Tagged: Supergirl

Martha Thomases: Truth, Justice, and the Israeli Way


Purim in Israel is not like Purim in my life. Everyone is in costume. Sales clerks at the airport had on three-cornered Haman hats.

I love Purim. It is the story of a hero who saved the Jewish people. Kids dress up as characters in the story — Mordecau, Haman, King Ahasheares, and the hero, Queen Esther.

In Israel, it is more about costumes than specific characters, more like Halloween, a secular holiday.

I was in Caesarea, an ancient Roman city built by Herod. It’s a great place to take your family on a school holiday. There were kids dressed like knights and princesses and Voltron.

To me, the stars of the day were two gutsy girls, dressed like my favorite Kryptonian. It’s the right way to celebrate the story of a brave woman.

Mike Gold: Superman’s Real Family

Gold Art 131204There was a time when the world could not get enough of The Man of Steel. In the 1950s National Periodical Publications, the name DC Comics went under back then, published seven different Superman titles, five of them every six weeks and two every month. In those days, that was a lot.

Today, of course, Wolverine wouldn’t lift his head out of his own puke for such paltry exposure. But back then, that workload was astonishing – and it wasn’t uncommon to see sales figures on certain of these titles reaching seven figures. Action Comics was shipped at the end of the month and that very issue was re-shipped two weeks later.

Superman had more than just that going for him. In the 40s he had one of the most popular and long-lasting radio shows around. In the early 50s, a time when most cities were lucky to have two television stations and it was common for one of those channels to pick from the offerings of two of the three networks, Superman was offered up in first-run syndication and he captured the awe and wonder of the entire baby boomer generation. We were all glued to the boob tube; it was our crack. And there were a hell of a lot of us, too.

The Big Guy had something else going for him: he was in the newspapers daily and Sunday all across America, including Hearst’s New York Mirror, which sported the largest circulation of any U.S. newspaper at the time. His newspaper circulation made the comics work appear downright skinny.

All this exposure required the efforts of an astonishing amount of talent. By and large, there were three primary Superman artists: Wayne Boring and Curt Swan, who did the newspaper strip as well as Action Comics and Superman, and Al Plastino, who did… well… everything.

To be fair, there were other great talents in this group, legends all. Kurt Schaffenberger, whose work dominated the Lois Lane stories, Win Mortimer, George Papp and John Sikela, perhaps best known for their Superboy efforts (as was Curt Swan), and Dick Sprang on the Superman-Batman feature in World’s Finest.

Gee, no wonder Big Blue was so popular. And, yes, I’m leaving at least a half-dozen artists out.

Last week the last of these awesomely talented people died. Al Plastino, the medium’s best utility infielder, died at 91. He was an artist, a writer, an editor, a letterer and a colorist. He co-created the Legion of Super-Heroes, Supergirl and Brainiac. He drew the Batman newspaper strip in the 1960s, and he ghosted the Superman strip in its latter years.plastino-hap-hopper-2-02-44-150x167-5037260

Al was the go-to man at the United Feature Syndicate, creating a couple of minor features in the 1940s (Hap Hopper, from 1944, is pictured to the right) and doing Ferd’nand for its last 20 years, retiring in 1989. He also stepped in to do the Sunday Nancy page for a while after Ernie Bushmiller died. And there was some work on Peanuts, but there’s a whole story in that one that should be reserved for a later date.

Oh, and he inked Captain America in the early part of both their careers.

Al Plastino was an editor’s dream. A wonderful artist and a fine storyteller, he could do anything and do it on time. His legend as a comics creator alone makes him a permanent part of comics history.

Al, thank you for making my childhood all the more amazing.


THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Return of The Tweaks

Mindy Newell: Morpheus Laughs

Newell Art 130819I had the weirdest dream last night. Like all – or most dreams – it was a jumbled mix. And some of the details are getting lost as the day goes on. But I do remember that I was in the midst of writing three books for DC, one of which was specifically for Karen Berger, although I couldn’t really classify the stories as strictly Vertigo. They were more along the lines of Elseworlds, or Marvel’s Ultimate titles.

All the books were graphic novels and very adult, but the only one I remember clearly now is the one about Supergirl, the original Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, and it was getting the full DC PR treatment – in fact, I think it was Martha Thomases, my friend and fellow columnist here at ComixMix, who was handling the publicity. Karen was very excited about it, and I knew I was writing at the tope of my game. Alex Ross was doing the art, painting it ala Marvels or Kingdom Come. Or if it wasn’t Alex, it was someone equally talented.

But my Kara wasn’t the sweet, prepubescent young lady who was Superman’s secret weapon. This Kara was one tough broad, and street-smart. In my dream she had escaped Krypton’s destruction by running away from home, hitching a ride on a space-trucker’s semi, who subsequently tried to rape her in his cab. This happened while the semi was passing by Earth’s solar system, so it turns out that, because of the influence of Earth’s yellow sun, Kara is the wrong babe for the space-trucker to mess with.

