I read at other times, of course. But books, unlike humans, are always there for me. Books don’t move away, die, or vote for Trump.
I bring this up because it’s part of my New Year’s resolution.
All of us, no matter who we might be, occasionally feel like we don’t fit in. We aren’t cool enough, or we have a funny name. We might be too fat or too thin, too tall or too short, too rich or too poor. We could be too dark or too fair. We might speak differently than other people. We might be too butch or too femme, too queer or too straight, too old or too young. We might be too nerdy or too much of a jock. We might feel so different from everybody else that we don’t even have the words to describe all the ways in which we feel different.
There is no doubt in my mind that this has been true throughout recorded human history. However, modern technology makes it easier to track this phenomenon and quantify its dangers.
At the same time, there are ever newer and more technologically advanced ways to bully the kids who are most vulnerable.
When I was a girl, I often felt like the odd person out. I was too much in my head, worrying about how I appeared to other people, if they could see through me and knew what a sham I really was. At the same time, I felt like no one saw the real me, and I might go through life without ever being loved or accepted.
Naturally, I loved Supergirl.
The Supergirl of my youth was not the glamorous character you see on The CW every week. She was a girl with mousy brown braids (like mine!) who lived in an orphanage, with no one to confide in but her cat and her robot double hidden in a tree. When her cousin, Superman, finally revealed her existence to the world and she was applauded, I felt like that applause was a little bit for me.
Teaching children the value of reading is a wonderful thing. It’s a tool they can use to get them through their entire lives.
I don’t mean “value” in terms of money or career potential, although I am in favor of both cash and jobs. I mean that the entertainment, comfort and contentment that curling up with a book is even more valuable than dollars. Somewhere in the world, there is a novel or a series of personal essays that articulates how we feel. When we find that book, we feel understood.
I resolve to share my love of reading with kids who really need it.
So, how will I carry out this resolution? It would be lovely if each of us had the time and resources to reach out to as many young people as possible and teach them how much pleasure they can get from reading. Alas, that is not always true. Still, there are lots of other things we can do.
Do you have a few free hours? You could volunteer at your local library. What better way to share a love of reading than by directly modeling it in your own community.
Pressed for time and space? You can give your old books to charities that will distribute them to where they are most needed.
For better or worse, the books that are the most comforting to children and young adults are most likely to be the ones targeted by free speech antagonists. If I were the kind of person to believe in convoluted conspiracies, I might think that those in charge don’t want a citizenry that is self-confident, engaged and able to think for themselves. In any case, it is important for people all over the world to find those books that speak to them. Therefore, I’m going to continue to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. They’ve done good work for decades, but in the past few years, they’ve really upped their game in terms of making graphic novels available for schools.
In 2017, I resolve to do more of this. I urge you to consider doing the same.
“I’ll make it.” • Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis) • Hoosiers (1986)
Wow. Two weeks. That’s a long time to wait with bated breath. My apologies to everyone who turned blue while waiting to find out if I had broken my ankles.
To reprise: A little more than two weeks ago, Wednesday July 9 to be exact, I fell down the last flight of stairs of my apartment building. Immediate, serious pain in both feet and ankles – my knees weren’t doing so great either. Afraid to move, I yelled for help, but nobody came – it was 6 in the morning – and as I reached for my cell phone…duh! I had left it upstairs. But somehow, whether it was through the surge of adrenalin rushing through my veins or just pure stubborn idiocy, I got up, gritted my teeth, and shuffled/hobbled to my car.
Just using the gas and brake pedals sent sharp knives up my legs, but I told myself that if any bones were broken I wouldn’t be able to be doing this. I didn’t drive to my local hospital though; I wanted to get to work where my friends were, who happened to be nurses, plus of course there would be doctors. I wasn’t thinking clearly, I just wanted someone to tell me that nothing was broken;
I had some crazy idea that I could stick my feet under the C-arm and have Fantastic Frank, as Stan Lee would say, X-ray technician extraordinaire, also as Stan would say, take a picture and ease my fears – or not. I don’t know why I didn’t just go straight to the ER at the hospital across the street – it’s a Level One trauma center, and I had visions of sitting there all day while other, more seriously ill and wounded people were seen and attended to; and let’s face it, I didn’t want to know that I had broken anything, because I was supposed to fly out to Indianapolis on Friday – the day after tomorrow at the time – for the wedding of my cousin, Delightful Devin to his beautiful Marvelous Maria, as Stan would describe them.
