An Unsurprisingly Insensitive Superhero Fight, Domestic Violence-Style

Apologies to the world for my spotty posting as of late. My non-internet life has been pretty busy recently with various things, not least of which is my sister’s conversion to Islam, decision to wear hijab, and the inevitable fragmentation of my family as a result. (Other events include: a planned vacation, an attempt to rid myself of internet addiction, an upcoming concert, the first week of classes, video games, and being really poor all the time.)

My return post is, surprise surprise, about Storm and Black Panther. Specifically, Why It Makes Me Feel Skeevy That Storm and Black Panther Are Going to Fisticuffs.

For those of you who aren’t following the Avengers vs. X-Men, Marvel’s giant summer money-making scheme tie-in event, Black Panther and Storm broke up. By that I mean, BP acted like a jerk and annulled the marriage behind Storm’s back. So now, in the tie-in to the tie-in, Vs., a limited series that showcases plotless superhero fights, BP and Storm are hashing it out.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the underlying reason why this makes me uncomfortable: they’re a recently-divorced couple who are physically fighting each other to deal with their marital issues.

Seriously, Marvel?

I’m not going to say that there’s no way that a comic could use what is essentially domestic violence in a way that is meaningful, insightful, and interesting. But this is AvsX: VS, and that was just never going to happen.

The first thing that could have made this less skeevy-feeling is not allowing Black Panther to prevent Storm from using her weather powers. Without those powers, they’re forced to go to actual fisticuffs, rather than allowing the melee/ranged difference between the character’s fighting styles as a buffer to prevent it from devolving into a husband/wife fistfight disguised as emotional depth.

Another mistake: making it about their marriage rather than about the big superhero war that enabled the divorce.


When Storm says, “this is about you and me,” this issue abandons any hope of not making me feel skeevy.  At that point, we really are watching a husband and wife beat each other up over their relationship. What’s worse, that last panel just looks like Marvel isn’t taking this very seriously. Maybe it’s the art, but to me that punch looks a lot like a punchline, or at the very least an invitation to snicker, or to enthusiastically take a side. I don’t want to cheer on either of these fighters. The whole fight just makes me sad.

Later we get a thought from Storm: “If we’d only had children, maybe things would’ve been different.” Really? Really? This is how the writers are exploring the emotional depths of a woman who just got her marriage annulled behind her back and is now fighting her ex-husband?

And then there’s this page:

I hate how Wakandans show up, just so they can make Storm feel guilty for leaving. As if Storm didn’t look enough like a bully in this issue.

At the very least, there is no winner in this fight. (Vs. normally declares a winner after every fight.) Still, Marvel screwed up an opportunity with a lot of potential to show that it prints writing that actually has emotional depth and sensitivity.

The only way to make this worse is to bring them back together at the end of AvsX. I don’t want two people to get together after they felt the need to go to physical violence to properly end their marriage. That is an unhealthy relationship. So unhealthy that if Marvel glosses over this, should they choose to bring them back together, I will be very upset. If we’re supposed to celebrate their getting back together, expect an angry rant to appear on the blog.

Also, I think it needs to be said that Marvel needs to be careful what stereotypes about black people it reinforces with things like this. Again, not something you need to be a genius to understand. Or, at least, you only need to have a modicum of emotional sensibility to understand.

So, this final death knell for Storm and Black Panther’s relationship hammered the last nail in the coffin for my interest in this series. Fuck this noise, Marvel. Seriously.

-Joanna

 

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Completely Unsolicited Advice to Storm

Hey Storm,

You might remember me from that last letter I wrote to you a while back. You didn’t respond, but that’s ok. I’m sure you were really busy.

Anyway, I found out about what happened between you and Black Panther. I just wanted to say that I’m really sorry. T’Challa really should have talked to you about it before going ahead and having the marriage annulled. I know you guys were in couples therapy, but that kind of lack of communication is pretty low, in my opinion. I get that being on different sides of a superhero war can really strain a relationship. But I think that T’Challa is just hiding behind this conflict. I don’t think he gave you the respect you deserve, and the way he behaved about this is an indication of that.