The (super) struggle causes the semi to crash on Earth. Kara is the “last man standing” after the crash, which is investigated, not by Superman, but by Wonder Woman and two other superwomen. (But even while I’m dreaming I’m feeling pissed off because I can’t identify the two other women clearly, though both could fly and were very powerful and I think one of them was a lot like Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel – or maybe it was Carol Danvers, I don’t remember.)

Anyway, Wonder Woman wants to take Kara to Themiscrya, but Kara refuses to go, telling Wonder Woman “I ain’t no dyke, and I ain’t going to an island full of dykes.” (Don’t ask me how she speaks English and knows nasty, sexist slang – dreams don’t work like that.) The “sorta” Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers pulls a full nelson on Kara, but Kara breaks her grip and the two fight. While they are fighting Wonder Woman uses her “lariat of truth” to rope Kara to try and calm her and make her tell the truth, i.e., who she is, how she got there, but Kara uses heat vision (inadvertently, the girl is still discovering her powers) and burns the rope, breaking free and flying off.

So this is the first chapter of the graphic novel, and like I said, Karen is very excited and happy with my work; me, too, plus I’m making so much money that I can quit nursing and become a full-time writer. Which is good because working full-time as a nurse would certainly interfere with my ability to make deadlines if I’m writing three graphic novels at the same time. And Joseph Campbell said to “follow your bliss” if you truly want to be happy, and nursing isn’t my bliss (though I’m good at it) and writing comics on a full-time basis is and I’m very happy, very satisfied, with my life.

But then I read in the New York Times and The Comic Buyer’s Guide that there has been a huge upheaval at DC, and it has been sold off to some conglomerate that is even bigger than Time-Warner – or maybe it’s that Time-Warner decides to dump DC because the company’s movies, even with Man Of Steel making gazillions, pretty much suck – or it had something to do with the CBS vs. Time-Warner Cable war…

I’m dreaming, remember?

So all my books are on hold, including the Supergirl graphic novel. It’s not going to see print.

I’m suddenly not enjoying this dream, and I want to wake up.

But I can’t.

Then I get a call from “somebody” that there is a big meeting regarding the reorganizing at DC after the sale and I’m invited. Only it’s the same day as a wedding I have to go to – or not. I remember that in the dream I dress up to go this meeting, waaaaay over-dress in an incredibly beautiful art deco-y type of gown – think Jean Harlow in Dinner At Eight – in a satiny deep, deep purple, and this stunning cloche with a peacock feather curling down and around my chin, and in the dream I guess I’m trying to justify why I’m dressed so formally because I’m thinking that I will catch a cab and get to the wedding/affair after the meeting.

But you know dreams. Even though I’m sleeping I know that something isn’t right.

So I get to the meeting and there are people there whom I know but can’t recognize. But everyone is very glad to see me. We are in this very corporate, and yet very classy, glass-enclosed boardroom. The ceiling lights are recessed and there are candles burning on glass coffee tables and we are lounging in big, slate-blue love seats. Everyone looks absolutely terrific, though I am the only one in a gown, everyone else is wearing very expensive, designer suits by the likes of Hugo Boss and Chanel and Stella McCartney and Dolce and Gabanna.

The new owners of DC (a few men and women) hand out prospectuses and folios that contain the new organization chart for the company. According to the chart I am going to be an executive editor. The “new Karen.”

But I don’t want to be the “new Karen.”

I want to be a writer.

I ask about my Supergirl graphic novel. I say that the first chapter is done and I’m working on the next. I want to know if I can finish it. I want to know if it’s going to be published.

Nobody hears me, or chooses not to answer.

Now the new owners pass out envelopes. We all open them. Inside are contracts, or “letters of agreement.” My letter tells me who will be in my “stable,” including editors, assistant editors, writers, and artists. I want to know if I have to use these people if I don’t want to; again, nobody hears me.

Boy, do I want to wake up now.

I turn to the woman sitting next to me. She kind of looks like Shelly Bond, but I’ve only met Shelly once or twice, so I can’t be sure, and, anyway, it’s not her.

She says, “Wow, Mindy, they’re paying you $70,000 a year. That’s great!”

“No, it’s not,” I say. “Not for the responsibilities they want me to have. And anyway, I make more than that as a nurse.”

“But that’s a lot of money.”

“No, it’s not. They just want you to think it’s a lot of money.”

Then I hear my name mentioned, and the new owners are telling me that they are pulling my Supergirl book. It’s dead in the water.

Everyone else is busy signing his or her contracts.

They are signing their lives away.

They’re all just happy to have jobs in the comics industry.

I get up and walk out.

I look spectacular

I am crying.

And then…

…even though it’s the worst way to end a story…

I woke up.




Mindy Newell: The Problem With Diana – Part Two

Newell Art 130715As I was saying …

And as for Diana …

I hated her.

