Passing the Hawkeye test

The movies have the Bechdel; the comics have this…

Holy sardines, Batgirl! Have you heard about the Hawkeye Initiative? It’s this really cool way people are pointing out sexism in comic book art. They take any pose struck by a female superhero (or villain, I suppose) in any comic that seems like it might be sexist and they place Hawkeye (of Avengers fame) in her place, usually with a drawing or other artwork. If it looks okay, it’s not sexist anymore—but if it looks ridiculous (as it usually does), we’ve got ourselves a case of sexist comic media!

This is actually a really funny take at pointing out these really ridiculous covers and comic art in general, and I love it. I remember drawing impossible poses of Black Cat, Psyclocke, and Rogue as a tween and my fifth grade teacher correcting me, asking, “Could they really pose like that? Do you really think their bodies look like that?” She would show me how to make them more realistic, but at 10 I really didn’t care about that. I wanted my art to look just like the comic creators that I loved so much.

Now that I’m older I totally get it—and I remember wishing my body looked as impossible as their bodies looked. I wanted to be strong like them, yes—but there’s no way anyone’s waist can be the thickness of their wrist, let alone while sporting a triple-D bra. You couldn’t be strong; you’d be falling over.

In addition to the Hawkeye Initiative, there is the project being conducted by fantasy author Jim Hines, who actually mocks these poses—in costume!—himself. He says that the way women are posed on the covers of books and other media is so ridiculous that we would easily point it out if it were a man posing instead—which is why he decided to do it himself. These poses actually get the author the most hits on his blog—and if you click the link, you will definitely see why. As soon as you see these poses, I think you’ll have to admit that there’s some pretty funky physics going on, to say the least—and some sexism afoot, too.

Jim, total props to you for having the guts to not only point this out but to actually do these poses yourself! I hope it makes a difference. In the meantime, I’m super excited about the new X-Men comic featuring an all-female team—though I wonder if it will pass the Hawkeye test…


The future of comics: print vs. digital

Will the digital format turn print comics into a memory?

It’s a subject of great importance to many, though there is probably a fair share of people that see it as a non-issue - the rise of digital format in the comic book world.  This progress of technology is likely to spell the doom of the print media that we fans of comics have grown to know and love for most of our lives.  Some simple math proves that it is more cost-efficient to produce your comic digitally rather than deal with all the problems of production and distribution of a hard-copy.  But the question is, will this be a change for the better or worse?

I’d like to take a brief look at the advantages and disadvantages of switching over to digital media.  Some of it is fairly obvious, such as the reduced costs associated with production, but this obvious fact also gives rise to more access for independent comic labels.  Anyone who can write, draw and figure out the process to digitally publish will be able to get their comic out.  This is an amazing opportunity for readers to experience some fresh stories, stories that they never would have seen before.  It may not be the best for the giant comic book labels, as they will see their customer base filtering away to other things, but, seriously, they have enough money.

There is also the advantage of the new digital comics being much more portable.  This is probably one of the biggest points, seeing as how lugging around even a dozen comics can be quite the chore.  Of course, one needs the proper electronic device to view them, which can potentially cut a sizable section of people off from the stories they love.  Most people have computers, but not all, and lending a book to someone may not prove to be simple if they don’t have the required hardware.

The new format will also be cheaper to purchase.  In the long run at least.  For now they’re barely reduced from their hard-copy counterparts, but that’s all just part of the transitional process.  When the comic-book printing facilities shut down, the savings will be passed on to the customer.  Especially if there’s a lot more competition to contend with.

The biggest problem, in my opinion, will be the death of comic book shops.  Some people are still collectors, but comic shops will be relegated to providing old books from here on out.  Since their main profits arise from the weekly releases, most of them will end up out of business unless they get quick in diversifying their money stream.  No more hanging out down at the local comic store, chatting with friends and browsing the latest releases.  Of course, most people can just chat online these days anyways, right?  Who needs face-to-face social interaction?