Namor destroyed half of Wakanda, you didn’t. You didn’t even know that Namor was going to, because only Emma Frost did. You don’t even know anything the Phoenix Five are doing, because they don’t tell any other X-Men what’s going on. Maybe T’Challa doesn’t know that. But he should have given you the benefit of the doubt. He should have trusted you. You came back to Wakanda because you wanted to help after Namor destroyed Wakanda. That shows you care about your people, and you care about him. You did the right thing.

I also wanted to say that I think you can do better than T’Challa. Maybe that sounds harsh. You guys did only get divorced like yesterday. But I mean it. You deserve someone who will believe that you didn’t know Namor was planning anything. You deserve someone who will communicate with you, let you know that he’s going to give up on therapy instead of getting an annulment behind your back. You deserve someone who will stick with you through this superhero war.

So here’s my advice, Storm: Forget about him. Not completely. The time you two spent together probably affected you deeply, so you can’t just wave the magic wand and ignore that part of your life. Relationships are complicated. Even ones that involved retconning origin stories in order to seem real. But I think you should try not to think about him for a while. You need to do things to take your mind off him, and, most importantly, you need to socialize.

Call up your girls. Have some fun. Talk about relationships, or don’t. I’m sure Rogue’s got a thing or two she could say about Gambit. And don’t get me started on Sue and Rick. Yeesh. But if you’d rather just hang out, drinking Cape Cods and talking about last’s week’s Project Runway or the future of Downton Abbey, that’s fine too.

Don’t let this rule your life. You are better than this behind-your-back-annulment. You are better than the man who did it. Always remember it’s not your fault. He failed to communicate with you, and that is his fault. There was nothing you could do to prevent either Namor’s destruction of Wakanda, or T’Challa’s misunderstanding your role in all this.

Keep on fighting for what you know is right, Storm. You’re powerful, intelligent, and brave. Remember to always be true to your heart, because that’s when the heavens will part, and someone will actually understand the Mulan reference I’m making here.

I know you’ll find someone better, someone who will respect you for being the strong, indomitable force of nature that you are. But if you don’t find anyone else? No problem. You’ll always have the X-Men, and friendship can be just as meaningful as romantic relationships. So don’t stress out about finding a new man.

In short, Storm, don’t get too down about T’Challa. It might hurt to hear now, but he’ll never be half as badass as you, and he couldn’t handle that.

Lots of love and admiration,

Joanna xoxo

Dare to Play: Nancy Drew for a New Generation

Nancy Drew is one of the most celebrated and recognizable characters of all time. Created by Edward Stratemeyer ( also creator of the Hardy Boys) in 1930, the character of Nancy Drew became the super-chic and intelligent heroine of her own series of mystery novels.

Nancy Drew is a fictional 18-year-old amateur sleuth (16 in earlier versions). She lives in the fictional town of River Heights[14] with her father, attorney Carson Drew, and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. Nancy’s mother died when she was three (10 in earlier versions). Nancy is often assisted in solving mysteries by her two closest friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, and also occasionally by her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson.

Nancy has often been described as a super girl: in the words of Bobbie Ann Mason, she is “as immaculate and self-possessed as a Miss America on tour. She is as cool as a Mata Hari and as sweet as Betty Crocker.” Nancy is wealthy, attractive, and amazingly talented.

