Saturday, June 18, 2011

Potholes In The Road: PrinceLess (Review)

The Info: Princeless is a graphic mini series (1st 4 issues arc to conclude by end of 2011). It is written by Jeremy Whitley, art and colours by M.Goodwin, published by Action Lab Entertainment in conjunction with Firetower Studios, Whitley's own independent small press.

It's about a female teen protagonist of colour and her adventures in a world where princesses get locked up in towers, guarded by dragons - a situation she is not at all happy about. She's out to save herself and her sisters. Thus, one guesses the name. PRINCE LESS.

Preview copies will likely be available for San Diego Comic Com (So late July). The book is aimed for distribution through DIAMOND, for pickup at local comicbook shops as well as conventions.

Note: I'm going to say right now, I don't think this review is going to be what the creators might have hoped it would be. Though I am still thrilled at receiving an e-copy to review.

As I Read It: My initial thought, at seeing the first page is - What?- Isn't this supposed to be about a PoC Princess? Then I read. Then I got to the second page, and felt an immediate bond. And then with each panel, I began to fall seriously in love. It was, a bit, like looking into the past and seeing a very obstinate, practical little me (or some of the people I proudly call friends) objecting to the familiar princess story.

And then I hit the word Moron and was troubled. 'Lower than normal princely intelligence' indeed. Smack of ablism right there. What if the Prince had been sweet and true and someone with a mental/cognitive disability? I'd have rather seen 'Foolish' used in it's place. Since what was implied was lack of sense and or self preservation and words have power and history, which the protagonist goes on to mention.

Wait, where did that Prince go? Did he get called mentally deficient, slurred against, AND get eaten? That's really disturbing me more than any speechifying about how FAIR (as relates to maidens and princesses) has meant WHITE of PALE SKIN and BLONDE HAIR, while using the word Moron. I'm not big on Oppression Olympics in my reading fare.

But I am further cheered at the realistic ick moment of putting on the belongings of dead - squishly eaten people. With the armor looking bitten and body fluid spattered. I'm not sure the intended age group for the comic; but the added reality, just applied as a practicality in the art, is a good touch.

Also? The toppled trope of bare-back riding made me smile.

Not making me smile? The appearance of the King. I understand the protagonist must think her father (and all men who set up this system of princesses in towers) ruthless - especially as they care nothing for dragons, like the one she's befriended, or the princes that get set up to conquer or get eaten. She's right in thinking it's a choosing system for a particular type of male as 'son-in-law'. It's not mentioned, therefore I'm hoping it's more implied later that Princesses do not inherit their kingdoms and this whole princess-tower-dragon deal is a way for their Fathers to find and choose an heir.

That said? Not everyone holding up a sexist system is a misogynistic asshole. And there are historic fear-mongering echoes in showing a large, brutishly drawn dark brown skinned man, both being an ASS and having his foot on the back of a terrified, subservient white man. Does Black & Deemed Ruthless have to look like a THUG? Like the reason white women clutch their handbags and pearls and cross the street - the buy in to the hype of 'The suspect is a black male, around 6feet in height....'.

And the use of the word 'Boy' by said thuggishly drawn black man in power.... Echoes I say, pushing the wrong damn buttons.

Really. Why is it white men can be smart, ruthless, or just perhaps callous, while also intelligent - be of all shapes and sizes, be ruthless in many different ways. But a black man, a deeply brown skinned man - to show him as 'powerful' only happens one way?

And ahh, there it is, the in universe note that he's searching for his own heir. Right next to the Queen being... 'Do you have to be such a brute, dear'? Given the system, it's HER kingdom he's ruling. She's the reason he has a kingdom at all. And she appears inches from implied domestic violence in how much freedom she has to live her own life.

AND, for extra measure; there's a black ruler, leader, obviously head of household scorning at implied gender performance transgression; Homophobia and transphobia in a nice little knot, out of the mouth of the unenlightened black man. He has 7 beautiful daughters, one we've seen as brilliant and there's a moment when he says he chose an easy dragon to protect her, that I thought maybe he's only going through the motions so she can rule through her husband. But a re-read of the line, makes it seem more like he's written her off and wants RID of her as soon as possible.

And now we swing back from my disgust to an odd conglomeration of gender conforming or prince conforming in this case; Princes have to look beautiful and effortless. And there's some class issues being sprinkled in as well.

