It’s been quite a while since I’ve plopped my butt down on an airline seat. There are several reasons for this, the primary one being I loathe being treated like shit.
As we have seen from all too many recent incidents, once onboard airplane employees have complete control over your fate. If you do not promptly obey their every command or, say, object to their anti-peanut policy, they can and will have you arrested. If somebody on the plane thinks you look weird, or you look like a Muslim or some other type of person they find noxious, they will complain to a flight attendant. If you have yet to take-off, the airplane Nazis will call the goon squad and have you taken off the plane, sometimes by force. If you’re in the air, you likely will be arrested when the plane lands. Paranoid Fox News watchers, and that is redundant, now own your ass.
Ever since my upper left arm and shoulder was replaced with metallic prosthetics, I’ve figured to be safe I need to get to the airport at least four hours before my flight because employees of the government’s Transportation Security Agency, better known as the TSA, are likely to lose their minds when I approach the metal detector machine. Adding four hours to the two hours it takes me to get to the airport and park my car and get to the security line makes my driving anywhere east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon line faster and a lot cheaper and much more pleasant.
The TSA already wants to copy or cop our laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets, and that is beyond the pale. It’s also un-American, but since when has our government given a shit about that? But this latest decision is one step beyond. I will no longer voluntarily submit myself to their terror.
According to the CBLDF, “In 2010, for instance, the ACLU represented Nick George, a college student who was handcuffed, detained, and interrogated at Philadelphia International Airport while carrying a set of Arabic-English flashcards and the book Rogue Nation by Clyde Prestowitz – a former Reagan Administration official who was critical of foreign policy under George W. Bush.”
The CBLDF continues: “ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley outlined just a few reasons that travelers might not want strangers perusing their choice of reading: A person who is reading a book entitled Overcoming Sexual Abuse or Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction is not likely to want to plop that volume down on the conveyor belt for all to see. Even someone reading a bestseller like 50 Shades of Grey or a mild self-help book with a title such as What Should I Do With My Life? might be shy about exposing his or her reading habits.”
If you are boarding with any of several thousand graphic novels – Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta, published by DC Comics, or Dan Parent’s Kevin Keller, published by Archie Comics, or J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr’s Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations, published by Marvel Comics, or damn near any manga, you may be arrested and imprisoned. That is not an exaggeration.
In recent weeks, our free press has been labeled malicious liars by Donald Trump, our nation’s Man/Baby-In-Chief, and his spokeslackeys. All too many Congresspeople from his party have either chimed in their support or declined to stand up to this sophistry. Our Supreme Court, freshly imbued with a Trump appointee so far to the right that he should have his own talk show, just took a sledgehammer to the truly American concept of separation of church and state. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, proving once again – to quote Arlo Guthrie – that not all highs are good highs.
None of this bodes well for our future. The United States of America is rapidly becoming a dictatorship. Fifty years ago, Frank Zappa wrote a song called “Concentration Moon.” It contained the obviously seditious line “American way, try and explain. Scab of a nation, driven insane.” In the subsequent half-century, when it comes to America’s vaunted freedoms we have managed to go backwards.
Early this past Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in United States history took place at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, FL. It took place during Pride. It took place on Latin night. Estimates so far have 50 dead and 53 wounded.
I can’t even remember what I was originally going to write about. This news consumed me on Sunday and I knew I had to write about this. This is important. Many other people have and are going to write about this. They should. They need to.
We all have different reactions to this event. Some are graceful, some make the LGBTQ community invisible, while others praise the massacre. Having collected my thoughts on this, I can conclude that one thing we certainly need a great deal more of is empathy.
People fear what they don’t understand. People don’t necessarily get exposed to people that aren’t like them, and thoughts and feelings that go against what they’ve come to believe as truth. We need more people being exposed to more ideas.
When I was going through elementary through high school, there was no learning about the LGBTQ community. There was no LGBTQ club at school. I do know that they have since started a club. I don’t know if they’ve since started teaching more about the community. During my undergrad, they did have specific courses on LGBTQ history and the like, but that attracts people already sympathetic and interested. Those aren’t all the people that need that information.