See, I kept remembering a tale my brother had told me about how one autumn morning he and a bunch of his fellow residents were out having a game of touch football, and how one of the guys fell and was moaning and clutching his leg and saying that he had broken it, and how my brother and his band of merry medical men jeered him, saying “don’t be a baby, get up, walk it out,” and how they made this poor guy play out the rest of the game before taking him to the ER, where they all discovered that, yes, indeed, the guy had broken his leg.
So I was a mess, physically and emotionally.
But as I was laying on a stretcher in our Post-Anesthesia Care Unit – PACU, otherwise known as the Recovery Room – and realizing that the ice pack and cold soda cans weren’t do a thing, and that the pain was getting worse, not better, I admitted to myself that I was being really stupid, because the only way I was going to know if I had broken any part of my ankles or feet would be courtesy of an examination in the ER….
…where I discovered, that regardless of whether or not my bones were broken, I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I wouldn’t be getting on any plane in less than 48 hours…
…because the second worse thing happened on that fucked-upmiserable day:
My driver’s license wasn’t in my wallet!
Where the fuck was it!
Shit! Shit! Shit!
By the time I was admitted and seen (by a fabulous, young, handsome physician) and told that I wouldn’t need X-rays, that I just had majorly “soft tissue damage” to my ankles and feet, i.e, really bad sprains, and was discharged with the usual instructions about ice and heat and elevate and to “try to walk normally so nothing stiffens up,” all I could think about was oh my fucking god how the hell am I gonna get on the airplane for the wedding?
I was desperate. No, I was beyond desperate; I was a madwoman.
That afternoon I tore the house apart looking for my license. Then I called the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles; hell, I even went there – I swallowed three Advils before leaving the house – and, yes, I was trying to “walk normally so nothing stiffens up.” I brought everything I could think of to identify myself, including the driver’s license renewal form I had just received in the mail and my passport – which expired four years ago and of which the DMV informed me that the cut-off date for expired passports as identification is three years – and for my troubles the bitch at the DMV sneered after explaining my situation to her: “Well, I guess you’re just shit of luck.”
I should have reported her. But I was tired, my feet and ankles were really, really hurting me despite the Advils, so I just left.
Aside: Will someone please explain to me why the New Jersey DMV cannot simply look up your credentials via computer, including your picture, especially when you’re 61 and have been a licensed driver since the age of 17? Will someone please explain to my why the New Jersey DMV sends renewal forms – generated by computer – to licensed drivers but still requires six million forms of ID when you go to renew your license?
Aside continued: Especially when, after getting home and calling the Department of Homeland Security and finding out that yes, I should be able get on the plane even though I had lost my driver’s license because they could, by searching the system – looking up on their computers – identify Mindy Newell as a born and bred citizen of the United States with no stains on her record and not on any “No-Fly” list. And by the way, the person I spoke to at the DHS was really nice – she didn’t say, “Well, I guess you’re just shit of luck.”
Still, I was worried about my driver’s license. My writer’s imagination took over. What if someone had stolen it out of my wallet, and what if that someone was a terrorist/jihadist, and what if he or she used my driver’s license for some nefarious and horrible deed? Yeah, I went straight to that – never mind using my license to get into my bank accounts and screwing up my credit and finances.
I finally laid down and elevated my feet and put one of those gel ice packs on my ankles; I also lit a candle, and this nice Jewish girl said a prayer to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things and lost causes. (I asked him to help me even though I’m Jewish, “because your boss was.”) And I threw in some Wiccan blessings, too.
Well, let me tell you, this Jewess’s prayers were answered.
Though not right away.
By Thursday my feet and ankles were black and blue and swollen, but by walking carefully (though “normally”) I could get around okay. Though more than once I stepped the wrong way and OWWWWWW! But still no license. I was very depressed and worried; called ye old editor Mike for some cheering up and a pep talk. It helped…some. (No offense to Mike.)
Thursday night. No license. I had just sent off the column you read two weeks ago. Then I noticed my checkbook, lying on the radiator cover that is next to my computer. What was it doing there? I picked it up. And something – or someone? St. Anthony? – made me open it.
There it was.
My driver’s license.
I don’t know how the hell it ended up inside my checkbook.
