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nu52 – wk 3: Girls, Girls, Girls!

Brian Hibbs

Mm-hm

I’m sure you’ve already read Laura Hudson’s piece, because I’m hardly the first person to link to it, but just in case…. go read it.

 

BIRDS OF PREY #1: Hrm. Well, it didn’t totally suck, to be certain, but I also didn’t feel it at all. There’s a lot of talking about stuff, but little of it made a ton of sense to me. Canary’s wanted for murder? Who is this Starling girl? Why is Poison Ivy on the cover of this comic? Isn’t BC still a JLer? Or not? Was she ever even seeing Ollie Queen, ever? If not, then what was her original motivation for joining BoP, then? Why did Barbara hand BC a photo of Katana? No, seriously, why didn’t she email it? For that matter, why isn’t she over the moon interested in joining BC’s team?

This was like stepping into a theater 20 minutes after a movie began, then having to leave 40 minutes before it ended. And I don’t think I care enough to figure it all out. EH.

 

CATWOMAN #1: Hrm.

OK, well, let’s deal with the sex thing first: I don’t care if Bruce and Selina have sex… and I generally expect that they do quite often. I don’t really need to see it, though, and if I do, I really don’t need to see it in all of it’s stroky, frotagey, half-costumed glory.

My functional problem with this is that not only are ratings CLEARLY being applied inconsistently cross-line, but they are in no way clearly labeled on the outside of the book, either. You look at the cover of Catwoman #1 and can you immediately discern that, maybe, 8-point type “+” symbol? Now pretend you haven’t read a comic book in years, would you even know to look for it?

But here you go: would DC editorial EVER let the reverse of that scene happen in a comic book featuring Batman’s name on the cover? Especially in the first issue of a major repositioning? And since that answer is almost certainly “no”, this automatically becomes an inappropriate scene.

Honestly, these characters are children’s characters, and the fact that we, as mature adults can find enjoyable things about them, it really kind of bugs me how much we making adults-only things that should be accessible to children. More of that a bit later, me thinketh.

Now, having said all of THAT, otherwise I kind of LOVED this comic book — because I thought the places where it was being sexy (instead of sexual) were just terrific. Recasting Selina as almost a James Bond scenario worked very well, and Guillem March’s artwork? Damn, it’s nice. Sleek, sensual, dynamic, wow, brother can draw. If it wasn’t for nearly the descent into FanFic right there on the last few pages, I’d probably be saying this comic was GOOD. Possibly even VERY GOOD.  But FanFic it became there at the end, and that’s just not right for Batman of all characters, and it makes me say instead the whole thing became AWFUL.

 

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1:  So, take all of that dialogue read by Starfire in this, and picture it coming from the mouth of this:

Mm.

TINY TITANS comes out the same week as RED HOOD, ironically.

Starfire is not, I don’t think, so robust a character as to be able to hang on to two such disparate versions at the same time.

More generally, the rebooting done for Kori here is kind of insane — she doesn’t remember her time on the titans at all? WTF? This Roy Harper is not the robot-armed dead-cat swinger with a mass-murdering terrorist for a babymama? I’m assuming he can’t be Ollie Queen’s ward any longer, since Ollie appears to be dramatically re-aged. This Red Hood? Who is he? I mean, yes “Jason Todd”, but not one we know, since he seems to have all of these connections to some mysterious society of some kind? This is why you need to have origin stories, damn it!

I think that what the JSA was to DC after CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (“Well, we have one world now, but that makes these guys WAY TOO OLD to fight crime now, plus Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman  [among many others touched by JSA] can’t have ever been involved in the past, oh my god none of our continuity can make sense any more!”) is what the Teen Titans are to post-FLASHPOINT DC continuity. You simply can’t have multiple groups  of kid sidekick teams if you’re trying to de-age everyone… but those characters are also fairly popular, so they’re trying to keep the viable somehow… it’s a real knot of a problem, and it’s really on display here.

I loathed the continuity changes on display here, and don’t find them in service of creating more appealing characters or more interesting situations. The “hey my head looks like a penis” jokes were amusing, I guess, but other than that, nothing here that I’d want to read. Sadly AWFUL.

 

SUPERGIRL #1: This one is an origin, at least, but frustratingly decompressed, so that really “she lands and beats on some guys in robot suits” is really the sum of your $3 purchase. Not poorly done, but less than I wanted for my ducats. EH.

 

WONDER WOMAN #1: Right, so I have a fellow member of Ben’s school PTA who got sucked into the DC relaunch, probably because he’s on the PTA with me, y’know? Long-ago lapsed reader (like from when he was a teenager), and today he’s a tech geek with disposable income, kind of the perfect demographic they’re aiming at. Anyway, he’s been excited for weeks for Wonder Woman #1, because he was really really looking forward to sharing it with his eight year old daughter.

