Entries Tagged as 'Comic Books'

Wonder Woman Will Always Be a Feminist

Several years ago, I was having dinner with a Vice-President of a major financial institution. I was doing design work for the bank, and she and I had spent the day testing a new call center intranet with its users. She was in her late twenties, yet was already highly successful and on her way up.

At one point, the conversation came around to women in the workforce, and she casually confided in me “I am not a feminist.”

I was stunned by the audacity of her statement.

How could she not be a feminist? How could she sit there and act as if, without the feminist movement of the past 100+ years, she would have ever been able to rise in importance in a major bank past teller, receptionist, or coffee girl? If she wasn’t a feminist, who is? It was like hearing a successful African-American say “the Civil-Rights movement really didn’t do anything for me.”

I am a feminist, and have been since childhood. My mother—the first female stockbroker in North Carolina—had raised me at ERA rallies and conventions to know that men and women are equal. That has always seemed perfectly logical to me. So when I encountered men who thought women were inferior to men, or worse, women who thought women were inferior to men, I didn’t seek their friendship.

The problem is that I have heard similar statements from a lot of the successful women: “I am not a feminist.”

I think I finally understand why they say this. It’s because they fundamentally do not understand what the word means. They think of Feminism as akin to a political party that one affiliates oneself with, like being a Republican or a Democrat. The members of these parties have loosely defined common core beliefs that they can adhere to or not, and which evolve greatly over time—just compare the two parties to their counterparts 150 years ago to see what I mean.

If you think that feminism is an organization that you associate yourself with, then you also think that you associate yourself with all of the figures in that party as well, and the excesses of those people. So, many woman (and men) who don’t like the Betty Friedan, bra burning, “womyn need a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” militant, “feminazi,” style of feminists assume that’s all it means. Actually, for the most part, these are all perceptions that were painted on a movement by men who think women are inferior to men.

This lead to the word feminist becoming a “dirty word” to many, stigmatized and distorted.

Unfortunately, that perception persists and is growing steadily. This, I believe, is what led to the unfortunate comment in a recent interview in CBR by David Finch — the new artist on DC Comic’s Wonder Woman — that:

We want [Wonder Woman] to be a strong — I don’t want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.

Why don’t you want to say “feminist?” In the sentence before, David says of the Amazon:

…we want to make sure it’s a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost…

That is what a feminist is! Someone who treats women as human beings.

In a recent tweet, Caitlin Moran, the author How to be a Woman and the forthcoming How to Be a Girl, clearly spelled out the simple rules of Feminism:

Do you try to follow these rules? Then you are a feminist. My VP colleague was a feminist. Anyone who believes that all people should be evaluated based on their individual abilities—not by primary and secondary sexual characteristics—is a feminist. You don’t have to hate men, grow leg and armpit hair, or scream about the injustices of the glass ceiling to be a feminist. You just have to try to treat men and women as human beings, follow Wheaton’s Law, and you, my friend, are a feminist.

Wonder Woman is a feminist. She is a feminist (or at least a fictional character who is a feminist), not because she self identifies with that label, but because that it is how she acts and how she thinks. Unfortunately, David, like so many others, is afraid to apply the supposed stigma of feminism, out of, I assume, a fear that he will scare off readers who think they are “not feminists.”

To his credit, David tried to clarify and apologize, saying on Twitter:

However, this still betrays a fundamental lack of understanding as to what a feminist is. Women are fallible. Men are fallible. Saying Wonder Woman is a feminist does not negate that in any way.

Why is this a problem? After all, he is only the artist, not the writer. However, if you know anything about comics, you know that the artist is as much the story-teller as the writer, and the writer also happens to be his wife. I think they will closely collaborate and they are now the team responsible for the feminist icon. That is a powerful position.

The good news is that I actually believe that David is a feminist. By the rules Ms. Moran so eloquently outlined, he falls within the definition, whether he realizes it or not.

Unfortunately, he also seems to be someone who perpetuates stereotype that feminists are not humans.

