Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Two quick links to thing that are kinda sorta about DC superheroines.

Kelly Thompson, like Tom Bondurant and probably at least a dozen other smart writers-about-comics, discussed the announcement that J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman (whose names together make for the classiest sounding creative team; don't they sound more like Victorian barristers than guys making Batman comics?) were finally leaving DC's Batwoman title over creative differences with the publisher's now-notoriously hands-on editorial staff (I still think Wheeler's ComicsAlliance piece is the strongest all-around, and Khosla's is the "best," meaning "the one that made me laugh out loud).

Thompson notes the sort of abusive relationship dynamic that exists between the Big Two publishers and their most loyal base of fans—the well-known phenomenon in which readers angrily and bitterly complain about the publishers constantly, sometimes for years or decades, but continue to buy and read their wares—but in so doing she also brings up a point that I haven't heard articulated too terribly eloquently before, and certainly haven't thought much about in a long time:
There’s one reason and one reason only that Dan Didio and Co. can have an absolute disregard for creators – and it’s because they have learned time and again that we won’t actually stop reading. No matter how much of a fit we throw, we don’t actually stop buying, or at least not in significant enough numbers to make it matter.
And it’s hard to blame readers, because why should a character like Batwoman be punished because of something that has nothing to do with her. In fact, Batwoman is the perfect example because it’s taken so long for readers to get an openly gay hero headlining her own book. So do we risk losing that, something SO important in order to protest creator treatment? It’s a tough call.
I have my favorite characters and concepts and creators just like any comics fan, and, to a certain extent, those do tend to govern some of my purchasing decisions, but as each year passes and more and more material from more and more sources becomes newly available, quality becomes the determining factor of what I buy and read more than any other.

That said, I understand the impulse of wanting to vote with your dollars for things you think are important (and/or to not vote with your dollars for things you find repellent and don't want to support; I don't think I've personally done this so much with comics, but I certainly have when it comes to how I spend my money in other areas of my life).

Is a "mainstream," Big Two-published superhero comic book starring a woman, or an all-female team*, or a lesbian or a gay character, or a black character, or a Latino character so important to some readers that they will continue to buy and read comics like Wonder Woman or Birds of Prey or Batwoman or Batwing or Vibe, whether the comics are any good or not or whether they enjoy them or not or whether they think the publisher is treating the characters, the consumers and the creators shabbily?

Perhaps to some people it is, although it's hard for me to wrap my head around someone who digs Batwoman as is being more loyal to the character than the guys who have been telling the character's story for years now. I can't imagine the book is going to get cancelled if even one-third of its readers leave with Williams and Blackman though (And I expect a lot to leave; it's basically a beautifully, weirdly, intricately illustrated mediocre comic book as is, and it's next artist can't do beautiful, weird or intricate on any level approaching comparable).  It's a Batman comic, and likely to become more of a Batman comic. It's as close to uncancelable as a comic book can get.

For anyone looking for a new—or simply another—superhero comic book with a lesbian protagonist, however, might  I suggest Ross Campbell's (creator-owned) Shadoweyes?

Yes, I think I might: Give Ross Campbell's Shadoweyes a shot. It's like Wet Moon meets the original Stan Lee-scripted (or Bendis-written UltimateSpider-Man, filtered through an Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand of 1980s, black-and-white aesthetic. The cast is predominantly black, the title character is a girl who is as of volume two dating a girl, and there's also a gay male character and a transgender character. Plus a crime-fighting super-monster.

There are two volumes in existence so far, Shadoweyes and Shadoweyes In Love. The writing and characters and characterization are, in my opinion, far superior to what I've seen in Batwoman, pre- or post-New 52, although as I noted before, the main selling point of Batwoman is its weirdness and its artwork, and Campbell and Williams are both so good and so different, I have no idea how to even compare the work of one to the other in order to come up with an assessment of which is better.

