Friday, August 26, 2011

Fundraiser Update and Cultural Snapshot

So I've covered my airfare. Rock and roll! I still need to cover the festival pass, with a little over a week to go. I'm totally in love with the things my backers are asking me to draw, and I'm caught up on the sketch cards. The first batch go into the mail tomorrow. Sadly, these two go to different people. They seem like they should be a matched set:

Anyway, there's still time to get a bid in on a sketch or a DVD-R, and here's the button again:

I've been following the various internet kerfuffles over DC Comics and their "relaunch" next month. I have a lot of conflicting opinions on the relaunch, but I'm totally sympatico with the notion that DC has a diversity problem. If you read the comics press at all, you've probably heard about Kyrax2, the woman dressed as Batgirl who asked the DC panels at San Diego uncomfortable questions last month. There's an excellent interview with her over at the DC Women Kicking Ass Tumblr blog. It seems unconscionable to me that DC can claim to exclude most female creators from their relaunch while bleating about finding the best creators for the job and hiring Rob Liefeld for a book. In their defense, I do know that they were turned down by some of the female creators they did approach, but the numbers are still shameful. When only one percent of your creators are female, you have a serious problem.

On the other hand, as a creator myself (I'll be in the upcoming Womanthology, for one), I have to wonder what working for DC would offer me, apart from a premium page rate. Seriously, why would I want to work for a company with a long history of misogynist depictions. Why would I want to work for the editorial staff that authored the rape/murder of Sue Dibney (The Elongated Man's Nora Charles-esque wife) on the Justice League satellite? And, more to the point, why would I want to work for a company where I wouldn't own what I create? I was thinking about this last week while I was reading Jessica Abel's La Perdida and Ashley Cope's awesome webcomic, Unsounded. Would DC allow Jessica Abel or Ashley Cope the same kind of artistic freedom? I sincerely doubt it.

I was thinking about all of this last week at my local comic book shop, when my partner and I watched a middle aged African American gentleman enter the store and ask about the new Ultimate Spider-Man. Do you know the one? It's the one that Glenn Beck was complaining about because they've made him a black kid. Do you want to know about diversity in action? I watched this guy set up a pull service, consisting of four issues each month of Ultimate Spider-Man, one each for his son and his nephews. People like seeing themselves in media. There's a certain amount of pride in seeing heroic characters that look like you, that have life-experiences like you. And, really, the old Peter Parker version of Spider-Man is still out there (the Ultimates series takes place outside of Marvel's usual canon). There's room for both Peter Parker and Miles Morales on the shelf. Oh, and the book is being drawn by Sarah Pichelli. Viva, women in comics!

Speaking of women in comics, I have to admit to being a little bit underwhelmed by Wonder Woman (2009, directed by Lauren Montgomery). I mean, my complaints about it are so idiosyncratic that I almost hesitate to air them, given that a multinational corporation isn't going to do something nearly as radical as I would suggest for the character. But what the hell. My disappointment is that it's so damned heteronormative. See if you can follow me on this: The Wonder Woman story posits a society entirely without men, one derived from the Greeks. Are we to suppose that the women of Themyscira go however thousands of years without ever acting on their sexuality? Seriously? Particularly given that they come from a cultural tradition that places no stigma on homosexuality? This has always been a bit of a sticking point for me regarding Wonder Woman, because by my lights, she should be bisexual at the very least. The plot of the animated movie turns at one point, too, on one character berating Queen Hippolyta for denying the Amazons "family and children." This movie has a narrow view of family, methinks. But there's no way in hell Time Warner is going act on any of these kinds of ideas, even if they're so utterly self-evident, but they double down a bit on this by inculcating a certain amount of homophobia through their depiction of Hades, God of the Underworld, who is depicted as a close cousin of Ursula the Sea Witch (who in turn was based on Divine, world without end). It's troubling.

The movie is disappointing, too, for the emphasis on violence. At only an hour and fourteen minutes long, it doesn't have time to develop any relationships beyond the broad strokes needed for the mechanics of its plot, and this, too seems wrong. It's as if the filmmakers have made a Wonder Woman movie to appeal to boys. But then, DC has always had problems knowing what to do with Wonder Woman. They've struggled for years to maintain a viable comic book, because they refuse to make a product that appeals to girls, Wonder Woman's natural audience. Meanwhile, they license her image and trademark to MAC Cosmetics who proceed to make their Wonder Woman line a bestseller. What fools these mortals be.

The weird thing about this particular feature is that it has a scene in it that TOTALLY gets the appeal of Wonder Woman, in which Wonder Woman lands in New York's central park and finds a girl on a bench who has been excluded from the play of her male friends. They're playing pirates, and the girl tells Wonder Woman that she doesn't know how to fight with a sword. "Neither do they," she tells her, "they use the horizontal cut when the thrust would be more effective in such close quarters. Do you under stand? Here, go unleash hell." And THAT, my friends, is the point, to empower girls to fight with the big boys, to intimate that boys don't always know what the hell they're doing any more than girls do. Its a terrific scene. There's another fun scene when Wonder Woman first encounters Etta Candy, too, Steve Trevor's secretary, in which she is disgusted at the faux helplessness she affects. But most of this is lost under the sturm and drang. I'm a little uncomfortable with the casual sexism shown by the "hey, I'm not a bad guy" version of Steve Trevor in this movie, too. I understand what they were trying to do, but he comes off as more of a douchebag than I would have expected of a character who is basically Lois Lane in drag. It's like Wonder Woman has been colonized by a Judd Apatow dude-bro comedy. And that, my friends, I cannot abide...


Laura said...

About the portraits: synchronicity, say what? Beautiful, absolutely beautiful (and sexy).

Yeah, all sorts of brouhaha about the relaunch, huh? I'll hold my tongue till I see the results (I mean, I'm not as into the comic book world as some of my acquaintances, but I'm still a concerned citizen).

Vulnavia Morbius said...

I'm glad you approve of the the portraits (especially since one of them is yours!). I should have hung out a shingle for this stuff a long time ago. I'm really enjoying drawing these. Someone asked me to draw Helmut Berger! And Françoise Dorléac! This rocks.

As for the DC relaunch. I'm going to buy a few things, but if DC wants to turn itself into Image comics in the 90s--which I suspect it does--I'm going to take my money elsewhere. There's LOTS of great stuff out there. I guess the proof will be in the pudding.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Crap. Doubled up a definite article. Whoopsie.

Laura said...

Francoise Dorleac and Helmut Berger? Dang, people got taste! Thank you so much!

ClassicBecky said...

I'm sure I have missed something important -- you did those sketches yourself? Of course we are pretty new blog friends, but I had no idea you were such a good artist. What a shame these were sold separately (I would have bought them both together -- however with my current financial situation, they would have to have been priced under $2.50 each-- LOL!) Lee and Cushing are like bread and butter-- can be used separately, but go best together.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Hi, Becky. I did indeed draw these myself. Lee and Cushing should be together, it's true. Bread and butter, indeed. Or bacon and eggs.