People need to learn about the Stonewall riots – not just from terrible whitewashing movies, but in the classroom. In our textbooks. They need to learn that trans women of color were pivotal to LGBTQ rights. They need to learn about Harvey Milk. They need to learn about the AIDs epidemic and a president who stood idly by and did nothing even as his good friend Rock Hudson was dying. And they need to learn about the latest transphobia and bathroom bills in the same way I and many others learned about racial segregation. Learning that it was wrong. We need more empathy and understanding, and it has to be taught.
Queer American history is certainly more than just those examples, but it’s a start. And it needs to be taught as American history. Not an elective. Not something that can be passed over. People need to be given the chance to know and understand our history. They need to learn about it when they’re young and as they’re developing thoughts and opinions on the world around them.
People need to be exposed to queer people in their lives. Family, friends, students, teachers, politicians, actors, authors, and other professionals. And not just in a heteronormative fashion demonizing non-monogamous relationships, premarital sex, and other alternatives. Different people lead different lives and we need people to understand and accept that, and the only way that will happen is by seeing people living those lives openly and being happy doing it.
If you have kids that like reading comics, make sure they’re also reading comics with queer characters. If they’re reading Batman, they could be reading about Batwoman as well. If they’re reading X-Men, some of the titles have queer characters. If they’re reading graphic novels like Watchmen or V for Vendetta, they should also be reading Fun Home and Stuck Rubber Baby. Tales with queer characters aren’t just to give queer people characters to look up to, they’re also to show other people that we are humans.
This goes for adults too. Straight cis adults need to push themselves and reach beyond their comfort zones if they haven’t already. And even if they have, they need to keep doing it. Cis queers need to push beyond into trans literature and entertainment. When’s the last time you read a book by a trans author? Seen read a comic by a trans artist? They’re out there and ready to be found. Ready to be supported.
Most important of all, exposing younger people to the queerness around them may help them understand themselves better. I know that if I had queer role models when I was in school that I would have had more confidence in myself. Maybe I’d have even come out at a younger age.
Queer people need to be respected, they need to be empathized, and they need to be given hope.
Over the weekend, film critic A. O. Scott wrote a long essay in The New York Times Magazine that irked me, and I wanted to use my column to unpack some of my feelings about it. If you have opinions about the state of modern pop culture, you might want to join me.
(I’m now going to paraphrase and reduce his arguments to the bones. By all means, read the entire piece for more nuance.)
Scott seems to think that the modern American adult, by his and her refusal to grow up, has had a deleterious effect on the popular arts. He specifically mentions “bromance” movies, like those produced by Judd Apatow, superhero movies, and adults who read young adult (YA) books like the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games. In his opinion, the success of these genres means that we, as grown-ups, are rejecting our responsibilities.
As a tax-paying citizen who serves on jury duty, votes in every election, raised a productive citizen and volunteers in my community, I think I qualify as an adult in attitude as well as age. And I like all the things that Scott decries.
For the purposes of this column, I’m just going to talk about the books Scott talks about. You may assume I have parallel arguments about the other categories, and we can talk about this in the comments, if you like.
First of all, unless we are talking about marketing categories (as determined by publishers, booksellers and librarians), the YA category doesn’t make a lot of sense. When I was in middle school and high school, I read all kinds of books that were not considered to be YA. I read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea, books that are often read by people in those age groups. I also read Giles Goat Boy by John Barth. I read James Bond and Ray Bradbury and Philip Roth. We can argue about the varying qualities of these books, but none were racked on the children’s shelves.
Today, my reading includes some of these writers, and Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, J.K. Rowling and others who some may perceive to write for non-adults. I enjoy some genre fiction.
And I enjoy comic books. Lots of comic books.
Scott seems to think that graphic novels are not as intellectually demanding as prose novels. Like many, I think he confuses the medium of graphic storytelling with the genre of superhero comics. There are certainly books appropriate for the average young adult, such as March. And there are books that are not easily understood by those who haven’t had a certain amount of real-world experience, such as V for Vendetta or Promethea, which require at least some knowledge of history, linguistics, and adult relationships.
Please note: By adult relationships I mean actual relationships between adults, and not just sex. Thinking the word “adult” only refers to sex is actually kind of adolescent.
Now, I don’t really care what Scott thinks about my personal entertainment preferences. While we know some of the same people, I’m not likely to ever meet him, nor would I begin a conversation by attacking this particular essay.
And I don’t think he’s entirely wrong. Baby Boomers in general don’t like growing up, and we have clung to the remnants of our youth with a death-grip. We can be really obnoxious in our attempts to stay relevant, to the detriment of our popular culture.
Still, that is no reason to dismiss examples of popular culture because they come dressed in the costumes of youth and fantasy. After all, for nearly two centuries grown-ups have taught us that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Glenn and Mike gave me two issues of Strong Female Protagonist to read. Since they are the bosses of this particular sandbox, the ones who pay me the big bucks to do my thing here, I interpreted this action to be a strong suggestion, not a gift.
The series, available on the web at the link above (and in print) has a lot of elements that I like. Here’s the description from the website:
“SFP follows the adventures of a young middle-class American with super-strength, invincibility and a crippling sense of social injustice.”
Super-powers and social justice? I am so there.
It’s not easy to combine comic book storytelling and a political perspective. Let me amend that: It’s not easy to do unless that is the stated starting point. Underground comics were usually overtly anti-establishment, anti-war and pro-drugs. Wimmen’s Comix also big, big fun. It’s probably no coincidence that both were usually comical comics, not episodic stories.
The gang at World War 3 Illustrated carries on this fine tradition, although their emphasis is less on humor and more on inciting activism.
In superhero comics, the most successful (in my opinion, obviously) is the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run on Green Lantern.
There have been overtly political comics created by people first known to American readers (or, at least, me) from superhero comics. The most successful, for me, are from Alan Moore. There’s a reason the Occupy movement appropriated the most powerful image from V for Vendetta, and that, even though it isn’t nearly as good as the book, the movie still sucks me in when I find it on television.
Another great book of his, written with Joyce Brabner, is Brought to Light, a non-fiction book about, among other things, American support for dictatorships and how many people have to bleed out to fill a swimming pool.
Moore’s stories work because, first and foremost, the reader (or me, anyway) cares about the characters. The minute the reader feels the action is out of character, the political position is exposed and therefore weakened. For me, this is most noticeable with Jamie Delano. I love his work on Hellblazer and in his creator-owned books. However, he lost me on his run of Animal Man even as I agreed more and more with what he said.
Strong Female Protagonist wears its heart on its sleeve, as its title character struggles to be part of the people’s struggle, not an isolated hero. It’s an interesting take on one of our modern dilemmas.
Or at least it is for those of us who care about such things.
Announced just hours before the series premiere this evening, the BBC confirmed the first casting information for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, and they started big. David Tennant will make his return to the series, as will Billie Piper, reprising her role as Rose.
Tennant’s Doctor regenerated into Matt Smith on January 1, 2010; Billie was last seen in a cameo as Rose on the same adventure. Rose left the Doctor two years previous, on “Pete’s World” a parallel Earth, in the company of a human clone of The Doctor, created as a result of the fight with the Daleks in The Stolen Planet / Journey’s End. At this point, there’s no definite verification whether Tennant will return as The (original) Doctor or his Pete’s World clone.
Also announced as a member of the cast is John Hurt, British acting icon with quite a long resume in genre work, including Merlin, V For Vendetta, Elephant Man, Harry Potter, and 1984.
Tennant and Piper have spent much of the past months denying vehemently and whimsically their appearance in the series. David reported in a recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show that a representative arrived backstage to remind him not to talk about the special, “…and I don’t even know anything!”
Other actors associated with the show have been equally reticent about their appearance, and the few that have dropped tidbits have been rapped on the proverbial knuckles. John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) announced that he was “talking” to the BBC to appear, only to have to retract that comment, followed by a tweet some weeks later stating definitively that he would not be appearing.
Filming for the new special begins this week, directed by Nick Hurran and written by Steven Moffat. Odds are that news of additional casting will filter out over the next weeks, either officially or via the hordes of fans which will certainly descend on each location shoot.
The First Ever Collection of New Lone Ranger Prose Stories from Moonstone Books!
The masked ex-Texas Ranger and his Native American companion Tonto fight injustice in the Wild West! Stories include meetings with The Cisco Kid, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday, as well as the origin of Tonto and the origin of Silver! Authors include Spur Award-winner Johnny D Boggs, James Reasoner, Alex Award-winner Mel Odom, Anthony Award-winner Bill Crider, Matthew Baugh, Tim Lasiuta, Joe Gentile, Paul Kupperberg, Denny O”Neil, Kent Conwell, David McDonald, Thom Brannon, Troy D. Smith, Chuck Dixon, and Richard Dean Starr.
You can read The Noblest Vengeance by Howard Hopkins at ipulpfiction.com for only $.75.
Also, look for more great tales from Moonstone Books at iPulp Fiction.
From out of the past comes a mysterious killer systematically murdering anyone with a connection to the Masked Rider of the Plains former identity. When all signs point to Butch Cavendish, a man long dead, The Ranger finds himself trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the life of his faithful Indian companion hanging in the balance.
I like anthology comics. For one thing, that’s how the comic book medium started – single-character comics didn’t really start until about six years down the road. For another, the anthology format reinvented comics with 2000AD back in the mid-1970s. Today, the anthology format is all but gone, with the notable – and highly laudable – exception of Dark Horse Presents, Creator-Owned Comics and a handful of others.
I like electronic publishing in general and electronic comics publishing in specific. I am a well-known advocate of the movement, at least in my own mind. Well before e-comics became real, I had a debate with my pal and oft-time co-conspirator Mark Wheatley, one of the most innovative and hardest-working people in the known universe. Mark advocated the potential of e-comics expanding the medium by incorporating effects that would move the medium past the boundaries imposed by print. Whereas I agreed with that position, I maintained that such additions move comic books into… something else. Not bad, not good – that depends on content. But nonetheless… something else.
Since then we’ve had various and sundry incursions into the multimedia comics world, the best known being “motion comics.” Interesting, but short of scintillating. But this is a nascent form in need of development, innovation and coddling.
Then my pal David Lloyd (Kickback, Night Raven, Doctor Who, V For Vendetta, Espers, Hellblazer, Wasteland … jeez, this guy has done a lot and, yeah, I’ve got a lot of pals who make great comics; what of it?) decided to combine the anthology concept of the past with the computer magic of an hour-and-a-half ago.
And by “an hour-and-a-half ago,” I mean that almost literally. His new title, Aces Weekly, debuted yesterday.
You’ve probably read about it in all sorts of places. I was lucky enough to get a head’s-up during last month’s Baltimore Comic-Con; Mark Wheatley showed me the first hundred pages of “Return Of The Human,” the series he’s doing with may pal (yeah, yeah) J.C. Vaughn. And I was left panting.
In addition to David, Mark and J.C., Aces Weekly offers us the talent of (take a deep breath) Kyle Baker, David Hitchcock, Herb Trimpe, David Leach, Billy Tucci, Bill Sienkiewicz, Marc Hempel, James Hudnall, Steve Bissette, Val Mayerick, Henry Flint, Dan Christensen, Dave Hine, Colleen Doran, and a lot of others of similar high caliber. No, not all are in the first issue: it’s a weekly, and as one story ends another begins, and the talent recovers.
Aces Weekly costs $9.99 per seven-issue subscription – the anthology is published in seven issue “volumes,” which is a clever idea. It’s online-only, all the material is original, and once you buy it you can read it wherever and whenever you have web access. It’s all creator-owned and, evidently, creators aren’t overly burdened by control-freak editors like me.
Check it out at www.acesweekly.co.uk. No matter how cynical you may be, have your credit card ready.
Oh, yeah. It says up there in the headline “review,” so here’s my review:
You don’t have to be born with a comic book in your hand to be a fan. As I’ve mentioned, my early exposure to comics was mostly in the form of movies and TV. These days, I read comics too; but I know a lot of fans who’ve primarily discovered comics through the movies, and often stay mostly with that medium.
Recently, there’s been a flurry of talk about who gets to be a geek, and I agree completely with John Scalzi’s assessment that anyone who shares a love of geeky things is just as much of a geek as anyone else, and that we can all come at our love of pop culture and fandoms from very different backgrounds and tastes. Given all that, I thought it might be fun to get the perspective of an awesome female author and blogger who’s so known in pop culture and geek circles that people have actually written articles studying her blogging habits and who clearly fits into comic book fandom but doesn’t come at it from the usual angle of reading comics. Also Cleolinda is just awesome and fun to interview! So here we go!
What kind of exposure have you had to comics generally – as a reader, a viewer, etc.?
Um… there were some tiny comics that came with my She-Ra dolls? I remember walking past racks and racks of comics at the grocery store every weekend and being really intrigued, but I was a very quiet, bookish child, and didn’t even bother asking my mother if I could have one. When I was in my 20s, I started picking up graphic novels based on which movies I had become interested in, and Watchmen on its general reputation.
How did you get into comics movies, and what was the first one you watched (as a child, and/or in the modern resurgence of comics movies)?
I think it says a lot about the genre that I don’t think of them as “comics” movies – I think of them as superhero movies and thrillers and action movies and whatever genre the actual story happens to be. I mean, technically, you could say that The Dark Knight and Wanted and From Hell and 300 are all “comics movies,” but if you say “comics,” I’m generally going to think “superheroes.” And those are such a box-office staple that it’s hard to think of them as something you get into, you know? They’re just there, and everyone goes to see them, and there are so many of them that some of them are awesome and some of them aren’t.
The first superhero movie, certainly, that I remember was Tim Burton’s Batman in the summer of 1989. I was probably ten or eleven at the time, and didn’t actually see it until it was on HBO a year or so later, but I remember that it was a big damn deal at the time. That black and yellow logo was everywhere, as were the dulcet purple strains of “Batdance.” Maybe it’s the Tim Burton sensibility that really got me into Batman movies initially; Batman Returns is pretty much my favorite Christmas movie ever, shut up. I just straight-up refused to see the Schumachers at all. But I’m a Christopher Nolan fangirl, so that got me back in. Which may be the roundabout answer to the question: I get into these movies depending on who’s making them and/or who’s playing the characters. Nothing I read or saw about Green Lantern really attracted me from a filmmaking point of view (well, I love what Martin Campbell did with Casino Royale, there is that), so, in a summer crowded with movies, I didn’t go see it. And, you know, I’ve had Green Lantern fans tell me they really enjoyed it; that’s just the kind of choice you end up making with the time and money you have when you’re more interested in movies as a medium than comics.
What are your thoughts on the accessibility of comics movies, as someone who doesn’t primarily read comics? Are there any you found incomprehensible or confusing because you didn’t know the source material? Which do you think has been most successful as an adaptation for non-comics-reading viewers?
Well, despite my lack of comics-reading background, I usually hit up Wikipedia to get a vague idea of what happened in the original storyline. So the moment I heard that Bane was the TDKR villain, I went and looked it up and immediately wailed, “Noooooo I don’t want to see Bane [SPOILER SPOILER’S SPOILERRRRR]!” Because I keep up with movie news very closely, I knew when Marion Cotillard was cast that she would probably be [SPOILER]. And then, of course, they mixed it up a little anyway.
I guess The Avengers could have been confusing – which was something I lampshaded a little in the Fifteen Minutes I did for it, the umpteen previously on bits. But I felt like they explained it fairly well as they went. I had randomly seen Captain America (“It’s hot. Which movie you wanna see?” “Uh… that one? Sure”), so I knew the Tesseract back story, but I didn’t see Thor until two weeks after I saw The Avengers. But pop cultural osmosis plus the explanations in the movie meant that I understood the Loki business just fine; all seeing Thor did was give me more specific punchlines. (I do think that humor relies on knowing what you’re talking about, so I usually do a little research after I’ve seen something when I’m going to write it up.) Really, though, it’s hard to say. I’m usually aware enough of the movie’s background by the time I see it that I’m not confused. I mean, I’m already aware that Iron Man 3 is using the Extremis storyline, and there’s some kind of nanotech involved, and an Iron Patriot? Something – not enough to be spoiled, per se, but enough to have a frame of reference going in.
Just going by the numbers, it seems that The Dark Knight and The Avengers have been incredibly successful adaptations – and I don’t even mean in terms of money, but in terms of how many people flocked to those movies, saw them, enjoyed them, and were willing to see them again. You don’t make a billion dollars without repeat viewings. And that indicates to me that these movies were rewarding experiences for people, rather than frustrating or confusing (the Joker’s Xanatos gambits aside). And I think familiarity helped in both cases, though through different means. The Joker is obviously the most iconic Batman villain; in fact, The Dark Knight actually skips the slightest whiff of genuine back story there, instead showing the Joker as a sort of elemental chaos, almost a trickster god who comes out of nowhere and then, as far we viewers are concerned, vanishes. There’s no background for non-readers to catch up on; the TDK Joker is completely self-contained. Whereas Marvel’s approach with The Avengers was to get the public familiarized with the characters, very painstakingly, with this series of movies that built up Iron Man as the popular backbone, and then filled in the others around him, either in their own headlining movies or as supporting characters in someone else’s. One movie started out with very recognizable characters, and the other endeavored to make the characters recognizable by the time it came out.
Have you read a comic because you saw a movie about it? Or, have you read a comic because you were going to see a movie about it? How did that change your movie viewing and fan experience?
I got interested in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and read the trade paperback a few weeks before it came out – and then hated the movie. And you know, I think I would have actually enjoyed the silliness of it if I hadn’t “known better,” so to speak, so if it’s not already too late, I try to hold off on reading a book until after I’ve seen the movie. I did read Watchmen first – and did enjoy the movie. I think those are the only ones I’ve read beforehand, though. I did go pick up From Hell and a Sin City set, and I bought the second LXG series in single issues as well; I keep meaning to get V for Vendetta. I’ve never picked up a superhero comic. I just look at the vast history of Marvel and DC and think, where would I even start? (How could I even afford it? Do they have comics in libraries?)I’ve never even read the Sandman series, and that’s supposedly the traditional gateway drug for geek girls.
You write hilarious parodies about all sorts of movies; and the recent The Avengers in 15 Minutes is no exception. Can you talk a little about what it’s like writing the parodies (including how you started and your experience with that generally), and whether it’s any different for comics vs. other movies? Was there anything unique about writing The Avengers one?
Well, the short version is that I came home from Van Helsing (2004) and started writing a script-format bit on a whim; I thought it was just going to be one scene plunked into a Livejournal entry, but it took on a life of its own. I published a book of ten print-only parodies in 2005 with Gollancz; the original Spider-Man (2002) is in there, but there’s also fantasy, sci-fi, overly serious historical epic, etc., spread pretty evenly throughout. Looking back, I think The Avengers is the only other superhero movie I’ve done; 300, V for Vendetta, and Wanted might count generally. It helps for the movie to have some sense of silliness, or at the very least absurdity or over-seriousness. If nothing else, there’s something humorous about movies as a medium – the tropes they run on, the expectations, the necessary coincidences, the mundane things they conveniently skip, the way that this stuff just would not work in real life. And you can point this out and have fun with it without saying, “And that’s why this is a terrible movie.”
The real difference with the Avengers movie – the material it provided – was that it had all of these background movies leading up to it. So you immediately have more opportunities for cross-referencing and in-jokes, in addition to a running “previously on” setup. There were few comics-only jokes (although I did enough research to mention the Wasp and Ant-Man), because the movies themselves were plenty to deal with. Whereas the various Harry Potter in Fifteen Minutes writeups I’ve done played more on the “This Scene Was Cut for Time” idea, referencing the books and the plot holes incurred by leaving things out – what wasn’t there.
If anything, The Avengers was incredibly hard to do not because it was good, but because it was self-aware. I mean, I did Lord of the Rings, a trilogy I love, for the book, but I consider what I do to be “affectionate snark,” and… that’s kind of already built into The Avengers. So, while a gloriously absurd movie like Prometheus took four days and all I really had to do was describe exactly what happens, The Avengers took six weeks.
What’s your favorite comics storyline and/or character?
I seem to be drawn to characters who have just had enough and start wrecking shit. I think I’m so drawn to Batman not because I want to be rescued by him, but because I want to be him. I discussed last week how the Omnipotent Vigilante just can’t work in real life – but it works as a fantasy. Because every time I hear about something horrible on the news, or even just someone on the internet being a complete and utter asshole, I wish I could go be Batman and show up in the dark and scare the fear of God back into people (“Swear To Me!!!! 11!!”). Also, I didn’t really grow up with the more light-hearted TV version(s) of Catwoman; my frame of reference is Michelle Pfeiffer. And that’s a Catwoman whose story arc is almost a “vengeful ghost” story. She has been wronged, and now she’s back, and you are going to pay (maybe for great justice, maybe not). Whereas the Anne Hathaway Catwoman, while a really interesting character, is more about Selina wavering between conscience and self interest, not vengeance. And maybe that’s closer to the “cat burglar” origin of the character – which, again, speaks to how meeting these characters through movies may mean that you have a very different experience from a comics reader.
And then you have someone like Wolverine – I think my favorite scene in the entire series is in the second movie, where he ends up having to defend the school pretty much entirely by himself. You wish you could be that badass, in defense of yourself or someone (everyone) else. This also may be why I saw X-Men: First Class and kind of wanted an entire Magneto Hunts Nazis movie – and maybe why Magneto, even as an antagonist, is so compelling in the Bryan Singer movies. The X-Men universe has some genuinely interesting moral ambiguities, you know? Gandalf has a few legitimate grievances and now he is tired of your shit. *CAR FLIP*
Also, I have a little bit of grey hair at my temple that I wish would grow into a Rogue streak.
Marvel, DC, or neither?
You know, as much as I love Batman, I tend to be more interested in Marvel characters as a whole; not sure what’s up with that. Actually, it may be that Marvel has been so much more pro-active about getting movies made and characters out there; I like about three of the X-Men movies a lot, the first two Spider-Man movies are good (the reboot was good except for the feeling that half the story got chopped out, I thought), and now the Avengers-based movies are turning out really well. There’s just more to chose from on the Marvel side at this point.
Do you have more of a desire to pick up paper (or digital) comics to read after seeing a comics movie? Or do you prefer sticking with the movies?
I seem to be more interested in reading stand-alone stories, which is probably why I picked up Alan Moore books pretty quickly. Even if it’s a somewhat self-contained Marvel/DC storyline, it’s like… do I need to have read twenty years of story before this? Can I just walk in and start reading this, or am I missing volumes and volumes of context? And then, if I get really into this, are they just going to reboot the universe and wipe all of this out? And then you have to figure out what the movie was based on in the first place. I might be interested in reading the comics a particular movie is based on – but then you say, well, The Dark Knight Rises was inspired by ten different comics. If you put all that into a boxed set with a big The Dark Knight Rises Collection plastered across it, I would be more likely to buy that than if you shoved me into a comics store (complete with disdainful clerk) and said, “There Is The Batman Section, Chew Your Own Way Out.” The decades of stories and do-overs and reboots, the sheer flexibility and weight and history, are what appeal to a lot of comics readers, I guess, but they’re exactly what bewilder movie viewers, leaving them no idea where to start.
What comics movie are you most looking forward to in the near future; and is there a comic book story or character you’d like to see a movie about who doesn’t have one yet?
I’m curious to see how Man of Steel turns out, even though Superman has never done that much for me as a character. (That said, I always talk about “going into the Fortress of Solitude” when I try to seriously get some work done.) I once heard that Metropolis and Gotham are, metaphorically, the same city – one by day and the other by night – and I don’t know that there would be enough sunlight in a “gritty” Superman reboot, if that makes any sense. And I was just fascinated by the idea of Darren Aronofsky doing The Wolverine, of all things, but it looks like James Mangold is directing that now. And, you know, in checking on that, I see “based on the 1982 limited series Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.” I see the words “limited series” and “trade paperback rated Must Have” and I think, okay, maybe this is something I have a chance of catching up on first.
I would really, really like to see a Black Widow movie, at this point. As much as I liked Anne Hathaway’s Selina, I wonder if a character that arch doesn’t work better in small doses. I mean, I’d still like to see them try a spinoff movie, but somehow, I think Black Widow might work out better. Everyone’s remarked on how great a year it’s been for people actually going to see movies with active heroines – Katniss, Merida, Selina, Natasha, even warrior princess Snow White – and I’m hoping that idea sticks. I know that the comics industry in general has a problem both in writing about and marketing to women. Maybe movies can lead the way on that.
Thanks for a fascinating perspective on your comics (and movie) fandom, Cleo!
CBLDF has joined forces with the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to write a letter in defense of Alan Moore’s Neocomicon (Avatar Press), which has recently been challenged in the Greenville, South Carolina, public library system. Objections to Neonomicon were raised by a patron after her teenage daughter checked out the book, which contains adult themes. The book was correctly shelved in the adult section of the library, and the teenager possessed a library card that allowed access to the adult section.
CBLDF joined NCAC and ABFFE in sending the following letter to the Library Board of Trustees at the Greenville County Public Library:
Dear Board Members,
On behalf of the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund we strongly urge you to keep Alan Moore’s Neonomicon in the Greenville Public Library. This book has reportedly been challenged by a member of the community who claims its “sexually graphic” images make it inappropriate for the library.
Removing this book because of objections to its content is impermissible under the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court said in Board of Education v. Pico, the Constitution does not permit “officially prescribed orthodoxy” which limits what people may read, think, speak, or say. The fact that we are confronted with images and not words does not make a difference—the courts have ruled that images, like words, constitute symbolic expression and are protected by the First Amendment.
Neonomicon is a horror graphic novel which explores themes present in the works of fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, delving into complex issues of race, crime and sexuality. Moore and artist Jacen Burrows use the visual nature of the graphic novel medium to more fully examine the subject matter found in Lovecraft’s original work, achieving a commentary both on Lovecraft and on the horror genre itself. The authors deliberately disturbing depictions of sexual violence are included as a critical comment on how such subject matter is handled elsewhere within the genre. The book recently won the Bram Stoker award for “Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel.” Its critical acclaim testifies to its artistic value which is aided, not eclipsed, by its sexual content.
Alan Moore is one of the most influential and acclaimed authors in both the graphic novel category and the larger literary culture. His body of work includes Watchmen, which Time Magazine named one of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. His works also include the graphic novels V For Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, and Lost Girls, all of which have enjoyed tremendous critical acclaim. Neonomicon continues Moore’s explorations in appropriating classic literary characters and themes in the service of post-modern storytelling. It is an essential work by an author who is indisputably a master within his field.
The book was appropriately shelved in the adult section of the library. The fact that it was withdrawn by a minor, whose mother had given written permission for her to borrow materials from the adult section, is no basis for removing the book—an action that infringes the First Amendment rights of adult library patrons. Indeed, the removal of the book during the review process is itself problematic, since any government suppression of material because of objections to its viewpoint or content transgresses constitutional boundaries. As a legal matter, the harm has been done, even if it is later rectified.
The book meets the criteria that form the basis for the library’s collection development policy. Removing it because of sexual content not only fails to consider the indisputable value of the book as a whole, but also ignores the library’s obligation to serve all readers, without regards to individual tastes and sensibilities. If graphic violent and sexual content were excluded from the library because some people object to it, the library would lose ancient and contemporary classics, from Aeschylus’ Oresteia to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
We strongly urge you to respect the rights of all readers to read and think freely, and to reject the notion that the views of some readers about the value of literature, or its “appropriateness”, maybe imposed on all. By keeping the books on the library shelves you will demonstrate respect for your readers and their choices, for the professionalism of the librarians who serve the reading public, and for the First Amendment and its importance to a pluralistic democratic society.
Please consult NCAC’s resource “Graphic Novels: Suggestions for Librarians” (http://ncac.org/graphicnovels.cfm) or contact us if there is anything we can do to help.
National Coalition Against Censorship
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
You can view a PDF of the letter here.
Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and defense against library challenges such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!