January 6, 2011

Oh DC, never change. No, wait. Do.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 5:09 pm

Well, it looks like DC is definitely heading for a Kate/Maggie hookup in the upcoming Batwoman title. It’s been looming for a while, ever since Rucka broke up Maggie and Toby back in Detective Comics, but I’ve been trying to ignore the signs; individually, none of the clues — the breakup, the dance, and even the quote there at the Source — has been conclusive. And I’d still be quite happy to be proven wrong. But I’m done holding out hope. The combined weight of all the hinting seems too much to ignore.

And let me tell you, now that I’ve admitted it’s happening, I am fucking pissed.


December 13, 2010

On the Bechdel Test

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 10:19 pm

… and Women in Refrigerators, and various other litmus tests for social commentary:

No, these tests are not incredibly useful on a micro scale. Of course they aren’t. Pick a movie, a comic, a novel that fails these tests. 90% of the time, I promise you, there will be some “good reason” why the story fails. It will make perfect sense and be totally appropriate that that character died or that other woman never got around to showing up or that particular character of color got picked off first. It will feel natural and justified in the story. Clearly either this story is a GOOD story, an EXCEPTION to the rule of social justice that the test illustrates, or the test in question is bankrupt and meaningless.

Guys, even ignoring everything else going on there, those arguments are both meaningless because that is not why these tests matter. It’s certainly how some people use them, myself included – I know that a quick Bechdel’s is usually a strong, though certainly far from absolute, indicator of how much I’m liable to enjoy a work – but it’s not why they matter. They matter because they show trends.

When one story fails Bechdel’s that is fine.
When every story fails Bechdel’s, that is indicative of a serious cultural phenomenon.

Or to put it in a more familiar-to-the-griping context,
It is a rather different thing to say “oh this action movie fails Bechdel’s” than it is to say “yet again, an action movie fails Bechdel’s.”

Or for those who like metaphors,
Check an apartment’s power consumption over a single day, you have a basically meaningless data point. Check the monthly electric bills over the course of a year, you actually start to know something and can make a few concrete and informed statements about the residents’ appliance use.

And when the bill is astronomical, that’s the point where you can start to legitimately be pissed with your roommate when she once again leaves the light on. Even if she did have a perfectly good and justifiable reason this time, she swears.

January 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 7:57 am

Why does The Court Jester, a comedy made in 1955, have more evolved gender politics than Youth in Revolt, a comedy made in 2009?

January 13, 2010

Oh, it’s a good day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 11:48 am

I came to comics, actually, fairly late in my nerdy development. Not to superheroes, mind. Like much of my generation, I grew up watching cartoons like Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles and Captain Planet, so I was around the genre from the beginning. My parents had a VHS of the original Tim Burton Batman movie, taped from broadcast, which I used to watch alongside the Care Bears Movie II and reruns of Star Trek. I watched Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman religiously, and I still get a charge out of the theme songs from the 90s X-Men and Spider-Man and Timmverse cartoons. The Batman animated series especially; Batman, really, was the first superhero who was mine, in that possessive, passionate way that fans get about their favorite characters. Introverted genius with a good heart and poor social skills – what young nerd wouldn’t latch onto that?

Comics, though, I didn’t come to until my freshman year of college. My whole social circle was a huge pile of nerds, a few even nerdier than me, and they quickly indoctrinated me in all the nerd culture I had missed. I was taught D&D and taken to the game shop to hoard polyhedral dice and strapped in for Cowboy Bebop marathons, and somewhere in there, my roommate loaned me a couple Sandman trades (which I liked, but wasn’t blown away by), and a friend explained about the multiple Robins (she didn’t know about Girl Robin, though), and I started to wonder if maybe superhero comics weren’t something I should look into.

I have no recollection of exactly how I heard about BIRDS OF PREY. A suggestion by a friend who liked Buffy, and been led from Buffy to try out that abysmal live action Birds adaptation (and I use the word loosely), and thought that might be a good comic to start with, maybe? It seems likely, almost sounds familiar, but honestly I don’t know. It was such a small, casual thing, I didn’t have high expectations, Sandman hadn’t been very awe-inspiring after all… the decision was hardly a memorable one, more of a whim. It does seem like an odd place to have come to on my own. I had no investment in Batgirl, I’d never even heard of Black Canary; you’d think I’d have started with Batman, regardless of how intimidating the issue numbers might be. I was becoming vaguely feminist and picky about my fandoms by that point, though. Maybe it was just the first thing that looked sort of familiar and starred women. If that was it, I’m really lucky I didn’t start with Tomb Raider.

