Tagged: Susan Storm Richards

Mindy Newell: Feed ‘Em, Burp ‘Em, Diaper ‘Em

Newell Art 130923Ah, the joys of new parenthood.

Interrupted sleep. Desperately trying to figure out why the baby is crying. Shock and palpitations at the cost of Pampers (or Luvs or Huggies). Interfering grandparents.

Yeah, it’s tough being the parent of a baby. (Just wait until they are teenagers!)

At least you don’t have super-powers. At least you don’t have arch-nemeses and equally powered villains eager to use your darling as a weapon against you

Once upon a time I worked with Keith Giffen, Ernie Colon, and Karl Kesel on a mini-series for DC that we called Legionnaires Three. The story twists on the kidnapping of the infant Graym Ranzz by the infamous Time Trapper. Baby Graym is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ranzz, a.k.a. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, a.k.a. Garth Ranzz and Imra Ardeen. Upon discovering their child is gone, both are stunned into superhero impotency as Imra breaks down in heart wrenching sobs, held by a seemingly stoic Garth.

I remember getting a lot of flak in the fan mail. (Remember fan mail?)

“Saturn Girl is the Iron Butterfly! She would never cry!”

“Garth is the weak one. Imra would kick ass!”

“You don’t know anything about the Legion! Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl would rally the troops, get on the case!”

Well, I do know about the Legion. But more important, I know about being a parent. And as I answered in the letters column (remember letters columns?), and I’m paraphrasing here, Garth and Imra may be superheroes, but they are also parents, and any parent, super-powered or not, would be sucked down into a mass of shocked, weeping, screaming, emotional protoplasm on discovering their child kidnapped. (Do I really have to reiterate that?)

Anyway, I got to thinking about babies and super-powers, superheroes and being a parent.

I talked about being the parent of a super-powered kid once before here on ComicMix, in May 2012. I called the column “My Kid’s a Superhero,” and it was in honor of Mother’s Day. It was about Martha Kent and it went like this:

A few months later Martha was vacuuming – Jonathan did the laundry, so it was a fair exchange – and went to move the couch, where all the dust bunnies lived. Baby Clark wanted to help him mommy, so he picked the couch up. Martha went to the liquor cabinet and poured herself a stiff one. When Jonathan came back from the lower 40 for lunch, he found an empty bottle of Johnny Walker Red and his wife in a drunken stupor. When she came to she had a hell of a headache and a hell of a story. Jonathan called Doc Newman who told him new mothers are under a lot of stress and to just take it easy with her. The doctor then hung up and called his wife and told her that Martha Kent was nuts.

Martha thought she had it rough?

Susan Storm Richards, a.k.a. the Invisible Woman, was pregnant with her first child when it was discovered that the irradiation from the cosmic rays that gave the Fantastic Four their powers would also prevent Sue from carrying the baby to term. Desperate to prevent this, her husband Reed (Mr. Fantastic), her brother Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) and their best friend ever Ben Grimm (the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing) travelled to the Negative Zone and wrested the Cosmic Control Rod from the villain Annihilus. The Rod allowed Sue to carry her baby to term. The baby boy was named Franklin, after Sue’s father.

But it turned out that Franklin was a mutant, an immensely powerful mutant with psionic abilities. Reed, afraid that Franklin’s power could wipe out life on Earth, “shut down” Franklin’s mind, effectively reverting him to a normal kid.

Sue was furious with Reed because she had not been consulted before Reed took this drastic step, and she left him, taking the baby with her.

Yeah.

Parenthood.

It’s enough to make a superhero hang up his or her cape.

ComicMix Columnist Mindy Newell became a grandmother on September 20, 2013. She is ecstatic.

Call her Grandma. Call her Gran’maw. Call her Abuela. Call her Gamma.

Just don’t call her Bubbe.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

Mindy Newell: Life…

Newell Art 130408Last week’s column didn’t happen because I received a phone call at about 10 A.M. last Sunday from my mom. My dad was having another “episode,” his third. Meaning his brain was short-circuiting once more. It’s called “complex partial seizure disorder,” for the medically less-literate out there.

No one really knows why this is happening to him; before this started last Christmas Eve, he was in remarkable health for a man of 90. The only drug he took on a regular basis was one of the statins –anti-cholesterol drugs – and that was on a preventative basis. His blood pressure runs about 110/70, his heart rate about 65; his only major medical problem has been the deterioration of his eyesight because of macular degeneration and he was responding remarkably well to the treatment. Yes, he had had prostate cancer, but that was 30 years ago, and when his Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) level rose, he started the androgen deprivation therapy and it dropped to 0.003 or something, i.e., normal.

So this week once again my dad lay in a bed in the ICU at Cooper University Hospital – big kudos to the staff there!!! – only this time he was intubated because the ambulance didn’t take my mom with them and I was driving like a bat out of hell down the NJ Turnpike and my brother (an MD at “the Coop”) was vacationing on Puerto Rico so there was no one to tell the trauma team that my dad is DNR and the protocol when a patient comes in having seizures is to intubate to ensure a patent airway.

Yesterday, exactly one week later, Dad woke up again. He was extubated this morning. He’s very weak, but he knew where he was, and he knew all of us. He also ate ice chips, a cup of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, Jello, and a ¾ of a bowl of chicken broth. The plan is to get him out of bed tomorrow. We’re going to take it from there.

