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Catwoman in Need of a Reboot

I have been a fan of Catwoman for almost twenty years. I remember Catwoman as one of only two series I subscribed to during the nineties. Now, I do admit that I haven’t kept up with the series or the various successor series after my subscription lapsed. But my fondness for the old series makes this rant review all the harder to write.

The New 52 has not been kind to Selina Kyle. The new Catwoman series (first twelve issues by Winick and March and following issues by Nocenti [I don’t know if the artist is changing]) is simply terrible. I made it about two and a half issues in before I could take no more.

Why? I cannot stand Catwoman’s new personality. To me, Selina Kyle should be cool, confident, and prepared. She is the best damn cat burglar in the world. She should be capable of going toe to toe with Batman on an intellectual level.   She is Irene Adler to his Sherlock Holmes.

This new take on Catwoman makes her look like a downright fool much of the time. Seriously, she doesn’t know why that Bone guy is after her? She’s that clueless? Don’t get me wrong, there are moments where Selina Kyle does show some signs of actually thinking through her crimes. But those moments are few, far between, and negated by her addiction to danger.

Keeping in mind I couldn’t take it anymore after the midway point of the third issue, the plot seemed scattershot with no center. Maybe the point of the arc is more an exploration of this new Catwoman’s personality. Selina Kyle is a danger addict with a strong death wish which I cannot stand.

In the end, this is just bad. I certainly won’t be following this series. (And I’ll have to email my local library to ask them why they picked this book up)

So, is there any hope for the future? I don’t know. Given the freshness of the reboot and the early take on Selina’s personality, I do not hold out much hope that any succeeding writers can do much to salvage Catwoman. And Ann Nocenti’s interview with Comic Vine seriously leaves me with trepidation. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but I have the feeling that the series will be in steady decline for some time. Will it turn around? I don’t know. I hope so, but I fear.

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Comic Books: Characters, Creators, and Being a Gay Fan

I’m a lapsed comic book fan who has recently gotten back into comic book reading. In an earlier post, I described myself as a DC fanboy who wants to branch out into smaller publishers and creator owned titles. And I don’t know why I’m not enthusiastic about Marvel. I’ll aim to follow those two threads in another post or two on comics in the near future. What I want to discuss here is how I choose what comics I want to read.

Generally, fans of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) come in (roughly) permutations of two broad categories. Readers in the first category (and likely the most prevalent) are those who follow specific titles and characters. Readers of the second category are those who follow specific creators and creative teams. Now, the key to this formulation lies in permutations. Some readers start out being more character or title centric, but become fans of a specific creator or team and decide to follow their concurrent and subsequent work. And there are many other possible permutations (which can be left alone for now).

I describe myself as a mixture of the two. During my first period of heavy comic book reading, I was strongly character and title driven. Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Catwoman, Robin (Tim Drake), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), etc. are some of the titles I followed as a kid, creative team unimportant. Flash forward a few years. I’m now increasingly more a creator centric reader rather than a character/ title centric reader. Although the character/ title does still influence what I want to read.

Of the titles I’m following, the two that most align to focusing on character and title are Teen Titans and Stormwatch. The rest of what I follow are mostly geared towards creative teams. In fact, increasingly whether I like the creative team trumps whether or not I am “devoted” to the title or characters.

Being a gay comic book fan (I won’t describe myself as a geek) adds an interesting complication to things. Yes, part of the reason why I picked up Teen Titans and Stormwatch is because of the inclusion of gay heroes. While I am generally interested in the Teen Titans (and Tim Drake), Bunker did play a role in my picking it up. And of course, Stormwatch is notable for having two of the premier gay superheroes in Apollo and the Midnighter. Now, some could consider my picking up Earth 2 as being similarly influenced by Alan Scott’s sexuality. But at the time I picked up Earth 2 #1, I was under the impression that the new gay hero would appear in Geoff Johns’s Justice League! I picked up Earth 2 because I’m a fan of James Robinson.

There is, to a degree, a sort of politics that goes along with following the adventures of gay heroes. It is important to let the major publishers know that diversity is a good thing and encourage further inclusion. I want to read about the adventures of gay heroes. And hell, what about some gay villains, too?

But, this does not mean that I’m going to follow a series with gay characters if I don’t think it is any good. A good example is Stormwatch. Paul Cornell’s initial run is a great read and introduction to the characters. I hate to admit that I missed issues 7 and 8, and I’ve read issues 9 and 10. Right now, I’m not loving Peter Milligan’s run on the series. It seems to be a series of scattered oneshots and character pieces that don’t really go anywhere. Of all the titles I’m following, it is likely that Stormwatch will be the first I drop. Unless something changes.

Now, a few years ago, I was really into Young Avengers. Personally, I think it is a shame how badly mishandled the series was. Once Heinberg  left Marvel after the first 12 issues, another creative team should have taken over the book. The occasional miniseries that come out in regards to various Events did the property no favors, in my opinion. Marvel should not have waited for Heinberg to finish out the concept with Children’s Crusade. It should have been a monthly ongoing. Now, fans of the team and its members will have to hope that other writes will release them from the Limbo of Forgotten Characters.