“Hey, St. Anthony,” I said. “It’s me again. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
On Friday the only trouble I had at the airport was lagging way behind Alix, Jeff, and my grandson as we walked to the gate. Oh, and security did check my ace bandages for, I guess, any hidden weapons. They didn’t make me unwrap them; just ran a metal detector or something over them. So while so many of you were fulfilling your dream of attending the San Diego Comic-Con two weeks ago, I was in Indianapolis, that fair city, at the wedding of Delightful Devin and Marvelous Maria (as Stan would say), and telling everyone was a great guy good ol’ St. Anthony is.
Or maybe it was the Wiccan blessings?
• • • • •
And to bring this back to comics…I read Ed Catto’s column (She Made Me Do It! Fangirls Lead The Way at San Diego!) with interest and delight. It’s so gratifying to know that women are standing up and proudly proclaiming their fangirl status and being noticed and appreciated.
Back in the dark ages (the ‘80s) when I first became a professional writer at DC, I was so innocent of the “old boys club” in the comics world that I had no idea that it was considered weird for a woman to love comics and/or to write them. Besides, there was my editor, Karen Berger, our own Martha Thomases, and so many other women at DC; and over at Marvel there was Louise Simonson and Jo Duffy and Bobby Chase, just to mention three. So I walked around the halls of DC for a very, very long time before it dawned on me that I was “unusual” in any way – to me it was just about loving the medium, it had nothing to do with gender. And when I went to conventions, I met plenty of professional women creators: Kim Yale, Joyce Brabner, Colleen Doran, Jan Dursema, Trina Robbins, Jill Thompson, Wendy Pini, and so many others.
You want to know how innocent I was? When people – especially younger women–tell me that I was a “glass ceiling” breaker, or that I was an inspiration to them, I used to say “I was?” And not in any make-believe false modesty, either. I just didn’t get it.
Now I do.
But if I was, so then also were all the above and all the women who have worked in comics and newspaper strips and graphic novels and all “sequential storytelling and art” since the industry began.
In the early 1970s, when I was in college, I went to hear Gloria Steinem speak. The modern version of the feminism movement was still in its early stages. My memory of the talk is fuzzy, but I remember her recounting the reaction of men on the left to women’s issues:
“She walks! She talks! She gets down on there belly and slithers like a snake! It’s – a woman who thinks!”
That quote kept coming to my mind while watching She Makes Comics, a terrific new documentary directed by Marisa Stotter. I say “terrific” because it is a thorough overview of women who have worked in the comics industry, from newspaper strips to cosplay costumers. To quote from the promotional material: “Featuring dozens of interviews with such vital figures as Ramona Fradon, Trina Robbins, Joyce Farmer, Karen Berger, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Becky Cloonan, She Makes Comics is the first film to bring together the most influential women of the comics world.”
Unlike a lot of films about comics, this one looks at the entire industry. There are veterans of the early days, like Jackie Ormes and Ramona Fradon. There are the rebel women who rallied against the macho underground comics of the 1960s, like Trina Robbins and Joyce Farmer. There are retailers and cosplayers and journalists and academics. There is Karen Green from Columbia University, my current hero.
And yet, I was unsatisfied.
Maybe I’m too old for this (I say, like a cop in a buddy-cop movie). I’ve been having the conversation about women in comics with women in comics for nearly forty years now. Many of the women with whom I’ve had this conversation are in the movie, like Trina Robbins and Heidi MacDonald.
For most of those long decades, there have been many many many documentaries made that say, in essence, “Oh, look! Women can do this, too!” As an example, just a few years ago, there was The Girls in the Band, about women in jazz. It’s not a radical idea that women can be as creative and independent and talented (and venal and commercial and pretentious) as men.
Rather than an overview, I’d like to see more emphasis placed on people we don’t know as well. The filmmakers know this. In an interview with Stotter in Newsarama, she said:
“As we dove into the research, we found that there were actually far more women cartoonists who were working in the decades prior to the 1950s, enough for us to realize that excluding them entirely would be a disservice to our project’s mission. We broadened our scope a bit to include many of them, and Jackie Ormes is one of them. Her story we found particularly interesting because of her personal life. She was a real star in the black press, enough of one to hobnob with prominent black celebrities of the 30s and 40s, and land on an FBI watch list for associating with alleged communists.
