So seventy five years ago today, Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane came into this world. Since then, they have saved the planet countless times and inspired millions. They haven’t always been perfect, handled as they have always been by imperfect people, but they’ve always represented our capability to do better, which is, in the end, all we can and should expect, always.
I don’t have much to say about the characters at the moment: I’m generally a slow writer and haven’t given it much thought, and the fact that there are far better writers than me doing excellent jobs elsewhere means there’s no urgency to it.
What I do plan on doing is writing a piece for the Women Write About Comics’ Lois Lane blog carnival. It’s going to be on her Lois & Clark persona, because I like her, and because that’s what I was asked to write about. And while the part of me that never likes what I write has concerns about doing justice to the topic and the character and the English language, another part of me relishes the challenge. I’ve already got a first sentence. Look for that here soon (ish).
In any case, happy birthday, Lois and Clark. You’ve been there all through my life, starting with those tapes of the Fleischer cartoon, and then though Lois & Clark, the comics, the animated series, the films and then through Lois & Clark again. Hopefully you’ll still be there when I die, still inspiring people. And thank you for all of the people involved in giving them life and spark; you’ve helped shape an icon, which at the end of the day is pretty damn cool.
Also, where’s my book with Lois and Superman as actual seventy-five year olds, DC?
“Now look, Lois: Kent was a heck of a reporter, but so are you, and if anybody can find a way to save Superman, you can.”–Perry White
“I have voluntarily agreed to leave Metropolis by noon tomorrow. I believe it’s the best way to put all of your fears to rest.”–Superman
It’s not hard to determine what the biggest obstacle facing the production of Lois & Clark was: it was a Superman story without the money to make us believe a man could fly without it looking obviously greenscreened. Still, the creators made the most of what they had, and when the series was on its game, they showed that while they couldn’t show Superman fighting Darkseid for the fate of the world, they didn’t need to.
So not surprisingly, it turns out that I can be productive–but only if there’s an outside force providing incentives, such as deadlines. I haven’t written anything here for months, but I have managed to write up a couple of new reviews for the Trade Reading Order.
Even so, if the point comes ever comes where I realize that all the mystery is for naught, I still feel like I could enjoy Morning Glories, thanks to its characters, who continue to shine. This volume in particular does a lot to flesh out Jade, who up to this moment had been little more than “the suicidal, gothy one”, as she opens up and proves to be actually quite interesting. On the opposite end of the scale, Hunter, who’s been aggressively pushed as the most normal one in the bunch (read: he’s a socially awkward—yet strictly within the bounds of what is generally considered attractive–geek), displays a rather ugly side to himself in this volume, as he slut-shames classmate Zoe. While the incident isn’t cut-and-dried—this occurs just after Zoe herself insults him, and she later stops him from apologizing, making it impossible to know just what it is he later feels remorse for—it’s the sort of thing that makes me worried about potential problematic outcomes. While Nick Spencer has proven himself a capable writer, past experience with other stories has taught me not to be optimistic when it comes to geeky, socially awkward characters in fiction. Meanwhile, Zoe herself continues to kick ass as she takes advantage of circumstances like a boss, Ike’s shtick as someone who wants to convince the world that he is nothing more than a heel and cad continues to wear thin, and Jun’s arc continues being pleasantly surprising.
As the main player in the book’s drama, Virgil naturally gets most of the writers’ attention, and he makes the most of it. Over the course of the four issues collected here, he comes across as a person with various different dimensions, some of which help make him flawed—he’s entitled, especially when it comes to women—but mostly sympathetic and fun to follow. Perhaps more importantly, he is both smart and smartassed, in a way that could have easily felt derivative but instead marks him as is own person and serves to highlight the way race affects him. Virgil is very eager to stand out, and its hard not to think that his persistent flaunting of his vocabulary and references nobody else gets is his way of pushing back against narratives of how black men should be. It’s also rather fun and refreshing to see a geek who is openly a geek and yet manages to avoid the common stereotypes associated with geekdom.
At The Trade Paperback Reading Order. Give it a look!
