Friday, October 27, 2006

Stephanie Brown Memorial Case - I Don't Agree.

I don't know that much about Stephanie/Spoiler/Robin IV. I don't even have general Wikipedia knowledge. I have a hazy idea that her father was the first Spoiler and he was a criminal and it shamed her and she wanted to fight crime. And as far as I know she dated Tim. But the biggest bit of hazy general knowledge is that she was Robin and she died and that there's no memorial for her in the Batcave.

Now I've spoken to a couple of people about this and I thought that was it as far as 'my say' on the issue. Since I'm really not following the issue. But everywhere I look on my feeds or my journal's flist - there it is. "Oh for shame DC. Oh how chauvinistic. Oh how unthinking. Oh how...."

And I find myself in the predicament of not quite agreeing with them. It's possible that because I never followed Stephenie's run that I don't have the emotional investment necessary to see this as so wrong. But when I first heard there'd been another Robin who died I did think it odd that the plaque under Jason's Robin costume didn't have another line or an accompaniment about 'Two Good Soldiers' or something.

But then I found out how she died. And then the more people spoke about it and that little interlude I mentioned previously, where someone spelt out what happened to me, the more I think that not having a memorial case makes sense. If you can hold on to how you may personally feel about this and follow my line of logic, I'd appreciate this. I don't often write to speak to anyone, but this seems too emotionally charged for me to write as if no one's reading.

My Thoughts

When Jason died, it was a failure for both Bruce and Batman, both aspects of the man who guards Gotham. He'd lost a son and a crime fighting companion. He'd gotten parenting and guiding all wrong and Jason had run off headlong into danger. He'd lost Jason with Jason thinking he didn't care and that Jason wasn't important, not as himself and not as Robin. And then on top of all that, he'd lost Jason to the Joker as part of something his enemy knew would demoralize him and hurt him.

How could he not have tried to make up for that kind of failure and unintentional neglect with an apology and the apology is the memorial case. It's for a good soldier. It's for the praise that Jason never felt he got in life. It's acknowledgment of Jason's contributions as Robin even if it comes too late for Jason to ever see it. (The 'revival' due to HUSH and Crisis not withstanding)

Jason's memorial is distinctly personal and is a warning and reminder for how both Bruce as himself and as Batman should treat the people in his life who are part of his world. It's a hard lesson learned. It's yet another loss of family when he'd sworn that nothing like that should or would ever happen again. Therefore it takes away from Jason's death and the lessons Batman learned from it, to have an identical case there with another uniform and another plaque. Those cases aren't reverse trophies. It's not like in the Toon!verse where the display cases with the costumes is a monument to Bruce's past. And it seems unfair to me to cheapen one memorial by making it less than unique.

This isn't to say that I don't think that those who die while fighting crime in Gotham (while in costume) shouldn't be remembered somehow. If members of the GCPD fall they have a space in a police memorial. But does anyone really want to have Batman admitting that losses like this are inevitable and then there'll be space cleared in the sanctum of the cave in the expectation of many fallen? Because I don't think the Batcave should have a wall like that. I think it'd take away from what the cave is supposed to be; from its mission and purpose.

I'm told that Batman used Stephanie to manipulate Tim, that he didn't want her fighting crime and from the scans I've seen ,she didn't die as Robin, she died as Spoiler. She died separate from Batman. She wasn't of him. It doesn't make her any less heroic for daring to face Gotham behind a mask and trying to do good. But it does make her death different. And given that she was Tim's girlfriend and she was used to get Tim to put back in the red, green and yellow, the emotional urgency of the situation would seem to go to Tim. Because from what I've gathered Bruce doesn't believe he did anything wrong. Stephanie's death was tragic but it did not come about because of his own inability to act, because of neglect or because of mistaken rejection. Stephanie's death didn't rock him the way Jason's did or the way Tim's would or Dick's.