It’s a love-hate subject for me.  I’d love to see what kinds of independent comics arise from the easier distribution, but I don’t want all my comics to be little more than ones and zeros on my tablet.  I like the crisp feel of a new book and the smell of the fresh ink.  The personal touch will be gone at the demand of convenience.  It’s sad, but most likely we are looking at the last decade of wide-spread print comics.  There will probably still be the opportunity for collectors to purchase the hard-copies, but the average reader will be browsing online to find new reads and viewing them with hand-held devices.

Goodbye, comics.  I will miss you.

Reading: The Walking Dead - #19-48

Robert Kirkman has no qualms about killing pretty much everyone.

Once I started reading this title, there was no turning back.  Into the wee hours of the night I kept going through issue after issue until my very dreams were saturated with zombies and tales of people dying in horrible ways.  During this block of The Walking Dead comic books, Robert Kirkman provides both of these elements in abundance.  Issues #19 through #48 cover the story arc that takes place at the prison as well as the town of Woodbury, two settings that watchers of the show are probably quite familiar with at this point.

Several things are the same as the show, but the comic version is definitely a bit more brutal with its delivery.  There are also, of course, many character changes.  There’s still no T-Dog, Daryl or Merle, but there is Tyrese, a character that the newest season of the show only just introduced, as well as several other side-characters both within the main group and outside it.  Some characters that are dead in the show still survive (such as Dale) and others are dropping left and right.

One of the biggest changes from the book to the show is the character of the Governor.  In the show there’s an attempt to make him seem at least somewhat human.  He runs his town brutally, but in a way that he sees as necessary to the continued survival of its inhabitants.  In the comic, there’s no pretense at any humanity within the Governor.  From the moment Rick and his crew meet him, he’s a bastard.  He does little more than torture them, try to kill them and think up ways to get at whatever supplies they happen to have in the prison.  I found him to be quite bland in the comic as opposed to the television show, and serve as little more in the story other than an excuse to give Rick something to fight.

As far as the town of Woodbury goes, there’s not much to it in the comics.  A few characters are introduced and one of them even flees back to the prison when Rick and his crew make their escape.  But everyone else is just a gun slinging mercenary type or a faceless citizen.  Kirkman’s portrayal of the city is one of desensitized survivors, similar in form to Rick’s group but without any sort of moral leadership.

As this block ends, tons of people die and what’s left of the group is forced to flee the prison.  Rick and Carl end up on their own, and that’s where the next story arc picks up, with those two making their way on the road and trying to figure out where the rest of the survivors went.

Best be warned - if you try to read dozens of these books all at once (as I did), you may find yourself in a dark mood.  As a writer, Kirkman has no problem killing the characters you like and making everything complete crap for those that live.  Better to take the series in smaller doses or you too may end up dreaming of zombies for a week straight.

Next week, I venture further into uncharted territory, so the spoilers will probably be a lot heavier as far as unaired seasons of the show go.  They’re changing a lot in the conversion, but there will still be that potential for things to be ruined.  Tune in at your own risk.

Reading: The Walking Dead - #1-18

If you like the show, you’ll love the comics (unless you can’t live without Daryl and T-Dog)


Over the last few years, I’ve become a big fan of The Walking Dead television show.  At first I avoided going back to read the comics that the show is based on, but finally I decided to give in.  There are enough changes from the books to the shows that I feel confident that I won’t be spoiling it too much.  As it turns out, I am not disappointed that I made this decision, for the comics are just as interesting as the show is and even better at times.

The beginning of the books runs pretty much the same as the show.  Rick wakes up in a hospital, fresh out of a coma.  When he looks around, he finds zombies everywhere, though he doesn’t understand in the least what the hell is going on.  After wandering around, he deduces that his wife, Lori, and his son probably went to Atlanta when everything hit the fan.  So he heads out to find them.

Once he gets there, he’s in hot water.  Zombies almost kill him but, just like in the show, Glenn comes to his rescue.  He makes his way back to Glenn’s camp and discovers his wife, his kid and his best friend Shane waiting for him, along with the rest of the show’s cast (well, most of them).  They fight some zombies, decide to get away from Atlanta, and eventually find their way to Hershel’s farm.