Well, perhaps “hate” is too strong a word. I didn’t hate her, exactly. She made me, um, “uncomfortable.” Even as a kid reading her adventures. Not being old enough at the time to put it into words, to analyze my reaction, I figured it out as I got older.

I loved the stories that took place on Themiscrya, aka Paradise Island. It wasn’t just that I was a mythology geek – I read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales Of Gods And Heroes when I was eight years old – but that in these stories Diana was in her true element. Unapologetically independent, intelligent, strong, and self-assured, Diana was a hero who inspired. She lit up my imagination, and along with her fellow Amazons, became a role model, an icon for a little girl who thought she might become a veterinarian, a neurosurgeon, an astronaut when she grew up.

But when Diana was in “Man’s World,” she wasn’t such a, well, Wonder Woman. She had to hide her independence, her intelligence, her strength, and self-assurance in the guise of a meek Air Force secretary. She was the only powerful woman in the DC universe whose nom-de-guerre wasn’t borrowed from a male counterpart, and all she did was whine about Steve Trevor.

No, she was definitely not an icon for women in the later part of the 20th century.

An aside here, along with an apology to those regular readers of this column who already know this. When I was a prepubescent girl, it was Kara Zor-El, a.k.a. Supergirl, who really did it for me. Think about it. A twelve-year-old girl was Superman’s secret weapon? (How many times did she pull his Kryptonian ass of the glowing green fire?) Now she was a role model for a young girl growing up during the Silver Age.

Back to my writing gig as the first woman to be the ongoing writer of Wonder Woman:

I was unable to write Diana the way I really wanted to – as an interesting dichotomy. Here was a supremely intelligent, superbly physical young woman who didn’t know shit about life in the “real” world. A royal princess who was waited on hand-and-foot while growing up who now found herself in a nation that had rejected royalty at its birth. The only baby “born” in a civilization of women who had isolated themselves from the rest of humanity 2000 years ago, so of course she would be “pro-life” and “anti-abortion.”* How would she react to a world where women were just starting to break the glass ceiling, where they made 70 cents to every dollar a man earned? (Still do.) How would she understand a country that went nuts just because Hillary Clinton didn’t want to just stay home and bake cookies?

And as for men? How many men had she known? Besides Zeus and Ares and Apollo and Hermes, I mean. She had no experience with them. Had she ever actually seen a penis outside of an anatomy lesson?

And would she even be interested in men? Frankly, I thought (and think) her background would lead her to be a lesbian, if only because that was her template. And that could also bring up lots of different things: nature vs. nurture, genetic disposition vs. environment. (I hear that Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman opus is going to explore this, which makes me Extremely Jealous And Pissed Off That I Never Got The Chance To Do This.)  And if she realized that she was heterosexual? Could make for some interesting situations as she started meeting more men of the mortal variety. As I said, until she came to New York, the only men she had ever had any kind of relationship with were her gods. (Okay, there was Steve – what a jewel.)

I started to regret ever taking on the whole assignment. I felt I was turning out crap. I was embarrassed. I was sad. I worried about my future as a comics writer. And finally…

I got fed up.

I will never forget the day it happened. I was arguing with editor Alan Gold. And something in me simply exploded…

Mt. St. Mindy blew.

“Fuck You!!!! I Don’t Need This Shit! I Quit!!!!”

I slammed the door as I left. I walked out to the elevator. I pushed the button. I was fuming. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I was done.**

And then Marv Wolfman came out to the elevator lobby and talked me down. (Should I bless him or curse him? sigh) He must have thought that I had talent and/or a future as a writer; he convinced me to keep going, not to quit, and he got me to go back into the office. He even got me to apologize to his friend, Alan. A miracle, I must say.

So I finished the run.

And my reputation as a “difficult bitch” began.

*This has nothing to do with my own feelings. For the record, I am firmly pro-choice.

**Little did I know that I was not done with Wonder Woman!




REVIEW: Superman Unbound

Superman UnboundSuperman is a science fiction story. What else can you say about the sole survivor of a doomed planet coming to live on Earth? As a result, some of the best stories about the Man of Steel have been science fiction in nature so it’s a wonder that it has taken this long before one of his confrontations with fellow alien Brainiac was brought to the screen. The feature films keep reusing Lex Luthor and General Zod, ignoring the computer construct from the distant world of Colu, who has captured specimen cities from countless worlds, including one from Krypton.

Thankfully, the folk at Warner Animation have recognized his incredible potential, first by reimagining him as a closer part of the mythos in their Superman: the Animated Series and now in Superman Unbound. The core story is lifted from Action Comics #866-870 by Geoff Johns and Garry Frank and collected under the title Superman: Brainiac. To place this in perspective, the story comes after the Infinite Crisis reboot of the DC Universe continuity, meaning Supergirl is still adjusting to being on Earth and neither has encountered Brainiac before.