So driving home I thought about my dad and this column and I thought about the portrayal of infirmity and illness in the super hero world. I had plenty of time because I again got stuck driving north on the Turnpike between Exit 7 and Exit 8A – a stretch of about 21 miles – in bumper-to-bumper, crawling traffic. It’s a section of the iconic NJ Turnpike that has been undergoing reconstruction for the last three years or so, which makes it prone for Delays Ahead: Be Prepared To Stop alerts, and I swear I think people slam on their brakes just to read the signs. What is it about one fender-bender that causes miles and miles of back-up?

Anyway…

The first picture in my mind was of Silver Age Superman gasping and choking and weakened as the radiation from Kryptonite, usually held or manipulated by Lex Luthor – poisoned him, finally turning him as green as the Wicked Witch of the West, indicating that death was near, just in a few panels. Kryptonite worked fast, unlike what happens to ordinary humans when exposed to radiation. Ordinary humans, exposed to radiation, don’t even feel it at first. The amount of time between exposure and the first signs and symptoms depends on the amount of radiation that has been absorbed. The first thing that usually happens is nausea and vomiting; headache and fever can also occur. After that, an individual with radiation sickness can have a period of remission, in which there is no apparent illness and the individual feels fine. Then the more serious problems start: hair loss, weakness, dizziness, bloody stools and vomit, weight loss, low blood pressure, fucked-up blood counts, cancer….a slow, painful, and debilitating death.

I guess Superman puking and having bloody diarrhea and going bald, getting infections and cancer and dying a slow, painful, and debilitating death wouldn’t have gotten past the Comic Code Authority back in the day.

Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, shot by the Joker in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke (1988), was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair – but through the talents of ComicMix’s own John Ostrander and his late, wonderful wife, Kim Yale, we watched Barbara go forward with her life: although initially (and realistically) portrayed with a reactive depression, Barbara comes to see that her life is not over. Gifted with a genius level IQ, a photographic memory, and possessing expert computer skills (including hacking) along with graduate training in library sciences, Barbara transforms herself in Oracle, an “information broker” to law enforcement agencies and the super-hero community. She also hires Richard Dragon (co-created by ComicMix’s own Denny O’Neil), a martial artist, to teach her combat and self-defense skills.

Gail Simone took the ball that John and Kim handed her and ran with it in Birds Of Prey…until, after DC’s 52 reboot, Oracle never existed and Barbara was mysteriously back on her feet. This – rightfully, im-not-so-ho – pissed off a lot of fans, because Barbara Gordon as Oracle was the preeminent role model for those living with disabilities. However, Gail has done a magnificent job with the post-Oracle Batgirl, allowing the character to go through PTSD secondary to her disability and recovery – although, as we all know, DC seemed to have a problem with that a few months ago. Luckily, DC recovered from that particular illness.

And now Power Girl, a.k.a. Kara Zor-L, a.k.a. Karen Starr, has breast cancer. Although I’m sure the intentions of the creative team are good and positive and totally above-board (and I do hope none of the creative team has had any kind of personal experience with breast cancer), somehow the cynic in me is smirking. Maybe because Power Girl has always been drawn with gi-normous bubble boobs that burst out of her costume like Mt. St. Helens blowing their tops? It’s like Sharon Tate’s character in The Valley Of The Dolls getting breast cancer. (Google or read the book or stream/rent the movie to get the reference.) It’s saying that the one thing that lifts (pun intended) Power Girl out of the crowd of super heroines are her mammary glands, so let’s mess with those.

It would have been more interesting to me if Sue Storm got breast cancer, or Lois Lane (isn’t she dead?), or even Wonder Woman.

Or what if Reed Richards, or Johnny Storm, or Bruce Wayne, or Hal Jordan, got breast cancer? Men get breast cancer, too, you know. More and more frequently, by the way.

I just hope the creative team does it research. And not just solve the problem of “how do we treat a woman who has breast cancer if she’s indestructible?”

That’s just so comic-bookey.

Breast cancer is real. People can end up in the ICU, hoping to get better, fighting to get better.

Just like my dad.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

CHOOSE LADY ACTIONS NEXT ALIAS!

Vote now!

Over on the Captain Action Facebook page, Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto, the founders of Captain Action Enterprises and the fine folks behind the action figure line have posted a poll. For the upcoming Lady Action figure, what Marvel Heroine costume sets would you most like to see?

This is your chance to let them know what you’d like to see next.

Your vote counts.

Learn more about Captain Action at www.CaptainAction.com.

Mindy Newell: Trust Me, This Is About Comics. Really.

There’s a lot of hogwash being said by Republicans these days concerning women. Legitimate rape. (What the hell is that?) A woman has the ability to shut down her ovaries if she doesn’t want to get pregnant. (Gee, I wish I had known that.) Contraception should not be covered by health insurance. (But Viagra and other anti-erectile dysfunction drugs are.) A mother’s life is no longer at risk when pregnant, so an abortion to save her life is not necessary. (Placental abruption, preeclampsia, eclampsia, peripartum cardiomyopathy and other cardiac problems, thromboembolytic disease, diabetes, seizures, bleeding disorder, genetic disorders.) A woman has no right to equal pay for equal work. (She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Invisible Woman, have you checked your paychecks lately?) Women in binders. (Nobody puts Baby in a binder.)

I personally cannot understand any woman voting the Republican ticket right now. Which got me to wondering…

What side of the aisle do some of the women of comics sit on?

