Costumes, Costumes, Costumes

Regular readers will probably have noticed it’s been a bit of a ghost town recently around here. My excuse is, holy shit my thesis. But I’m back (today, anyway) for the one-year anniversary post about (what else) comics!

Now, after giving up on AvsX, I haven’t been paying too much attention to what Marvel’s been doing lately. (Again, holy fucking thesis). I do know that Marvel is relaunching Uncanny X-Force, and the updated costumes rock. Storm’s mohawk is back, and Psylocke gave up the bathing suit!

Comics Alliance interviewed the writer and artist about the new costumes, and guess what? They thought about practicality and character personalities when designing the new costumes! I thought the day would never come. Artist Kris Anka had this to say: “I felt that every costume should not only highlight the personality of the character it is wrapped around, but also of the function that the costumes will serve towards.” For this reason, Psylocke was given an outfit she wouldn’t be “falling out” in, and they took away her heels. While I’m extremely supportive of this change, I wish it hadn’t just been made with Psylocke. The other female team members also, despite not being ninjas, need “mobility,” so those wedge shoes need to go. It’s disappointing that in a design so heavily focused on functionality, wedge heels still make the cut.

They look great on Storm’s new costume (which I love! someone cosplay it! immediately!), and emphasize her regal posture, but since realism was a factor in the design, it falls a little short. It’s also one of those moments where I wish someone asked a woman what she thought of the design. Aesthetically it’s wonderful, but, again, these costumes were supposed to be more than just pretty.

Interestingly, the female version of Fantomex has smaller wedge heels than Storm:

This means that they considered that two female characters might choose different heel heights, but still decided that they would both choose heels.

Still, there’s a lot to like about the new costumes and the new team, including the 4:2 female-to-male ratio. Kudos to Anka and Humphries for making my week better after it was ruined by seeing this gross chained-up Storm cover of Wolverine and the X-Men. Also, kudos to commenters on the Comics Alliance article for suggesting Storm’s hair be left natural, and even posting this cool picture of a natural mohawk.

And, in case reading about these costume changes is getting you in the mood for making your own costumes, there’s a great site called Take Back Halloween that catalogs really cool costume ideas and how-tos for women who aren’t interested in the generic Sexy Version of Whatever Men are Wearing style of Halloween costumes.

Til next time!

-Joanna

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

 

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

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

How to Avoid Writing a Real Post

Whew, all that not being patriotic on July 4th was exhausting or something! So I’m allowing myself a lazy post today. (Sorry, rest of the world that didn’t get to pretend to like their country yesterday.) Behold, the linkspam!

– Someone who wrote in to the blog STFU Moffat helped me to understand why sometimes the 11th Doctor says things that make me a little uncomfortable:

Another problem I see with Moffat is his alleged ‘self insertion’ within the Doctors character. After reading through this blog, I have come to see why I was so uncomfortable with the 11th Doctor as a character. As much I like 11 some of his lines seem very OOC. As a fan who has watched both old and new who, I as a viewer have come to understand that the Doctor is someone who can and will accept anyone (unless you are about to commit a terrible crime, which even then he’s willing to give them a second chance). One of the lines (I can’t remember exactly how it goes) mentions that River is so emotionally changeable because she is a woman. (wanting to kill him but then suddenly wanting to marry him). Personally I think that the Doctor as a character would have left it just as ‘brainwashing’, instead of adding that she is woman.

The whole comment can be found here.

– Here’s Jay Smooth’s take on How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist. This video is really old, but it became relevant to me yesterday when a member of my D&D group posted a Facebook status with some not-so-subtle racist undertones. (Let’s just say it had to do with assuming not just that “Hispanic” means “immigrant,” but “undocumented immigrant,” and probably “criminal.”) I wasn’t sure how to confront the comment, since I didn’t want it to go unremarked on, and I wanted to convey “that sounded racist” without seeming to say “you are a racist.” I thought of this video, and thought I’d spread it today, in case any of you intrepid readers find yourself in the same awkward position.

– I know Namor’s never been the most clothed of characters, but the Phoenix Force and I seem to be on the same page with male costuming. Dear Marvel: dress more male characters like this, all the time. And then draw them bending over like Emma Frost always is. That will finally not be a false equivalence.