I hope that good will come from this uproar, and David will do some introspection and realize that feminist is not a dirty word to run away from, but a beautiful core belief that only serves to make Wonder Woman (and all of us) that much more human.

The World’s Greatest Super-Hero Blues

The World's Greatest Super Heroes

The World's Greatest Super Heroes

Sometimes it’s hard to be a super-hero. It takes a lot of effort to save the world from an endless stream of egomaniacal geniuses and swarms of planet marauding alien armadas! But what about the daily problems of human existence—hunger, disease, poverty, and equality? Shouldn’t super-heroes put some effort into confronting these problems as well?

It’s not like there’s no one on Earth “Prime” trying to take on these issues. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending TEDxChange 2010 at Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. At this event, some of the top thinkers about the human condition were discussing the progress of the Millennium Development Goals—eight pressing issues facing humanity that need to be solved. The goals include ending poverty and hunger, ensuring universal education, promoting gender equality, improving child health, and combating HIV/Aids. These are the real problems that need real heroes. So, why don’t the super-heroes of legend ever try to tackle these more pedestrian, but equally important issues?

That’s the question posed in the recently released The World’s Greatest Heroes graphic novel from DC Comics. This collection of stories take the all stars of the DC Universe—Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and the Justice League of America—and ask them to deal with some of the real issues of being human.

Read the full article on Geek Dad »

Beyond Biff, Bam, Pow: 10 Graphic Novels To Enjoy With Kids of Every Age

The Little Endless Storybook by Jill Thompson

The Little Endless Storybook by Jill Thompson

Comic books, graphic novels, sequential art or manga; whatever you call them, illustrated books are a great way to tell a story. I’ve been reading comics for most of life, except for a brief period from age 12 to 16 when I thought I was too old for them. Boy was I wrong.

I’ve been reading comics to my kids almost since the day they were born, mixing them in with other storybooks and eventually novels. One of the great things about reading comics is that graphic stories cut out all of the boring “He said” and “She said” stuff. If you combine this with distinctive voices for the different characters, your kids will always know who’s saying what, making stories much easier to keep up with.

Here are a few of their favorites, roughly arranged for age appropriateness from younger to older readers.

Read the full article on GeekDad »

Interview with New Riders at SXSW 09

I had a great time at SXSW 2009. Met a lot of great people, heard a lot of great ideas, and ate a lot of great food. While I was there, I did a quick interview with Gary-Paul of New Riders about my upcoming book, Speaking In Styles, although it was not the most flattering of angles:

WATCHMEN: Now With Motion!

Watchmen on the iPhone

So, it looks as if the legal bru-ha-ha between Fox and Warner Brothers is finally over, and the long awaited Watchmen movie will make it to the big screen on time (March 6th) with Fox much the richer for it. But this is not the first time the Watchmen will have been brought to life in motion.  In conjunction with the Movie, DC comics is releasing “Motion Comics” of the 12 issues of Watchmen, taking the original panel art and adding simple animation, a music score and a single narrator reading all of the parts. 

Currently, episodes are available up to issue 10, each lasting a little under half an hour and selling for $1.99 each through the iTunes and Amazon.com. 

The Interactive Watchmen iPhone App

Although I’m sure the author, Alan Moore,  would disagree, the overall effect is quite good, and makes for a great way to enjoy the story on the go. The art is well preserved and the animation is smooth, although not nearly as complex as it might be if it had been fully animated. Still, it’s miles better the Clutch Cargo.

The single narration voice is not completely to my liking, they could have at least splurged and gotten a female narrator for female characters. Silk Specter may smoke, but the narrators gravely voice is about as sexy as a lime green polyester pants suite.

What intrigues me most about the Watchmen Motion Comic, though, was how seemingly easy it was to take the static images of the comic page, which require a more active role for the reader to animate the action in their minds, and turn it into the more passive video format. Although this is far from the atrocity that colorizing old black and white movies was in the 1980’s, it does give me some pause for thought.