SupUnb_08015Bob Goodman, who did an admirable job turning The Dark Knight Returns into the previous two films, once more, tackles the iconic characters. Here, he has a far more emotional story to deal with and made only a handful of major modifications, notably downplaying Pa Kent’s role and keeping Lois and Clark single folk. He and director James Tucker make for a good team and the story moves fairly seamlessly but the action pieces are where things fall apart. We’re told repeatedly how utterly Brainiac is and yet he continues to send endless constructs after Superman despite it being obvious that they are ineffective. How shall I put this….it doesn’t make any freakin’ sense except to give the animators something fun to do.

SupUnb_09699There’s tension between Superman and Supergirl over her readiness to be Earth’s protector; there’s tension between Clark and Lois about their relationship being stalled by his overprotectiveness and then there’s the larger problem of Brainiac having stolen Kandor and now attempting to bottle up Metropolis. There are nice resonances established between these three threads and Goodman does a good job making Supergirl and Lois well-defined characters.

Once more Andrea Romano delivers with an excellent vocal cast, bringing verve to Goodman’s script. Castle’s Stana Katic makes for a powerful Lois (and I thought Dana Delany had it nailed) and she’s well paired with her TV costar Molly Quinn, who is a vulnerable teen Kryptonian. Matt Bomer drops his voice to a tone deeper than his usual White Collar character and is almost unrecognizable. On the other hand, Fringe’s John Noble is wonderfully creepy as Brainiac.

SupUnb_10290Tucker, though, botches the character design. Superman’s square jaw is now a tapered, pointy thing that robs him of power. Lois is way too thin for normal proportions and Pa Kent is a caricature of the influential father he should be. Tucker does better with Brainiac and his ship along with the Kandorians (and kudos for the Ultra the Multi-Alien cameo).

Overall, this is a satisfying adventure with a nice emotional undercurrent.

SupUnbB_15831The 75 minute feature is supplemented on the Blu-ray with two nice thirty minute featurettes: Kandor: History of the Bottle City provides the historic context for how this was introduced and how it altered the mythos. Marv Wolfman, Mike Carlin, Bob Goodman, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio all chime in on the bottle city and its charms. Heath Corson is also included, a writer with no connection to Superman or DC or context provided so he’s an annoying presence. The second piece, Brainiac: Technology and Terror is less successful since there is tremendous confusion between what is said and what is shown. Despite having Wolfman and Carlin to provide some history, everyone goes from discussing the original Silver Age creation to his reimagining in the latter years then skip ahead to his modern day incarnation. But visually, the goateed Milton Fine is seen from the John Byrne era reboot but never mentioned. Similarly, we’re shown images of Brainiac 5 from early Mike Grell Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes but he is never mentioned so Brainiac’s legacy in the history of the DCU is also absent.

The Blu-ray has, exclusively, the Kandor feature and four episodes of Superman: The Animated Series and a digital excerpt from the Superman: Brainiac collected edition. The combo pack comes with the Blu-ray, DVD (with the Brainiac featurette) and an Ultraviolet digital copy.

Superman Silver Announced

Superman SilverIn the run-up to Man of Steel, the most eagerly-anticipated super-hero film of the year, DC Comics just can’t seem to keep its new Superman initiatives secret for very long. ComicMix has learned that, in the wake of unprecedentedly strong orders for the print version of Batman ’66, DC has started work on Superman Silver. Like the Jeff Parker-Jonathan Case series, Superman Silver will exploit Boomer nostalgia for an earlier incarnation of one of its two biggest super stars. Obviously, “going retro” to appeal to an aging readership has paid off big-time for the publisher, since it’s decided to commission this series even before having metrics on Batman ’66.

Work on the new seven-week series, edited by Bobbie Chase and scheduled to begin in June, is only just beginning, but a few details have been leaked to ComicMix. Each issue will recreate the style, look, and tone of a Mort Weisinger-edited “Superman Family” title of the Silver Age, with several issues offering three 8-page stories.

While DC is still finalizing the lineup, we’ve learned that the series will kick off with Superman Silver: Superman, featuring a book- length Imaginary Story, “The Death of Van-Zee and Sylvia” by Howard Mackie and Alex Saviuk. This will be followed by Superman Silver: Action presenting a Superman lead, “When Superman Became Congorilla!” by Ralph Macchio and Terry Dodson, and a Supergirl back-up story, “Jeff Malverne, Super-Horse – Comet’s Rival for Supergirl’s Heart!” by Ann Nocenti and Patrick Olliffe. Week Three brings Superman Silver: Jimmy Olsen, whose cover story, “The Bedbug Boy of Metropolis,” is by Roger Stern and Javier Salteris.

To date, no creative team has yet been assigned to Superman Silver: Adventure, whose book-length story will feature the Bizarro Legion of Super-Heroes. Artists are still being sought for the remaining titles, Superman Silver: Lois Lane, Superman Silver: Superboy, and Superman Silver: World’s Finest, all of which will be written by Tom DeFalco.

Emily S. Whitten: Spidey and Bats’ Infinite Playlist

“I can’t believe I agreed to this,” Bruce muttered, as he locked the front door of Wayne Manor.