-If you’re still bitter about the new(ish) Star Wars trilogy and will probably take your anger at George Lucas to the grave, you’ll enjoy this parody of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

– And, because puppets, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

‘Til next week!

-Joanna

Why We Need a Black Panther Movie

I’m anxiously awaiting actual information about this proposed Black Panther movie. I only know two things for sure: 1) that Stan Lee has said he would like Black Panther to be a part of the Avengers sequel (which would rock) and 2) that Romeo Miller (or Lil’ Romeo, as I will always know him) said he was approached about the role (which makes no sense to me).

In any case, I definitely want him to get his own movie before he gets thrown into The Avengers 2, and I will be disappointed if it gets cancelled. (And with all the Marvel movie rumors swirling, I think they’ll have to cancel some of them, unless Marvel is ok with biting off more than it can chew.) Without his own movie to star in, he’ll just be a supporting character lost in the background with all the other new Avengers. (Which reminds me: I’d also like Marvel to decide and announce who will actually be in the sequel. There are more proposed characters than even Joss Whedon could handle in one cast.)

It’s not just that I like T’Challa and Wakanda and think he could easily carry his own movie. It’s that we, as a culture, need a Black Panther movie.

The first reason is probably pretty obvious: the world needs a black superhero movie, and the world needs it now. Yes, the colorblind casting of Heimdall in Thor (despite the racist backlash), War Machine, and Nick Fury (who is infinitely more likeable as Samuel L. Jackson) are steps in the right direction. But they’re itty-bitty steps. We need a black hero, not just a black character, no matter how important or likeable or complex.

Not only would Black Panther be a hero, he and his movie would subvert typical American notions of civilization, Africa, Western superiority, as well as typical movie executives’ notions about whether or not moviegoers would be interested in seeing a black superhero on the big screen.

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but I was spurred into action by an article by Costa Avgoustinos called “Black Panther: The Progressive African Avenger.” In it, Avgoustinos analyzes the BET-produced Black Panther TV show (which is excellent, streaming on Netflix, and you should watch it), and how it criticizes the way the West sees the world. As Avgoustinos writes,

“the series asks a big “what if?”: What if there was a country in Africa untouched by Western intervention? What could it look like today? Black Panther presents Wakanda as the (exaggerated for comic book purposes) utopian answer—a thriving technologically/medically/culturally/economically advanced African nation which gained such prosperity, not only from following a strict protectionist policy but by rejecting any imperialist impulses of their own that come with power.”

Wakanda is an (admittedly fictional) African nation that is highly insular as well as extremely advanced. Ever self-sufficient, Wakanda creates and perpetuates its own knowledge and power, not simply relying on paternalistic Western imperialists. America tends to pity Africa, thinking of those poor Third Worlders with their backwards, failing everythings. But, if Wakanda and the United States were to get into a fight to prove who is the most advanced, the United States would get its ass kicked.

T’Challa typifies his country well: he is intelligent, well-spoken, regal, as well as endowed with super-abilities. He would be an excellent fictional ambassador from fictional (though plausible) Africa, an ambassador who might make people re-consider what they think they know about Africa.

However, Wakanda is still semi-tribal. On the outside, Wakanda and its people look like the kind of Africa that the West sees as backwards and uncivilized. The Black Panther is the name for the ruler of Wakanda, who wins his (or her!) title through a physical fight. They’re well-acquainted with magic, and refuse to trade with foreigners. For all their civilization, they still cling to notions that Western culture deems uncivilized.

This mixture of civilized and tribal is what makes the progressivism and independence of Wakanda so inspiring. Wakanda does not teach us that we must abandon the qualities that make the West see itself as civilized. Instead, when both the “civilized” and “barbaric” are joined, a country can be wealthy, happy, and strong.

Because Hollywood tends to depict Africa in a highly negative way, it would be as wonderful and progressive as Wakanda to see a vision of Africa (even fictionalized) that is strong, admirable, and not beholden to Western ideals. A Black Panther movie could help to remove the stigma attached to (black) African men in film, who are usually seen as the angry, violent stereotypes this video points out:

 

Maybe a successful Black Panther movie could change the way we Westerners simultaneously victimize and vilify black Africans. Or maybe I’m getting a little carried away about a superhero movie, as usual. In any case, I hope Marvel gives us the opportunity to find out.

-Joanna