“Her story was so fascinating on numerous levels, and we felt that it wasn’t enough to simply address the fact that she existed. We wanted to expand upon her story and highlight how important her contributions were to elevating depictions of middle class black life at a time when most newspaper images of African Americans were offensive stereotypes and caricatures.”
Please make that movie. And then make a couple dozen more.
This movie is a wonderful introduction to a topic that requires at least a twelve-part mini-series. It would include fans and distributors and teachers and librarians, at the least. It would talk about race and class and gender roles.
And maybe publicists, too. Then I could get interviewed.
I listen to feminists and all these radical gals – most of them are failures. They’ve blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That’s all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they’re mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men – that’s their problem. – Jerry Falwell
“Because feminists never disagree with each other. ” – Martha Thomases
That’s what Martha Thomases posted in response to my column last week at the League Of Women Bloggers site on Facebook, where she and I both share opinions and work with other women (such as Trina Robbins, Corrina Lawson, Kate Kotler, and Heidi MacDonald) in the comics and blogging industry.
Martha (whom I have known since I wrote for DC back in the ‘80s) wrote what I think is a brilliant rebuttal last week. So brilliant that I am here to respond. And no, this is not going to become an ongoing issue between co-workers at ComicMix. You are not going to be reading about a “cat-fight” between Newell and Thomases on Bleeding Cool or The Mary Sue or Geek Mom or at The Beat. Because despite the title of Martha’s rebuttal (Girl Fight), you’re not going to see us going at it ala Krystal and Alexis in the swimming pool on Dynasty.
I think that is exactly what is so cool and brilliant about Martha’s column is that it’s a direct stab in the eye to all those who think that “feminism” is one gigantic single-celled amoeba of a socio-political movement.
In other words, just because I can’t get all that excited about Spider-Woman’s ass sticking up in the air on “that” cover doesn’t meant that I don’t agree with Martha about the many shades of feminism. We do come in all shades, in all sizes – some of share opinions and political leanings, some of us don’t. Martha mentioned “Republican Feminists” – click on the link in her column and it leads to a page about First Lady Betty Ford. And First Lady and matriarch of the Bush political dynasty Barbara Bush said. “I hate abortions, but I just could not make that choice for someone else.”
Martha posted a comment to my original column that included the following: “We don’t celebrate the sexuality of “ugly” women (as judged by society). For example, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids isn’t feared for her powerful sex drive. Instead, we laugh. And that movie deserves credit for acknowledging that she has a sex drive at all. Usually, only “beautiful” women (as judged by society) get to do that. ”
Yeah, we laughed, Martha. McCarthy raising her foot up against the wall of the airplane at a 90o angle as she came on to the air marshal (played by her husband, Ben Falcone) was funny (as well as impressive). But what about the scene where she comes to Kristen Wiig’s home and beats her up over feeling sorry for herself? “Get over it!” she’s telling Kristen. “Embrace yourself! That’s where it starts!” In other words, I think Melissa McCarthy’s real power is in her ability to make people accept her as a fully realized adult woman with a brain, and, yes, a libido that demands to be satisfied.
Yes, she’s overweight by some people’s standards. So what? In the past, buxom, voluptuous women were the ideal – think of the Flemish baroque painter Paul Reubens. And modern painter Lisa Yuskavage’s beautiful and erotic portraits of “fat” women have been exhibited at major art institution around the world, including the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.
In response to her critics, who have accused her of painting “pornographic” crap, Ms. Yuskavage said, “it’s actually a reclaiming of power and the ability to depict women in all their forms. ”Melissa McCarthy does the same thing with her acting and comedy, forcing us to accept that “rubenesque” women are sensual and sexy and comfortable in their own bodies.
Leslie Tane, the author of the article on Ms. Yuskavage at www.BeautifulDecay.com, said “The essence of female power is not that women must be desexed, it’s that women can decide how they want to be seen – sexy, silly, powerful, maternal, erotic, masculine, intelligent, profound – any combination of these, and much more. ”
Yeah, I know. Lisa Yuskavage didn’t paint Spider-Woman. A man known for his erotic portraits of women painted her.
So the question is: If Lisa Yuskavage had painted an erotic variant cover for Spider-Woman #1, would there have been such an uproar?
I really wonder about that.
And one more thing….