Lois Lane: Journalistic integrity is her middle name. I imagine Lois being a frequent guest on MSNBC, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, as well as having guest-hosted SNL more than once. She’s also friends with Joan Walsh of Salon.com, Maureen Down and Gail Collins of the New York Times, Candy Crowley and Christine Amanpour of CNN, not to mention Andrea Mitchell, Katie Couric, and Rachel Maddow. Voted for Hillary Clinton in 2008, proud of Hillary’s work as Secretary of State, and a strong supporter of Barak Obama. Decision: Registered Democrat.

Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel): Hmm, this is a tough one. Given her Air Force brat upbringing and her own service in the United States Air Force, the natural inclination is that Carol is a staunch Republican, as the Republicans have long been believed to be the stronger party on defense. However, Carol’s heroes are Amelia Earheart, Jacqueline Cochrane, Geraldlyn Cobb, Sally Ride and now Colonel Jeannie Flynn Leavitt, the first female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and I can’t see her being behind the Republicans these days because of their stance on women and women’s rights when it comes to equal pay for equal work. And I’m positive she doesn’t want anyone sticking an ultrasound probe up her vagina if it’s not medically necessary. Still, I’m sure she’s voted Republican in the past. But I think she also admires Obama’s tough stance on terrorism and his ability to quietly and efficiently green-light the hunt for Bin Laden, which resulted in his (good riddance!) death; and although I think she’s confused about what happened in Libya (just like the rest of us), she knows that fuck-ups happen. Decision: Independent.

Susan Storm Richards (Invisible Woman): I’m sure Susan, along with her husband, is heavily invested in technology in the market, and I’m betting the Richards (not to mention the entire Fantastic Four team) lost mucho dineros in 2008 when the market crashed. Still, I bet her hubby sits on the boards of some of the major defense contractor industries, such as General Electric, JPL, and Boeing. Still, while her husband may be strongly pro-Wall Street and a staunch Republican, I’m thinking they have a marriage like James Carville and Mary Matalin, only in reverse, with Susan, with her strong feelings about women’s rights, especially equal pay for equal work and pro-choice advocacy, working behind the scenes for Obama, throwing fundraisers and donating money. Decision: Democrat.

Wonder Woman: This one is easy for me, since I believe Wonder Woman is firmly against abortion. Not that she can vote, since she’s only got a green card (I presume.) Decision: Republican.

Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk): Jennifer is a lawyer. She’s probably met Elena Kagan and Sandra Day O’Conner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she knows Gloria Allred, Judge Judy, and Nancy Grace. I’m thinking she believes in the idea of the Constitution as a living document, able to mature and grow, so she’s s definitely not a fan of Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, or Robert Bork. Chief Justice Roberts’s decision on the Affordable Health Care Act as constitutional probably surprised her as well as everybody else, knowing his legal record. I’m thinking that she believes Roe vs. Wade is now the de facto law of the land, so she would never work for a client who wants to overturn it, though I’m not sure if she’s pro-choice. I think she hates the way the Tea Party, which has been absorbed into the Republican Party, quotes the intents of the Founding Fathers as if they were there. She thinks Sarah Palin is a joke and feels sorry for John McCain, who ruined his long and honorable career by picking her as a running mate. (She would have voted for him otherwise.) Has voted Republican in the past, but leans Democrat these days. Decision: Registered Independent.

In closing, there’s terrific video over at Jezebel.com that I recommend every woman reading this to watch – and pull up a chair for the man (or men) in your life. It’ll make you laugh…

And think.

Oh, and for the record, I’m a registered Democrat.

As if you couldn’t guess.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten Watches Green Arrow

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis… We hope.

 

Emily S. Whitten: Marvel Civil War – Prose vs. Graphic Novel

When I heard Marvel’s Civil War was being adapted into a prose novel, I was delighted and intrigued. Civil War is one of my favorite comic book crossovers for several reasons. One is that this is a crossover in which every character has a legitimate reason to be involved. I don’t like it when companies do crossovers for the sake of crossovers – to drive up sales or reader interest or the like – but if the story would logically call for each character to get involved or take a stance, then a crossover can be amazingly interesting and engaging… and this one was.

Another is that along with epic fights and explosions, this conflict speaks to intellectual issues larger than the concerns of an individual protagonist – such as privacy and personal autonomy versus social responsibility and accountability – that are very relevant in the real world. Even though the plot includes a plethora of brawls and superhero disagreements, we also get to see the writer(s) interpreting how long-established characters would react to important social issues.

A third reason is that since the plot pits superheroes against superheroes (as opposed to solely super-villains), we get a story in which almost everyone, no matter which side of the conflict they’re on, is a sympathetic character. They’re mostly all admirable people and heroes, devoted to helping people for one reason or another. Thus the emotional impact of their conflicts with each other is much greater, particularly if you’re already a fan of, say, both Captain America and Iron Man, and were invested in both characters equally before the beginning of the story. The fact that the “villain” of the tale varies depending on which point of view you agree with, and sometimes depending on each particular action as both sides make mistakes, makes it a more substantive and thought-provoking read.

Civil War is about a world growing increasingly uncomfortable with super-powered vigilantes who are able to use their secret identities to dodge public accountability. In this atmosphere of distrust for the superhero community, a tragedy explodes when a group of young superheroes takes on more powerful villains on a reality show in hopes of filming a spectacular triumph and driving up ratings. Unfortunately, instead a villain’s explosive power annihilates 859 citizens in Stamford, Connecticut, including a school bus full of children. It’s a national tragedy that, despite other superheroes coming to help with the aftermath, pushes a bill Congress had already been considering, the Superhuman Registration Act, to the top of the government’s list of priorities. The Act requires metahumans to undergo registration and training with the government before being permitted to legally use their powers in public, and gives the government extremely broad (and often violent) powers of enforcement. After the Stamford tragedy, and with the support of Tony Stark, Iron Man, the Act is quickly pushed through and enacted into law.

