Marvel’s Axel Alonso on female characters

An interesting interview with Marvel’s Editor in Chief on recent feminist trends in Marvel comics:

Sample quote: “I want to make sure I have books like Ms Marvel and Black Widow that I’m proud about and could give to my daughter. But at the same time I don’t want to be the PC police and say you can’t be naughty; you can’t be fun.”

Which is actually just fine with me. Sometimes they’ll cross a line into unpleasantness, like the Spider-Woman alternate cover (discussed in the link as well), and we’ll say we don’t like it. But clearly they’re trying and releasing a lot more feminist friendly product than ever before, and that shows up in how much I’m invested in Marvel. (Both emotionally and financially.)

Daredevil #7

Daredevil #7(Spoilers ahead for Daredevil #7)

Marvel’s Original Sin gave creators a chance to explore unanswered questions in their characters’ pasts. Most of them whiffed on making this interesting, but the gold medal goes to Daredevil.

A key part of Daredevil (Matt Murdock) is his background of being raised by a single father. Which is by itself interesting, especially given the era it was originally written in. The open question is, what happened to his mother? Why did she leave them?

Very long term readers know that Matt’s mom had since become a nun. But until this issue we never knew why.

And inside is a very well handled treatment of what’s now understood as postpartum depression. It’s a very scary chemical imbalance that used to be dismissed as ‘baby blues’, as discussed in the comics. As an adult women whose had several friends deal with this issue, none of his is a surprise to me, but I imagine a lot of readers really had no idea this was a thing and how it worked. And to really make the point they devote the letters page to a very informative FAQ from the group Postpartum Support International.

Feminism is about a lot of things, but one of them is how ‘women issues’ are often not talked about in mainstream media. You just don’t see serious discussions of this in pop culture, let alone superhero comics. So kudos to the Daredevil team for making a good story and also an informative one. I didn’t see this coming at all, and I’m delighted!

Where’s Gamora?

I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, and not a small part of that is that the heart of the story centers around Gamora. Peter Quill is the goofy everyman, but the plot and motivation is driven by the most dangerous woman in the Universe. So it’s with great annoyance that I share this link. What is wrong with you, Marvel Marketing Department? How does it make sense to have team shots that include Drax, who is really just a tag-along on a personal vendetta, and leave out Gamora?

Filed under, this is why we need feminism.


A lot of news has been buzzing about Marvel announcing that, for reasons yet to be unveiled, soon Thor will be a woman. And a lot of the criticism has essentially been, if you want diversity, why not create a new character instead of changing an existing one?

After all, if you created a new female Spider-Man, you’d get the same kind of press, right?

How many of them know that, in Amazing Spider-Man #4, Marvel just did that?

Meet Silk, aka Cindy Moon, who was also in the room when Peter got bit by a radioactive spider, and also got bit herself. And, cleverly using some plotlines from circa 2001, she was promptly collected and hidden away until now. One could analyze all of this, but it’s basically what’s required to do the story, and I try and cut a little slack and just go with it.

Has this been on the evening news or the USA today? No. It does a good job at validating those that claim that there’s something to changing Thor and having Falcon become the new Captain America that a new character wouldn’t accomplish.

As to the actual Silk character – we don’t get a lot of personality yet, beyond someone traumatized, for good reason. She seems roughly to have the same power set as Peter, with her character points spent slightly differently (not as strong, faster and with better spider-sense. Kind of the typical ‘girl’ stats, annoyingly enough.) We’ll have to wait a bit to really get to know her. But Dan Slott’s a good writer in general, so it’ll probably work out.

And taken on it’s own – not comparing it to the Thor and Cap press releases, which aren’t even published stories yet – it does increase diversity in the Spider-verse. There aren’t a ton of Asian-American superhero women out there (mostly in the X-books). Here’s hoping she hits a chord with fans and sticks around more than other attemps, such as Araña (aka Spider-Girl) from a few years back. (I loved Spider-Girl, but her book got cancelled and she’s struggled to get into supporting casts since.)


