profit centers run by caring health professionals whose only aim is to insure the well being of the women who are their patients

Yeah, I know, I went off the rails a bit, but not really. It’s all the same thing, really. Closing abortion clinics, DC Comics t-shirts, it’s all about fear of loss.

The loss of control.

Control of the message.

And the message is:

You belong to me.

Don’t you dare believe them.


Mindy Newell: Martha Got Me Thinking Again!

I listen to feminists and all these radical gals – most of them are failures. They’ve blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That’s all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they’re mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men – that’s their problem. – Jerry Falwell

 “Because feminists never disagree with each other. ” – Martha Thomases

That’s what Martha Thomases posted in response to my column last week at the League Of Women Bloggers site on Facebook, where she and I both share opinions and work with other women (such as Trina Robbins, Corrina Lawson, Kate Kotler, and Heidi MacDonald) in the comics and blogging industry.

Martha (whom I have known since I wrote for DC back in the ‘80s) wrote what I think is a brilliant rebuttal last week. So brilliant that I am here to respond. And no, this is not going to become an ongoing issue between co-workers at ComicMix. You are not going to be reading about a “cat-fight” between Newell and Thomases on Bleeding Cool or The Mary Sue or Geek Mom or at The Beat. Because despite the title of Martha’s rebuttal (Girl Fight), you’re not going to see us going at it ala Krystal and Alexis in the swimming pool on Dynasty.

I think that is exactly what is so cool and brilliant about Martha’s column is that it’s a direct stab in the eye to all those who think that “feminism” is one gigantic single-celled amoeba of a socio-political movement.

In other words, just because I can’t get all that excited about Spider-Woman’s ass sticking up in the air on “that” cover doesn’t meant that I don’t agree with Martha about the many shades of feminism. We do come in all shades, in all sizes – some of share opinions and political leanings, some of us don’t. Martha mentioned “Republican Feminists” – click on the link in her column and it leads to a page about First Lady Betty Ford. And First Lady and matriarch of the Bush political dynasty Barbara Bush said. “I hate abortions, but I just could not make that choice for someone else.”

Martha posted a comment to my original column that included the following: “We don’t celebrate the sexuality of “ugly” women (as judged by society). For example, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids isn’t feared for her powerful sex drive. Instead, we laugh. And that movie deserves credit for acknowledging that she has a sex drive at all. Usually, only “beautiful” women (as judged by society) get to do that.

Yeah, we laughed, Martha. McCarthy raising her foot up against the wall of the airplane at a 90o angle as she came on to the air marshal (played by her husband, Ben Falcone) was funny (as well as impressive). But what about the scene where she comes to Kristen Wiig’s home and beats her up over feeling sorry for herself? “Get over it!” she’s telling Kristen. “Embrace yourself! That’s where it starts!” In other words, I think Melissa McCarthy’s real power is in her ability to make people accept her as a fully realized adult woman with a brain, and, yes, a libido that demands to be satisfied.

Yes, she’s overweight by some people’s standards. So what? In the past, buxom, voluptuous women were the ideal – think of the Flemish baroque painter Paul Reubens. And modern painter Lisa Yuskavage’s beautiful and erotic portraits of “fat” women have been exhibited at major art institution around the world, including the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.

In response to her critics, who have accused her of painting “pornographic” crap, Ms. Yuskavage said, “it’s actually a reclaiming of power and the ability to depict women in all their forms. ”Melissa McCarthy does the same thing with her acting and comedy, forcing us to accept that “rubenesque” women are sensual and sexy and comfortable in their own bodies.

Leslie Tane, the author of the article on Ms. Yuskavage at www.BeautifulDecay.com, said “The essence of female power is not that women must be desexed, it’s that women can decide how they want to be seen – sexy, silly, powerful, maternal, erotic, masculine, intelligent, profound – any combination of these, and much more. ”

Yeah, I know. Lisa Yuskavage didn’t paint Spider-Woman. A man known for his erotic portraits of women painted her.

So the question is: If Lisa Yuskavage had painted an erotic variant cover for Spider-Woman #1, would there have been such an uproar?