So wouldn't he need to be prodded? And wouldn't that prodding make sense coming from Tim? If Tim had his own memorial to represent what this life means; the consequences and sacrifices; wouldn't that make more sense? Ragnell suggested a shelf in Tim's room in the cave, with her mask and hood. I think a single burning candle would also work. And who knows about some sort of combination, maybe with a picture of her; a way of Tim remembering his dead.

And from that and maybe Tim's need to remind himself of what happens when he's not there to be a Robin - a balance to Bruce's darkly pragmatic side - it makes sense to me that Bruce could then see Jason's memorial failed. And that he needs to think differently and think twice before he begins to manipulate someone else. Respect for Batman doesn't guarantee anything, because he doesn't have control over what other people do.

My suggestion was that there should be some sort of algorithm in the cave's computer systems that notes when he's paying particular attention to a certain person, researching them in a certain way. That program could tag or alert him in the middle of researching to make sure he's really thought through the emotional resonance of whatever it is he's about to do. And that could be a [ Spoiler Alert ]. Bruce didn't pay attention to how much his approval and working with him meant to her for her own sake. He missed the subtleties. According to what I've been told he saw her as a way to get to Tim and then he fired her and left her out in the cold. He did to her what Jason only thought was going to be done to him. From a different angle, Batman failed to remember that emotions drive motivations drive actions and that Stephanie's actions within Gotham (and perhaps the fact that she'd been working solo before and wouldn't stop just because he fired her) were the dangerous sort that could lead to death.

Some of the posts I've seen recently also talk about the fact that Stephanie isn't even mentioned. And I do believe that to be wrong. But I can understand how it can be tricky to bring up. Because in what context do you bring her up if you're trying to make her death separate from Jason's? Especially when from a certain angle it's also intricately related. Does it fall under the dangers of the job? Does it fall under not knowing when you're not suited for the work? Does it fall under not being careful? Does it fall under 'Beware the Mob'? Or does it fall under 'Batman's a prick and he will use you so don't even bother signing up you'll only get fired anyway? I'm fairly certain, all asshattery in Batman's semi-recent characterization aside, that Batman the Asshat is not what DC is going for. Or rather I sincerely hope that's not what they're going for.

And if Batman's not an asshat, I don't think it's fundamentally sexist that they're not cheapening a storyline (personal impact for Batman) that grew in depth as the years progressed. Jason's death started off as a cheap gimmick almost and then it became the newest goad in Batman's quest to root out and eliminate crime, wrong and evil.

If Stephanie's death is going to be played as a goad to humanize the Bat, it could be a tricky thing for the writers to figure out exactly how that will come to be. And until then a certain measure of denial and quiet in the face of everything else going on might not mean anything more than there hasn't been a storyline and or a writer who's thought up a way of handling it.

Now is this actually what's going on with DC or is it all really a case of white, male, privilege where they don't get how important Stephanie was to several fans - I have no idea. But I think that calling for a replica of Jason's memorial case is the wrong way to go about drawing attention to what her place is in Batman's ultimate story arc.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Once Upon A Time It Didn't All Seem So Pale Ale

Kurt Busiek and Greg Rucka have spoiled me. I have to add Greg because of how much I adore his arc with Wonder Woman. But now after reading the Astro City Trades, I've found myself reading Stormwatch. It's the Warren Ellis TPB. And I like Warren Ellis. I remember liking Warren Ellis. But so far it's all fallen flat.

It's felt like more and more of 'You with your alien fire power and ability to sexify women till they spill secrets blah blah blah' mixed with 'And now you shal PAY!'. It's not boring exactly. I do want to find out what happens. But it's flat. Even remembering how much I liked Jenny Sparks when I read The Authority a few weeks ago, I can't find myself liking her now. And it's not because her personality has changed much it's just because she's surrounded by flat. Wait no there has been one scene so far where she was kicking someone's ass that I've enjoyed. But that was mostly action and not dialogue. The dialogue really seems to suck somehow.

Do I need recommendations now? Have I reached some weird ass 'plateau' of comic reading? Or found my niche or something? All I can think about is how I should care. How I'm the sort of person who says 'Shoot them in the knee caps then ask your questions'. And it's the sort of book that seems to be going that way. And yet I keep thinking of weakened and or flat soda. Something's missing somehow.