Link: Feminist comic pull list

From my favorite queer women website, Mey shares her excellent pull list:

I might have to check out Red Sonja, but the rest of them get an enthusiastic thumbs up. I’d also add in:

Batgirl, by Gail Simone. Not only is Batgirl a kick-ass woman who is a great, never-say-die role model, but one of the main supporting cast is a very well handled trans woman.

Princeless, by Jeremy Whitley. This is a fun, kid-friendly comic about a Princess and her companions who go around subverting the Patriarchy, basically. It hits all the right notes!

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Because, Buffy. I could write an essay on why Buffy is the greatest feminist icon of the first decade of the 21st century, and maybe I will someday, and the comics carry on the story. Not as good as the show, but that’s a high bar, and they’re still quite enjoyable. Angel & Faith is a companion book, and there’s little reason not to get both.

There’s so many good feminist comics out there! There hardly seems to be a reason to care about the piles of macho nonsense that used to be the dominant life form in comics.

The Wicked and the Divine

The Wicked and the Divine #1I’ve been a bit quiet lately, but I just read The Wicked and the Divine #1, and have to make at least a brief post. There’s always a handful of books that everyone agrees are the cream of the crop. Right now that includes Saga, Rat Queens, Hawkeye, Astro City… and add to these kinds of lists, The Wicked and the Divine. Yes, it’s that good.

The creative team of Gillen and McKelvie have an excellent track record. Recently they were behind the very good Young Avengers series. Before that, though, they did two volumes of a unique title called Phonogram. It’s about magic and music and a very particular time and place. I don’t know that time or place at all, but they have such obvious passion for the art they are creating, it’s still on my list of my favorite comic works of all time. (Both of them, but especially the second one, Singles Club.) It’s this kind of work that keeps me reading comics.

The Wicked and the Divine is not Phonogram – Gillen has an essay in the back that’s essentially saying this – but it has the good parts in common. There’s a raw passion driving this title that you rarely see. The god-characters are a little more real than real somehow. We mostly see the Lucifer character, but that’s more than okay – she leaps off the page in a uniquely compelling way.

We’ve seen a lot of comics about mythology crashing into the modern world. I’m very pleased to say this is not any of those other ones. It’s not Sandman, it’s not Fables, it’s not Crossing Midnight. It’s a fresh and individual voice, of singular quality.

This is what we’re looking for, people. I could give a plot summary, but that’s not the point. If you want something really different and compelling, if you like mythology and the unexplained, if you want charismatic characters, give this one a try. Just click on the pretty picture, or go to your friendly local comic store (or if you’re in Chicago, go to my friendly local comic store, only don’t, because like a lot of them Alley Cat sold out by 5pm on Wednesday, yay pre-orders!) But the point is, if you’re looking for recommendations, this gets my highest, you know what to do.


People who just don’t get it

DC Movie Writer David Goyer does not get She-Hulk at all:

I could go on a long rant about how She-Hulk is not, in fact, a sex character but instead a fully realized woman with agency and competence, but the Internet has already obliged. I think this claim says a lot more about Mr. Goyer than it does about any issue of She-Hulk that’s ever been printed.

And here’s where I get into the feminism for a moment. This is something that some men do. Because someone is a good fit for one of their sexual fantasies (and hey, I totally get why someone might think She-Hulk is hitting all of his or her high points), they reduce her solely to this in their mind. Not usually so explicitly as this, but not too far off. And this happens to real people too, not just fictional characters. Never mind that the person on the other end did not agree to this objectification and in fact continues to live their actual life as someone who exists for more than someone else’s fantasies. Unless you’re talking about a character in a porn movie, this is a really bad mindset to get into.

And then beyond the She-Hulk thing, Mr. Goyer can’t help but take a pot-shot on comics fandom, falling into the whole adult male child who never has sex stereotype. Um, dude. Have you been in a comic shop in the last five years? To a convention? Over half of the attendees of Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle were women. All you’re saying with a crack like that is, “I am not part of your culture at all, and I don’t care enough to even know who you are.”