I’ve been wondering why the owners of Twitter – hmm, since Twitter is on the NYSE, it would be Twitter’s Board of Directors and the company’s prime shareholders – haven’t blocked ISIS (ISIL, IS, whatever) from using their application to post their barbarism? Why are they enabling the publicity these monsters are using to “up” their sociopathic and psychopathic “membership” list?
I’m certainly not saying that using Spider-Woman’s derriere on the cover to promote publicity is the same thing. But Marvel’s got to be digging it, despite “apologies” from Axel Alonso, the company’s editor-in-chief – which by the why made stories in The Hollywood Reporter, Yahoo Lifestyle, and various websites, i.e., more publicity. There’s no doubt in my mind – nor should there be in yours – that Manara’s “variant collectible cover” is going to increase sales.
So maybe we – Mindy Newell, Martha Thomases, all us commentators and bloggers, all us pundits – it even made the “Bullseye” feature in Entertainment Weekly – would have been better off ignoring the whole thing.
Then it would have been just another cover of another comic book.
CHICKS IN CAPES SPOTLIGHTS FEMALE HEROINES AND CREATORS!
Lori Gentile CiC Editor
Moonstone Entertainment, Inc takes Super Hero fiction to an all new level with CHICKS IN CAPES! Chicks in Capes is a fun and provoking collection of ALL NEW prose short stories by a wide range of female authors: including NYT Bestselling authors Nancy Holder, Debbie Viguie, and Jennifer Fallon, along with comic book herstorian Trina Robbins, and a host of other popular fiction and comic book contributors.
Elaine Lee Author, ‘Mischief’
All of the stories are about super heroines, many characters created exclusively for this collection, and featuring ALL NEW stories about established characters: Lady Action and Domino Lady. All contributors for the book are female, including the interior illustrator, the cover artists, and the editors!
Gillian Horvath Author, ‘The Survivor: Coming of Age’
What will you find within the pages of CHICKS IN CAPES? Action, Adventure, Drama, Romance, Science-fiction…!Authors include Trina Robbins; Nancy Holder; Gillian Horvath; Cathy Clamp; Barbara Randall Kesel; Elaine Lee; Kathe Catto; Valerie D’Orazio;K.G. McAbee; Jennifer Fallon; Debbie Viguie; and Elizabeth Massie
Debbie Viguie, Author, ‘A Touch of Glamour’
The wonderful art in CHICKS IN CAPES also came from talented female professionals. Emily Stone provided interior illustrations as well as one of the two covers for the book. Nicola Scott also produced a cover used for one edition of the collection. Lori Gentile and Karen O’Brien edited the anthology.
Nancy Holder, Author of ‘Beneath the Cape: A Domino Lady Story’
Strong female super-heroine characters from all walks of life are included in this stellar anthology: a parking valet, an archeologist, a bike messenger, a nurse, a holocaust survivor and many more. Also new stories featuring Lady Action and Domino Lady are included in this fantastic collection!
Trina Robbins, Author of ‘Inanna: Witchwoman’
One of the strongest points of CHICKS IN CAPES is that its creators feel that its high time the world had more super heroine fiction written by women. According to contributor Trina Robbins, “We need to see more creative concepts of superheroines, and we need to see them from a woman’s point of view. I’m not saying men can’t write good women, many men do…but I do believe that women tend to know what women like, because, being women, it’s what THEY like, no? But it’s revolutionary, by golly, to see not just a woman’s take on an already established superheroine, but to see a woman create her own superheroine.”
Jennifer Fallon, Author, ‘Diary of a Superchick’
CHICKS IN CAPES spotlights not only female characters by female creators, but it casts a new light on the concept of super heroes in general. According to contributor Jennifer Fallon, “I think it’s a timely reminder that superheroes are not just for boys. They come in all shapes and sizes. We should judge our superheroes by their deeds, not their gender. Just like real people.”
CHICKS IN CAPES from Moonstone Entertainment, Inc! AVAILABLE NOW!
Moonstone Entertainment, Inc. publishes comics and illustrated fiction designed to “awaken your sense of adventure”, featuring classic and new heroes in thrilling tales of adventure, mystery, and horror. For more than a decade, Moonstone Entertainment, Inc. has created fine and distinct comic books, Graphic Novels and prose…books that are meant to be read. Awaken your sense of adventure at http://www.moonstonebooks.com/