I didn’t start with a trade. I was a comic noob, I didn’t know about trades (or Crises, or mantle-switching, or crossovers, or author changes and the Bold New Directions that accompany them, or any of that, for that matter). All I knew is what I have always done with every new story I consume: start at the beginning, and proceed in sequence. No, I started from issue one. And then I read every issue in sequence, all the way up to Gail’s then-current run, mainlining in the best mainlining nerd tradition. I think it took me about two days. Maybe three.

Somewhere in there, I found out about the minis that came out before the series proper started, and tracked those down and read them too. While the title had long since spun out into its own discrete thing by the time I caught up with it, the earlier issues – pretty much the entirety of Dixon’s tenure, basically – were fairly solidly under the Gotham umbrella, and regularly tied into the other Bat-books; there was a short Nightwing crossover, an issue or two given over to the Bruce Wayne: Murderer and Officer Down storyarcs, and much of the beginning of the series took place during the massive No Man’s Land crossover (hell, NML was an Event). So from those brief ties, it was pretty natural to expand into reading the other Bat-books, to pick up BATGIRL and NIGHTWING and start exploring the wider DCU. I followed Black Canary to the JLA, and met Wonder Woman. Basically every ounce of frustration, joy, laughter, catharsis, anticipation, triumph and sorrow comic reading has ever brought me; every single friend I’ve made in this community; every bit of inspiration and opportunity being a comic fan has ever provided me; I owe all of it to Birds of Prey and the passion and delight they evoked in me.

Nobody wake me up from this beautiful dream.

Of Dogs and Lizards: A Parable of Privilege

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 2:29 am

Today I’m feeling 101-y, I guess, so let’s talk about privilege.

It’s a weird word, isn’t it? A common one in my circles, it’s one of the most basic, everyday concepts in social activism, we have lots of unhelpful snarky little phrases we like to use like “check your privilege” and a lot of our dialog conventions are built around a mutual agreement (or at least a mutual attempt at agreement) on who has privilege when and how to compensate for that. But nonetheless fairly weird, opaque even if you’ve never used it before or aren’t part of those circles. It’s also, the way we use it, very much a cultural marker – like “Tolkienesque” or “Hall-of-famer” or “heteronormative,” you can feel fairly assured that a large number of people will immediately stop listening and stop taking you seriously the moment you use it.


November 19, 2009

Nicely done, Texas.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 11:25 pm

Ahaha. Why am I just hearing about this now? Turns out Texas’ bigotry amendment prohibits straight marriages as well.

The big paranoid obsession of the homophobic activists out there is that permitting same-sex marriage will somehow destroy conventional straight marriage. And it’s always been completely obvious that this is completely ridiculous. Permitting same-sex marriage has never in the history of anything prevented or interfered with straight marriage in the least.

But trying to prevent same-sex marriage totally has.

The depressing part is, even a fail this epic will not get the stupidity of their opposition across to these people even a little bit.

November 18, 2009

In defense of Lois Lane

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 5:08 pm

There’s a long-standing joke, that stretches far outside of the tiny incestuous pool of comics fandom, about Lois Lane. I’d say “stop me if you’ve heard this before,” but I know you all have:

What kind of a moron can’t see through a pair of glasses?

Har har, Lois Lane was friends with Clark Kent and in love with Superman and couldn’t tell they were the same guy, what an idiot, right? And, okay. Put like that, it’s almost funny, like, once, provided that’s the only thing you know about the Superman mythology.

But it’s also ridiculously, patently, absurdly untrue – it is in fact the diametric opposite of truth – and any actual comic fan who says this in my presence immediately loses a big chunk of credibility, especially if they’ve actually read any Superman. It’s just so thoroughly wrong that it makes me actively suspicious of either nonexistent reading comprehension or ulterior motives.