Can an outsider write a good comics movie? I really don’t think so. From the vantage point he’s taking, the source material is male power fantasy for underdeveloped men. That’s not what the comics themselves actually are, for the most part. Not the ones worth reading. Dear god, what’s he going to do with Wonder Woman? What are the odds he gives her a role beyond male sexual fantasy?

The best comics movies love their source material. You just can’t do it if you don’t inherently think there’s something noble and human about people like Tony Stark or Peter Parker. If you don’t capture the love, you end up with things like Man of Steel – loud, flashy, and heartless.

I was already skeptical of another Snyder-directed movie, but Batman vs. Superman: The Dawn of Justice just firmly dropped into the rent on home video list for me, and that only because I’m a superhero addict.

Minute Reviews: May 14, 2014 Releases

This is the first of possibly many weekly posts, where I give a short reaction to various books I’ve read this week. And that’s more minute as in small than as in time, but whatever works for you. (Got a better name? I’m happy to hear it.)

Astro City #12

Astro City #12The best of this week is, as is often the case, Astro City. While this issue isn’t feminist at all (the only women present are a girlfriend and daughter), it’s still brilliant. (And they just finished an arc featuring one of the most explicitly feminist characters in comics, Winged Victory.)

This is an in-depth character study of a villain. Nobody does character study like Astro City. This time it’s a fellow that likes to dress up super fancy and commit crimes. I’ve tried my hand at creating a universe of super heroes, and it’s not easy to come up with interesting superheroes, and I’m always amazed that Busiek can rattle them off like nobody else. The Sweet Adelines, a barbershop crime team? Wow.

There may very well be universes with better written comics than Astro City, but I’m convinced we’re not living in one of them.

Lumberjanes #2

Lumberjanes #2I’m in love with the Lumberjanes.

It’s sort of like an all-girl Goonies in the weird woods. It’s goofy, offbeat, and utterly charming. It’s impossible not to read it and try and decide who is your favorite lumberjane. (I think I’m on team April right now. She’s simultaneously both the most femme, and the most eager to go along with adventure, and I love this mix.)

Sometimes people think feminism means Wonder Woman and Xena, strong women kicking ass. And I like those things. But it also means Lumberjanes – a group of young women who are capable, interesting, and telling their own stories.

Also featuring my favorite fake merit badge ever!

Afterlife with Archie #5

If you haven’t heard of this title yet, it may be surprising. What it is, is a genuine zombie horror book. It’s scary, gory, and heartbreaking. The fact that these characters are all so familiar makes this a lot more emotionally effective than typical for the genre. And the artwork is just perfect. Horror fans and Archie fans, check this out! I’m not really one for zombies typically, but this is just executed flawlessly.

Life with Archie: The Married Life #35

This title is ending soon (with a much-spoiled twist, thanks comics press!) As often happens in these circumstances, there’s a rush to tie up storylines in this issue. It’s not quite as effective as typical, but I still stand by my claim that this is the best modern-day normal life comic since Strangers in Paradise. It’ll probably fall into an obscurity that it doesn’t deserve, because this is primo stuff.

Batgirl #31

Not a bad issue. A creepy villain, an advance of a long-term shadowy corporate adversary, and some screen time for Batgirl’s roommate Alesia. Who is one of the first major trans characters in the supporting cast of a mainstream comic, so I’m always happy to see her. It’s a good issue of a good comic.

Iron Man #25

I’ve liked a lot of Keiron Gillen’s work on things like Uncanny X-Men and the sublime Journey Into Mystery, but his Iron Man has been hit and miss. This issue gives Tony Stark a chance to totally kick some Dark Elf ass, which is satisfying, but does kind of go on after a bit. I liked it but am ready to move on from this storyline now.

Star Wars #17

It’s a shame that the Star Wars license is reverting to Marvel in a few months, because this is the best Star Wars comics have ever been. (It was inevitable, though, with Marvel’s parent company buying Star Wars from Lucas.) This issue had more action and fewer of the wonderful character moments that this run has been notable for, perhaps because of the aforementioned need to tie up storylines in the limited issues left.