How fans choose to approach reading and collecting comics is an important one. And it is important to understand the reasons behind making conscious selections. Making the right choices can alleviate the frustrations that go along with being comic book fans.

As a gay comic book fan, I think it is important to include glbt characters in a number of roles. As I said earlier, I want to read about gay heroes and villains. But comic book shopping decisions must not be based solely on limited criteria.

 

Double Issue Review

Today, I have two reviews of the first two issues of Dial H and Earth 2. Now, the easy review would be that I love both series and urge everyone to check both out. But, to do a just review, one must utilize depth.

Dial H

From the brilliant and creative mind of China Mieville, this series has all of the elements that makes a great Mieville story. The series follows Nelson, an obese out of luck Londoner, who happens on the H Dial when his friend is attacked by the gangsters he works for. Thus begins the random heroic career of a most unlikely superhero.

And that’s the key. Nelson should not be a super hero, but he is. And that, I think, makes this series work so well. Nelson is not even an everyman. He is someone no body would want to be. He doesn’t even want to be himself. Which introduces an amazing series of characterization shots.

Indeed, beyond the superhero surface is a heartfelt and compassionate study of identity and the desire to become someone else, someone heroic.

The progression of the series has so far been fast paced and addicting. And the villains have so far been very cool and extremely weird.

Mieville has found an excellent partner in Mateus Santolouco and the rest of the art team. My goodness, the art is gorgeous in a weird, somewhat surrealist style.

For those of you who have not checked out Dial H, what are you waiting for? Do it now!

Earth 2


To begin this review, one must acknowledge the controversies surrounding it. For one thing, the revelation of Alan Scott as a gay man in this new universe. And, of course, there are the deaths of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the first issue during the final battle with the forces of Apokolips.

The thing is, you see, this series is a radical departure from the usual Earth Two depiction. Instead of these heroes existing in a Golden Age of Super Heroes, these heroes (Scott, Garrick, etc.) are the second generation of heroes (or wonders as the residents of Earth 2 call them).

James Robinson has embarked on something akin to an superhero epic. The old heroes, hell the old gods, are dead. Who will take their place when the world needs new heroes? I look forward to that answer.

The first issue is powerful and heart breaking. Especially the relationship between Batman and his daughter, Robin. And that last scene, wow.

The second issue picks up with the introduction of the Flash (Jay Garrick). In this reality, he gains his powers from a dying god (guess who). So, much of this issue is built around him learning how to use his new powers and his first experiences as a hero. Indeed, his growth as a character is very well done. He is, I think, going to develop in to a fine hero.

Less time is devoted to Alan Scott and the newly arrived Michael Holt. I look forward to seeing how Mr. Terrific integrates into this new world.

Moving on to the future Green Lantern, the handling of his sexuality and his love life is excellently handled. There is a touching frankness to it that is deceptively simple to achieve. And Robinson achieves it. Now, the question is, what will happen to Sam? That final splash does not look good for him. Again, making a reader worry for a newly introduced character mere moments after their introduction is an excellent achievement.

The art team on this book led by Nicola Scott is excellent. Again, I think the series is very well served by the art.

This series has me dying to know what is coming for the future Justice Society.

If you haven’t checked this series out, why the hell not. Get to it! Now!!

Reactions and Updates

After my post on Tim Drake last night, I felt the need to update with the news coming out of DC that a long established, previously straight character will be coming out as gay in the DCNU.

I forgot to mention that DC has a new continuity, so who knows what is still canon and what no longer happened. So in a lot of ways, this opens the door for new story telling possibilities in regards to race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, etc.

Now, speculation is rampant over who the new gay character is. DC is rightly coy about it. But, there are some hints floating around. The character is prominent but may not have had a presence since the reboot. It is also intimated that he or she will be involved with a major Justice League arc in the coming months.

Like other GLBT comics fans, I’m excited about which character is coming out. I can’t wait. But, I’m not going to waste my time speculating who it is until it is announced.

Now, on to the next topic.

 

Breaking In, Hope, and Anxiety

Getting published, in any form, is fraught in equal measure with hope and anxiety. Hope that you’ll make the sell, and anxiety that all you’ll get is rejection slips. As any writing website will tell you, it helps immeasurably if you can follow the preferred submission method. If a magazine wants a submission formatted a certain way, format it that way. Otherwise the editor will reject your story, no matter how good it is, outright. The key is researching what the agent, editor, or whoever decides wants.

A few days ago, I watched Cartoon Block’s video of a Marvel Comics panel at Wonder Con (I think). There, they answered questions about how an artist can get a job at Marvel. And, if you check out the DC submission page, much the same is true with them. Essentially, the various comic cons act as a form of job fair. The key is, again, to know what works best. Personally, I really liked Joe Quesada’s portfolio recommendations.

The convention or trade show as job fair is equally true with video game developers. The key thing is to make contacts in the industry and to really understand what their format is for hiring new writers. This is still an area that I’m unfamiliar with, but from everything I’ve read, it is highly recommended that one goes to trade shows and conventions to get noticed.

It also helps to have your name and your work out there. If you have previous publishing credits or say a Deviantart account, you may have more of a leg up in some instances.

