Tagged: Starfire

Mindy Newell’s Year-End Bests And Worsts

So here we are at the end of 2014, which is the time for media folk to opine about the best and the worst of the year in all the different areas of our overcrowded, put-upon lives. So though I rarely think of myself as part of the media folk crowd, I’ll include me in that description for this column, since all of you have so kindly considered my words, thoughts, judgments, attitudes, and so forth important enough to peruse over the last twelve months.

So here we go, in no particular order, and not divided into “best” and “worst”…

I applaud Marvel Comics’ writer G. Willow Wilson (great name, by the way, so alliterative!) and artist Adrian Alphona for introducing the comics world to Kamala Khan, an American Muslim teenager from Jersey City, New Jersey. Kamala’s parents and family are traditional, observant Muslims (for the most part), but Kamala just wants to be what every teenage girl wants to be – not different from her peers. But she is. Not just because she’s Muslim. It’s because she’s also Ms. Marvel.

In a time when bigotry is rampant in these United States – our President is a Muslim Kenyan socialist dictator terrorist determined to destroy America, and, oh, by the way, he’s *gasp* B-L-A-C-K – I just absolutely love that the House of Ideas has embraced the opposite of the disease named xenophobia. There is no better cure.

Just a few weeks ago at my daughter’s birthday dinner, we got into a discussion of the state of music these days. I said that I think there is nothing out there that can compare to the music produced during the ‘60s, certainly nothing like the great concept albums of the Beatles, the Stones, and so forth. Not for the mass public, anyway. It’s all manufactured pop crap. Certainly nothing that is going to hold up to the test of time. Said brother Glenn, “So where do you think great popular art is being produced?”

“Television,” I said instantly. “We in a new ‘Golden Age.”

“When she’s right, she’s right,” said Glenn.

There’s been a lot of really fantastic television these days. Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Transparent, Outlander, and certainly comics are rocking our personal screens with The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. But my vote for the best TV show of 2014 – as if regular readers can’t guess before I type out the letters – is Homeland.

Homeland not only made everyone forget – well, sort of – Brody (for more see my earlier column on the series here), but it amped up the tension to equal the heyday of 24 – and beat Jack Bauer at his own game by never forgetting that it is also a study of the emotional, and psychological scars borne by those who serve their patriotism in the coldest of wars.

Best taking on of a role already inhabited by fan favorites: Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord in Doctor Who. David Tennant and Matt Smith made indelible marks on the saga of the Gallifreyan, between them raising the Doctor into the realms of a worldwide phenomenon shared by only two modern myths – Star Trek and Star Wars. I can well imagine the trepidation with which Mr. Capaldi must have felt when he was given the keys to the TARDIS, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t slept the night before the his debut premiered. But he made it his own; an original interpretation in which, im-not-so-ho, the Doctor had to figure out if, of if not, he’s a good man. “I don’t know,” said Clara. And I’m still not sure if the Doctor can accept that maybe he is, even if he did, at long last, salute Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

Politics and World Affairs 101. (Hey, you know me – I wasn’t going to let this topic slip away.) This year was definitely one that went way beyond any introductory college course. The most “do-nothing” Congress in the history of this country, all based – again, im-not-so-ho, on the biases held against our President. (Reference first sentence in fourth paragraph of this column, please.) ISIS, jihadist Crusaders determined to raise the Ottoman Empire from the dust of history using beheadings with modern-day scimitars and social media propaganda, is the biggest threat to any type of peace in the Middle East – and the world – since Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party. And yes, that is really how I feel.

Meanwhile Vladimir Putin seems determined to lead a new Soviet Union – and for those who may point out that the Russian economy is in freefall…well, countries have gone to war because of failed domestic policies. And homosexuals in Russia are the new scapegoat, replacing Jews.

Best (and worst) on the domestic front this year. It seems to me that the American people have finally woken up and are marching in protest again against our own “black boots” (not to reference Nazis again, but…) who – shades of the pre-Civil Rights Act era – seem to feel they have a right to kill black men and anyone else who doesn’t “salute” them fast enough. I only hope the protests continue to the level of the social activism in which I grew up during the ‘60’s, and now dwindle away like the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Worst “Oh, God, I knew this was going to happen” moment: “The Mystery of Malaysian Flight 370” was televised on CNN. Just waiting for it to show up as an episode of “Ancient Aliens” sometime in 2015.