Captain Marvel #3

Carol Danvers, now there’s a character that has a feminist sensibility. Fighter Pilot background, top billing in the Avengers roster, and a can-do, no-nonsense attitude. I love her, and I love this version of her, dropping the cheesecake aspects of her past and upping the depth. This issue is more of her gallivanting through space, like you do, and it’s fun.

Batman Eternal #6

DC’s weekly Batman series. I like the idea of weekly series so much – they can have a lot of momentum and pack in a bigger story than most comic pacing has pages for. This particular iteration is kind of all over the place – each issue seems to have limited relation to the earlier ones. One of those storylines, though, is Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler, one of my favorite characters from the pre-new-52 era that got erased in the dubious reboot, and I’m in to see what they do with her. Which in this issue, is not appear. The Spectre shows up for some reason as they build tension about some mystical shit that is going to hit the fan along with all the other disparate elements introduced so far. If they can keep this all straight by the end and have a coherent story, it’ll be a miracle, but as messes go it’s pretty fun.

Shutter #2

An indy series about the daughter of some kind  of cross-dimensional explorer hero, who mostly wants to do her own thing and not follow in her father’s footsteps. The universe of weird has other ideas. I’m not sure really where this is going, but it’s interesting enough so far. I’m hoping for a little more agency to the main character soon, though.

All-New Ultimates #2

I like this team a lot. Not one of them is a white male. That’s pretty rare in superhero teams! Despite having All-New in the title, it’s actually a fairly been there, done that story, with a new team learning how to work together and not being as successful against a more cohesive group of villains on their first time out, and squabbling amongst themselves. Marvel publishes a lot of books like this – good superhero fare, but not groundbreaking particularly. (You could also read New Warriors, Mighty Avengers, or X-Men for the same itch!) Still, I like the team roster, and I like teen superhero team books, so I’m not disappointed.

Worlds’ Finest #23

I’m still happy that the put the apostrophe in the right place. It’s the little things in life. This is another book that’s fun but not blazing new ground, and I read because I like the roster. In this case it’s Power Girl, who is the Supergirl of Earth 2, and Huntress, who is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman from Earth 2, who get trapped in the main DC Universe and do their thing. Strong female characters doing their thing. Sure, I’ll read that.

Kevin Keller #13

I read this book because I’m just thrilled this book exists. Kevin is the gay teen in the Archie line. And this book is exactly like any other Archie comic (except the two earlier in this review!) Kevin has dating drama, but it’s all fairly low key. He has rivalries with the other kids, Reggie is kind of a jerk sometimes, Veronica uses him as her Gay Best Friend because of course she does, and for the most part the world treats him well and doesn’t give him trouble for being gay. I can only imagine what reading this title would mean to a teen gay boy, and I hope they keep publishing it for a long time.

Fables #140

Fables might be the second best Vertigo comic ever. (Behind Sandman, and in the same class as Books of Magic in my book.) It’s consistently great, and almost never has an issue that falls into cliches or shoddy storytelling. Unfortunately, almost never is not quite never, and this is the rare issue that isn’t that good. Well, still go back and read the collected editions of this Fairy Tale mish-mash epic. And we’re heading into the home stretch, with #150 announced as the series finale. And we’ll just kind of forget this little paint-by-numbers adventure happened.

All-New X-Men #27

In last year’s X-Men event, we were introduced to a team of Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants from the future, with an interesting roster including a Mystique-esque shapeshifter and young Charles Xavier look-and-power-alike. This issue, for some reason they come back and attack this team of X-Men. There’s a lot of fighting, and some development of the two above mentioned Future Brotherhood members, who are both children of Mystique in the end. Whatever is going on here might be interesting once it’s revealed, but in this issue, it’s just chaos and confusion. And the backstory mentioned above isn’t really all that interesting. I think the future Brotherhood is one of those ideas that was more interesting when they were a mystery.

Whew! I don’t know if I’m going to write up this many every week (I read way too many comics!) so enjoy it.