The events on Hershel’s farm are much different than in the show.  Hershel still has a barn full of zombies (which are, by the way, not referred to as “walkers” in the comics) that he thinks are just sick humans.  He still kicks the group off of his land, though this time it sticks.  The group leaves, but Hershel and his family stay, along with Glenn, who has hooked up with Maggie.

The next block of books covers the first part of the prison saga, which plays out much different than the television show’s portrayal of events.  The prisoners have a bigger role in the story and there’s more conflict.  Eventually Hershel, Glenn and the rest join Rick and his crew at the prison, but they do it because the farm is becoming more and more dangerous as winter passes and the frozen armies of zombies begin to thaw out and come knocking.  At this point, three of the four prisoners go nuts and lots of people die.  By the time the end of issue 18 rolls around, they’ve just gotten to the point where Michonne shows up, although she finds the prison on her own.

There are many differences between the comics and the shows.  Some of them are good, like the introduction of Tyrese earlier in the story.  He plays a major role in the comics that hopefully will be reproduced in the show now that he’s finally showed up.  Also, there are about twice as many characters in the books and a lot more of them get killed in horrible ways.  One of my favorite differences was in the character of Dale.  I hated his nice guy attitude in the television show.  In the comics, he’s a hard-nosed, practical old man and much less unrealistic and annoying.  The same goes for Lori, though for different reasons.

One of the big differences that I didn’t like is the fact that all of the characters are very accepting of each other whenever they meet someone new.  They share food freely, invite new people into their homes and work together as if they’ve known each other for years.  Only as the first part of the prison story comes to an end do people start to hate on each other and adopt the “us first” attitude that permeates the show.  In my opinion, the show is more realistic in this regard.  People are unlikely to be so trusting when the end of the world is upon them and things like food are scarce.

Oh, and one more thing - the characters of Daryl and T-Dog aren’t in the comics.  They were made for the television show only.  Sorry folks, but you’ll have to live without them.

All-in-all, I’m not sure which I prefer, the show or the books.  I’ll certainly be finishing up the rest of The Walking Dead comics in the next week or so, which is much better than having to wait another three months for the second half of season 3 of the show.  It will also be nice to be able to make the comparisons between what the comics do and how they changed it for TV.  If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead and don’t mind things being a little bit spoiled for you, read these comics.

The Dark Knight Rises

Aside from the final thirty minutes, I could have taken a nap.

The first Batman movie from Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins, changed the way I felt about superhero movies. I always had huge crushes on titular characters (or sidekicks), but the very tone of the film was just as dark and moving as the comic—for the first time in my lifetime. Suddenly, the bar rose for every film to follow.

Like most people, I found The Dark Knight even more amazing and enjoyable—heavily dark yet moving, pushing the envelope for both dramatic and action film genres. I still wonder if we’ll ever have a villain as terrifying as Heath Ledger’s Joker. When The Dark Knight rises was announced, I wondered how Nolan would ever be able to top the previous to films.

Well, that’s an easy answer: he couldn’t.

The first part of the movie was okay as far as any previous superhero movie scales go—but placed next to the previous two, it was boring, unbelievable, and even stupid at times. The only enjoyable part was Catwoman’s fun one-liners and Hathaway’s development, albeit small scaled, in the movie. (Spoiler alert.) It is not until Batman’s capture that anything interesting really occurs.

The ending of the movie—not the very ending, which was predictable, but the last half hour of the film or so—was pretty delightful. Once the city’s thrown into marshal law, its destruction and saving is very moving and interesting to watch. There are even goose bump inducing moments. It’s still not as stellar as the previous two movies—and there were huge disappointments in the villain department—but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I just sort of wished I could have read a Cliffs Notes for the first half of the movie, and then watched the second.