So, it really kind of killed me when I had to inform him that, in no way, could WW even slightly be considered appropriate for his daughter. Not with graphic on-camera beheading of a horse, where a new creature claws it’s way out of the horse’s fountaining neck.

Just what girls like!

The thing is? That scene, IMO, could have happened exactly as written, yet been drawn in such a way that it didn’t immediately make itself inaccessible to the nation’s 8 year olds.

You may certainly call me an old grandmother, but I firmly am of the opinion that monthly ongoing comics featuring Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman should be freely no-hesitation accessible by imagery for eight year olds and younger. That doesn’t mean the stories have to be WRITTEN FOR an eight year old — few of the comics *I* was reading in 1975 were — but a kid should be able to LOOK at them without having nightmares (well…), or offending their parents.

Having said that, I really loved WW #1 — great strong script from Brian Azzarello, loverly art by Cliff Chiang, and what appears to be an interesting contemporary direction. As a comic for ME? An easy VERY GOOD.

But I’d like my PTA cohort’s daughter, and, hell, everyone’s daughter, also be able to look at the comic too. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

 

As always, what do YOU think?

-B

 

 

 

13 Responses to “ nu52 – wk 3: Girls, Girls, Girls! ”

  1. I think that a bunch of us old curmudgeons really need to wrap our collective brains around the fact that someone who is 12-16 years old has access to things on the internet that we hadn’t even thought of when we were that age, and our idea of adult entertainment was the Playboy we snuck out from our dad’s clothing drawer. What’s age-appropriate is very very different these days. I always bring up the example of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson vs Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Turtlenecks and poofy skirts vs vinyl body suits and skin-tight jeans. WW specifically is not for children, but when put up against modern teen girl supernatural fare…yeah, it isn’t out of hand so much.

    And your Teen Titans/Red Hood and the Outlaws comparison about Starfire? No complaints here. I think some characters should never have been turned into kiddie versions, but I’m not the multi-billion dollar corporation in charge of these properties.

    All that said…THANK YOU for your comment on Catwoman! You summarized exactly what I was feeling. I was loving the book to death…until the last few pages threw me for an unexpected loop. I don’t hate the final few so much as I really enjoyed the interpretation of the character up until that point. Especially the first few pages of Catwoman ducking out of her apartment. I read some comments online about how it was strictly exploitative, but the first time I read it, it felt like Catwoman was just a step too quick and clever for even the camera to keep up with the action. Your comment that it was sexy without being sexual is spot on.

  2. For better or worse, the criticisms of the New 52 are aimed at aspects of continuity that have always been there, but are just now being presented in a different light. (I compare it to the awkward way Robin’s relationship to Batman was presented back in the 60s and 70s.)

    Do all of the new 52 portray women in the same fashion as Catwoman or Red Hood? Is it possible that two different women that consider themselves to be progressive can read the exact same issue and come to different conclusions? And is DC truly the only one engaging in this, as some claim?

    I think the key is being able to have an adult conversation about what we think is and is not appropriate. It’s great that we have Laura Hudson on the record (and I’m hoping to hear from Amanda Conner and Gail Simone as well), and I do hope this dialog causes some changes in the editorial suite.

  3. An issue of Wonder Woman scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. Only fair it does the same to today’s generation.

  4. I didn’t think Wonder Woman was at all inappropriate. As Tim says above, it was no worse, in terms of violence or the pretty mild raciness of a few panels, than what most kids will see on TV or movies. It was also a damn great comic, exciting and kinetic and pointing the way towards what’s sure to be one of the best things to come out of the New 52. So far, I’d say only Animal Man was better.

    It’s good to see someone not totally dismissing Catwoman. I thought it was a really fun, sexy book, and I thought the sex scene at the end was absolutely hilarious and ridiculous and insane, and I have no problem with a book that makes me laugh that much by the end. Yeah, I mean it’s blatantly not kid-friendly, so I guess I can understand that complaint… but I’m not a kid and I don’t have kids yet, so I can only say that I thought it was beautifully drawn and a real blast to read.

    Laura Hudson seemed to think that Catwoman and Red Hood were similar in terms of attitude towards women and sex, but I see a much playful attitude in Catwoman that redeemed it a great deal, made it much more fun to read. The Starfire stuff in Red Hood I just found icky, like this really stupid, witless male wish fulfillment of this perfect pneumatic sex machine who’s accessible to seemingly anyone she meets. Catwoman didn’t come across that way to me at all. Plus, Red Hood was just awful in all sorts of ways beyond the Starfire pin-ups.

    Birds of Prey was really, really boring, and Supergirl was alright. As you say, not much happens, but I enjoyed her interior monologue as she slowly comes to terms with what’s going on. It’s an OK first issue and I’m willing to see if it goes anywhere better next issue.

  5. Yeah, I’m not talking “12-16″ or what’s on Network TV or any of that — I’m looking at 8 year old who very much want to be able to read “real” superhero comics (just like we did when we were 8!)

    I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and I don’t think that minor restagings would do a damn thing to hurt the actual story.