Is it the art? Because while it doesn't repulse me, it doesn't seem exactly inspired either. And I can admit that the art of Astro City had to grow on me some. But the story was compelling and the poses were iconic and pretty soon I found things to love and enjoy as I read. I wasn't skimming over the blurbs of color trying to find the next line to get me to the end quicker. And that's how I'm feeling now.

Discerning palate. That's the phrase that keeps running through my mind. I know I've been avoiding Ultimate X-men because it began to bore me and any other X-title makes me want to run screaming the other way. So I've been looking elsewhere and .... I'm not even making any sense except that I want more. There has to be more than Busiek and Rucka and Bill Willingham of Fables. There are others out there who can show and tell ?


Monday, October 23, 2006

Obligatory Fic Exchange Pimping

is a threesome holiday fic exchange. It's run by aka 'The Roommate'/ 'She Who Shares Rent'/ She Who Feeds Me Soup When I'm Ill'/.

Do ya like threesomes? Do ya like writing? Do ya like fic exhanges with little red fuzzy hats? Do ya like holiday jingles? Do ya like figgy pudding? Do ya like magi burning incense?

Well then might just be for you.

You should at least check out the fandoms allowed. They've got DCverse as an option. Think Diana, Dinah and Barb should go on aventures? Have you suddenly got the urge to see Dick Grayson in the middle of a Koriand'r / Kara sandwhich?

Someone might just write it for you!

Someone else out there might want something kinky with Oreos involving Jonn Jonzz, Booster and Blue Beetle. Or better yet, JL/JLU Jonn Jonzz singing at Christmas on the Kent Farm with Clark/Kal-El and some yet to be picked third!

And now's your chance to write for them!



Ok, I'm done now.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

There's A Lot More To It (Soap Opera Fans & Comics)

In a marketing move created to finally satiate the underground fanboy/stay-at-home mom demographic, Marvel Comics will debut their newest superhero on the CBS soap opera "Guiding Light."

News of the impending apocalypse to follow.

Marvel has also created a comic featuring characters of the soap interacting with superheros like Wolverine and Spider-Man. Perhaps, Spidey and Wolverine will find out they are actually amnesiac evil twins switched at birth!

The eight page comic will be included in upcoming issues of Marvel comic books like "The Amazing Spider-Girl," while the heroic episode of "Guiding Light" airs November 1.

Marvel and Procter & Gamble (which produces "Guiding Light") are joining their superpowers in hopes that soap fans will pick up a comic book and that Marvel addicts will tune in to the daytime series.

If they don't, then we can pretend it was all just a dream

[ Additional articles found here and here.]

I see this and my response is 'Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot!' There's so much WTF I'm not sure where to begin. I grew up on soaps. I started watching them with a relative when I was much younger and was upset at first that they were on screen instead of cartoons (this is what happens in houses with only one tv - some of us hone our 'huffiness'). I glared at those shows thinking everything was so implausible and impossible and stupid and that I could then and could learn further how to write better stories. Then I found myself caring about the characters and their arcs and to this day I still check in just to see what's going on with characters (people) I grew up with. Soap operas were one of the first things I consciously watched to learn how to tell a good story.

And I say there's no proof out there, outside of Runaways, that Marvel knows how to tell the kind of story that will fill soap opera fans with satisfaction. Emotional follow through is the bread and butter of soap operas. It's the reason that viewers will follow one character through romance after romance, diabolical scheme and nefarious plot. If there's a payoff at the end - a win or a loss, a growing and/or defining moment - then they'll follow. They're not in it for the improbable situations. Those situations only set up the emotional stuff. How can it not be obvious that the thing that draws soap opera fans to their stories are elements that Marvel (and DC) have failed to bring into their regular storylines; consistent emotional follow through.

Did no one at Guiding Light take aside the studio exec from Proctor and Gamble and try to explain to them just what Marvel would have to do to ever make soap fans who don't already like and follow comics, spend money on them? Or did someone try but they just weren't heeded? Because it's not difficult to think that someone said 'Oh, those women will buy anything that promises them some romance, as long as we stick in characters they already like....'