“At sixteen she ‘had studied psychology in school and was familiar with the power of suggestion and association.’ Nancy was a fine painter, spoke French, and had frequently run motor boats. She was a skilled driver who at sixteen ‘flashed into the garage with a skill born of long practice.’ The prodigy was a sure shot, an excellent swimmer, skillful oarsman, expert seamstress, gourmet cook, and a fine bridge player. Nancy brilliantly played tennis and golf, and rode like a cowboy. Nancy danced like Ginger Rogers and could administer first aid like the Mayo brothers” (Wikipedia)
Nancy Drew has undergone numerous transformations over the years to keep her relevant to the generation. In 1998, Her Interactive began a series of Nancy Drew computer games and became my personal heroes. With their 27th game in the series released last week, the franchise is still going strong. Nancy is still the attractive and talented sleuth who is capable of thinking her way out of any situation (but who has also been known to karate-chop and threaten baddies with a gun).
Part of Her Interactive’s mission involves one simple fact: Girls play video games too- just like the executives that spearheaded the creation of the original novels realized that girls also read mystery novels. I’ve been playing Nancy Drew games since I was in the 4th grade. Before that, I really didn’t have any insight into the world of video games or computers. This is what sparked my interest and made me want to learn more. Not just about gaming, but each Nancy Drew games focus on some sort of niche or knowledge-base that the gamer has to call upon (this is usually in the form of a puzzle or a conveniently placed book) and in the process sneakily learn about things they may never have had exposure to. For example: Secret of the Scarlet Hand- you are a junior curator at a museum in Washington, D.C. and explore temple replicas, play traditional games, and explore a virtual exhibit while also learning what its like to work in a museum; Danger By Design, Phantom of Venice, Shadow at Water’s Edge and the Captive Curse all have puzzles involving other languages. I could go on and list examples for all 27 games- but I think I’ve made my point.
However, if you are still not sold that as an adult Nancy Drew is a role model, a friend of mine recently lent me ‘Confessions of a Teen Sleuth‘ by Chelsea Cain in which me learn that everything we thought we knew about Nancy Drew was a lie- invented by her unattractive, jealous college roommate, Carolyn Keene. The novel is Nancy’s true confessions about her life, from her time as the cool, trendy teenage to her elder years. Although it is a parody, Nancy experiences a lot of the same troubles women faced then and face now. Since I apparently all about books that relate to life to help you through issues, pick this book up.
Now I am about to play the crap out of the newest Nancy Drew game with my little bro. Yeah, that’s right. Boys can like Nancy Drew too. Here, enjoy these videos about female and homosexual video game characters:
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-BatCat
PS: Oh and did I  mention the Nancy Drew manga?

Princess Free Zone

Insert genric excuses about being on antibiotics, finals, and paper writing.

So I have decided to plug Princess Free Zone, a pretty amazing brand and site that encourages youg girls to explore their interests and not to live up to th ‘princess’ role.

“‘Girls need to know that they can do anything they want—that might include hammering a nail into a wall or fixing a broken faucet. But just saying the words doesn’t make it so.’  She believes a girl can wear a tiara if she wants, but she should feel free to take it off as well.” -Michelle Yulo, founder of PFZ

Follow PFZ on Facebook for all the lastest updates, buy shirts with bugs an dinos for your girls, and support the message that girls can be more than princesses!

-BatCat

Werewolves! Lesbians! Pot! Erotica! Fish Puppets! (Not All At Once)

I decided to browse the comics section of Kickstarter today and highlight a few of my favorite projects. The great thing about Kickstarter is that anyone with a project can join, which means a lot of women who might otherwise go unnoticed by mainstream industries end up creating the comics/films/theatrical productions/games/etc. the world needs.

So, what exactly is it that I think the world needs?

Body-Positive Erotica!

Luckily, Sarah Benkin is working on Star Power: A Body Positive Erotic Comic… Told in Rhyme.

According to the Kickstarter page, “Star Power is a 32-page book about what happens when sexual competition and body modification go too far.” What isn’t awesome about this? Currently, the project is at 24 days to go, with only $700 of its $7000 goal met. In case you’re wondering what all that money goes to, “Funding is needed for printing costs, artist fees and to cover the many incentives attached to the project.”

The world also needs more superheroines who smoke pot!

Ok, I’m not so sure about that. But, it’s certainly a niche in the comics industry that isn’t being met. The Superhighs is about two girls who save the world by smoking weed. I have literally no idea what this actually means. However, the author, Dani Marie, says that, “I was conscious of gender and sexuality as I wrote this comic book. I wanted everyone from every religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation to be able to see themselves in the comic… you don’t need to be a white heterosexual male to save the world.” Even though I’m a little lukewarm on the concept, I can definitely get behind inclusivity. With 25 days to go, The Superhighs has met $225 of their $3500 goal.