All that government procedural stuff might sound a bit dry, but the result of the Act is a full-on war between two camps of superheroes (with the X-Men and a few others just hangin’ out like Switzerland) headed by the pro-Registration Iron Man, and the Anti-Registration (or pro-Privacy/Freedom, depending on your viewpoint) Captain America. At first glance, the sides chosen might seem counter-intuitive, given Iron Man’s love of keeping his affairs and intellectual property away from government control, and Cap’s history as a loyal soldier for Uncle Sam. But Iron Man is basing his actions on the various “optimal outcome” calculations of brainiac Mr. Fantastic and his own outlook as a “futurist,” with a goal of minimizing damage and upheaval; whereas Captain America starkly brings home his reasons for not rounding up a bunch of “different” people for regulation or imprisonment when he reminds everyone of, you know, that time he fought for the United States in a war against the Nazis because they did just that.

It’s a slightly extreme comparison (although at least Cap, unlike most people who bring up Nazis in an argument, was actually there), but even Spider-Man, while working with Tony on the Pro-Reg side, sees that parallel. Of course, once the lines are drawn, both sides struggle with their chosen stance, particularly as injuries and casualties begin piling up; and the fallout of the decisions made as the Act is being passed inform the rest of the story.

If you read the original crossover, you might be saying, “I know all this; why bother with the novel?” But the novel format generally allows for the most insight into characters’ thought processes, and in this book, Stuart Moore opens a door to a better understanding of many characters’ motivations than we might have gained from the graphic version. Thanks to the format he is also able to present characters’ private insights into the personalities of their fellows, such as when we hear Sue Richards’ internal perspective of her husband’s choices and actions, or Tony Stark’s private musings about Peter Parker.

I also noticed that I had a stronger distaste or admiration for certain characters after reading Moore’s prose interpretation than when I read the original crossover (man, did this story make me want to punch Stark in the face) because the prose format is immersive and excellent for drawing readers in emotionally. The flip side of this, of course, is that I did miss the visual impact of a couple of the most moving scenes in, for example, the Spider-Man graphic novel storyline, even though Moore does a good job with them; but I think it’s an even tradeoff (and a fine reason to read both versions, if you liked the original story).

Conversely, if you’ve never read Civil War or are looking for a good read that will introduce you to many of the key characters in the Marvel Universe, this book would be a great choice. Moore’s adaptation efficiently orients readers to the characters and situation. With a pretty massive ensemble cast, he manages to provide enough details about each successive character for us to know where they stand and why we should care while almost entirely avoiding awkward information dumps. He also quickly sets the scene via the book’s shifting character perspectives (namely Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-man, and the Invisible Woman). Although occasionally the sentences get a little stilted as Moore translates a fight scene that could be viewed in three graphic panels into several pages of text (and I would vote for not italicizing actions like punches in future adaptations), Moore does a solid job of conveying the action from those information-packed images into something the prose reader can follow – not a simple task. The story is cohesive and easy to get into, even with the changing perspectives. It definitely kept my attention and made me eager to read on, even though I already knew the general plot.

I did have a few complaints that come primarily from this being an adaptation of the graphic version – first among those being that I missed the characters who didn’t show up here. For instance, I didn’t really expect to see Deadpool (sadly), but didn’t Cable have a decent-sized part in the original story? And what happened to the Iron Fist/Daredevil subplot? I also would have liked to have seen more of the X-Men and other groups or characters. I know exactly why Moore and Marvel didn’t include them – because the ensemble is already pretty big, and they were presumably aiming for one cohesive, comprehensible, and reasonably-sized book to kick off their new prose novel line. That’s fine, and they succeeded. But I would have happily read, say, a three-part prose series of this storyline if it meant even more focused character perspectives (She-Hulk? Ms. Marvel? Cloak and Dagger could have made for some fun reading) and fringe characters making (justified) appearances. The more rich and in-depth a prose story is, the better. Just something to think about for next time, Marvel.

I also felt that the ending was a bit weak, particularly as it leaves out a key closing event in the graphic novel storyline (as well as any mention of Penance, although really I didn’t miss that too much). I suspect the choice to not end the story in death was made to avoid going out on a down note – but the impact of (SPOILER WARNING) this story thread and the character reaction in this scene on how one views the overall story that came before, and the characters in the aftermath, is huge; and to me, that, not where the government or superheroes end up going from there, is the close to this chapter in Marvel history.

However, don’t take my few small criticisms to mean I didn’t really enjoy the book. For a prose adaptation of a major Marvel storyline, it’s excellent. Moore did a stellar job with a complicated text, and through his own interpretation made this novel an excellent companion to the graphic crossover or a great stand-alone way to get into the Marvel universe. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and would certainly recommend it. And I look forward to seeing what prose novel they come out with next.

So go out there and give it a try. And until next time, Servo Lectio!

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold, Creators’ Rights, and One Big Wrong

 

MINDY NEWELL: Character

What goes into making a memorable character for a story?

According to Lawrence Block, author of over one hundred novels and recipient of the Grand Master award from the Mystery Writers of America, they must be three things: plausible, sympathetic, and original.