Bane. Wow. What a letdown. I had heard such good things, so when we had every person exclaiming, “You’re so evil! What are you?” without even giving us half of the examples that the Joker had—without the unnecessary victim comments, mind you—it was incredibly disappointing. And I had already known about the “big twist” because of stupid IMDB, which lists characters’ first and last names as the ultimate spoiler in this scenario, so that wasn’t as big of an impact as it could have been, either. And what the hell was up with Scarecrow’s blasé judge position? He simply could have been used more interestingly—and more scarily. He was terrifying in the first film. Give us more of that!

Overall, it was a fine movie, but you don’t go to a Nolan movie looking for fine. You go looking for utterly brilliant. My husband and I are still wondering if we even want to purchase this last one to round out our collection. I guess we will once it’s in the previously viewed bin, but I really wish we could be more excited about it.

Fox Studios looking to spam more Marvel movies

In an effort to fight the growing power of Disney, Fox turns to Mark Millar’s vision

Currently, when it comes to comic book films, Disney is in control of the playing field.  Warner Bros. has Batman and Superman and is looking to expand their market by producing a Justice League film and Fox has the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties to play with, but neither of them has come close to achieving what Disney and Marvel Studios has.  Between The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, it seems like Disney has got the market pretty much locked up.

But Fox is looking to change the game and get back into the running by expanding their selection of movies using what copyrights they currently have.  They have The Wolverine coming out next year and the sequel to X-Men: First Class arriving in 2014, plus a Fantastic Four reboot in the making, but that won’t be enough to compete in the long run.  So what do they plan to do?  Well, according to Mark Millar, their resident creative consultant, Fox is looking to put out at least 10 movies in the near future.

What many people don’t realize is that both the Fantastic Four and X-Men copyrights carry with them a wide selection of characters, many of them fan favorites that have until now been completely ignored in the film world.  Mark Millar wouldn’t mention specifics when asked about the upcoming projects, but he did say that he’d really like to see movies based around properties such as X-Force, Deadpool and Cable.  All of these, if done properly, could be fairly popular among those who enjoy the X-Men films.

Millar appears to be styling himself in the manner of Joss Whedon when it comes to Fox’s properties, looking to expand the universe and create films that interact with each other within a broader picture.  He has also mentioned that The Wolverine will in some way herald in this new era of Fox Marvel projects, leading on to other things, though he didn’t elaborate on exactly why that’s going to be the case.  I guess we’ll have to wait until next summer to find out, unless someone drops some spoilers on us.

Personally, I think this is great.  Those who have followed my X-Men Revisited series here know that I am a huge fan of the title, having basically grown up on the team and some of its spin-off titles.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a New Mutants or X-Factor film myself, or anything that Fox could manage to cram Galactus into, for that matter.  Big aliens that devour worlds equals instant win in my book.

We may have to wait several years to see how this pans out, and in the meanwhile Disney continues to gain more power as they enter their “Phase 2” of Marvel flicks.  But between Disney, Fox and Warner Bros., the future is looking very bright for comic book heroes in general and fans will no doubt have three or four films to look forward to every year from here on out.

Marvel revives Coulson for new ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ television show

When a character makes money, even death can’t stop them

Marvel has done it once again. They have taken a character from the jaws of death and revitalized them in the name of popularity.  The latest addition to the ever-growing list of the resurrected is Agent Phil Coulson.  You may remember him from Iron Man, The Avengers and most of the latest Marvel flicks.  He’s played by actor Clark Gregg and, while I enjoyed Gregg’s portrayal of the character, I’m a bit peeved about the powers-that-be deciding to bring him back.

The character of Agent Coulson became one of the most popular from the various movies, mostly due to Gregg’s excellent and fun performance.  Killed in The Avengers, people thought they’d seen the last of him.  But he proved to be so popular that the folks at Marvel were hypnotized by the money they could make by bringing him back and attached him to the S.H.I.E.L.D. television series that is being put together by Joss Whedon.  As far as being a brilliant business move, there is none better.  Marvel now has a giant fan-base ready to tune into the show simply to see this one guy.