But even if they don't think that, even if I'm being unfair, it feels very much as if no one's paying attention to what women want in comics. It feels like 'someone' heard that women want comics and 'someone' thought there was a demographic that wasn't being mined. But no one bothered to find out what would make their premise work.

There are comics I don't like / can't follow/ or sometimes downright hate. A lot of the time they're the impossible team ups, the clashes of hero vs hero, the explosions, betrayals and whipping out of bigger tech or resurging power. And yet I'm currently adoring Astro City which has all those things happening, because all those situations are driven by the story, by something with emotional satisfaction - or rather the emotional satisfaction I like. I don't really know if other comic readers get the same kind of 'exhale and feel' from seeing Captain America whale on the Hulk, that I got when watching Steeljack deal with The Conquistador. Maybe what I'm talking about needs another set of words. But that thing, whatever it's called has a lot to do with getting those particular women to follow and be loyal to a character, a couple, and a show.

Now I can understand that this can be a difficult concept to accept if you (generic you) isn't thinking of things in that way. I've had personal experience myself with being in rpg situations with wild and fantastically improbably setups and coming to grief. I was going for a certain emotional follow through and thinking that the whacky or cliche situations that were offered up were just vehicles to set up the emotional pitfalls and pratfalls for my character. And then I learned and realized that for quite a few of the other players, the cracky moments in and of themselves were their kind of fun. They weren't looking for anything else. Those players and I were wanting to play in the same playground but we were doing it very differently.

Soap Operas and Super Hero Comics may look like the same playground on the surface. But the players are going at the game very differently. Yes, soap opera fans are primarily women. But soap operas have been catering to them for years, growing with them and becoming wiser to what they want and they know the trick to all those implausible storylines. Soap fans have watched Mob stories, immigration stories, alien visitation stories, evil twins, long lost loves returned from the dead, shipwreck fantasies, medical dramas, rape survivor triumphs and alcoholic declines. And they've followed all these things over years. So yes, sure, there's the potential that they could think of super hero comics as just another way to tell stories they like. But they've watched the diverse twists all following one common emotional theme. I could be wrong. But I think that Marvel can't begin to court this demographic if they start off by insulting their intelligence.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Reason for the Quiet

I've been ill. It's going into week two now and I'm still slowly recovering. Which means I haven't been out and about to read/collect comics and TPBs to read. So it's been mostly me lying down on a couch or in my bed reading novels or staring non-sensically at flashing colors on the tv screen.

My loathing for how Nickelodeon conducts the airings of Avatar: The Last Airbender continues. My confusion at finally getting my hands on an Amalgam (DC/Marvel twined universed) comic is only slowly fading - I read it while I was sick and I was sorely disappointed at the lack of any sense. I mean, it's a comic a visual medium. Why tell when the whole dymanic is supposed to be one of show? If someone blows a cloudy puff of air at something and in the next panel the object they blew at is frozen then -DUH-, freeze breath. You don't have to tell me. Save the space for actual story.

I guess the point was they didn't have an actual story, just a whole bunch of 'OMG SO KEWL' concepts.

I remain disappointed.

I look forward to feeling better and hopefully collecting some books that no doubt have been waiting for me, on Monday. I want more Astro City. Astro City makes it all better. [ TARNISHED ANGEL = YAKBM ] Of course I have no idea when, how, I could ever write my own comic. So hopefully that inspiraction from them will pass as I get stronger and less filled with viral ick.

*Yet Another Kurt Busiek Masterpiece

Friday, October 6, 2006

Astro City: Confession (I have no words...)

I just read Kurt Busiek's Astro City: Confession. It's the second TPB. I'll talk about the first later. Right now I just need to say "Why does Marvel suck so hard? Why? Why? Won't someone please think of the children readers?!"