I think that’s a damn good definition of what makes a character real. Except that I think Mr. Block used the wrong word. It’s not “sympathetic,” it’s “empathetic.” Now, sympathy and empathy are kissing cousins, but sympathy, I think, allows the individual to separate from the character just a bit, to feel for the character while still allowing for some separation – six degrees of separation, if you will. Empathy, on the other hand causes the individual to feel with the character– it’s the recognition of self in someone else.

Without that recognition, without that empathy, the character is in danger of falling flat, of eliciting a “who cares?” response. The great characters are empathetic – Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With The Wind, the Joad family (especially Tom and “Ma”) of The Grapes Of Wrath, Vito and Michael Coreleone of The Godfather, Caleb Trask of East Of Eden, Joe and Kirsten Clay of Days Of Wine And Roses, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, King George VI in The King’s Speech.

In comics there is Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and his sister, Death, the X-Men’s Max Eisenhardt/Erik Lensherr/Magneto and Jean Grey/Phoenix (Dark and “Light”), Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson, Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman. Of course there are more; I just chose those characters that appeared at the top of my head as I write this. You will have your own characters that engender empathy.

Originality is hard.  The history of storytelling begins when our ancestors first sat down around the fire and told tales to ward off the dark night. The history of storytelling is ripe with heroes and villains, love and betrayal, valor and cowardice. Originality, I think, comprises the total picture. As Block says in his book Telling Lies For Fun And Profit, “it’s not the quirks that make an enduring character, but the essential personality which the quirks highlight.” In other words, and like I said, it’s the whole picture, the complete character or individual that makes him or her an original.

Norma Desmond’s quirk is her inability to adjust to age and talkies, to realize and accept that time, and Hollywood, has marched on. Tom Joad’s quirk is his inability to accept injustice, even if it causes him to murder, which he sees as no injustice. Vito Coreleone’s quirk is to see the world as an “us against them” scenario, to nurture the family while attacking the world. Michael Coreleone’s quirk is to talk of love and loyalty to the family while he destroys it.  Swamp Thing’s quirk is that he is a plant trying to be a man. And Death loves life, even as she takes it away.

Plausibility allows the reader to suspend his or her disbelief, to accept that the actions of the character are true and real and acceptable. Now in comics, of course, plausibility is a two-edged sword. Of course we know that nobody can fly; nobody is invulnerable or runs at supersonic speed; no one can turn invisible or survive the explosion of a gamma bomb (except Bruce Banner, of course!) But as readers of superhero comics, we willingly suspend our disbelief, the implausibility of the character, before we even open the book. Why? Well, I think it has something to do with the capturing of our imagination, the “what if?” factor that I wrote about several months ago. But I also think that the other factors mentioned above play a role in our acceptance of Superman or Rogue. Empathy: “I get it. I know what it’s like to be Rogue, to be unable to really touch someone, to really get close to someone.” Or “Yeah, sometimes I feel like Kal-El, a stranger in a strange land.”

I watched Game Change on HBO. The movie is based on Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, by John Heilemann of New York magazine and Mark Halperin of Time. Both men are seasoned politically analysts, and their book, which was released on January 11, 2010, is an inside look at the Presidential campaign of 2008. The HBO movie focuses on Palin, played by Julianne Moore, from the moment the McCain campaign decides to ask her to be his running mate to Obama’s running mate.

The movie is riveting. Moore buries herself completely into the role, and I’m guaranteeing right now that she wins an Emmy for her performance. Sarah Palin is, without a doubt, love her or hate her, an original. She is empathetic – and sympathetic – as she works to maintain her sense of self and, love them or hate them, her own beliefs against the McCain and Republican political machinery.

But is she plausible? The movie shows that, as far as being capable of being “one heartbeat away from the Presidency,” Palin was an implausible candidate. But don’t tell that to the huge – and I mean huge – groundswell of love and support she engendered.

Yesterday afternoon I went to my local comic book store, Vector Comics, to pick up my haul. Joe and Tina, the terrific and wonderful owners of the shop, were busy with other customers, so I browsed through the stacks to see if anything not on my list that caught my interest. (Actually, almost everything piques my appetite, and if I allowed myself to buy everything I want, I couldn’t pay the rent!)

Know what I found? The Sarah Palin comic from Bluewater Comics.

What a character!

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

 

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Fantastic Flop – How I’d Reboot Marvel’s First Family

So I found myself with a bit of time to kill while my wife and mother-in-law went out and about for lunch. My week-old son and I decided it was time to enjoy a bit of cable TV goodness. A quick surf left with me few options. Food Network was showing yet-another cupcake show… USA was playing that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where his wife is a shrew and his mother annoys him, and TBS was on Tyler Perry’s Black People Watch Everything I Put Out, Not That It’s Good. And FX? Callooh-Callay! They had on the Fantastic Four movie from a few years back. Given that I was still sporting half a nerd-boner for the Super Bowl Avengers spot, and the recent web-release of The Amazing Spider-Man trailer, FF seemed like the perfect way to wet my whistle for a bit of comic goodness.

Granted, I’ve seen the movie a few times. Saw it opening weekend, and didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it either, but somehow, it was one of those guilty “Hey, if it’s on, it’s really not that bad is it?” pleasures. A few hours later, my favorite ladies returned to a house with both their boys rife with a case of the cranky pants. I’m pretty sure my son Bennett had pooped himself. I didn’t have a mess in my trousers, but I had a tear in my eye. Seems I crossed that threshold where the movie stopped being “worth” the free cable viewing, and slid right into “Good lord, people paid money for this crap?” zone.