Despite the “2” on the cover, this volume contains the Archie series’ very first original stories–the book up until then had consisted of adaptations of cartoon episodes–arguably making this the actual start of the series proper. The difference between it and the source is pretty much immediately noticeable. Sure, the Ken Mitchroney art is clearly inspired by the cartoon, and characters and elements that would later be abandoned, like the Turtle Blimp and mainstays Bebop and Rocksteady–are still being used, but even then there are a host of subtle differentiating details dotting the book, foreshadowing the turn it would eventually take. Most importantly, stories are less cynical: whereas the cartoon felt like the product of people who knew they were creating something utterly disposable and therefore didn’t require things like sympathetic characters or stories with proper weight, the creators here care and want the reader to care. Less noticeably, the various characters have been made different in ways subtle and not: the turtles are less reliant on their theme-song quirks; the Shredder and Krang feel more like legitimate threats than annoyances, April, despite having only a cameo, appears long enough to have her professional context altered.
I haven’t posted anything here in a while, but I have a perfectly good excuse. I was on the moon. With Steve.
(Actually, no. It’s just that between work, a sudden influx of activity on my other blog, and life, I just haven’t been able to summon the focus required for the sort of thing that I like posting here.)
In any case, I just wanted to announce that this blog now has an associated Tumblr page, Chasing Smaller Sheep,where I’ll be posting whatever interests me that doesn’t require the whole post treatment. Also, I am now writing comic book reviews for The Trade Paperback Reading Order, a website focusing on graphic novel trade paperbacks. The first one is a review of the third volume of Archie: The Married Life, which among other things features the wedding of Kevin Keller and his therapist boyfriend Clay Walker, and the plan is to produce one new review a week.
So yeah. While it’ll probably take a while, I still plan on producing content for this blog. But until then, I’m far from gone.
One of the things I very much like to do, even though I’ve never believed I’ve been very good at it, is dance. Once I get into groove and forget about being nervous–which for me requires copious amounts of drink, and or a specific choreography–it can be intensely pleasurable. It is also especially fun to see other people do it well, which is why shows like Glee can sometimes be very fun, in spite of any flaws or problematic elements they may have. Hence, one of those things I consistently find engaging is the montage dance video, in which pieces of various dances are set to music. Here are three of my favorites.
Is it Safe to Dance?
Song: “Safety Dance”, by Men Without Hats
Choreography: Shelby Warmbrodt
Song: Various, Arranged by Kleptones
Choreography: Crumbs Chief
Song: “Improper Dancing”, by Electric Six
Happy new year, y’all.
Recap: As she walks toward school, Miki is ambushed by her best friend and classmate Yumi, who quickly drives the conversation towards boys, specifically, which one(s) Miki is interested in. Miki claims that she’s not interested in any of them, and that she doesn’t need them.
“Look, Miki, no offense, but truth and excellence and all that junk can only take you so far. At the end of the day a girl without a boyfriend is just…sad.”–Yumi
“Miki, you are waaay too picky. I mean, look at me and Kazu. He’s far from my ideal, but you know what? It beats being alone.”–Ditto
I’m a reasonably big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve seen the entire series, read some of the comics, and enjoy partaking of the discussions it generates on the internet. It’s far from my favorite show, but I like the it fine, particularly in its earlier incarnations.
One of my favorite characters in earlier seasons of Buffy was Cordelia Chase, the popular Sunnydale high alum who served as Buffy’s archnemesis in that particular realm. While her more noticeable role was that of comic relief, she also self a deeper purpose: if Buffy was a character who in existing served to invalidate (some) traditional gender norms, Cordelia existed to enforce them. Where Buffy tried to reconcile the masculine (vampire slaying) and the feminine (her desire for a “normal” life and all that entailed), Cordelia stayed at the sidelines arguing that it was impossible: real, successful women were those who embraced sexist norms.
In her introductory scene, Yumi serves much the same role as Cordelia, without any of the things that made Miss Chase fun to watch. While she doesn’t share her concern with popularity or class status, she makes up for it in her belief that Girl’s path to fulfillment can be found only via Boy. Not The Boy or any that would make her happy, even, just Boy. Any boy. Love the one you’re with, even when that guy is a sleazeball or goes catatonic every time a girl makes eye contact with him, as Miki describes guys who Yumi suggests she should hook up with.
And that would be fine, if it ended there. Yumi is perfectly entitled to her beliefs, no matter what I personally or anybody else thinks of them. They only become problematic in her insistence that her ideas are universal, and that any others are literally laughable. It makes her intolerable in my eyes, and while she does get scenes where we find that this is not all she thinks, they are not enough to wash away the bad first impression this scene creates.