Are you into horror and lesbian werewolf protagonists? Rachel Deering and Anathema have you covered!

According to Deering, “Anathema is a six issue limited series horror comic that tells the story of Mercy Barlowe, a tormented young woman with a dark side. She must fight through treacherous lands and unspeakable horrors to reclaim her lover’s soul, which has been stolen by members of a sinister cult, bent on resurrecting a terrible and ancient evil.

In issue #1, we saw Mercy’s world torn asunder, and watched as she accepted the curse of the wolf. Can Mercy learn to harness her horrible new powers and stop the raven cult before they succeed in their vile plan? Mercy needs your help to see her journey through!”

This Kickstarter campaign is to finish the 6-issue series. Deering explains the money will specifically go to paying her artists and colorists a fair wage and paying the Amazon and Kickstarter fees. If there’s any money left over (which there is now, the $20,000 goal having been met), it will go to funding Deering’s convention appearances.

Last but not least, the world needs more videos with fish puppets.

Luckily, M. Alice LeGrow and her video on Kickstarter promoting The Elephant Book have provided us with that. (Seriously, watch the video. It’s really funny.)

Unfortunately, the comic has nothing to do with fish puppets (or elephants). What it is about: “The Elephant Book is an action/fantasy story set in Philadelphia, about a couple of kids named Williams and Fairfax (which one is which is anybody’s guess), who are caught in the middle of a power struggle between two covert groups that are seeking to either preserve or destroy the one trait that defines humanity: the power to invent.  A series four years in the making, the story spirals down levels and levels of millennium-old conspiracy and fear that has protected civilizations from the biggest trick ever played on the human race.

And this being Philadelphia, along the way everyone eats crab fries, goes to the game and ponders the mysteries of the Eternal Wawa.”

Who doesn’t love conspiracies?

If you’ve got spare monies, consider giving one (or more) of these projects some, or browse Kickstarter for some other worthy projects. Support women as active creators!

-Joanna

Love Letter to Storm

Dear Storm,

Why are just the coolest? I mean it, the coolest. Look at you! Harnessing your control of the elements with your badass glowing eyes!

Image credit: Windriderx23 on Deviantart.com

When I grow up, I want to be like you. I’m sure other women and girls feel the same way. You’re physically and emotionally strong, independent, can control the elements, and when The Dazzler wants to have girl time at the mall, you’re sort of wary of this whole thing until you start dancing. When you talk, it’s sort of funny to me in the same way that it’s funny to me when Thor talks. All in all, you’re like my favorite superheroine ever! The thing that I don’t get is, why, when you’re such a total badass, haven’t you gotten the chance to star in your own movie?

I know the easy answer: you’re a black woman. And because we live in the dumb society we live in, movie executives think that black women (in general, but especially in action movies) won’t sell movie tickets. That, for some reason, no one would want to see a movie about one of the most beloved X-Men of any gender. Not only that, but you’re (I would argue) the second-most easily recognizable superheroine. (Name one other black superheroine with white hair.)

But, I know that’s the problem. You’re a superheroine. We can’t even get THE most recognizable superheroine her own movie or TV show. Because spell check doesn’t even want to acknowledge the existence of women like you. So why should movie execs? Never mind that ever since you busted into the comics world in the ’70s, you’ve been a vital part of the X-Men. Never mind that practically everyone knows who you are. Never mind that Halle Berry, when she was a super-duper star, even played you in the X-Men movies.

You know what else bothers me, Storm? The fact that I can’t go into stores like Target and buy Storm T-shirts like I can buy T-shirts of Hulk or whoever. (I’d have to buy them in the men’s section, but that’s a whole ‘nother letter.) You’d think that Marvel would love to market you. If I were Marvel, I would market the crap out of you. You know why? Yes, because you’re a total badass. But also because you are so visually recognizable. People, the kinds of people who’d be buying superhero shirts, would look at a Storm shirt and go, hey that’s Storm. Part of the reason why certain superheroes still get merchandise without a recent movie release is that they stand out visually. They don’t look like other superheroes. And nobody else looks like you, Storm. How could they? No one else’s mom is a Kenyan witch-priestess princess.