I have to wonder, however, if Joss Whedon is responsible or not and, gods forbid, if he’s hit the slow decline to selling out.  Whedon is usually good about these things, not idly killing characters and then reviving them whenever fans voice disapproval.  So why is this guy so special?  Is the stack of money they’re giving Whedon for being the master of all-things-Marvel so huge that he just can’t resist?  Did someone else push this on him?

To explain away the reemergence of Coulson, Joss Whedon, at the currently ongoing New York Comic Con said that the version of Coulson we all saw die in The Avengers was a body double of some sort.  Way to backtrack, Joss.  Now if S.H.I.E.L.D. has some sort of cloning facility where their most popular model happens to be the Coulson-5000, I might get behind this simply for novelty’s sake.  But somehow I doubt that’s the case.

I know I don’t hold the popular opinion on this one, but my hatred of deus ex machina is strong and unwavering.  This news makes me want to watch the new series much less.  And unless Whedon and his crew come up with a better explanation than “body double” (or just write him out of the series early), I will not likely be watching the show for very long.

Premiere Review: ‘Green Arrow’ Comes to TV

A nice start to a comic book show that looks to have a lot of potential.

Comic books are once again making the attempt to transition to television.  Though there have been some mild successes (such as Heroes), the majority of these projects are pretty much done before they begin.  Which is why I had high hopes for the Green Arrow adaptation, Arrow when I first heard it was being made.  After watching the premiere episode, those hopes are still with me.

Arrow follows the story of Oliver Queen (AKA Green Arrow), a millionaire playboy who ends up stranded on a deserted island for five years.  Everyone thinks him dead until he finally manages to get rescued and make his return to the real world.  And though he left as a spoiled brat with too much cash, he comes back a bad-ass with a bow and some serious parkour skills.

The first episode takes the viewer right into the show.  There’s the standard conflict with a bad guy scenario, some drug problems with Oliver’s younger sister, a conniving mother, an estranged ex-girlfriend and Oliver’s millionaire playboy buddy trying to get him right back into the lifestyle he left.  But the character has changed and is now dedicated to cleaning up his city in vigilante fashion.

In the course of the premiere, Oliver gets kidnapped by people trying to figure out what he knows about his father’s business (which appears to be shady in some way), Oliver must reintegrate himself into his old life without letting people know he’s now a super hero and Arrow faces off against his first villain.  Much of the background story is slowly unfolding at this point and there is still a lot of mystery left for the future, such as what happened to Oliver on the island, what the deal with his father is and why he’s so motivated to fight the bad guys.

The first episode was a strong open for what looks to be an interesting series.  Most everyone does a decent acting job, the fight choreography is perhaps the best I’ve seen in a while and the show moves along from point A to point B in a quick and orderly fashion.  My only beef was with the narrative, done by Oliver (Steven Amell).  It comes across as a bit goofy and doesn’t really fit in.  Hopefully, they’ll kill this as the series progresses.

As it stands, I’m looking forward to seeing next week’s episode and hoping that it doesn’t fail as so many other super hero shows have before it.  If the writers keep it up, we may have a good and long-running new series on our hands.

Revisiting the X-Men - Uncanny #291-293, X-Men #10-13, and Others

Good stories, good writing and a clean return to X-Men awesomeness


This week’s revisit covers quite the range of X-titles.  An arc called ‘Scattershot’ was laced all throughout the many series annuals, including X-Factor, X-Force, X-Men and Uncanny X-Men.  This gave me a nice opportunity to look at the other titles and thus discover once again why I’m not reading them.  That, however, is the subject of a completely different kind of post.  I also included a short arc from Uncanny #291-293 in the read, as well as the top off of X-Men #12-13 (#10-11 being part of ‘Scattershot’).

‘Scattershot’ brings back the long-missing Mojo as the villain, making yet another attempt to boost his ratings and maintain control over the Mojoverse.  But the rebellion continues and a rival faction tries to get their own station going to take over.  Longshot returns, fighting in the name of freedom and the X-teams get caught up in all the mayhem.  The story arc is unique, taking place over many years in the progression of the rebellion, even taking a trip several years into the future to visit an aged X-Force.  This was a fun story to read and I’m finding myself becoming very happy with Fabian Nicieza, author of this story and the brain behind X-Men.  The art in this block of books varies, sometimes very clean, courtesy of the amazing Joe Quesada, and other times stylistic to the point of being distracting.  Still, the quality of both the main titles is consistent.