November 15, 2009

Why I don’t like Blackest Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 7:10 pm

The Big Two are always doing line-wide crossovers these days. It’s the best way to sell comics, apparently, and given the audience they’ve dug themselves into over the years, that’s not all that surprising. Personally, though, I don’t like crossovers in general, for a lot of reasons, especially at DC – the DCU just isn’t built for cross-franchise continuity the way Marvel is – and the last few on both sides of the fence have just been epically bad writing even beyond all the usual annoyances of a crossover. So generally I just roll my eyes and keep reading my ongoings. Blackest Night is no exception – “shock” deaths which are ridiculously predictable, gore and horror for its own sake, glorification of the same small group of 60-year-old white male heroes while the quirky, funny, halfway diverse b-through-d-listers get sidelined or brutalized, plot-by-rote and reliance on characters not using their full established abilities or networks. By all accounts, it’s the best written crossover at the Big Two in years. This strikes me as rather faint praise, much like being the least disease-ridden rat in 14th century Europe.

It could, of course, actually be pretty awesome. I freely admit this. It very well might be. I wouldn’t know. I’ve been avoiding it. Because this is what Blackest Night is about: dead heroes and their dead loved ones become zombies and try to destroy living heroes.

You know what’s conspicuously missing in that summary?


I read superhero stories because the characters in them are heroes. They do something that is fundamentally noble; they risk their own lives for the sake of people they don’t even know. For total strangers. They have nothing invested in it, they get no reward. If you’re Superman and you live in Metropolis, what the hell reason do you have to care if some dude gets shot in Dubai? It has nothing to do with you. It will never affect you. It will never make the least bit of difference to your life, you wouldn’t even hear about it. But you would race time to stop that bullet anyway, because you’re Superman, and that’s what being Superman is about. The old-school X-Men tagline takes it even further – to protect a world that hates and fears them. Their lives would be easier if they stayed out of it! They risk their own safety to protect assholes and bigots who would gladly see them beaten into the ground. I am vastly cynical about the real world; I like my fantasy to be something comfortingly better.

Superhero comics… aren’t really much like that, anymore. It’s not about protecting civilians. At best, it’s about protecting loved ones – the unpowered girlfriend, the dad, the friend, the boss, the employee’s kid. People who the hero has something invested in. People who the hero would hurt for, were they hurt, and who the hero would miss, were they gone. Not so selfless, anymore, is it? Protecting your family, your clan – it’s a good impulse, one a reader can respect. It’s not particularly superhuman, though. It’s natural, and most of us do it to one degree or another. Not something that inspires awe or says “hey, this here is a truly heroic person.” And frankly it’s boring storytelling. You can only kill so many of the hero’s girlfriends before it becomes a running joke, and the readers stop bothering to care about the new ones.

That’s still better, though, than the bad guys attacking the heroes. Honestly, what is the least bit heroic about defending yourself? It’s just a big game of Red vs Blue, at that point – Clock King attacks the Teen Titans, Teen Titans attack the Clock King, Clock King escapes prison and attacks the Teen Titans again. Why should I care? It’s just a grudge match on both sides, there’s no moral difference between Red and Blue. This is not superheroics. This is playground spats with sci-fi trappings.

I mean, I’m sure Nekron is a terrible threat to the entire universe, blah blah yadda yadda I’ve read this story before. But right now, the entire thrust of Blackest Night has been “zombies attack former friends. Former friends are sad/scared/angry/suck it up and deal in order to survive.” I know a lot of people love that kind of story. More power to them, and I’m glad they’re enjoying themselves. But me? I’ll be over here, waiting for a plot with some actual superheroes.

November 14, 2009

Comic reviews ahoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 7:41 pm

Well, I didn’t get it done last week, slacker that I am, so here’s two weeks of comic reviews.



November 3, 2009

Yes, it does, in fact, matter.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sindelókë @ 5:40 am

I’m inevitably going to talk politics on this blog, which means I’m inevitably going to get Oppression Bingo comments. Which I’m probably going to mostly ignore or dismiss. The teacher gene in my generation went to my brother, I lack the patience to explain Sexism 101 six million times to people who aren’t interested in getting it.

However, everybody makes a first comment somewhere. Everybody who’s at all aware of hir privilege had one moment where it finally clicked. The only reason I’m remotely socially aware is because I read the same arguments a thousand times in a thousand places until the thousand and first finally got through to me. This stuff cannot be said enough times in enough places in enough different ways. So I’ll probably be doing occasional posts about the bingo set, just to get one more iteration out there.

We’ll start with the biggest one, for me, because I am a storyteller, and this is where I live: “It’s just a book/game/comic/movie/tv show, what’s the big deal?” (more…)

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