“Hey, Bats!” a cheerful voice exclaimed from behind. Bruce turned.

“Peter,” he grumbled at the young man standing in the driveway. “I told you not to call me that when I’m out of the suit.”

“Sorry, Bats! Forgot,” Peter Parker replied merrily.

Bruce groaned inwardly. Here we go again, he thought. “Peter, what are you doing here?” he asked.

“I came to keep you company on the drive!” said Peter. “Plus, you know… Alfred thought if I didn’t, you might not come.”

“So… you came all the way out here just to turn around and go right back?” Bruce said wryly, walking to the car.

“Well, you know, it’s quick when you’re swinging through the air with the greatest of ease.” Peter grinned. “And Aunt May also thought it would be a good idea for me to get out of the house for a few. I think she’s kind of sweet on Alfred, actually.”


“Oh, well, you know. I could be wrong,” Peter said mischievously. “But they were looking pretty cozy over the turkey earlier.”

“Yargh,” Bruce said in a strangled voice. “Uh… well… let’s get going, I guess.” He slung a bag into the back seat and slid into the driver’s side. Peter hopped into the passenger seat.

“How ‘bout some tunes?” Peter asked, pulling out his iPod as Bruce pulled out of the drive. He turned on the radio. “Gah!” he shouted as music blasted; then he laughed. “Wagner? Really, Bats?”

“It’s Bruce, remember?” said Bruce. “And I like Wagner.”

“Yeah, who doesn’t love Ride of the Valkyries? Nothing overdramatic about that.”

“Did you come just to make fun of my musical selections?” asked Bruce.

“Of course not! Alfred said you’ve been feeling kind of down about the whole superhero-ing thing. Like you thought maybe you’re not making much of a difference and nobody appreciates you. So… I dunno, I thought you could use some positive reinforcement. Nobody wants an emo Batman.”

“Emo… ?” Bruce spluttered.

“I’m just sayin’,” said Peter, holding up his hands in mock surrender. He plugged in his iPod. “Anyway, I asked Harry to put together a list of all the songs people have written about superheroes, so we could listen on the drive. You know, to show you how people really do look up to us and we do make a difference. Wanna hear?”

Bruce sighed in defeat against Peter’s incessant good spirits. “Sure, whatever.”

“O-kaaay! Let’s see what we’ve got,” Peter said, pressing play.

“This isn’t bad,” Bruce said after a few seconds. Then the lyrics continued. Peter glanced over at Bruce, who was now glowering at the wheel.

“Hmm… let’s try another one, maybe?” Peter said.

“Excellent plan,” Bruce replied dryly. “I have to admit I like the music, but I’m pretty glad it’s just a song. I really prefer not to think about Superman being dead.”

“Uh, yeah,” Peter said. “Let’s try again.”

“Eminem. Now that I wasn’t expecting,” said Bruce in surprise. “… Although the lyrics aren’t exactly heroic, are they?”

“True; but a) it is so cool that you recognized Eminem in two seconds flat, Bats; and b) he’s a total superhero fan. Or so I hear,” said Peter. “Oh, hey hey! This next one’s about you, I think.” They listened in silence for a minute.

Bruce winced. “Did you even listen to these when Harry gave them to you?”

“Well, okay, I didn’t have time, and I grant you it’s not the greatest song ever… but at least Gotham has its own theme song!” Peter chirped.

“Yeah, somehow I don’t think it goes with the actual ambience of the city,” Bruce deadpanned. “Next.”

A jaunty tune filled the car.

“‘So long, Superman’? Seriously? Catchy, but are you sure Harry isn’t on one of his Evil Goblin kicks again?”

Peter scrunched up his nose. “Well… I mean, he seemed really enthused about the playlist idea.”

“Yeaaaaah. I bet,” Bruce drawled. “Also, why are there so many songs about Superman? What about the other half of our sometimes-team-up. Namely, me? Why the inequality?”

“Dunno, Bats. ‘Once again it’s a mind bender.’“

“… Did you just vaguely mis-quote Method Man?”

“I can’t believe you got that reference. But it’s appropriate! The Wu-Tang Clan loves superheroes.” Peter scrolled down on the playlist. “Looks like Snoop Dogg does too.”

Bruce listened as they drove along. “Well, Peter, I like the rhythm… but I’m pretty sure I’ve never told Alfred to have ‘barbecued buffalo wings and a pitcher of Kool-Aid on chill.’“

“Okay, so maybe they put their own spin on things. But still! They loved you enough to make a whole song about you!”

“With sound effects and everything. I’m honored.” Bruce said, a bit sarcastically.

“Okay, okay, well hey, you know, here’s a different take,” Peter said, hurriedly pushing buttons. “I bet you love this one, huh?”

“… Is this… Prince? Prince did a Batman song? What’s this called?”

Seriously? You’ve never seen the Batdance before? Bats, you need to get out more.”


“Oh-em-gee; I can’t wait to watch the video with you. YouTube, here we come!”