Confession is beautiful. A beautiful story. A beautiful reality. A beautiful slice into life and problems and what happens when the people turn against their heroes and the possible causes behind such a turn. It's told through the eyes of a teenage boy. It's awe inspiring. It makes me want to weep. It puts up a backdrop that's just... I'm going to over use beautiful again because that's what it was.

I'm moved.

Selflessness. Sacrifice. The desire to do good. The need to protect. Beautiful. Just...beautiful.

How can Marvel think Civil War in any shape or form comes close to that kind of beauty? I know there are people who like Civil War. They can like it. I'm not planning on become the Supreme Overlord and taking it away from them. Well, I'm not planning on taking it away from them. But still - How can they know something like 'Confession' exists and then get it all so wrong?

How can they lose the beauty of the debate, of the struggle and conflict and rising tension against inner pride and feelings of wanting to retaliate against the seeming ungrateful. How? How can 'Confession' slip in race issues with a single sentence, while Civil War uses a big page spread of a dead black man, bound and chained?

I need to own these books. I'm currently borrowing them. But I need to own them by the end of the year. I need to own them so much, I'm half hugging the ones I've got here with me. I need to own them so much; I like them so much; that I'd consider swallowing my agoraphobia just to meet Kurt Busiek; just to see him talk at a panel; just to wait in line for an autograph. (I own one autographed piece of property. And a friend had to shove me in line to get that. It was enough for me to own the cd.)

I... I have no words. I'm so touched and moved. I know part of it is that Confession deals with 'A Dark Avenger' and I have a serious soft spot for those types. But wow. Just... wow.

Astro City touched me in book one with it's first story about the Samaritan. It made me look at Superman in a whole new way. It made me appreciate 'Big Blue' in a way I never thought I could - It made me appreciate him on his own, vs him played against someone I liked better.

All I want to do is go 'Omg. Omg. omg. Squee. Omg'. But that wouldn't tell you anything. And this book, this series deserves me being able to tell other people something. I'm so goddamn moved! I'm touched. I'm awed. I'm overwhelmed. I want to wave the books in the faces of people who say 'girls don't read comic books - they don't like the fighting / whatever' and tell them how much I loved this book and this series. I want them to read it. I want to discuss it with them; even if all I can say is 'omg, so beautiful'. I want to say that I like my superhero icons like that. I want to say that I want them respected like that; men and women. I want to say that I like my superhero stories to say something about the human condition as beautifully and wonderfully and well crafted like that. I want to talk about how glad I am I didn't kill myself in my teens, because then I'd have never read this. And wow.

Kurt Busiek is my new hero. I'm awed. Awed!

Everyone talks about Neil Gaiman but I never felt this way when I read Sandman. I liked it. I liked the incorporation of other DC characters. It intrigued me. But I never felt like this. It was removed for me. It was a story that appealed to my academic interests in geekdom and fandom and mostly of mythology; especially Greco-Roman pantheons.

But Astro City? Busiek? I think I'd read anything he does or ever did now. I'm awed. I need to look up his pencilers and colorists and everyone connected to see what else they have done. Because if they were involved in this, there has to be something special about them too.

I want to cry and I want to laugh and I want to shout and I'm pimping the series hard to my roommate who doesn't even like graphic novels because pictures aren't her thing. I... I don't know what to say. I'm babbling and overjoyed and overwhelmed and moved; like looking at your first cathedral during early morning mass when the light hits the windows and the buttresses and a couple of dedicated old women are singing for the mass in reedy thin voices filled with noithing but praise and determination. I feel side swiped the same way I did when I looked down into the tiny little life in my arms and my little brother blinked at me and I knew I was going to love and protect him for the rest of my life because he was my blood.

I didn't think art did that anymore.

I'm really happy to find it still does.


ETA: It's come to my attention that the mention of suicide in my babbling post might seem cavalier. It isn't. I've struggled with chronic depression for most of my life. Not most of my adult life, but most of my entire life. This journal is specifically set up away from day to day talk about other things I'm dealing with. If I slip in a sentence casually about something like that or about abuse or domestic violence etc it's not because I don't take them seriously.