    -B

  6. I agree with you, Brian. I know the readership has aged since we were kids, but I think a bunch of comics editors really need to wrap their collective brains around the idea that fans of more extreme violence and sex have more access than ever to things on the internet and elsewhere to satisfy that entertainment need. There’s no need to add it to comic books starring classic all-ages characters.

  7. I agree with Brian. Let’s not clump 8 year olds with tweens. There is a big difference.

    My niece just turned 9. She absolutely loves animals, of any kind. She was raised on Spider-man thanks to An older brother.

    She’d never be able to handle WW. It would not just be nightmares, but serious trauma.

    A shame really, as she’d be theperfect audience to get into a relaunched female superhero comic. Especiqlly a WW one and what WW stands for and is a strong female character.

    Sigh, stupid DC.

  8. Yeah, JB … I think the challenge is to range the books like Pixar’s offerings. Up and Wall-E are really not targeted at 8-and-younger, who won’t get some of the themes and might be bored. But there’s nothing there that makes the films inappropriate, that will offend parents.

    The third Toy Story has harrowing action and emotional moments, but nothing graphic, so even the parents who complained (I believe there were some) didn’t really hate Pixar and see it as a damaged brand. And they also do the Cars movies, which I don’t think anyone over the age of 10 could possibly enjoy.

    A nice range, and always “all ages.” A consistent brand that stretches itself, has a range, but never truly excludes the young demographic that it cultivated from the beginning. And adults love the stuff, even though there’s never a need to have, say, edgy sex scenes for action figures or fish or whatever, you know?

  9. I, too, enjoyed CATWOMAN well enough until the Batsex scene made me think that the strong narrative voice and well-paced action really were just window dressing for the titillation, rather than the other way around. I think you hit the head on the nail, Brian, when you said that the Bat/Cat sex never would have been in the 1st issue of a Batman comic, but by the story title seems to be the point of Catwoman’s launch.

    Still, I didn’t have the same sense of ick and dread wondering if they were really gonna do it than I had at the scene in WONDER WOMAN where the figure with the scythe enters the horse stable. “Oh God no, are they going to decapitate horses?” And yes, it is completely in context within the story, and Wonder Woman in just about every way is a more finely crafted comic than Catwoman (which is still by no means terrible). But within Cliff Chiang’s representational cartoony art style in the rest of the issue, this seemed to linger overtly on really graphically depicted gore. Remember the horse’s head scene in Godfather? You didn’t see Robert Duvall sawing through the horse’s neck or John Marley picking up the stump to show blood and grue dripping down. Even a speed-addled William Gaines wouldn’t have been able to defend this – and that’s in the Senate record. If I were your PTA buddy, I’d much rather fence some uncomfortable questions about what Catwoman’s doing to Batman than hear my daughter say, “Oh look, horses!” followed by half an hour of screaming.
    But as a childless adult, this was my pick of the week.

    I also liked BATMAN, but had misgivings about framing the action within Bruce’s speech at the end. It was an overly cutesy narrative device that didn’t quite work for me. And Greg Capullo’s art was great when he was doing crazy-looking villains and distinctive Bat-poses in the night, but fell apart when he had to draw ordinary humans. Like the panel where the three former and current Robins are only differentiated because they’re of different heights, or when Bruce is talking to the mayoral candidate, and the only way you can remember who is who is because Bruce Wayne has a bad haircut. Really? The playboy billionaire can’t afford a decent barber? Or is he just too cool to look clean cut? And why is there so much back and forth about whether they’ll have lunch together? Gay subtext aside, this would probably be my pick of the week for my imaginary 8-year old daughter.
    I probably should have bought the 3 comics in the last post, all of which I was on the fence on (I think I’d have picked up Captain Atom if my store hadn’t sold out). I think I would have liked the Deadman comic, whereas my make-believe daughter, whom I’ve taken to calling Sybil, might have really dug Blue Beetle.

  10. I actually enjoyed “Red Hood and the Outlaws” when it was played as an action-comedy featuring two failed teen sidekicks turned mercenaries. The secret society/ancient blood feud cliches are where it lost me.

    And by the way…if we’re going to start complaining about how particular aspects of DC reality don’t work, the panel in Batman #1 featuring Bruce, Dick, Tim and Damien should be first up. That panel could pass for a NAMBLA recruiting poster.

    Mike

  11. My 7-year old daughter read Wonder Woman and was not traumatized by it at all. She just said, “I don’t like it much.”

  12. “…I firmly am of the opinion that monthly ongoing comics featuring Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman should be freely no-hesitation accessible by imagery for eight year olds and younger. That doesn’t mean the stories have to be WRITTEN FOR an eight year old — few of the comics *I* was reading in 1975 were — but a kid should be able to LOOK at them without having nightmares (well…), or offending their parents.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Well said.

  13. It’s all so confusing…,

    Where is Steven Grant when we need him?

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