Moore commented in a recent interview with the LA Times that, “There are three or four companies now that exist for the sole purpose of creating not comics, but storyboards for films.” In fact, It looks as if they don’t even need to make the film, but simply take the storyboards and animate them. But why is this a problem? It does take a dimension out of the hands of the reader, placing it back into the creator (or a creator’s) control, but is that necessarily a bad thing?

This is one of the important questions I’m hoping that my panel at SXSW will be addressing next month in Austin. If you have any thoughts or will be at the panel and have suggestions, leave a comment her or email me.

Check out the Watchmen Chapter 1 Teaser, and let me know what you think.

Heavy Liquid: Cyberpunk in the cyber age.

Heavy Liquid: Cyberpunk in the cyber-age.

Heavy Liquid: Cyberpunk in the cyber-age.

At its best, a good Cyberpunk story will drag you through a gritty future reality while simultaneously taking you to see a world beyond that reality. The graphic novel Heavy Liquid, starts strong along that path, promising even to be an inspired addition to the genre, but eventually becomes too bogged down in secondary charchters and sub-plots to warrant its epiphanal ending.

Although Heavy Liquid starts to touch on political themes and the individual’s role within an monolithic World government and ubiquitous technology, like other themes in the book, it feels as if the author has picked it up to do something meaningful, and then gets distracted trying to push the story forward, forgetting where he left the theme. And that’s a shame, because it feels as if he has a lot to say on this, but never arrives, pushing the reader to think, but not really taking them anywhere.

Still, this was an enjoyable read with a realistic look at one possible future as we head into the singularity. I’m wondering if this is a stand-alone story or the first in a series. If a series, then I think this is a good, though flawed, first chapter.

The Spirit is Just a Plain Fun Movie

The Spirit Movie

The Spirit Movie

The holiday break was crazy busy for me, but I spent as much time with my family as possible, as evidenced by the fact that I saw a movie about a midievil talking mouse rather than a dead guy with a red tie. I went snow tubing with the kids, which I had never done before–it was a blas–and I’m still icing my thumb from playing too much Batman Lego on the Wii with the wife.

But tonight I finally did get to see Frank Miller’s The Spirit (the aforementioned dead guy with the red tie) and loved it. Yes, I’ve seen the negative reviews, and even the disappointed comments from my friends, so, maybe I went in with low expectations. But like the pulp comic that spawned it, this movie was something ridiculously fun, with the emphasis on ridiculous.

If you are going to see it, don’t expect Batman: The Dark Night or even the Tim Burton Batman. This is not X-Men or Iron Man or like any other comic book hero brought to the silver screen. The closest comparison is Miller’s own Sin City, but, even though he uses a similar styles, The Spirit goes for wry humor over angsty violence.

There are laugh-out loud moments, smirking moments and even some great groan moments. If you look at The Spirit as a movie to have fun with watching, it’s a fun movie to watch.

Online Comic Books coming to SXSW

Going to the show? Let me know.

Going to the show? Let me know.

My 2009 speaking and conference schedule will be kicking off in March at South By South West (or SXSW as it is more commonly called) where I’m hosting a panel discussion about Online Comic Books. Originally I had pitched two ideas, the first on Web Safe fonts; however, what the good folks in Austin eventually choose was a panel presentation to discuss how the comic industry is using the Web. I’ve long been fascinated by how graphic novels are (and are not) being successfully moved into the online world.

My own experience trying to bring sequential art storytelling off the page and onto the screen taught me a lot about the inherent difficulties. Balance and Grace (renamed from The Innocents) was a comic project I worked on with Top Cow Comics a few years back while I was the Creative Director of AOL RED. We were going to provide the online component for the print version of the book. Due to legal hang-ups, the online version was finished but never officially launched. However, we came up with the best online comic-book reader that I’ve seen.

I’m still putting together the panel, so I can’t make any announcements about who will be on it. I should have representatives from several of the larger comic companies, some comic book creators, and other industry pundits. We’ll start off by defining what is meant by “Online Comic Books” and possibly even try to come up with a better name!

If you have any suggestions for who you would like to see on the panel, please let me know ASAP and stay tuned for more updates: jason at brighteyemedia • com.