Dumbest comics controversy of 2014 (though I can understand the uproar) was that cover. Yeah, you know the one I mean. Jessica Jones as Spider-Woman with her ass up in the air.

The other dumb comics controversy – the stupidest, I mean – was DC’s decision not to allow Batwoman to marry her long-time love, civil rights lawyer Maggie Sawyer. Not only does it reek of bigotry and ignorance, not only does it go against the biggest non-issue in recent American history, i.e., gay marriage, but it’s based on an edict that “no DC superhero is allowed to be married” as “heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives” because it would make for “less dramatic stories.” As if marriage is always a state of bliss. Um…no. And kudos to J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman for walking away from such ignoramity.

Most exposed comic character: Starfire. Once upon a time, back in the Wolfman-Pérez days of New Teen Titans, she was a nuanced character. Now she’s just…exposed.

Speaking of DC and stupidest. How about their contest concerning Harley Quinn? the company asked for tyro artists to draw a scene from Harley Quinn #0 which specifically asked for: “Harley sitting in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances, all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before her inevitable death. Her expression is one of, ‘Oh, well, I guess that’s it for me,’ and she has resigned herself to the moment is going to happen.”

Announced just before National Suicide Prevention Week.

Oh, wait, a lot of that happened in 2013.

Well, it’s still “worst of” bad news.

So what kind of stupidest stuff has DC done in 2014?

Turned Wonder Woman into a caricature of a feminist icon – whiney, spoiled, and bitchy.

Batgirl featured a literal “cartoon” of transgender characterization in the imposter Batgirl, who was actually a dangerous, deranged man. Um, btw, that’s not transgender. That’s cross-dressing. Either way, it was incredibly insulting to too many individuals. (The creative team of Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr apologized…and meant it.).

Merchandizing sexualized and insulting t-shirts with Superman “scoring” with Wonder Woman, and mottos like “Training To Be Batman’s Wife.”

Releasing a book for toddlers and early readers called “Superheroes Opposites” in which “Wonder Woman pushes a swing” with a little girl on it, while Superman, on the opposing page, “pulls the machine,” which looks like some combination of a Deere tractor and deep-sea oilrig. Anyway, it’s enormous and definitely very heavy. Yeah, I’ll be buying that book for my 15-month-old grandson soon.

DC sure isn’t Jenette Khan’s company anymore!

But DC didn’t just become the leading anti-feminist comics company in 2014. I found this at www.Whatculture.com:

2014 also saw DC leaning on some wonderfully old-school gimmicks to try and boost sales, including falling back into the nineties speculator boom trope of providing shiny covers to try and entice people into buying flagging books. They planned to provide 3D variant covers for climactic final issues of their year-long crossover event Future’s End, a process which apparently requires certain special chemicals.

One of which is called microcystin, and is highly toxic. Exactly the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to, say, get into a municipal water supply.” Woops, that’s exactly what happened though! Some sort of spill at the printing plant where the books were being published caused the deadly toxin to end up in Lake Eerie, which provides the water supply of eleven million coastal inhabitants in Northwestern Ohio.

Yes, DC poisoned the water supply of eleven million people. Lex Luthor would be proud.”

Okay, I’m sure DC comics weren’t the only books being published at the printing plant. But I just have three things to say:

How come stuff like this doesn’t happen at Marvel?

And, at least based on this list of “worsts,” I don’t think I’ll be working for DC anytime soon.

And, based on this list of “worsts,” I’m not sure I would want to.


Mindy Newell: Sephora Kicks Super-Ass!

“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.” – Gwyneth Paltrow

“I fought a killer and didn’t even smudge my makeup.” – Rose Pressey, Flip that Haunted House

After a fun time with my grandson – soon to be 14 months old! What’s that saying about time flying? – on Friday at Gymboree, I drove over to Sephora to buy some concealer for my 61 year-old under-eye bags and of course ended up spending too much money on other shit that I probably didn’t need and which I justified by telling myself that I hadn’t splurged on said self in a year so stop worrying and learn to love the bomb, as Kubrick so aptly put it.