One thing that bugged me is that X-Men is beginning to feature mini-stories at the end of the book, taking away from the main storyline’s length.  These little additions are more annoying than entertaining and deal with things that could be best handled elsewhere.  It looks like they’re trying to set some background up, but personally I’d prefer if they just made a mini-series for that instead of stealing away from the story I want to read.  It just causes them have to extend the arcs over more books so that people have to wait longer to get to the climax.  I’m glad I’m not purchasing them bi-weekly, or I would be extra annoyed by this blatant attempt to sell more books.

Aside from ‘Scattershot’, the stories get back to the Morlocks and whatever happened to them so long ago.  Let’s just say that that storyline doesn’t have a happy ending.  The rest of the X-Men issues detail some set-up for a large, multi-series arc called ‘X-Cutioner’s Song’.  I can’t remember reading this one in my earlier comic-addiction days, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.  I’m a bit peeved they feel the need to bring in all four teams, but I guess that’s how they boost their sales.  I’ll have to sit through another erratically penciled X-Force run and the goofiness that X-Factor has become.  This arc better be worth it.

When money means more than art

The slow death of comic book integrity

It’s been a long time since the birth of the comic birth industry.  At first it was a tiny and unassuming thing, a project that people only got involved in because they loved and believed in what they did.  And while these noble intentions have remained among many of the creative individuals still involved with the production of comic books, the industry itself has taken a turn for the worse.

DC and Marvel have both been consumed by larger companies who seek to exploit the recent popularity of comic books among the mass consumer market.  Smaller, independent companies still exist, but they are rarely heard from when it comes to the larger, money-making projects.  And if they get too big, the larger companies are always there, waiting to cannibalize them if they can.  As a result of the corporate entities taking over everything they can, artists are suffering.

Copyright issues have always crept into the news here and there.  If you know where to look, you can find problems between artists and industry owners happening all the time.  It’s nothing new, the exploitation of the creative mind for profit.  What does seem to be a new phenomenon is the prevailing view among company management that these very artists that create their properties and craft excellent comic books are now disposable commodities, easily replaced by any number of other talents.

This has created a trending movement of artists and writers jumping ship from the “big 2.”  Despite the prestige that working for someone like Marvel or DC (or both) can bring, the artists are unhappy that they are no longer considered an important part of the creative process.  The focus has shifted from creating works of art to manufacturing marketable products, preferably things that can also break through to other mediums, such as film.  And though the best artists could come up with brilliant properties, the industry still holds on to its old characters and stories and simply reboots them when needed.  They look no further than the names that have high value, thus condemning the creative process.

So the question arises of whether we, as comic book fans, are supporting this commercialization by continuing to buy comic books of our favorite characters regardless of how the artists are treated.  Is it a bad thing to keep reading X-Men, Spider-Man, Superman or any of the other big titles we grew up with?  Has the mainstream popularity of comics steered them away from their origins as alternative forms of entertainment?  Are we now nothing more than consumers, taking whatever they have to throw at us?  And how much longer will this go on before the storylines become so bad that we finally give up on our long-standing, comic-reading tradition?

Personally, I can’t justify giving money to Marvel or DC anymore.  They are working against the art form and the artists who put their blood, sweat and tears into a title to make it the best they can.  Soon enough we shall see the best leaving for smaller companies and old favorites settling into patterns of mediocrity.  No doubt big money will keep many people from choosing integrity over independence and there will always be something decent coming from the “big 2,” so they’ll continue to survive.  But I see a sharp rise in independent companies coming and a revitalization of comic book storytelling in the form of new titles and new characters.  I will be sad to see my old friends go, but better than watching them die a slow death at the hands of those who would turn them from works of art into dollar signs.