I really wonder about that.

And one more thing….

I’ve been wondering why the owners of Twitter – hmm, since Twitter is on the NYSE, it would be Twitter’s Board of Directors and the company’s prime shareholders – haven’t blocked ISIS (ISIL, IS, whatever) from using their application to post their barbarism? Why are they enabling the publicity these monsters are using to “up” their sociopathic and psychopathic “membership” list?

I’m certainly not saying that using Spider-Woman’s derriere on the cover to promote publicity is the same thing. But Marvel’s got to be digging it, despite “apologies” from Axel Alonso, the company’s editor-in-chief – which by the why made stories in The Hollywood Reporter, Yahoo Lifestyle, and various websites, i.e., more publicity. There’s no doubt in my mind – nor should there be in yours – that Manara’s “variant collectible cover” is going to increase sales.

So maybe we – Mindy Newell, Martha Thomases, all us commentators and bloggers, all us pundits – it even made the “Bullseye” feature in Entertainment Weekly – would have been better off ignoring the whole thing.

Then it would have been just another cover of another comic book.

Wouldn’t it?


Martha Thomases’ Girl Fight!

Last week, I vented my pique at Marvel’s tone-deaf marketing of the new Spider-Woman comic. Then, on Monday, my esteemed colleague, Mindy Newell, offered a different perspective. Who’s right? Normally, I would say I’m right because I’m the mommy. However, in this case, Mindy has also given birth, and even trumped my creds by being a grandmother. So I’m not playing that card. This also means I can’t just say “Because I said so.” Denied my two favorite debating tactics, I’m going to have to approach this from a different angle. Despite what one might think about feminism and other kinds of so-called “identity politics,” there isn’t a single governing board that determines what is “politically correct.” There are married feminists who take their husbands’ last name, stay home with the kids, and volunteer at the PTA. There are radical lesbian separatists who live in communes and never have to interact with men at all. There are feminists who wear make-up, dye their hair, use Botox and wear high heels. There even used to be Republican feminists. To be a feminist, you must support equal rights and opportunities for all, and respect the right of women to define themselves and their role in the world. See? You don’t even have to be a woman to be a feminist. Being a feminist doesn’t mean one doesn’t enjoy sex. Not even heterosexual sex. It does mean one opposes coercion, rape, and the unwilling objectification of one’s partner or partners. It means one can imagine a woman being the subject, rather than the object, of desire. In other words, feminism is not the same as Puritanism. So, what does this have to do with comic books, I hear my editor thinking? Plenty. For one thing, it means that a comic book cover, like the variant for Spider-Woman #1, is not a feminist image. It is not intended to make women feel empowered, nor to show a woman being heroic. However, that doesn’t mean a feminist can’t like the cover. Manara is a famous artist with millions of fans. Liking the cover doesn’t make them “bad” feminists. As a feminist, I am in favor of pleasure and joy. I like a lot of media that isn’t specifically feminist. I like Power Girl, for crying out loud. I like those inane Silver Age stories where Superman has to “teach a lesson” to Lois Lane for having the nerve to try to do her job and find out his secret identity. And, as a feminist, I’d like to propose a new standard for graphic storytelling, similar to the Bechdel test, dubbed the Willis test by the Jezebel blog. They quote pioneering rock critic Ellen Willis, who wrote this: “A crude but often revealing method of assessing male bias in lyrics is to take a song written by a man about a woman and reverse the sexes. By this test, a diatribe like [the Rolling Stones’] “Under My Thumb” is not nearly so sexist in its implications as, for example, Cat Stevens’ gentle, sympathetic “Wild World”; Jagger’s fantasy of sweet revenge could easily be female—in fact, it has a female counterpart, Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots” – but it’s hard to imagine a woman sadly warning her ex-lover that he’s too innocent for the big bad world out there.” Would Supergirl try to teach Jimmy Olsen a lesson if he tried to find out her secret identity? Of course she would. Would Superman wear a costume that distracted his enemies by focusing their attention on his sexual organs? Of course he would not. Would Spider-Man stick his ass in the air submissively, as a way to demonstrate his web-sticking abilities? I don’t think so. Is this a comic book I would buy for a young girl? Probably not, unless she was taking a class in gender studies and had the vocabulary to talk about it. None of this will stop me from enjoying Power Girl stories (unless Scott Lobdell starts writing them and turns her into Starfire), as long as I still find them fun. Comic books and fun. Now that’s a marketing campaign I’d like to see.

