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Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Comics For Your Girlfriend

Gentlemen and ladies, Brad Meltzer is back, in full effect.
(JLA #1 preview image via Newsarama)

Chests hewn from the living rock! Is that the point the page is trying to make? It would explain how two out of three don't have to worry about an exploding shell piercing their skin. Yes, they collectively share skin. It's a cozy arrangement.
All I know is that compared to the other three, the Batcave has really sad tits.

But I like how Batman starts off the meeting by hitting on the other two. DC said he had loosened up.
Also note that post-Infinite Crisis, Wonder Woman has gained a new power: her left breast is now capable of independent speech.

Is this just a silver age homage to Jimmy Olsen's talking crotch? (scroll to example #4)

I think it looks like her shoulder is actually doing the talking. Maybe at the end of 52 they'll reveal that Wonder Woman now has two heads: the main one and a little one that does most of the talking and is kind of off to the side over her shoulder. Now that's worth waiting for!
"Okay, who's first" is so being spoken by her breast. That ain't no shoulder.
Oddly, I just read IDENITY CRISIS for the first time... got it out of the library. Meltzer is a much better writer than I'd thought. I may have to pick up more of his work.
While it sometimes veers into fan fiction territory, I admit Meltzer is pretty skilled at pacing and dialogue. I thought Identity Crisis was weak on characterization (at least characterization at all consistent with established versions of the protagonists), surprisingly poorly plotted for a book by a mystery writer, and downright repellent in its treatment of women--ranging from helpless victim to Bitch Crazy. In nearly every case women were only important for the ways in which they affected, related to, or could be used as tools by men. If I thought the whole series were a dark joke by Meltzer, a critique of the worst assumptions made by the genre, I'd love it. But I don't think it was.

I'm far more willing to accept a Superman who unknowingly fathered a chlid than a Superman who "only hears what he wants to hear." That's like no Superman I've ever encountered, and it's a universe away from my understanding of the character.
All the good bits in IDENTITY CRISIS evolve from characterization. There is no third person viewpoint. Everything we learn is through dialogue or first person narrative.

Which is to say, the characterizations that you are objecting to are subjective. Green Arrow is the one who thinks Superman only hears what he wants to hear, and in fact, that rather harsh and judgemental suppostion by Ollie (which I'd say has a large element of guilty self justification to it) is immediately proven wrong, as Superman hears something he really DIDN'T 'want to hear'.

I think the characterizations presented in the story did what characterizations in an established universe like DC's should do, here in the Modern Age -- they made these very old, very familiar icons seem very real, and very human. In some ways, that's been a problem for me, as an old Silver Age fan (DC's Silver Age was all about two dimensional characterization) but I found Meltzer's work very plausible, and even charming, despite the grim overtones of the story.

Am I happy to find out my Silver Age JLA was brainwashing their villains in the best MK Ultra tradition? No... but it makes very plausible sense, given the reality of the world they inhabit (not something Gardner Fox ever paid a lot of attention to).

As to the horrible representations of women, um, well... Sue was the victim, sure. They had to pick someone. Tim Drake's dad, and Captain Boomerang, both ended up being victims, too. Does that disparage all older men as powerless incompetents? Or is it okay, since they were both white guys? As to EVIL BITCH, well, again, it gets pretty boring when only white males are allowed to be villainous. Imagine how pissed you'd be if they'd created a black, gay character who was teleporting around and brutalizing the JLA's wimmen folks.
The whole treatment of Sue Dibny & Jean Loring in ID Crisis did make me queasy, something I've written about ad nauseum in other places. But to be fair to Meltzer, he was specifically told to make that book something "shocking" and "icon-breaking." The basic premise of the book -- and the dark tone -- was decided upon in a meeting long before Meltzer was on board. I met him when I was assisting on ID Crisis and he was a pretty nice guy. Do I think there was a disconnect between the way males & females interpreted the script as it first came in? Yes. The two women who read it (me and an editor) found that it made us queasy but we really didn't make a point of it. The men -- for the most part -- couldn't see what was wrong. Had a female editor (or one of a couple of really sensitive male editors I know) had the book, I think most probably these women's issues would have been addressed to the writer & that things would have been "tweaked." Besides that though, the JLA page you've shown is pretty unfortunate. I doubt Brad wrote in the script: "now do a shot of WW's big ones." But the job of the editor is to see the resulting art and say, "hey, this looks pretty ridiculous" or "WW's tits are talking." At any rate, in all these unfortunate bits, I think the responsibility is shared not just by the writer but by the artist who interprets it and the editor who vets it.
Absolutely; team effort, team responsibility.

I'm sure Brad is delightful in person, and your explanation that the iconoclastic tone of IC was set well before Meltzer came aboard doesn't surprise me. When the books were coming out, I seem to remember that DC's bewilderment at charges of sexism seemed pretty sincere--which had the effect of bothering me more. Like those male editors you mention, they couldn't see it. I could see it, eventually to the exclusion of all the various things the book did right. Jean Loring's motivation and characterization is really, really problematic for me. I couldn't believe I was reading it at first.

I did find it amusing that immediately after this series, which purported to instill a new level of psychological realism in the DCU, that Jean Loring was possessed by Eclipso, used her alluring Lady MacClipso powers to lead the Spectre astray on a cosmic murder spree (those women!) and eventually found herself frozen in permanent orbit around the sun. Realism!
My thinking is that the fantasy parts are the superhuman capacities, and the extraordinary events that arise from the interaction of those superhuman capacities in a fictional metareality.

The 'realism' comes in with the characterizations and the backdrop. We want characters who wear skin tight costumes and who drop kick sizable planetoids into each other's foreheads while firing particle beams out of their eyebrows. But we ALSO want them to behave in a manner we find credible based on our own experienced with normal human interactions.

I myself, misognyst though it may seem, have experienced the sort of behavior Jean Loring exhibited in IDENTITY CRISIS. I have, in fact, seen such behavior manifested by both male and female human individuals. It's crazy, but I don't think it's impossible or unlikely, or 'unrealistic', for a writer to depict such behavior in a fictional story.

More than that, I don't think it's sexist for a male writer to ascribe such behavior to a female character.

I suppose they could have had Donna Troy's ex husband Terry pull the same stunt, and accidentally kill... I don't know who... some other non super powered male romantic interest (Steve Trevor? Does he exist nowadays?). And then nobody would be calling Metzler 'sexist'. But honestly, the whole thing strikes me as a really pointless criticism. But maybe that's just me.

I will say this -- if a character from DEADWOOD wound up eternally frozen in orbit on the far side of the sun, I'd say you had a legitimate bitch. Offering that up in the context of a superhero universe strikes me as a little bit forced, to say the least.
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