“Nice try, Peter, but I am not letting you suck me into the bottomless pit that is YouTube again.” Bruce grumped. “It’s almost as bad as TV Tropes.”

“We’ll see.” Peter hit the button again. Bruce listened in silence for awhile.

“Huh – I actually really like this one. What’s it called? Maybe I’ll have Alfred download it for me later.”

“That’s the spirit! It’s The Ballad of Barry Allen by Jim’s Big Ego.”

“That’s a ridiculous name for a band.” Bruce paused. “Good song though. Let it play.”

[3 minutes later]

“Okay, this one’s the whiniest thing I’ve ever heard. What’s it called?”

Peter squirmed a little. “Uh – Spidey’s Curse?”

Bruce laughed. “Talk about emo.” He laughed some more and Peter thought he heard a snort. “Your theme song is one long whiny drone!”

“It’s not my theme song, Bats! Anyway, I much prefer Dashboard Confessional’s take. If I had to pick, I’d go with Vindicated,” Peter said, skipping ahead again.

“Okay,” said Bruce. “I’ve actually heard that one and shockingly, I’d have to agree.”

“And you’d also have to agree that this is awesome,” Peter said, skipping to the next song.

“Well everybody likes this one. But I mean, Harry does realize it’s not actually about Tony Stark, right?”

“You know,” Peter said thoughtfully, “it’s not, but somehow it is.”

“Touché,” replied Bruce. At the beginning of the next song, he grunted. “Another Superman song? Really?”

“Yeah, but this one’s really good. I think Harry likes these next three as much as me – he put them all in a row.”

“So we could get sick of Superman getting all the good songs faster? Hey, did he put Jimmy Olsen’s Blues on there? Now there’s a song I can sympathize with.”

Peter looked over at Bruce. “Wow, Bats. Are you… are you jealous of Clark? I mean, suave billionaire that you are, I wouldn’t have thought it.”

“Of course not, Peter. You know Clark’s like a brother to me. He’s just… a little unreal sometimes, is all. I can sympathize with Jimmy. We’re only human.”

“Fair point. Ooh, here, I like this one,” Peter said, scrolling to Weezer. “Kinda makes me feel like I’m back in high school.”

“What, like yesterday?” Bruce snarked.

“Ha. Ha.” Peter replied.

Bruce swung the car into a familiar driveway to the end chords of In the Garage.

“Oh hey! We’re here. Aunt May’s going to be so happy to see you! Betchya ten bucks she tries to get you to eat something within the first three minutes.”

“No bet,” said Bruce, smiling as the door opened on Aunt May and Alfred.

“Happy Thanksgiving!” they both exclaimed, as Aunt May took the bottle of wine Bruce was holding out and gave him a big hug.

“Glad you could make it, Master Bruce,” said Alfred, as Aunt May said, “So good to see you again, Bruce. Come in, come in!”

Aunt May bustled away with the wine, calling over her shoulder, “I bet you’re hungry – but never fear! I have some mini quiches with your name on them!”

Peter and Bruce exchanged an amused look. “Thank you, Aunt May, that sounds delightful,” Bruce replied politely as they stepped inside.

“So, Bats,” Peter said quietly as they stood for a moment watching Aunt May and Alfred hurry around setting food on the table, “what did you think of the music? All those people inspired to write about us in their songs; wanting to be like us, or looking up to us, or even just thinking about what our lives are like?”

“It does lend a different perspective, I’ll admit,” Bruce replied. “Also I’ve now learned that rappers really love comics. Was that the whole playlist?”

“Nope! Guess we’ll just have to save the rest for the ride back to Wayne Manor.”

“Oh, joy,” Bruce said. But he was smiling when he said it.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Bruce.”

“Happy Thanksgiving, Peter.”

Spidey and Bats’ Infinite Playlist

Our Lady Peace – Superman’s Dead

Eminem – Superman

R. Kelly – Gotham City

Firewater – So Long, Superman

RBX, Snoop Dogg, & The Lady of Rage – Batman & Robin

Prince – Batdance

Jim’s Big Ego – The Ballad of Barry Allen

Black Lips — Spidey’s Curse

Dashboard Confessional – Vindicated

Black Sabbath – Iron Man

3 Doors Down – Kryptonite

Crash Test Dummies – Superman’s Song

Five for Fighting – Superman

Spin Doctors – Jimmy Olsen’s Blues

Weezer – In the Garage

Drowning Pool – The Man Without Fear

Method Man – The Riddler

Big Head Todd and the Monsters – Resignation Superman

Lemon Demon – The Ultimate Showdown for Ultimate Destiny

The Kinks – Catch Me Now I’m Falling

Me’shell Ndegeocell – Poison Ivy

Suicide – Ghost Rider

Saving Jane – Supergirl

Dangerdoom – Space Ho’s

moe. – Captain America

The Traits – Nobody Loves The Hulk

Sufjan Stevens – The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts

Rancid – Side Kick

Rush – Ghost Rider

Remy Zero – Save Me

Panic! at the Disco – Mercenary

Bow Wow – Batman

Anthrax – I Am the Law

Black Lab – Learn to Crawl

R.E.M. – Superman

The Brunettes – Hulk is Hulk

They Might Be Giants – Particle Man

Laverne Baker – Batman to the Rescue

The Ramones – Spider-Man

[Author’s note: Yes, yes, I crossed the streams. Sue me. But you know in a perfect world Spider-Man and Batman would be oddly fantastic friends. Anyway, Happy (slightly belated) Thanksgiving, everyone! And I hope I’ve maybe added a bit to your nerdy playlists this week. Servo Lectio!]




Mindy Newell: Mirror Images

Throwing my $0.02 in on Martha Thomases’s column last week concerning big boobs, ‘roidal musculature, and body image…

Readers of this column know very well my love of Kara Zor-el, i.e. Supergirl, as she was portrayed during the Silver Age. Debuting in Action Comics #252 (May 1959), Kara’s look was designed by Al Plastino with her continuing adventures drawn by her quintessential artist, Jim Mooney for the next ten years. I was 5-going-on 6 in May of 1959, and Kara, depicted as a healthy young girl just entering adolescence, was athletic and slim, but not overly muscular, and especially not overly endowed in her chest area. It wasn’t just her powers or her ability to be Superman’s secret weapon that captured my imagination – I wanted to be like her when I grew up. Yes, I had dark hair and brown eyes and I was born in Brooklyn and not in Argo City, the last surviving city of the planet Krypton, but she was a role model for me in that I wanted to grow up to be athletic and slim and strong and capable.

In other words, Kara gave me a healthy sense of my body and what it could be.

A few years ago I was riding on the PATH train into New York City when an ad caught my eye, partly because I knew the doctor who was advertising on the placard and partly because of what he was advertising: a labioplasty. This is a plastic surgery procedure for altering shape of the labia majora and labia minora. Yes, as an operating room nurse, I have participated in these procedures, and I do remember one patient whose labia majora was “overly endowed” to the point that it was embarrassing to her when she wore a swimsuit.

I’m not talking about that type of legitimate need. But 99.9% of these women who underwent the procedure did it for purely “cosmetic” reasons. Of course I couldn’t say this out loud, but what I was thinking was “are you fucking kidding me?” (Honestly, girlfriends, have you ever fretted about the anatomy of your labia majora or labia minora?) Apparently these women believed there was something wrong with their natural formation – meaning that it wasn’t “perfect.” I always had a suspicion that these women caught their men looking at the Playmate of the Month or the Penthouse Pet of the Month and felt inadequate. But, although of course I couldn’t ask them, I also wondered if their men had complained. I doubt it. (Guys, do you fret about the shape of your woman’s labia majora or labia minora?) At least I’ve never had a man break up with me – so far as I know – because of that particular part of my anatomy.

But most girls don’t read comics, you’ll say, and if they do, it’s Betty and Veronica or manga comics. Well, first of all, I don’t believe that’s so true anymore. Like football, I think the fastest growing segment of the comics audience are girls and women. I’d like to think that most adult women are grown-up enough to understand that comics are fantasies, and that they are capable of ignoring the bubble breasts, wasp waists, and lengthy legs of female super-heroines (if the writing and story is good, of course) without going into hyperventilation and toxic shock about their own anatomy.

But young girls, even if they don’t read super-heroes, are exposed to it when they visit their local comic book emporium. And exposure is 9/10ths of the law when it comes to thoughts about body image and self-respect and self-actualization.

Martha is right about comics being a small part of the media culture’s obsession with how women should look. But some companies are doing it right – Dove ran a very successful campaign featuring women whose body types ranged from svelte to chunky. And More magazine ran a feature a few years ago on Jamie Leigh Curtis with pictures of Ms. Curtis au natural – no makeup, no Photoshopping, no special lighting, no Spanx or body tape to hide or pull up sagging body parts. And by the way, it was Ms. Curtis’ idea to photo shoot herself as she is in “real life.”

It was part of an issue whose entire focus was accepting yourself.

Accepting yourself. It sounds so easy.

But it’s so hard. After all, we can’t all look like Wonder Woman, unless your name happens to be Lynda Carter.

But it’s worth every minute of sweat and every tear that’s shed.

Damn it, I gained a pound.




Martha Thomases: Feminism In Four Colors

Feminist fan-girls have long lamented the unreal, impossible physiques presented in modern comics. The long-legged, slim-hipped, big-breasted figures, women with heads bigger than their waists, are enraging to all human who possess legs, hips, breasts, heads and waists.

It’s not new, and it’s not a concern limited to graphic storytelling. The fashion industry, for example, delights in sending pre-pubescent girls on the runway, as an ideal to which real, adult women should aspire, because that’s what moves the merchandise. And the accompanying insecurity sells make-up, hair color, plastic surgery and diet pills.

Everybody wins – except real, adult (and adolescent) women. Many of whom develop crippling self-loathiing which sometimes leads to unnecessary surgery, eating disorders, and death.

And now, according to The New York Times, it seems that boys are at risk for the same thing. Unreal expectations about how they should look cause them to take up exercise regimens inappropriate to their still-developing bodies, and to eat a diet that will put their body-fat at dangerously low levels. Some take dangerous steroids

Should we blame comics?

Well, no, not entirely. But comics don’t help.

When I was a young fan-girl, the comics I read didn’t seem unreasonable to me. I mean, sure, characters were flying through airless space, or traveling through time, and some of them were green or orange, but they didn’t seem out of proportion to me. Supergirl was trim and fit, not stacked. Superboy had muscles, but his build was slimmer than Superman’s.

These days, not so much. When DC introduced Tim Drake as the new Robin in 1990, we built a costume and had to find an adult model. There were practical reasons for this (an adult fit-model wouldn’t outgrow the costume), but DC also wanted someone with a muscular build. They wanted someone with muscles to represent a high school student.

And now, Damien Wayne is Robin. He’s supposed to be 10 years old. And, while the artists generally draw him short and slight, his pecs and thigh muscles suggest he’s already juicing.

In my experience, all these insecurities we have about our appearance have relatively little to do as far as the sexual opportunities of our choice. I’ve been fat, and I’ve been skinny, and it made no difference in the quantity nor quality of men who hit on me. I’m willing to bet that the bulked-up muscle man is not the physical ideal of most heterosexual women (and, probably, not a majority of gay men).

I don’t think we obsess over our bodies because of sexual insecurities, or rather, not only because of sexual insecurities. I think it goes deeper than that. Our images of ourselves as women and men are defined by these societal ideals, and how well we meet them. When the ideals are polarized so sharply, it can throw us into a panic.

And when the ideals can’t exist in real life, but only be drawn on paper (or rendered on a computer screen), we are doomed to failure.

The only sane response is to refuse to accept these ideals, and refrain from supporting them financially. So far, I can live without fashion magazines. Can I live without comics? Can you?

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Mindy Newell: The Right Stuff

There is a wonderful thing happening for me and other girls and women who read comics.

A new hero has appeared.

As frequent readers of this column should remember, Kara Zor-el, Supergirl, was the character and hero that rocked my pre-adolescent world. She was smart, brave, and not only did she have the same powers as Superman but she was his secret weapon, which is a powerful message to little girls. And yes, she was pretty, which I don’t think is a sexist thing to say. Everybody wants to be “pretty” when they grow up. Okay, little boys generally don’t want to be pretty when they grow up, but I don’t think they want to look like Quasimodo either.

Not that little girls and women have been without heroes since Kara first popped out of her rocket in Action Comics #252 in May, 1959. Wonder Woman, Princess Diana of Themiscrya, has been with us since All-Star Comics in December 1941.   Jean Grey debuted as Marvel Girl in X-Men #1 in September 1963, and Storm – Ororo Munro – was created in Giant Size X-Men #1 in May 1975. Kitty Pryde – she of the 1,001 names–joined the Uncanny X-Men as Sprite in January 1980. The introduction of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics #242 in April 1958, included Saturn Girl, a.k.a. Imra Ardeen.

And then there was Carol Danvers.

Major Carol Danvers of the United States Air Force first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 in March 1968. In 1977, Carol was empowered by the fusion of her body with Kree genes, and became Ms. Marvel, appearing in the eponymously titled Ms. Marvel #1 in January 1977. She has also been known as Binary and Warbird.

And then, in July 2012, Carol Danvers accepted the mantle of Captain Marvel

Kelly Sue DeConnick, as writer of the series, has taken the ball and run with it. In fighter jock parlance, DeConnick – and through her, Carol Danvers – is pushing the envelope of what it means to be a woman and a hero. To quote DeConnick from her interview with Corrina Lawson in Lawson’s Geek Mom column for Wired magazine, “My pitch was Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”

As the daughter of P-51 fighter jock, I get it. Completely.

Carol’s not looking for medals. She’s not looking for accolades. Yeah, she’s chasing those demons that live beyond the sound barrier. Yeah, she’s out there every day pushing the envelope, punching holes in the sky. But she’s just doing what she’s gotta do. Doing it ‘cause, well…’cause she’s doing it.

Knocking out Absorbing Man by smothering his air supply with impermeable sash.

Comparing the hurt she’s gonna feel knocking out a gi-normous alien eyeball to the pain of a mascara wand in her own eyeball.

Girls and women get that.

We’re out there every day, not looking for accolades, not looking for medals. Just doing our jobs. Juggling family and work and relationships and life and just doing it.

‘Cause that’s what we do.

‘Cause that’s what Carol Danvers does. And if we said to her, “Man, Carol, you surely are our hero.”?

I think she’d just shrug her shrug her shoulders and say, “Whatever.”

‘Cause that’s what a hero does.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten Survives New York

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Survives Paris