What’s more, I’m not entirely sure what the book thinks I should be taking from this scene. While Cordelia and her ideas exist to be proven wrong, the same can’t really be said of Yumi’s. After all, Miki’s thoughts will eventually come to focus on a boy, and the whole series is about how said boy brings her life to a tailspin. We never do see how Miki has “plenty going on” (her words) without boys: while she’s single for half the series, she’s only really happy insofar as her friendship with her love interest goes well. At best, what one can take from this scene is that Miki is fooling only herself, and that while she can’t be happily single, other people can*, proving Yumi wrong in general if not in the specific. At worst, the book believes what Yumi believes: women need a relationship–any relationship–in order to be truly happy. And while I don’t believe that second one is actually the case, just the fact that it may be so depresses me.
* At least, if the idea of happy single people weren’t arguably contradicted in the third volume, for reasons I will get to then.
Publisher: Archie Comics
Script: Ian Flynn
Pencils: Jonathan Hill
Inks: Gary Martin
Colors: Matt Herms
Recommended Audiences: People who like the Young Justice cartoon and wish it looked more like Astro Boy.
Below is a list of women who have written for DC Comics organized by year and including the titles they worked with. It was originally compiled by Alex “Gorblax” Jaffe, whose claim to fame, aside from being the moderator of the Insert Credit podcast, is as selectbutton.net’s foremost archivist and taxonimist, and is the mastermind behind a project to organize videogames chronologically based on the year each is set in. I reproduce it here, with permission, as the original is behind a registration wall in a message board that is subject to periodic purges (until then, it can be found here) and this is too useful to lose. As I have not independently verified this list, I cannot vouch for its completeness (I will, however, knowing Gorblax, vouch for its general accuracy), so omissions will be welcome.
Recap: On a sunny April morning, Miki prepares for her first day of school by resolving to be more assertive this year.
I’d blown my whole junior year obsessing over the expectations of others.
This year everyone would see a different Miki…… a Miki they’d never seen before.
I’m a big fan of starting stories at the middle. I like having to try to figure out what came before, and trying to follow a story that requires a flowchart to understand without having the actual flowchart handy; not only does it add a nice mystery element to the whole thing, it means re-watching/-playing/-reading it will make for a rather different experience. Still, I find Falls‘ approach rather peculiar, especially in conjunction with its point of view. We’re told Miki has decided to change, but given how we don’t get any perspective but her own, the reader has no way to know just what this means, just what it meant for her to “obsess over the expectations of others” or how different her new behavior is from her old one. For all we know, she didn’t change at all.
In fact, pretty much the only indication we get of Miki’s changes is her mother’s startled expression when she calls her daughter to the breakfast table, which earns a response of “I’ll come down when I’m ready to come down” from Miki.
As big a fan I am of self-improvement, I’m not entirely sure this qualifies.
I can totally get pushing back when pushed. I can support pushing back. But what Miki is doing here isn’t that: it’s pushing even when nobody is pushing. It’s not saying “my needs and wants are thoughts are just as important and deserving of respect as yours”, it’s “my needs and wants are thoughts are MORE important”. And this isn’t just a one-off, either: the plot of this volume explicitly requires to disregard other peoples’ feelings in favor of her own. While its thankfully not the only way she manages to express assertiveness–there are plenty of moments later on when she pushes back against people who would police her actions–this streak of “my feelings are more important than yours” sours the character for me, particularly in this volume–especially since the book doesn’t really try to call her on it: it’s always presented as a good thing, particularly since its her commitment to harassment that manages to break down The Guy’s mask of aloofness and allows their friendship to take hold.
And normally, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. I don’t require my protagonists to be paragons of virtue, and given the first-person perspective and the fact that Miki is a teenager with lots of room for growth, this bit of selfishness doesn’t necessarily make her a horrible character. What does bother me is the packaging of jerkish tendencies as self-improvement, especially since we don’t actually know how she was before. Perhaps Old!Miki was indeed perfectly willing to push back when pushed, and “becoming more assertive” is actually her way of saying “I’m going to become a jerk”. Or perhaps old Miki was indeed the sort of person who wouldn’t push back when pushed, and her narration is entirely accurate: we don’t know, and there’s no way to know.