I will say that Shadoweyes is damn good though, and worth looking into...particularly if the main thing you're reading Batwoman for is because it's a comic book starring a lesbian character.


I found a link to this blog, The Smith Kids Art Blog, on Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter today. The subject of that particular linked-to post is "The all girl Green Lantern Corps by Kassidy Smith," an 11-year-old who can design DC superhero costumes at least as well as Jim Lee can.

She draws an original version of a member of each of the variously colored Lantern teams, but the one I was most intrigued with was the Green Lantern character, a fraction of the image of which I put above (Follow the link to see the Green Lantern's kicky boots, and the other Lanterns).

That is brilliant.

If you're not super-familiar with the Green Lantern comics (so, I'm not talking to you here Sally), their rings have some sort of operating system that is both elaborate and vaguely defined. The rings give them their powers—the ability to convert willpower into energy and matter—and make their force fields and allow them to fly. They also have some sort of self-preservation mode to protect the wearer from harm, can create oxygen for them, translate alien languages, serve as communication devices and, depending on the writer or the particular era of Green Lantern comics, serve as a sort of super-Siri, answering questions the bearers may have regarding alien culture or where they are in space and suchlike.

I love the little projection the Green Lantern Smith drew has coming out of her ring. It looks like a comic book dialogue bubble, but it bears a face. I don't know the "story" of Smith's image or anything, but when I first saw that, I immediately imagined it as an avatar or "face" for that Lantern's ring operating system (not unlike a super-advanced version of that goddam paperclip with bug eyes that used to always butt in and ask if I was writing a letter or not).

I imagine that Lantern asking where she was in space, and that green balloon with a cartoon face appearing to answer her questions, and deliver analysis or advice as she needs or demands it, serving as a sort of character with a range of expressions not too far removed from those of, say, Squiggle. Green Lantern ring as Green Lantern sidekick.

Such should be well within the abilities of a talented and imaginative ring-slinger and the powers of the average Lantern ring; maybe we'll get something like that if DC ever gets around to creating a female earthling Green Lantern from Sector 2814. Right now they've got five dudes, so I'm assuming the next one will have to be a lady. Here's hoping they consult with the Smith girl when it comes time to design her...

*I read two issues of the Brian Wood-written X-Men comic that Marvel marketed with a mysterious "XX" ad, and found them to be incredibly average X-Men comics. In both cases, I found myself actively annoyed that they weren't better, given some of the reviews and positive buzz I had heard about them. I've only read one issue of the New 52 Birds of Prey, and that was horrible. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to push Ross Campbell. It took me (shame, shame) nearly five years to develop an addiction to Wet Moon, and I'm still kicking myself for waiting too long. Too long because if it'd been any other publisher, Ross might not've had free reign to do the tale in his own time. (And the more I re-read, the more I think it's extraordinary how not-just-naturalistic, but realistic the pacing is.)

Glory was Big 'Splody Fun, but it's not really a R.C. production, to me, so I'm absolutely teething for #7. Thankfully my slightly less local LCS is well-stocked, so I know they have Shadoweyes; might just tide me over...

Akilles said...

I can proudly say, that I buy and read Shadoweyes. Though it`s pretty boring alot of the time.

The sidekick-idea sounds very cool.

SallyP said...

Woohoo! Green Lanterns!

Bram said...

Putting in some hours at the LCS has cemented it — most comic readers don't follow creators nearly as much as comic bloggers. Usually more attached to characters, or universes, or eras ... even when they like a particular creative team's arc on a favorite series, they don't follow them elsewhere.

Yes, exceptions, the proven superstars: Gaiman, Moore. Ellis. Bendis, at least here, less than you might think.

I follow writers and artists I like to all kinds of weird titles. Do I really particularly want to read a dystopian sci-fi about corporations and bioengineering run amok? Eh. Do I want to read the latest from Rucka and Lar—OMG add me to the pull list.

(And as I much as I like Williams, it was Rucka's characterizations that kept me on Batwoman.)