Anyway, driving home I got to wondering about what kind of skin care and make-up the superheroes use.

There are dozens – hundreds? – of mascaras that claim to be waterproof (though I’ve never used one that stands up to the pool or the ocean) and that will stand up to the most exhausting and sweat-inducing workouts and ultra-triathlons. There are dozens – hundreds? – of foundations and blushes and lipsticks and eye shadows made by companies, from deluxe department store brands to those found on a drugstore carousel rack, that claim to “lasts all day!,” withstanding everything from a walk in a tropical monsoon in Mumbai to a passionate, epic 24 hour tumble between the sheets. And there dozens – hundreds? – of skin care products promising to turn back the clock and/or replace more invasive products like Botox or Juvaderm or – going all the way – cosmetic surgery.

So what does a superwoman wear while she’s pummeling – and being pummeled by – her equally meta-powered enemy? Surely Superman needs a little styling gel to keep those oh-so-sexy Kryptonian curls and waves mussed in just the right places?

After all, no super hero wants to be seen with puffy, dark-circled eyes and a turkey neck. Doesn’t inspire much confidence in the civilians to be seen looking “tired and drab” when you set out to stop the latest threat to Earth.

WHOOSH! The Flash needs help. Yeah, that – ahem – flashy red suit of his is designed to withstand the friction and wind he creates as he rushes to help, sometimes hitting velocities beyond the sound barrier. But what does he use to prevent the certain skin damage to his wind burned and chapped cheeks, chin, and lips?

Speaking of skin care, here’s some other meta-human types that could some help with their epidermis:

  • The Thing. ‘Nuff said!
  • Iron Man. “What?” you say. “Tony Stark is enclosed in technological armor. He doesn’t have to worry about sun exposure!” Yes, but it gets hot inside that face plate. After a hard day at the office, there’s nothing the man needs more than a really good skin care regimen to cleanse out those pores and remove the layer of dead cells. May I suggest a little exfoliation two to three days a week with an at-home peel?
  • Power Girl: You do a good job covering up, Kara, but you’re forgetting that delicate skin in your décolletage area. I recommend a moisturizer with an anti-antioxidant ingredient (vitamins C and E, for instance) and a SPF factor of at least 25. But stay away from moisturizers containing retinoid or alpha hydroxy acids, because they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and its photo aging properties, especially in the summer or in equatorial climates where the sun is always strong.
  • Starfire: Lady, I know you’re an alien, and that orange skin indicates the presence of melanin which helps protect the skin from sun damage, but really! With that costume exposing more skin to photo aging than Bettie Page on a beach shoot, you are risking looking like a prune before you’re 30! Hey, I’m the first one to say flaunt it if you’ve got it, but – never mind the moisturizer, you must cover up if you don’t want to develop a raging case of melanoma!

If looking delectable and gorgeous is part of the “brand” of taking on super villains, do ultra-women deliberately choose to look their best as they beat the crap out of some megalomaniac with phasers and lasers or even “old-fashioned” dirty bombs and plans for world domination as a subtle means to throw their villains off their games? Think about it. Wouldn’t, say, Arcade, so taken with Storm’s exotic beauty, deliberately lower the level of “play” in his Murderworld so as the woman wouldn’t be too bruised or battered?

Or, on the other hand, would Diana’s Amazonian beauty, enhanced with the understated mineral powder foundation and bronzer, the finest kohl eyeliner, the warmest clay lipstick offered by the cosmeticians of Themiscrya, only work to throw Barbara Minerva, aka the Cheetah, into a jealous frenzy of the nth degree, giving her even more of an excuse to rip her talons into Wonder Woman’s face?

Maybe the Grecian powerhouse should rethink her look when she’s up against women who hate her.

Yeah, if I lived in the alternate realities of Marvel and DC and Image, et. al., and I was a smart marketing or R&D executive at Lancôme or MAC or Estee Lauder or Maybelline or Revlon or Urban Decay, et.al., I’d convince my bosses to develop a line of skin care products and make-up specifically tailored to the super set.

And if it’s good for them, just think of what it would do for us working slobs.

Talk about product placement!


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.