Though I do wrinkle my nose at how the Prince figure gets understanding; you see his trials, his brainwashing, his pain and hurts and our PoC Princess is strong strong STRONG from the get go. So strong they could only manage to get her in a tower in the first place through TRICKERY.

And ahh, the prince who was called an ablist slur, has his sensitive side exposed, juxtapositioning the King-Father's thoughts on what it takes to be a true King.


So more downs than ups for me. Especially as I consider that in the tower, despite no longer having a mother to comb/wrestle her hair (while calling the portrayed, squee inducing, curly state as TANGLED), the Princess somehow has a smooth side pony tail instead of afropuffs or braids.

Other Thoughts: The sad thing here is that I approve and like the art. It's the kind that makes me think back to PBS story-telling or Reading Rainbow. It's art with a cutesy style, yes. But art with movement. The world is solidly alive. And the colours vivid (though I admit to having been dealing with some eye problems lately and having gotten a new monitor. So I'm not sure the colours I'm seeing are the actual colours. But even so, I'm captivated). My one gripe with the art is that I personally am confused about the real world equivalent heritage of the Prince. His skin is darker than some, and lighter than others who seem much more analogous to African Descended. I can't quite figure out if he's meant to be 'tanned / outdoorsy' or what. Actually right now I can't tell if the Prince who was slurred and the Prince at the end are the same; the eyebrows look different, the hair looks different, the skin shading looks different. Is the Prince at the end a forgotten Prince? And lighter brown skin or pale skin, having the King Ruler be a darker skinned brute with a boot on them, that impact isn't much changed.

Hope: I do not know if the next three issues have already been through the printer. If they have been, I can hope, perhaps that things get fleshed out enough to off-set the things I found jarring. If they aren't, maybe there's a chance for some changes.

I am strict in what media I consume. No more begging. No more taking hand outs. No more scraps of this and that, twisted perpetuated stereotypes. No more Oppression Olympics. But others may not be as strict or have the same social justice priorities - if so, with this review, they now know what they'd be getting.

Comments Open: You know the rules - civility, no derailing, and I don't publish fools.

Parts of This Would Have Been Email To Box-InThe-Box


**Imagine Joker-style pained laughter here**

Peter and MJ irked and sore hurt. But Clark & Lois - seriously? Of all the ways for DC to follow in Marvel's footsteps; seriously? "

Huh. Wow. Alrighty then. Here I've been wondering how it is I felt like I walked away from Marvel so much easier. And I ended up thinking it's because I like characters in Marvel Universe; whereas I Like DC Universe (or did) and have favourite characters within it.

Wow though. I've had this little niggling grieving/mourning thing going on - thinking about stuff despite my turning away. Realizing how surreptitiously or not as it may be, I've been keeping up and aware with the DC Universe. And I've been mildly hurting over the whole 'Damn, they finally do digital after I'd rolled my eyes at Batman's Death and (concept of) Batman Inc and thought the, at least, I was walking away'.

But wow.

It's entirely possible if Action Comics is 'Superman at the start' - it refers only to Action Comics. It's also possibly that DC would do the 'immortal, long lived Superman' (as many people have remarked on) but instead of having say Lana Lang as his first wife, and Lois now as his second (since Superman is apparently an unerringly heterosexual alien) - there's what instead...?

Because the SMALLVILLE fans haven't known Lois & Clark lead to marriage? What?

All this talk of taking characters 'back to their core' seems to me to be removing them from the time-stream and flow and experience they've had till now, and taking them backwards; removing all nuance and layer that has grown on them, deepening who they are - and along with it deepening the scope of the universe; you know one actively showing more diversity than straight, white, cis, hetero, currently able bodied, males.


No Richie as backup for Virgil. Lois & Clark Kent = No. No news on if Batgirl is the 'Untold Adventures' or if Oracle remains. More besides, plus all the implied ageism of 'making them younger and fresher'. Cause wise, older and experienced heroes - who needs that. 20somethings know everything!

Oh DC. DC. Thanks for making it an extra spoonful easier. Apparently I needed a numbing agent.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ouch. Deep Breath. Expected Disappointment

"One of the primary things we've done with Static — just to show that we're positioning him a little differently — is to take him out of the Dakota setting and place him firmly in New York City. There's a chance you'll see other Milestone characters, but we really want to make Static a primary hero of the DC Universe."