I could spend the remainder of this column dissecting how putrid the FF movie ended up being. But it’s old-hat, right? So, why not make this a turn for the positive. I’d like to outline four things Marvel can do to reboot the familial franchise into something… dare I say… more fantastic.

1. Explore the emotional origins as well as the basic plot points. We all know the bullet points by now, don’t we? On an outer space adventure… they got hit by cosmic rays. And that moment changed forever… in the most fantastic ways. No need to fear, their here… just call the four! Sorry, it was a damn catchy theme song. Suffice to say, the rocket ride with Kirby dots isn’t ALL that the origin of the FF is. You have romance between Sue and Reed. You have Ben, the stalwart pilot. Johnny, the joker, and comic relief. While these points were hit on in the last iteration, we miss the history. Use flashbacks (ala Batman Begins) to enhance our emotional ties to the characters. It’s not a race to the whiz-bang-special effects, when you have solid characterization. And each of the Four present a solid opportunity for fun beats.

2. Ditch the “We’re learning to use our powers until it matters at the end” montage. Face it. What killed Green Lantern (OK, one of the things that killed it…) was the age-old power development plot line. A solid 45 minutes of the last FF movie spent time building the revolvers it would later shoot at the movie’s climax. It’s just not needed. When you cross over into the sci-fi, plausibility takes a backseat to adventure. If we took time to dissect the fact that Luke Skywalker was able to get a shot into a teeny hole on a battle station that decimated nearly all of his backup (who were all far more experienced fighter pilots)… we’d go mad. Once you accept that “Comic Rays” can turn one man into a walking pilot light, and another into silly putty, you don’t need to spend an hour back-peddling to make us “believe” they’ll know what to do when it’s clobbering time.

3. The big villain? Mole Man. Follow me down the rabbit hole if you will. Batman Begins took a venerable B-Lister in Ra’s Al Ghul as its first antagonist. It was a smart choice. As Nolan said in countless interviews, the villain suits the arc the hero takes across the movie. In Spider-Man 2 (easily the best of Raimi’s Marvel contributions), we got a brilliant update on a pretty mort-worthy villain. And because Peter was learning to have balance in his life during the course of the movie, Doc Oc was a perfect foil. The Fantastic Four have a pretty decent rogues gallery. It’s easy to want to jump immediately to Doom or Galactus. But the first in a franchise needn’t aim so high. In both cases, those villains would outshine the stars of the film. First and foremost, it’s the FF that people should be ooohing and aaahing over. With Mole Man you have an obvious foe who will test the Four and their ability to become this odd family unit of world-savers. The villain fits the arc, as it were. Plus, it gives us a chance to recreate that iconic first issue cover on the big screen. And you know that’d be the bee’s knees.

4. Casting. Most every comic book film lands an amazing cast… even if they don’t get utilized properly. I didn’t hate anyone in the last FF iteration per say, but let’s be honest – Ioan Gruffudd looked OK but lacked the cockiness-by-way-of-supreme-intelligence. Jessica Alba was there for eye-candy only. Chris Evans stole the show, Michael Chiklis looked the part, but had no Yancy Street swagger. Ole’ Blue Eyes needs have a definitive balance between boisterous banter and tragic pathos. Some of this could easily be the scripting, but let’s say I was a casting agent? I’d cast accordingly: Jon Hamm as Mr. Fantastic. Uma Thurman as Sue Storm. Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as Johnny Storm. And Brendan Fraser as Ben Grimm. Hamm can pull off “the smartest man in the room, with ease. Thurman is equally weighted when on screen (and can pull off shorter hair, and heroic). Paul can sling insults, and certainly could look the part… And Fraser, who I know most would say is a stretch, is built big, can pull off a New York accent, and has more potential than most nerds give him credit for. And as my Mole Man? Paul Giamatti. He’s damn good in everything.

So there you have it. I know a new FF movie is already in the works… here’s hoping someone over at Marvel is trolling my articles, and a few of my hopes and dreams gets swept into the pre-production fracas. What do you think? Voice your opinion below, true believers!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MICHAEL DAVIS Is Bringing Sexy Back

I am far from being a prude.

In fact, I’m so far away from being a prude the next level in my open mindedness would be to become a prude.

I’ve met a lot of prudes in my life and nothing makes a prude more prudish than their views on sex.

Me? As long as it does not include kids or animals I say what ever floats your boat sexually, have at it. You would have to be into some sick shit (kids, animals, Republicans) to disgust me.

I’m not quite at the point that I’m disgusted by the depiction of some women in superhero comics but I’m far from all right with it and have not been all right with it for a while now. It’s just a real turn off to me and it’s also one of the reasons a lot of people still think comics are juvenile fare at best.

The depiction of super titty women is not something I consider as important to be concerned about like some sicko who’s into gerbil love or some other crazy action.  I guess for the most part absolutely unrealizable depictions of women with breasts as big as a weather balloons is harmless, except for giving young men a bullshit unrealistic view of women and demeaning women in all sorts of ways. But other than that, it’s harmless.

But-that does seem to be what the audience wants, though it seems to me the 38 double-D tits, tiny waist and banging booty that appear to be the preeminent portrayal of women in comics is just silly in this day and age. Yeah, I can hear the decades old ridiculous argument “they are drawn that way for the 15-year-old boy audience.”