Mindy Newell: The Spider-Woman Scandal – A Different View

Sexy Sue StormThe rabbis of the Talmudic period debated two contradictory versions of Creation related in the Book of Genesis (Bereisheet in Hebrew). The first version of Creation actually referred to Adam’s first wife, Lilith, who was made at the same time as Adam from the dust of the Earth. But Lilith believed herself to be equal to Adam because God had shaped her from the dust of the Earth and had blown the Holy Spirit – the soul – into her form at the same He made Adam. This displeased Adam, so God replaced her with Eve, who was made from one of Adam’s ribs while he slept, so that she would always be dependent and subservient to him.

I have a confession to make.

I’m not as disturbed by that butt shot of Spider-Woman as are many of my good friends and various pros in the comics industry, including my pal and fellow columnist Martha Thomases here at ComicMix.

As my good friend and fellow columnist here at ComcMix pretty much summed up my feelings about that variant cover of Spider-Woman #1 by erotic artist Milo Manara, sex sells in corporate America; the biggest example I can think of right now is the increasingly pornographic pictures of the women in Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue, which is always their biggest issue. Way back when – 1977 – Cheryl Tiegs modeled a crocheted swimsuit that – gasp! – showed her nipples, it raised eyebrows… and more than that for some, if you know what I mean. Today, that picture is considered tame. There is even a video on YouTube in which the photographer, Walter Ioosso, and Tiegs talk about how that now iconic photo was considered “nothing, a “throw-away” shot at the end of the day.

Buzzfeed posted a video on its site back in March 2014 in which sexualized men in three commercials shot by Doritos, GoDaddy.com, and Hardee’s replace sexualized women. I suggest checking it out and forming your own opinion – but, especially in the Doritos ad, the overall effect for me is of humor, not sexiness.

Why is that? Why doesn’t that cover disturb me as much as it does other women in this field? Why do I mostly feel envious of the models in Sports Illustrated? (And also, it must be said, a little sad that the days in which I looked incredibly hot in a bikini are pretty much behind me, no pun intended, even though I still look pretty damn good for a woman coming up on her 61st birthday.)

It has been said that the female body is inherently more attractive to the human eye, i.e, our brains. This has something to do with the fact that, anatomically – and as more than one artist has explained to me – it is made up of curves and arcs and circles rather than the hard lines of rectangles and triangles and squares. So maybe that’s part of the answer, because I, like most women, heterosexual or not, do appreciate a beautiful woman’s body – though I don’t know if all straight women are comfortable openly expressing that appreciation. Obviously, I am.

It may also be that at some level I’m reacting to all those commercials that I watched in the late 50s and early 60s in which a housewife, girdled and brassiered up the wazoo, mopped floors in a dress and high heels and a stiff bouffant hairdo. I mean, maybe the freely naked and sensual female body doesn’t offend me because at some level in my pre-adolescent brain I resented that, as a girl, I had to be trussed up like a turkey ready for roasting at Thanksgiving to be considered appealing.

The other thing is, American society is still, in many way, a Puritan society, i.e., sex is bad, and women and men should only “do it” to procreate. You know what I mean – that whole “a woman is creature easily tempted by the Devil, we all carry Eve’s sin within us, we must fight this urge and bow to the wisdom of men, first as a daughter, then as a wife” crap.

And yet at the same time the erotic S & M novel Fifty Shades Of Grey sold bazillions of copies and Tupperware parties have been replaced by “sex toy” parties – the most profitable being held in the Bible Belt region of the country, home of the “women as original sin” theology. And though last summer former Disney girl Miley Cyrus and her “twerking” aroused the ire of uptight citizens…

This year Ms. Cyrus used that notoriety at the MTV Video Awards to raise – sell – awareness of the plight of the homeless and was lauded for it.