That was breaking in, now lets talk about hope and anxiety. Working in comics, either traditional American style or Manga style, is fraught with problems. Like the Comicvine Podcast mentioned last week, it is rare that creator owned works will become wildly successful. That is not to say that every one should just go work for DC or Marvel. Just be aware of what the risks are and be prepared to deal with the issues that will arise. Much of this is also true of OELs. I will admit that I’m not as familiar with OELs as I should be, but it is clear that they are nowhere near as popular (or as respected) as their Japanese counterparts.

That said, a new writer does not need to have a spectacular, career defining idea or work right off the bat like JK Rowling. LB Gale on her site has an interesting look at George RR Martin’s career. It was twenty or more years after he started writing professionally before he started on A Game of Thrones, the first book of his A Song of Ice and Fire. Now, which works of his are going to be remembered? You got it, A Song of Ice and Fire.

At the end of it all, writing professionally is hard work. You never know when you will make a sell. But, in the end, it is important to keep trying. Persistence does pay off.

Creator Rights and Comic Books

At Comicvine today, I read an interesting, if short, article on how much control a comic book creator should have over her or his creations long after they have left the series they originally worked for. Personally, in a work for hire situation, I think it is reasonable to expect that the creator of a book or character will not have any further influence on the direction of story lines after their time has passed (unless they return to the property).

Now, in a situation where the creators of a work own the rights to that work, I agree that they should retain as much control as feasible save for certain publisher or editorial issues. But when a creator is working for Marvel or  DC, he or she should expect that their contribution is not their’s alone. They write in a shared universe where all work, both present and past , belong to the company rather than the individual writers.

On one level, it stinks because the creators are denied control of their work and may or may not be paid royalties for continued use of their creations. However, without this situation, the shared universes that are DC or Marvel could not exist. And much of the American comics industry would not be what it is.

A long standing issue  that this question brings up is Shatterstar’s sexuality. When Peter David reintroduced the character, he characterized him as being bisexual (which was also hinted at earlier by earlier, post creator writers). This development, however, did not agree with one of his creators, Rob Liefield. Now, this argument introduces GLBTQ politics into the matter, which gives a different light to the issue rather just a matter of continuity.

Another controversy has, of course, erupted in the last few days in the announced Watchmen prequel series. As expected, Alan Moore, the creator of Watchmen, was most displeased by the development. Whether Moore is right or wrong in his argument that bringing back The Watchmen is stupid is anyone’s guess (and likely will not be truly understood until the completion of the series).

In both instances, I have to side with the publishers. While one development is good for LGBTQ visibility and the other one is likely an attempt to milk whatever is left of The Watchmen franchise, both works are now in the hands of other people. I like Shatterstar’s bisexuality, and I do not like the idea of a prequel series. But the ball is in the publisher’s court.

So, for those who want to work on their favorite superheroes, always remember that it is part of a larger shared universe. One’s time on the series will be fuel for what other creators do. Creators may not like it, but once it is out of their hands, the ball is in another’s court. The only way to avoid that is to create one’s own stuff in a creator owned format. But the onus will be on the creator to see it through to the end.

 

A Random Potpourri

I have nothing in the way of reviews, attempts at criticism, etc. So, I’ll just post a few snippets of stuff and an idea or two.

So, DC announced yesterday that they are updating their New 52 titles, cancelling six and adding six. It is troubling to see Mr. Terrific and Static Shock go (given the dearth of African American led titles). But I am excited about one of the new titles: Dial H by China Mieville. That’s right Mieville is writing a monthly comic book series. Digest that. I am expecting awesome.

Speaking of comic books. I had entertained the idea for a while that an online comic book magazine anthology (sort of like a manga magazine) could be a good thing. But the more I look into it, the less enthused I am. Unless I’m missing gems, the web comics I have seen have been serious let downs in both art and story telling. Then again, at my core, I think am more enamored of traditional publishing than I am of online publication (even though online publications are much easier to access).

The next round of the NFL playoffs begins tomorrow. Like last week, I’ll try to catch all of the games. I do have several teams I like still in there, and football is very conducive to free writing.

Moving the focus to the blog itself, I’ve been thinking of doing more features. Adding polls, pictures, etc. I don’t know what I would poll about, though.

Like I said in my “Rambling Changes” post, is it just me or are the recent slew of criticism, writer advice, and assorted genre nonfiction been mostly disappointing? Maybe I’m just tired of it all. There are still gems, but most of it has just started to annoy me.

Finally, a preview of what I’m working on in the upcoming posts:

A review of three writing guides: one for video games and two for comic books.

A review of a slew of graphic novels and collections. And maybe a rant about the looseness of the term “graphic novel.”

And (maybe) a review of some Leigh Brackett novels. Man I love old omnibuses!

Oh and one last thing. I don’t remember if I mentioned it in my post on uneasiness/ rejection of author politics, but I have another suggestion. If you really like an author but cannot stand his or her politics, check their stuff out of a library ( I read most of Miller’s Sin City through interlibrary loan a few years ago) or buy it through a used bookstore (the author does not get any royalties through resale). And if you shop at a local used bookstore, you can feel good about supporting a local business!