Really? So those 15-year old boys are not into the guys in tights that beat up on other guys in tights, which is the reason most superhero comics exist?  So doing away with the big titty women would result in those 15-year old boys no longer reading about the men in tights who like to pound other men in tights?

Oh, wait a sec.

Perhaps the reason for the big titty women is to insure that no conservative family value group complains that comics are nothing but guys in tights pounding each other.

That can’t happen. It would destroy the sanity of marriage.

So I guess we are stuck with the 15-year-old boy defense for the reason that big titty superhero women are on the rag…I mean all the rage!

Heh.

That defense is weaker than OJ’s but it’s working just as well I guess. It’s the cop out of all cop-outs and artists who spin that line are just wrong or really horny.

I mean really.

The only thing that’s possibly worst than comic’s big titty women are the big titty women in some video games. Have you seen Catwoman in Mortal Combat VS. The DC Universe? She looks like a porn star that has seen way too many one eyed monsters. I mean…damn.

I often wonder what the wives and girlfriends of the artists who draw big titty super women think. But then again, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe most of these guys have no wife or girlfriend. Maybe they just need to get laid.

Well if that’s the case I’m not here to judge, I’m here to help. Follow the steps below and your pent up frustrations will soon be a thing of the past.

Step 1. Go to a bar.

Step 2: Buy the ugliest or the fattest girl a drink or seven.

Step 3. Get real drunk yourself.

Step 4. Take her home.

Step 5. Tap that.

Note: for even faster action, buy a fat and ugly girl the drinks.

This works. Trust me. How do I know? It’s in the Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain handbook and just look how much tail those guys are getting.

On the very, very slim chance there is a woman artist out there drawing big titty women in comics the followings are steps that you can use to get laid.

Step 1. Go to a bar

Step 2. Look for the guy trying to get a fat or ugly woman (or both) drunk.

Step 3. Go up to him and just say “yes.”

Step 4. Let him take you home and “tap that.”

Step 5. In about two minutes after he is “tapped out,” leave and go home and work.

By the way, shame on you for being such a slut.

Look, kidding aside, I’m a big a fan of big titty women with tiny waist and banging booty as the next guy but I prefer real and not plastic.

That’s the problem with the way some artists depict woman. Their depictions just do not ring true.

Yes, I know that neither does a guy who comes from another planet and can bend steel in his bare hands and who, disguised as Clark Kent is tapping the ass of one of the few female characters who is not a big titty woman. I know that does not ring true either but that’s a non-truth I can live with.

The new guys would do well to take a page from some of the masters of comic book art. They took the time and effort to draw women with grace, style and attitude and those women were hot!

Gwen Stacy as drawn by John Romita Sr. is the hottest comic book woman character ever created bar none.

Who’s hotter? Nobody.

Gwen Stacy was not a superhero but she was still a piece of ass to beat any other piece of ass.

Female agents of SHIELD as drawn by Jim Steranko – hot!!! Nick Fury’s girlfriend Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine as drawn by Jim was sexy beyond words.

Jack Kirby’s Sue Storm was so fine that she was my second pretend girlfriend. The first was Gwen Stacy and the third was Laurie Partridge.

Yeah, I had a thing for white girls. I had to have a thing for white girls; there were no black women in comics or on TV for my 10-year-old self to develop a crush on.

I’m proud to say as a proud African American man, all my crushes now are of women of color…Asian.

What?

I don’t expect anything to change anytime soon with regards to super big titty woman but maybe some artist will read this and check out how the greats did women.

Give that a sec.

You know, if those comic book artists who draw those outlandish women  would simply draw less big titty women the big titty women they did draw would become that much more of a  sex symbol because she would be rare.

That would be sexy.

I miss you Gwen Stacy. I’m sad that the Green Goblin broke your neck.

That sucked.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold

MINDY NEWELL: To Love, Honor, And Cherish Until Death – Or Editorial Decision – Do Us Part

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that my daughter, Alixandra Gould – yes, she’s keeping her name – married the love of her life, Jeffrey Christopher Gonzalez, last week. (A big thank you! to Mike Gold for posting a beautiful column last week that I posted on Facebook, then e-mailed to every single person I’ve ever met just to make sure they read it, and which Alix and Jeff thought was terrifically cool.) So of course I decided to write about superhero marriages this week. Not a big leap, is it?

I just finished googling “superhero marriages.” There were “about” 7,750,000 hits in 0.23 seconds, the most recent being a slide show in the Huffington Post posted only four days ago – well, five days ago since this appears on Monday – on November 9, 2011 titled “Comic Book Weddings: 8 Of Our Favorite Superhero Weddings.” In order, they are (1) Spider-Man, a.k.a. Peter Parker, and Mary Jane Watson in 1987’s The Amazing Spider-Man Giant Annual; (2) 1962’s The Incredible Hulk #319 in which Bruce Banner and Betty Ross’ nuptials are interrupted by a “special guest”; (3) The X-Men’s Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Jean Grey (Phoenix) in 1994; (4) Wonder Woman in her eponymous title married Mr. Monster in 1965 – ‘nuff said!; (5) Aquaman and Mera in Aquaman #18, 1964; (6) “Death Waits to Kiss the Bride” screamed the cover of Lois Lane #128 in 1972 – featuring the now iconic picture of Superman holding somebody’s dead body; (7) The Flash races down the altar to stop Iris West from marrying the wrong Barry Allen in The Flash #165, 1966; and (8) Wonder Girl, a.k.a. Donna Troy, marries Terry Long in Tales Of The Teen Titans #50, 1985.)