Someone tried telling me that regular non-comics people wouldn’t recognize you or care about you if they did make a Storm movie. I don’t believe that. I don’t know for sure how many people would recognize you (though I’m willing to bet it’s a lot), but it’s not like people only watch movies because they decided to before they saw a commercial for them. The point of trailers and marketing is to make people interested in movies. And, tell me Storm, who wouldn’t want to see someone wielding lighting and creating windstorms in the name of justice?

And since when has anyone who doesn’t care about superheroes known about Deadpool? He’s getting his own movie, and he’s not even half as cool as you, Storm. So I don’t want people to give me this bullshit about how people wouldn’t want to see your movie because they don’t know who you are. (Sorry about the language, Storm, but this really bothers me.) When I Google “Storm,” your Wikipedia page is the second link, despite the fact that your name is a common noun. But, you know, you’re not that well-known or anything.

There are a few other things that bother me, Storm, like why you aren’t in the X-Men Vs. Avengers series, and why they made you marry the Black Panther. (No offense to him or anything, but Storm, you’re an untameable force of nature! You don’t need him! They just married you two so that they could inexplicably pander to the women and black readers, as though all we really wanted was a black supercouple, not constant, positive portrayals of people like us.)

But anyway, the thing that bothers me the most is that, despite being one of the most visible superheroines (or -heroes, really), you’re practically invisible from non-comics pop culture. Even though, you as you are, without any changes, are already an amazing role model for girls and women, you get thrown into the corner, because the racist, sexist world of media and marketing has decided you aren’t worth their time. In reality, they aren’t worth your time. Because even though they might try to make excuses and place the blame on the public, I know, and I’m pretty sure you know, that it’s really just that they can’t handle your power and your poise. They want to control you by silencing you, but they can’t, because you already control yourself. They can’t tame you and belittle you, so they try to destroy you by ignoring you. They would do anything to destroy what you represent. But you won’t let them, and I know you never will.

Lots of love and admiration,

Joanna xoxo

#YesToFemaleDoctor

Internets! I just found the most amazing website ever!

Doctor Her is a website dedicated to fan posts about Doctor Who from a feminist perspective that is also concerned with not alienating (dis)abled, trans*, genderqueer, GLBQ people, and people of color. They paraphrase bell hooks in their About page! They use the term “kyriarchy!” I can’t handle this!

I stumbled across a totally awesome post Courtney Stoker wrote called “NuWho, poverty, and class: Or, the poor women are totally screwed.” In it, she examines the lives and fates of Rose, Martha, and Donna, arguing primarily that Donna and Rose get totally shafted because of their lower class status. If you’re interested in insightful anti-oppressive commentary on Doctor Who, visit this website. Now. Well, finish this post first. But then go.

And now to explain the title of this post, I also found out today that SFX Magazine started #yestofemaledoctor and #notofemaledoctor.

These two basically sum up my position:

https://twitter.com/erinpuff/statuses/184043723674488833

I would also add that I’m sick of lazy science fiction that is only willing to challenge norms like “Time travel’s not possible!” and “Aliens aren’t real!”, but never heteronormative assumptions about gender and sex. (I also just realized that Courtney Stoker, author of the aforementioned article, also is responsible for that first tweet. Is she just the coolest person ever?)

If you have a Twitter account, please tell the world, Yes to a Female Doctor! (I’m not going to be mad if you say no, but I will wonder why you read this blog.) Even if this is never, ever going to make the producers of the show let the Doctor regenerate into a woman, the world needs to know you support challenging heterosexist norms that place men at the center of the universe! (That’s right, the whole universe!)

-Joanna

P.S. If I seem a little excitable today, it might be the cold meds talking.