Hobbitmania!

Here’s my take on The Hobbit trilogy, or Why I Don’t Actually Care Whether Or Not Peter Jackson Is Manipulating Me For My Money.

I’ll admit I was rather cynical when news first dropped that The Hobbit would be in two parts. Ever since HP7, it seems every studio is realizing they can exploit fans into spending more money without getting better movies in return. And, though I may love Tolkien, The Hobbit isn’t quite as long or complex as would justify two films. Then the cast list appeared, and I began to realize this adaptation might not just be The Hobbit. Otherwise, what are people like Galadriel and Saruman doing in it?

Now that it’s been confirmed that The Hobbit is becoming a trilogy, it’s also clear what else Jackson et al. are using as sources, namely appendices from LOTR. Some people are complaining that this somehow devalues The Hobbit as a work on its own, others are just too mad about the existence of a third movie to really say much else.

But you know what I say? Bring on the trilogy. Yes, I’m skeptical of the idea that Jackson et al. just thought they needed more time to tell the story, that money didn’t even sort of cross their minds. But honestly, I don’t even exactly know what that story is, other than that it’s based partly on The Hobbit and partly on LOTR appendices. So I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here, especially because Peter Jackson is like Christopher Nolan in that he’s completely incapable of making a movie that’s shorter than two and a half hours. So it’s possible he really does think he doesn’t have enough time.

You know what else? Three movies gives me three opportunities to dress up like a dork at a midnight showing with BatCat here. And it gives me three opportunities to see Aidan Turner’s beautiful face (even covered in dwarf beard) on the big screen. It gives me one movie to be really excited about, each year for the next three years.

So maybe I’m just being an easily-duped Tolkien fan, and maybe those aren’t good enough reasons for me not to care, but I’m completely indifferent to what Jackson et al’s reasons are for making The Hobbit into a trilogy. I just want good movies. And if the Peter Jackson team delivers with The Hobbit like they did with LOTR, I’ll be more than happy to spend my money on all three movies.

-Joanna

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Gearbox: Doing It Right

I tried playing a little (and I do mean a little) of Borderlands once. The world was pretty cool, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into it. It might have been because I hate guns (omg why can’t ammo just regenerate like magic does?), or because I was trying to break myself out of the habit of playing a ranged character. (Attacking from the hallway or from behind a pillar tends to be my style, unless I’m playing Orochi Warriors. Being a tank involves way too much multi-tasking.)

My boyfriend loves the game, and I feel weird that I just didn’t like it. And now that I’ve been inundated with Borderlands 2 ads in every comic I pick up, I feel like I should revisit the game, or maybe just try out the sequel come September.

This introduction is sort of irrelevant to what I’m posting, but in case you wanted to analyze me as a person based on my style of fighting in games, there you have it. (I’m also a Libra, and purple is my contested favorite color.)

The real reason I’m bringing up Borderlands 2 is that I found a really cool article about an NPC in the game. Tyler Wilde over at PC Gamer asked the Gearbox team some questions about Ellie, Scooter’s sister. Their answers showed a lot of thoughtfulness, in both the design of the character herself and the knowledge that their game has the power to send messages to players, sometimes perhaps unintended ones.

My favorite answer, one that sums up why I’m so happy, is this:

“The narrative goal with Ellie was to have a character who hits all of the tick marks of a good Borderlands character (funny, unexpected, looks as if they could probably kill you in thirteen different ways if you got on their bad side), while also making an independent female character who looked the exact opposite of how most females tend to be represented in games. We also wanted to make sure that, through her dialog and visual design, we never cast her in a light where the player is encouraged to pity, laugh at, or mock her because she doesn’t look like Jessica Rabbit.”

Obviously, I’m pretty happy when developers intentionally create characters (even NPCs) that look the “exact opposite” of most video game women. But the last sentence is what I really like the most.

More than just trying to assure that there is some representation of non-standard game body types, the developers wanted to make sure that players would treat her with respect. Gearbox wants people to see a heavy woman and not just think of her as comic relief or as pathetic. Given how little respect fat women get in real life and on the internet, and how few fat women exist in video games, Gearbox is doing something rather revolutionary with Ellie.

So this, more than the fact that every time I pick up a comic, there’s a Borderlands 2 ad, has actually gotten me excited about the game’s release. Even if I don’t end up playing it (fucking ammo), I look forward to at least seeing Ellie in action!

Thanks, Gearbox, for trying to promote the idea that fat women are real people who deserve respect and who can do badass things.

-Joanna

Badass Linkspam

I’m using my part-time wage slut, part-time worker-for-no-pay status as an excuse for three consecutive lazy posts. Sorry, world. On the bright side, you get some delicious, hand-picked linkspam for your consumption!

– Sometimes the rage of the almighty internet is used for good, and sometimes that rage results in action. A 17-year-old rape survivor who tweeted the names of the rapists (after they had already plead guilty) was facing jail time, because waaa rapists deserve privacy, especially rapists who take and distribute pictures of their crime. Thanks to the viral anger of the rest of the country, the District Attorney decided not to press charges against the survivor.

– A just plain badass article by Becky Chambers on The Mary Sue called “For Anyone Still Wondering, Yes, Women Can Wear Full Armor, Too.” The article rather concisely calls bullshit on the still-accepted argument that women have to wear skimpier armor than men for an arsenal of stupid reasons. And explains, for those of you on the internet who still seriously need this explained to you, that unrealistic costumes are based in het male sexual fantasies when they’re worn by women, and power fantasies when they’re worn by men. (Seriously, have you still not seen this comic? How?) For those of us who realize these things, it’s still a good read, especially if you sometimes find yourself floundering at the illogic of your opponents in arguments about this. It’ll help you more clearly define your points.

-Speaking of badass: introducing the BAMF Girls Club!

I love Lisbeth in this. I wish she’d had a little more screen time.

-In case that wasn’t enough badass for one day, here’s a tumblr I found thanks to the Mary Sue article. It’s called Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor, and it’s amazing.

– Archie Comics, inexplicably becoming one of the most daring and progressive comics publishers, is taking on the difficult class questions of the Occupy movement. Right on, Archie.

– As if this day couldn’t be more badass, new Storm Tokidoki shirt!

With that, I’ll let everyone go on with their badass days.

-Joanna

We’re Here to Punch Holes in the Sky

Yesterday was a glorious day. As I mentioned on Tuesday, Captain Marvel #1 came out yesterday. Because my thoughts are not entirely coherent, I’m reposting Alasdair Stuart at Bleeding Cool’s “10 Things About Captain Marvel Issue 1.” Some of my own thoughts are at the end.

The long-awaited Kelly Sue DeConnick-scripted reboot of Captain Marvel arrives this week and it’s a fantastic opening issue, setting the character’s stall out at the same time as honoring and exploring her past in a way we’ve not seen before. Here are the ten things I particularly liked about it:

1.The Malcolm McDowell Maneuver

The short lived Fantasy Island reboot opened with Malcolm McDowell’s character burning the white suits of his predecessor. Carol doesn’t exactly do that but there’s a real sense of the leotard-tastic previous look for the character being consigned to the past where it belongs. Plus, the fact she’s auctioning the costume off for a good cause is a nice, indirect character beat.

2.The Absorbing Man Is An Idiot

‘Moon powers!’ is the best joke I’ve heard this week. Also, again there’s a nice indirect character beat with Absorbing Man disparaging Carol because she’s a woman, focusing on Cap, and getting taken down as a result.

3.Captain America, Colonel Danvers

This is the sort of character through action that Kelly Sue excels at. The good natured banter about how Carol outranks Cap is not only true, it’s also clearly one of the engines behind their friendship. These are two people who are soldiers first, superheroes second and DeConnick illustrates their similar mindsets by how well they work together and the easy, flowing nature of their conversations.

4.Tony Stark, Clothier

The idea of Stark manufacturing fabric is as horrific as it is oddly compelling. Maybe that’s what his suits are made out of…

5. Heavy is the Head That Wears The Flight Helmet

Dexter Soy’s posture work is quietly impressive throughout, especially when you look at how Carol’s posture changes over the course of the issue. During the fight she’s precise, aware, upright and the second it stops her head and shoulders slump. It changes again when she’s in flight, hurling herself through the air with a combination of determination and fierce joy. She’s born to fly, and we realize that long before she does, thanks to Soy’s art.

6.Inter-Service Rivalry

Kelly Sue’s original pitch for the series was ‘Carol as Chuck Yeager’ and that comes across in the gentle challenge she gets from Cap. This is a woman with no idea how to quit who has no idea why she doesn’t want to do the most logical thing in the world; take on the mantle she was literally handed. Cap punctures this by rendering it down to Army vs Air Force, she notices, comments on it and he jokingly confesses. There’s so much wrapped up in this little exchange, so much shared experience and trust that I find myself rather wanting Cap to turn up in this book again. He and Carol have a fun ‘siblings in arms’ dimension to their relationship that’s very enjoyable to read.

7.Always Flying, Always Benched

The idea that, despite her superhuman abilities, Carol doesn’t feel like she’s been allowed to be tested, to compete, on the playing field she loves is both poignant and fascinating. This is the superheroine as adrenalin junkie, as a warrior with skills she’s earned as well as powers she’s been given and somehow she’s never quite able to square the circle, giving her a unique, and uniquely isolated mindset. This is honestly the most individualistic and well rounded Carol Danvers has ever been as a character and it’s fascinating to watch it unfold on the page.

8.Standing Watch

Tracy Burke, introduced to Carol’s supporting cast in 1977 reappears here. She’s a friend undergoing chemo and the scenes with her give us a chance to see Carol in a very different light. There’s none of the focused aggression she has in the uniform, replaced with a string of gentle digs at her friend’s slightly ramshackle life. This is still Carol as a warrior, but it’s also her completely at peace. The discipline, the organizational skills she earnt from her time in the military are useful to both her and her friend and she positively glows. Again, great work from Dexter Soy in this scene too.

9. The Mercury 13

The Mercury 13 was real, and in putting it, and the fictional Helen Cobb, in place in Carol’s past, Kelly Sue lets Carol settle into historical context. Helen was more than able, but Carol was the first generation that was allowed and that complex knot of admiration and tension between the two women is subtly played and rife for exploration in future issues.  Also, again, top marks to Dexter Soy for the changes in Carol’s demeanor. She’s much more cautious and reserved here than in the scenes set in the present day. Also look at VC’s Joe Caramagna’s lettering here. The hand written script keys us in to the fact this isn’t Carol’s voice long before the contractions do.

10.The Lord Put Us Here To Punch Holes In The Sky

Carol uses her abilities, the things she’s so ambivalent about, to do the one thing Helen was never allowed to do; leave the atmosphere. It’s a scene which is all the more effective for being silent, just Helen Cobb’s thoughts as her friend takes her home. That’s coupled with the impact of seeing Carol, in full uniform, looking utterly resolved to create a pitch perfect closing note for the series and an opening note for the series. Friend, flyer, soldier, superhero, all coalesced into that one last image. Captain Marvel’s here, and she’s got things to do.

I have to disagree with #2. Well, not about Absorbing Man being an idiot. He is, and it was funny. But I felt like the disparaging Captain Marvel because she’s a woman bit was a little overdone. Sometimes writers like to use overtly sexist comments to signal that a character is unlikeable or evil, or to emphasize the very real sexism that female characters are fighting against all the time, regardless of what else they’re also fighting against. While these writers mean well, it always strikes me as heavy-handed. Especially because, while there are plenty of real people like Absorbing Man, some of the most pervasive sexism is subtle and nearly invisible. That’s why our culture sucks so much, and that’s why people can’t understand the point of feminism. If people aren’t outright saying, “You are a woman, you are worth nothing, ” it isn’t perceived as sexism by a lot of people. So sometimes I prefer if female characters have to overcome more subtle sexism. But anyway.

I actually agree with #3. Normally, I would want nothing more than for Cap to get the hell out of my comic book, but I really enjoyed the interactions between Cap and Carol. This shows how skillfully Kelly Sue DeConnick writes her characters.

One of my favorite parts of this issue was the motif of “punching holes in the sky.” That phrase spoke to me in such a personal way. I think any ambitious woman has felt like Carol Danvers saying she is here to punch holes in the sky. She doesn’t just feel that she can or will do so, but that it is her purpose. I haven’t found a metaphor that describes how injustice makes me feel since Alejandra was a flaming skull of justice. Now I have another: I want to punch holes through our inequitable culture, and I want to destroy all sin. (In a chaotic good with neutral good tendencies kind of way.)

Issue 1 did not disappoint. I repeat: everyone buy this book. That means you. I want this series to continue for a good long time, because that’s what such good writing and art deserve.

-Joanna

Comic-Con Round-Up

First, a reminder: Captain Marvel #1 is released tomorrow. Buy it. I mean it. This is the only solo female series Marvel has right now, and with Kelly Sue DeConnick as its writer, has a woman at its helm. I do not want this cancelled. So buy it. Buy every issue.

Now, stuff that caught my interest over the Comic-Con weekend:

-I’m super pumped about the new Sandman serialized story that will feature art by the perfect-for-this-task J.H. William III. I just wish I knew how long a series it will be.

-You may have read my post about the necessity of the rumored Black Panther movie. Needless to say, I’m pretty disappointed that it wasn’t announced at Comic-Con, but Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy were. And, like a lot of people on the internet, I’m irritated about Louis D’Esposito’s response to why they aren’t making a Black Panther movie right now:

He [The Black Panther] has a lot of the same characteristics of a Captain America: great character, good values… But it’s a little more difficult, maybe, creating [a world like Wakanda]. It’s always easier basing it here. For instance, ‘Iron Man 3’ is rooted right here in Los Angeles and New York. When you bring in other worlds, you’re always faced with those difficulties.

Last time I checked, Black Panther is more rooted in reality than, say Guardians of the Galaxy, which features a tree person and a raccoon, along with humanoid aliens. In fact, I think Marvel’s taking a huge risk with Guardians of the Galaxy for a number of reasons, and it frustrates me even more that they think alien raccoons and trees are more relatable than black people.

Maybe Phase Three of Marvel’s film plans will include a Black Panther solo film. Hopefully by then, non-comics readers won’t be sick of superhero movies.

– Marjorie Liu apparently pitched a team comprised of Black Widow, Mystique, Elektra, and X-23. Mike Perkins was on board to draw. And Marvel said no. It wouldn’t sell. Yes, Marvel. I’m sure it wouldn’t have sold. Because Birds of Prey doesn’t sell or anything. (Not to mention that I think Marjorie Liu is one of the best mainstream comics writers right now.)

-And, to begin and end with Neil Gaiman, someone who doesn’t cause me angst, look at these super cool shirts on Threadless.

-Joanna

Invisible No More

Serious trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and trauma

One day I’ll write up a suggested reading list for the human race (the only book right now is J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, but I’m sure I can think of more). Once that’s done, I’ll write up a suggested viewing list for the human race. The Invisible War will be included.

The Invisible War is a documentary about the epidemic of rape in the military. It tells the stories of survivors, how their cases were either ignored or swept under the rug, how the military mangles both the prosecution of the assailants and attempts at rape prevention. It shows how rape culture has permeated the military and, by allowing most assailants to go unpunished, does nothing to stop rapists.

It’s a harrowing film, very difficult to watch, but incredibly necessary.

If you’re someone who might avoid seeing this film because you’re very sensitive about stories of sexual assault, please see it anyway. (Unless you’re a survivor yourself. Then that’s ok.) If these women and men were brave enough to share their stories, we need to be brave enough to listen. Then, having listened, we need to be brave enough to act.

It isn’t just that men in the most prestigious Marine Corps unit tell women they’re asking to be raped by wearing their military-issue skirt or because they’re wearing makeup, or that they spread rumors about women supposedly having sex with various men. It isn’t just that commanding officers are overwhelmingly the ones raping their subordinates. It isn’t just that these officers then get put in charge of their own rape cases, effectively acting as judge, jury and executioner for their own crimes.

It isn’t just that 40% of homeless female veterans were sexually assaulted while serving. Or that there is a higher rate of PTSD among women who’ve been sexually assaulted while serving than among men who’ve been in combat. It isn’t just that there isn’t a military sex offenders registry. Or that sex offenders have an average of 400 victims each.

It’s all of these things. All of them, and all of the stories these women and men share. It’s that one man, after raping one woman, put his hands all over her body and said, “I own all of this.” It’s that one man said he can still hear the laughter of his assailants. It’s that most of these men go completely unpunished. It’s that one assailant was actually awarded Airman of the Year during the rape investigation. It’s that evidence is “lost” or claimed not to be incriminating enough.

It’s hearing how proud and excited these women and men were to be joining the military, and then hearing that they would never want their daughter enlisting. One woman tried to dissuade her waitress at a restaurant from enlisting. One woman saw a high school-age girl wearing a Marines shirt and wanted to tell her not to have her life destroyed.

It’s seeing one husband sobbing while talking about having to stop his wife from killing herself. It’s how common suicide attempts are among this group of veterans. It’s hearing another husband say he left the Coast Guard because of the way they treated his wife. It’s a father in tears recounting trying to convince his daughter that she’s still a virgin.

It’s that this is a civilian issue as well as a military issue. It is a societal issue, not just a women’s issue.

I would like everyone to see this film. Then I would like people like Daniel Tosh (and the person I unfriended on Facebook over that incident) to fucking look me in the eye and tell me rape can be funny.

You can look at the film’s website to find a theater or screening. If it isn’t playing anywhere near you, I would suggest either contacting a local independent theater or an organization that might be willing to host a screening. This movie is too important to ignore. Our civilian judicial system is certainly flawed, and many challenges facing rape survivors are the same for both soldiers and civilians. But even among civilians, the rapists are never the ones who get to pronounce themselves innocent.

All of us, regardless of our feelings on the wars or the militarization of the US, need to take action to ensure that sexual assault survivors are not treated like criminals, and that the real perpetrators are punished.

The culture of silence is not just a military issue; if we do not do something to secure justice for sexual assault survivors, we too are complicit. We too perpetuate this violence and trauma when we say nothing. Tell the world, the country, the survivors, and the guilty: Survivors of sexual assault are #NotInvisible.

Because, to borrow from Janelle Monae, this is a cold war: you better know what you’re fighting for.

-Joanna

An RPG For the Rest of Us

Are you tired of medieval RPGs reflecting a Eurocentric view of everything? Of how uncreative developers can be with their universe’s cultural mythos? Of having only one humanoid race of non-white people to choose? Of the fact that everyone in the game is presumably heterosexual and cisgendered?

Introducing The Arkh Project. The Arkh Project is a video game whose developers seek “to make a game that focuses on queer people and people of color as main characters, and beyond that, allow people who are tired of mainstream gaming to have something completely off the wall and step into a new role.” The developers also intend to work with queer and/or PoC artists and programmers.

Basically, this is the RPG of my dreams. The concept sounds pretty cool, too:

“Follow the story of a deity bored with life amongst the gods, who leaves to find a purpose in life and seek out a lost love. Reincarnate your deity onto numerous worlds, live through the lives of others and gain life experience…but watch your God Energy, you need a lot of it to continue your astral journey.

Fight monsters only you can see, sometimes around very particular civilians who refuse to get the heck out of your way. Collect world-specific plants to enhance your healing items, and acquire numerous different kinds of weapons and scrolls from all different cultures.

The game draws inspiration from real mythos, from all sorts of different cultures, and each world reflects the culture it draws from.”

The character concept art looks pretty amazing. My favorite is Queen Zahira:

See that fancy dress? It’s made “from ethereal components that she reconstructed to exist in more planes.” She made the cloth herself, meaning she manages to be intelligent, badass-looking, and super pretty all at once. I’m on board.

In case you’re wondering what armor might look like:

The game is still in the development stage, but expect it to be released for the PC at some point.

Though there is more information which I could post, I’m stopping here because frankly I’m tired of navigating the hell that is tumblr. I’ll leave that to you, intrepid reader. In any case, I look forward to following the project’s progress (via their Facebook group), and hopefully playing the finished product.

In other race/fandom news, Racialicious has broken down Comic-Con for us in The Racialicious Guide to San Diego Comic-Con. I’m sure that one day, when I finally get to go to Comic-Con, there won’t be amazing panels that year, like How to Better Understand the Sociology Behind Cosplay or Subaltern Counterculture and the Strengths of the Underdog (which talks about Storm!). Sigh. Or I can be hopeful that talking about these issues at places like Comic-Con will become normal by the time I could go. But that would be optimistic.

-Joanna