How did they miss Reed Richards and Sue Storm Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic and The Invisible Woman? Im-not-so-ho, Reed and Sue are the most realistically portrayed marriage “pros” in the comics universe.

The couple married in 1965, making this year the 46th anniversary of their being a Mr. and Mrs. (They look pretty damn remarkable, don’t they? Must be all those visits to the Negative Zone.) Down through the years, Reed and Sue “have and held, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” and have loved and cherished each other through everything the Marvel Universe could and continues to throw at them, including “real life” curves like a miscarriage, potential affairs, political differences, and a brother’s death.

Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson came pretty close in matching the Richards’ record – not in years married, but in a realistic view of marriage – but then Marvel decided to “disappear” their relationship. Clark Kent and Lois Lane had a wonderful thing going, too, but DC recently terminated without prejudice that couple, too.

And what the hell happened to Scott and Jean?

Jean Loring, the wife of Ray Palmer (The Atom) has a “mental breakdown” and goes on a rampage, killing Sue Dibny, the wife of the Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny), in one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve ever seen in any comic.

Betty Banner, wife of Bruce Banner (The Hulk) was abused, suffered miscarriages, was turned into a harpy, and died. She got better and turned red.

Shayera Hall, Hawkwoman, dead.

I’m sure glad Jeff isn’t a superhero.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: “Super-heroines,” Get Back In The Kitchen!

So after a few weeks of daydreaming and being all cutesy-wootsie, I figure it’s about time I stir the pot a little. Let me get behind this wire mesh wall, force field, and don some protective gear. There. Safe and secure. Ahem…

Marvel’s female superheroes suck.

Don’t believe me? OK. Name the first few Marvel superheroes that come to mind. I’ll give you a minute. Who did you say…Spider-Man? Thor? Captain America? How about Iron Man? Hmm. No double X chromosomes there. The last big event to revolve around a woman? Oh yeah! House of M. The one where Marvel showed that a chick who ain’t barefoot and preggers goes crazy and resets the universe at will. Now there’s a feather in a feminists’ cap.

When I say “important women of Marvel,” aren’t they are always the yin to the yang of a more powerful man? Pepper Potts. Sorry Matt Fraction, you can put a repulsor in her chest, you can give her a code name, but she’s still just Tony’s secretary. Mary Jane Watson-Parker-Watson-by-way-of-a-retcon? Face it tiger, she’s just there to fall off buildings. Maria Hill? Nick Fury’s assprint hadn’t even cooled off before she was ousted back down to who-cares-ville. And when we open the discussion to those ladies who carry the hero badge? It doesn’t get any better.

Sue Storm, the matriarch of the Future Foundation. The soul of the Fantastic Four. Completely boring and useless without her husband. The best writers of Sue have always pegged her as a strong and independent woman. But take her away from Reed, Ben, or the children and the only bullet point left on her resume is part-time booty call for Namor.

Black Widow: slut with guns. How about Ms. Marvel? I’ll be completely honest. I don’t know a thing about her. Best I could tell? She was brought in because Marvel has no Wonder Woman, so they threw her on the Avengers. Beyond that I assume they keep her around because cute girls can show off their butts by cosplaying as her. What of the X-Men? Well, Jean Grey has died only 17 times, and has changed names to various permutations of “Phoenix,” all to what effect? She’s Cyclop’s gal. She maybe did Wolvie in a closet while Slim was waxing his car. And in the Ultimate Universe, maybe she did Charles too.

Let’s not forget Storm. She was married off to Black Panther so they could make super-black-babies that will invariably land on some future iteration of the X-Avengers. Not because they’ll be well written mind you… but they will add that “affirmative action” flavor John Stewart was used for back in the JLA.

I say this obviously not just to be cranky. I openly yell to the heavens for someone to come in and make the women matter again. Joss Whedon put Kitty Pride and the White Queen front and center in his amazing run on Astonishing X-Men. More than that, he made them more than worthless eye-candy in butt floss. He gave them dimension, and class. They weren’t in peril for perils’ sake.

Given Whedon’s pedigree for good female characterization, it didn’t come as a surprise. Whedon aside, other Marvel writers certainly have the know-how. Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathon Hickman are all amazing writers who know the ins and out of nuance. They’ve each made the females in their books (yes that includes Pepper in the aforementioned Iron Man series) very potent. But my gripe remains the same.

It’s not enough to write a woman as powerful, smart, and put-together. It’s the act of writing them as such that they are more than decoration. Throughout Marvel’s recent history, it’s been a literal boys-club. Civil War? Captain America and Iron Man fighting in the sandbox. Secret War? An excuse to make Norman Osbourn king of the playground – until sales dipped, and people stopped caring. And now we have Fear Itself, which as far as I can tell is only an excuse to half-kill Thor, and dress everyone up in Tron-stripes.

I yearn just once to have a female character in any of these situations stand up and set the world straight. Not to say it’s happened in the DC ever… but I actually believe Marvel has the smarts to actually do it. In this day and age where the DCnU turns Starfire and Catwoman into sultry sluts with no character trait beyond their cup size… I look to the House of Ideas to set the industry right.

When DC was making up Kryptonite and the color yellow the ultimate weapons against its heroes, Marvel figured out that debt, responsibility, and a guilty conscience was far better. Let us hope that in the coming times, they take the next step and realize that women are more than tits and tiny costumes. They are the fairer sex, the stronger characters, and perhaps the last untouched resource for superior fiction.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander