So, over at Marvel (“The House of Ideas”) it’s THE YEAR OF THE WOMAN.
It’s okay if you didn’t hear about it. You’re not alone.
For the non-superhero-y amongst you, Marvel has a rocky recent history with “women”* Their Editor in Chief, the big boss, one Mister Joe Quesada, said the following when called out on a particularly tacky “pro-women” mini series marketing attempt:
“If you’re Marvel reader and truly feel we’re sexist, then why are you reading our books? Now, perhaps you’re not a Marvel reader, then if that’s the case, I’m not quite sure what you’re criticizing if you don’t read our books?”
Hahaha, oh my goodness.
So then this fellow leads, presumably, the branding of 2010 as year of the woman, or “Celebrating the Women of Marvel”. Which actually, is a bit different. A year about women, B-movie titles aside, would allow/demand new characters, real character development, new titles, and internal re-working so as to be far more welcoming to female creators and female fans. A year celebrating the pre-existing “women” “of” Marvel just gives them a semantic pass to put out a bunch of one-shots, a couple of mini-series-es – some about female characters, some done entirely by female creators, some non-staff female creators giving stories to anthology books – and give the ladies on the big teams or in supporting casts to big-name men slightly more page-time. Which, as far as I can tell, is what they did.
See, that may be better than before. But it’s not actually really that good. Do we still have women drawn like sex dolls, and men drawn like heroic bosses or, less commonly, sex dolls? Yes.
–And why is it different when women and men and drawn like sex dolls? Because what is codified as “sexy” for women and men is wildly different. One is at (quivering, womanly) core submissive and selfless, and one is about being powerful and stabbing people for gratification. I am in no way against penetrative sex between men and women, or anyone and anyone as long as they’re fine with it, but I have a massive problem with the way that mainstream non-pornographic male sexuality can only be expressed through MANLY MUSCULAR DOMINATION; that the penis is never present as an objet d’hot because it is just that powerfully destructive. No it isn’t!–
Do we still have to create threads on the internet to say “so how have these ladies fared this year? I can think of a female storyline here, and here, and here..”? Yes, obviously we do! Are all-female teams still seen in mini-series only? Yes. Are Teams with more women or girls than men or boys remarkable? Yes. Are most women still written by men who work for a company who has to do a year of celebration of ‘their’ women? Yeup. Is the company still run by a guy who says “if you don’t like sexism why don’t you just GO AWAY” and doesn’t even publically apologise? Oh, I think it is! Etc, etc.
As my non-lethal penis-owner gentleman said, “Dear Marvel,
Instead of giving women a mere 52 weeks to feel worthy of your attention, why not make every year Year of the Man and Woman and the Gender-Ambiguous? Cheers~”
The thing is, that having grown up negotiating my way through ‘fiction for boys’ like a great many people, I can exist within made-up universes mostly for and by males quite easily. I know Marvel, its Universe belongs to me and its populace has nurtured as well as enraged me. I don’t want to get off of England or the world just because a lot of people on both are sexist, and I don’t want to be pushed out of Marvel just because I realised that it was doing me wrong, in a lot of places. I can read other comics from other companies (and I do), but none of their original characters will ever be Rogue, Gambit or Wolverine. No red headed supermodel conversationalist supreme complex lady-and-wife will ever be MJ Watson. No other Dracula will ever be Marvel Dracula, and no other wolfman will ever be Jack Russel. No other super hero universe feels like the Marvel one. You know how for some reason you’re not supposed to hate the player, but just the game? I love the game, want to poke a lot of the players in the eye.
Anyway. Let’s start with the possible positivity show and tell.
Another thing about 2010 (I’m getting to the pictures) is that it also supposedly signalled the start of “the heroic age” within the MU. From wikipedia (shut up, it’s reputable enough for this): “The Heroic Age” is a 2010 comic book storyline that runs through a number of books published by Marvel Comics. It began in May 2010, marking a major change in the status quo of the Marvel Universe after the events of the “Siege” crossover event, much as “The Initiative” and “Dark Reign” dealt with the aftermath of “Civil War” and “Secret Invasion”, respectively.
Nice, right? Stick an Age of Implicitly-Male at the start of the second third of the year celebrating the women of Marvel. Bravo on timing, chaps!
I bought all four of the “The Heroic Age: Age of Heroes” miniseries anthology books (ohhh NICE TITLE) because, something positive and shiny and uplifting? And it features MI:13?? SIGN ME UP IT HAS BEEN TOO LONG! That, and I didn’t know it was supposed to be a year of ladies, because.. well, how would I? I mean, I’d heard a rumour, but I figured it sort of petered out and never went anywhere, because I certainly hadn’t heard any rumblings of large improvement.
Having read the issues, I gotta say: they did not feel worth three dollars ninety-nine. No way. Some stories are two pages long (hi MI:13.. bye MI:13..) and none of them are deep enough to feel like anything more than a preview. For free promos, they’d have been brilliant. For fifty cents or a dollar, they’d have been great. When I read some of the stories in preview scans, I felt far keener to buy than after I realised we’d paid four dollars for a set-up to a book that would cost just the same (Klaws of the Panther), four dollars for a few pages of meta-commentary, and four dollars for TWO PAGES about Captain Britain saying he’ll go and work in America part-time. EVEN FAIZA AND DANE BEING ADORABLE IS NOT WORTH FOUR DOLLARS UNLESS IT IS AN ORIGINAL PICTURE JUST FOR ME in which case it would be worth more than that, because eeeee.
I am such a picture-procrastinator! Here, look at this stuff.
Heroic Age: Age of Heroes 3 of 4:
So remember I mentioned the creators getting a little spotlight alongside characters? They interviewed some of their female staff members and put the interviews in the books. It said there would be one every month, but I have at least four months worth of Marvel comics in the pile I’m looking at and only two different interviews. This is one; this is the best one. It’s awesome. Photobucket is only allowing it to get so big, but please – strain your eyes (I may transcribe it later, right now my fingers are too cold) and read the bottom answer on each column. YEAH KELLY SUE DECONNICK! The questions are so facile, leading and lazy, but the answers are SO BADASS and truthful. What’s the problem, Marvel? You are the problem! And you can fix it! Listen to Kelly Sue DeConnick!
To my knowledge, the only story by this author I have read is a tiny almost-story from the HA:AH anthology (art by Brad Walker, Walden Wong and Jay david Ramos.). It wasn’t completely great, but for a tiny almost-story in an anthology it pleased me well enough. Highlights:
It’s weird to me that it’s weird to me to see ladies say “ew” about other ladies sneezing. I have experienced that in real life a zillion times, but in a spandex comic? It’s weird. Weird because it’s awkwardly written, or weird because ladies just don’t get to do that in these books? You decide. I can’t.
Having a person who needs to have HAD IT WITH THESE ACCUSATIONS, just because they used to be On The Wrong Side is common enough, and a reasonable part of storytelling in spyland. It is also very boring. But! It becomes UNboring if you give the defensive party a cold and phonetic dialogue! Hurrah!
You know how Spider-Man’s head used to be the symbol that meant “this is a Marvel comic”?
I like you, Kelly Sue (DeConnick).
AH:HO 4 of 4: Klaws of the Panther prologue. Written by Jonathan Maberry, art by Shawn Moll, Walden Wong, and Edgar Delgado.
I never cared so much about the Black Panther. He looked too much like Batman to me, and he was never on a team I was really into. He married Storm, which I wasn’t that sold on, but props to him if he can handle it. I didn’t expect to like the new, more boobular Black Panther when I saw her advertised earlier this year, because her coming was advertised like this (different heard for different ads):
Thanks for just about nothing, J. Scot Campbell.
But I read this story, and I thought it was really, really promising. It helped, I think, that I read it only a little while after I cut off all my hair – I have always gravitated towards characters who have hair like mine, because I am either a) shallow or b) visually oriented. The textures different, natch, but ladies with close-cropped hair are now my people.
Not just that, though.
The premise is that Wakanda, the country that the Black Panther rules as monarch, is in big trouble because of shenanigans in the larger Marvel Universe. Why exactly doesn’t really matter to the set-up, but they ended up losing their most valuable, useful natural resource, and for some reason T’Challa (Black Panther/King/main character here’s brother) isn’t there. So she has to step up.
I like the fact that she’s grown up tabloid fodder and is clearly smart and in control. I like the fact that she lacks shame about her past. I think the idea of someone having more tabloid time than those two ladies named is ridiculous to the point of story-breaking, especially if the worst this guy can come up with was “one time you had your blurred out tits in a newspaper and maybe-Lady GaGa was there whilst you sat with naked poise!”
But I really do like stories about people finding purpose (especially without having been all-round useless previously), and I really really like stories about patriotism and feelings about one’s country.
I’m not sure about how the sister/husband thing sounds like marriage = weakness, but I’m liking the potential of this story enough to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Then she punches the slut-shaming guy in the head! And wins!
Why do superheroine costumes always rip juuust there and there?
I guess that’s what happens, when you don’t let your characters wear sports bras.
Buy this book. Klaws of the Black Panther, probably some issues on sale around now-ish. Check a comic shop, I don’t know! If they’re mean to you, I’ll send round the frowns.
Written by Paul Cornell. You are my favourite, Paul Cornell!
This one-shot book is basically about:
Spitfire (Lady Jacqueline Falsworth-Crichton) deals with insecurity and fears re: new vampire status with a stiff lip, vulnerability and bravery!
She and the baddie have a punch-up! Worr, inna face! Then Spitfire kills the ol’ dame.
She allows her beau to comfort her in a way that loses her no agency! They kiss romantically! Beer! Lady Jacqueline gets stuff done!
Oh please can’t this be an ongoing?
Art by Elena Casagrande & Cris Peter.
Last up for this post (I have a lady-team mini-series to post about too, but this is getting kind of long) – some adverts. yeah, Marvel advertises everything and anything between their pages. But mostly: DC animated movies, why you shouldn’t do drugs, why you should drink milk, video games (whose adverts are almost always way too dark), and their own comics.
That suit is nice! I approve this design! It’s jaunty but also teen-edgy, it’s graphic but would translate well to real life, it isn’t unzipped and could be drawn motor-cycle jumpsuit-modest without breaking model. It has bear ears, but not actually! Bravo, anonymous designer. Bravo. Everyone should pick up a copy of Avengers Academy to see if they like it.. I even hear it’s pretty good.
I have no idea what this is but I don’t like it. It might be good, it might be OK, it might be great for kids or anything. But I see this in a Marvel book – even one with an all-female team written by a lady – and I think “yes, for example I want to beat you up, person who approved this patronising ad”. It is not all, but largely, about context. And tired gender role quips.
Oh my goshhhh, you guys, just let them have regular average heterosexual intercourse.
And let my girl do her zip up, yeah? Sugah, you know that ain’t practical.
Excelsior, true believers!
*Of course I should say “Marvel has a rocky history with women” but doesn’t it just feel so much better if you can convince yourself that you don’t have to get mad about sexism that happened in the sixties, because in the sixties nobody knew any better??