So which is it?

Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman, changed her Fantastic Four uniform to show off her boobs and her body. Was it just a sexist change by the artist, or an “I am woman, hear me roar” celebration of everything that she is? “Hey, Reed, get your head out of the Negative Zone and appreciate this brainy babe with the bodacious ta-tas!” And if you don’t, well, I’m moving on.” I mean, did the costume make her less powerful, or more?

So on one hand, yes, that shot of Spider-Woman with her butt up in the air is about anything but power. And yet, on the other hand, it is all about power. Embracing what you’ve got and who you are. For as Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) said to Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) in Working Girl:

 “I’ve got a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”


Martha Thomases: Sex and Comic Book Marketing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women in possession of disposable income must be dissuaded from buying superhero comic books.

Okay, that’s not how literature works. It’s not even supposed to be how capitalism works. According to the economic theories I understand, under capitalism, the market determines what products are offered for sale. This is not a comment on the quality of the products, but rather what the public wants. So Coca-Cola and McDonalds make a lot of money, because the public wants cheap sugar, salt and fat.

However, the least common denominator is not the only way to be a successful capitalist. There is a lot of money to be made in niche markets. For example, there are enough people who don’t like Coke for a company like Jones Soda to be successful. There is probably a restaurant in your area that isn’t a burger joint like McDonalds, but does well enough in your market.

Niche markets are even more important in the entertainment business. Sometimes the public wants to laugh, and sometimes the public wants to cry and sometimes the public wants to be scared and sometimes the public wants to think big thoughts and sometimes the public just wants adrenaline.

Which brings us back to comic books.

I can’t recall a time when there were so many different kinds of graphic stories to read. There are comics and graphic novels in all sorts of genres: for children, for non-fiction readers, for mysteries and science fiction fans, even literary fiction. There are far more different kinds of people at comic book conventions and even at comic book stores than I can remember seeing at any other time.

It would seem like a great time for a comic book publisher with deep pockets to experiment with different kinds of books. In this specific case, I’m talking about Marvel (with Disney’s bank). They’ve been doing some cool stuff, like Hawkeye, which look different from the rest of the line.

Marvel says they want to publish comics that will attract women readers, comics with strong female characters that will inspire girls to regard themselves as heroines. Characters like Spider-Woman.

And then they do this.

Marvel hired Milo Manara, an artist best known for his erotic work, to do a variant cover for the launch of their new series. To no one’s surprise, he turned in a piece that looks not the least bit heroic. If anything, that pose reminds me of what my cat does when I scratch her hips.

There have been a lot of articles in the blogosphere about what is wrong with this cover, from the anatomy to the politics. And I find the politics appalling.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the marketing.

There is no way a woman or girl who is thinking about starting to read superhero comics is going to pick up a book with this cover. It looks like the title character is groveling. There is no threat or hint of action. Instead, the character is on her knees, wearing an outfit that looks so tight that it would give the wearer the mother of all wedgies. There are certainly women book buyers who enjoy a little bit of pain and submission in their recreational reading, but that’s not who Marvel says they’re trying to appeal to here.

I don’t fault Manara for the cover. He did what he was hired to do. I fault the person who assigned the cover to him, knowing full well what he would deliver.

When the new Spider-Woman book fails to reach women readers, Marvel will, undoubtedly, claim they tried their best, but women just don’t want to read superhero comics. We hear the same thing from the toy industry, claiming that girls only want to play with dolls and pretend to be princesses or mommies (or both).

The problem with this is that it isn’t true. If you offer girls a toy that lets them pretend to be scientists, as Lego did, stores can’t keep the kits in stock.

You might think, because capitalism, that a toy that sells out is most likely successful enough to stay in production. However, that’s not happening. It seems as if even money isn’t enough to smash gender stereotypes in corporate America.

There’s a nice little niche market there, for a strong female venture capitalist.