Because you apparently CAN'T be a MILESTONE character and be a PRIMARY DC UNIVERSE character. Because apparently STATIC can get play as part of the DC Universe, but Milestone characters are NOT part of the DC universe.

Suddenly my want of Virgil in college, dealing with those issues - alongside Richie, and the responsibilities of superheroing seem very, very, small.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Couldn't Help Myself- I Peeked

Saw the DCnewUniverse Covers (summary descriptions here). Rolled my eyes at Red Robin's Costume. Smiled a bit at Jason , Kyle and Tim getting their own teams. Noticed how much non auxillary pallid swamp face there is. Cringed at the: BATWING: The first black character to wear the Batman mantle. Wasn't that supposed to be a woman by the way? One Batman has - you know what? My favourite characters (and canon) are safer in my head; that place where Shadowpact lives, and grows without a need for Justice League 'Dark'.

It would all be so much simpler if there were just regular elseworlds and favourite characters could grow, and grow old and mature and pass on legacy and live in universes with more than a few tinkle drops of social justice awareness.

Damn this hurts. I had no idea how much I'd wanted to read about Virgil at College; of Static maturing and growing and team ups and more. Not always highschoool, not always highschool problems.

I walk away but I still dream, which leads unconsciously to hope.

I will say this, as much as I remain surprised that things can still hurt me - it says just how much I grew up loving these characters, just how much a part of myself they feel to me; I see in them. Whatever, however DC continues to miss the things that first inspired me, and continue to exclude me and mine from their universe, degrade the heroes that bear slivers of my reflections - I need to remember this love and this pain so that yes, folklore characters such as this can live in my head and inspire my own writing (public or private).

G'bye, Jason, Guy, Bruce, Jonn, Virgil, Kara & Kara (PJ). G'bye Diana most Wonderous and Beloved (just under Batman). G'bye Kal and Connor and Dick. G'bye Harley. G'bye Oracle. G'bye Vixen, G'bye Kon. G'bye Renee. G'bye Jim. G'bye Kate Spencer. G'bye John. G'bye Birds of Prey. G'bye Gotham. G'bye Arkham. G'bye Metropolis & Opal City. G'night Alfred.

Meanwhile, I've a comic preview to read and comment on - I'll go do that now and stop being so maudlin. It is what it is, yes? I mean, I've totally survived waving the hell G'bye to Peter and MJ, Dazzler, Dagger, Cloak, Hank, Kurt, Mystique, Magneto and a Scott Summers who made any damn sense.

ETA: WTH DC? Nutscare Castrating Amazon Women? Really? Seriously? Amazon = Man Hating? Seriously? That bullshit in 2011?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gay Girl In Damascus Is Fake

Via DV: It's a white guy from Turkey in Turkey possibly from Georgia USA, happily appropriating revolutions, west asian culture, social justice woman's culture and all the rest and he's sorry for the trouble he caused for claiming she'd been kidnapped. BBC interview here with the woman whose picture was appropriated/stolen/misused etc... Extra info over in this link .

I would say something about white men; white cis, hetero, privileged men, appropriating/taking/stealing/absorbing/claiming to be giving a voice to while smothering real true voices with their other hand - but I'm just too upset, really. It's always easier to add the dressing; to guess, to fantasize to hypothesize than to listen and raise up and bring the spotlight to actual individuals.

You give a PLANT a voice, a dog a voice, a chair a voice. That is anthropomorphism. People of colour, women, people of varied non dominant gender identity or non dominant sexual identity or non dominant ability levels (mental, physical or otherwise and other non dominant individual societies) don't need to be 'made to seem human'. We already are.

And we don't need other people trying to tell the stories we do have to tell - because they're too busy imagining how it could be to hear how it really is.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

G'bye Oracle. G'bye Grown Up Mature Amazing Barbara Gordon

I don't have much anything to say. White cis, hetero, currently able bodied people are taking America the world back from a more diverse humanity. And Hollywood continues to be THE ALL WHITE SHOW ALL THE TIME (with a mammy here and an Old Jiving Jo There).


That means there's (more of) a vacuum of stories, diverse stories for a diverse humanity. That's how I've got to think, that's what I'm going to focus on. Everything, anything else, leaves me exhausted. I've got no more pearls to throw before swine.

[I'd put Candle In The Wind here, but can't find an instrumental version I like and Oracle's no 'English Rose'.]