Where are the Female Marvels?

March 5, 2011

‘Women in Refrigerators Syndrome’

The use of the death or injury of a female comic book character as a plot device in a story starring a male comic book character. It is also used to note the de-powerment or elimination of a female comic book character within a comic book universe.

The concept might be slightly skewered but I see this trend happening to the women of Marvel, preferably the first ladies to appear in comics. I thought the idea was obsolete considering these contemporary times and the feminist movement has progressed women to equality, but it subliminally hasn’t. First viewed as flighty women with “less than spectacular” powers during the kooky era of the 1960s with the most vanilla of names and the object of every man’s affection, these super heroines have risen as the strongest and most powerful of the bunch. They’re now regulated as missing in action, de-powered, or dead. Are they being replaced by more multi-faceted (daresay villainous or shady)characters like Emma Frost, Black Widow, Mary Jane, and Spiderwoman? Here are the main five women and their back history:

Jean Grey/Phoenix (first X-Man)

Her powers are telepathy and telekinesis. She could move mountains, change the anatomy of her molecules, and read the minds of every single person on Earth. But her gifts in the 1960s were reduced to moving a log so her teammates didn’t trip. When she was given god-like powers of the Phoenix force, her powers were limitless. Unfortunately, what do you do to a person who is near omnipotent? They’re unstoppable and hard to write for so Jean Grey has constantly died and resurrected and died again. Her death signaled a change for her husband, Cyclops, as a more aggressive leader as he shacks up with the former villain, Emma Frost. I’m all for change, but did it have to result with killing a key figure of the X-Men mythos?

Janet van Dyne/Wasp (first female Avengers)

Her personality was nothing more except to flirt and swoon over her teammates. But time and again, she’s proven her worth as a founding member of the Avengers with insect-like powers of shrinkage and fire energy blasts and probably the smartest and craftiest of the Avengers. But to mess with her history, writers made her a victim of domestic violence against Hank Pym just to make him more interesting. And to top it off, the Wasp hasn’t been used appropriately under Brian Michael Bendis’ pen. After a few cameo stints, he killed her off during the Secret Invasion because he really has no use for her. Why couldn’t they kill off Jessica Jones or Spiderwoman?

Gwen Stacy (Spiderman’s true love)

Gwen Stacy is probably the definitive example of women in refrigerators for the Marvel Universe. She was Spiderman’s true love; the woman Peter Parker would live happily ever after. But Spiderman’s world is filled with misery so she was used as collateral damage when the Green Goblin threw her off the bridge. Spiderman caught her, but might have snapped her neck too. Her death changed Spiderman to more adult-oriented stories. It haunts Spiderman and the rest of the comic book industry to this day.

Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (first female villain/second female Avengers)

A member of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, her powers was ambiguously explained as accidents happen when she points at things. But as an Avenger, we saw her rose as one the beloved staples of the team. Her powers were then defined as probability hex powers mixed with chaos magic. But in the years intervening, her history has been met with tragedy as she married an android and magically birthed twin only to be taken away from her. Now, she was known for altering reality with a single whim. It doesn’t help that she was the daughter of the mutant terrorist Magneto and that she completely destroyed the Avengers by killing a few teammates. To top it off, she reduced the mutant population to a mere 200 and vanished. She’s becoming one of the most powerful in the Marvel universe, but why did they have to make her unstable and insane?

Susan Storm/Invisible Woman (only female member of the Fantastic Four)

The first woman of Marvel, her powers of invisibility were given as merely escaping her enemies for her male teammates to do the dirty work. Damsel in Distress? Yeah. But as the years have passed, she’s become the most powerful member with limitless skills. Her submissive persona is gone as the feminist movement progressed her importance in comics, and I’m happy to hear that she wasn’t the member who would die in Fantastic Four. That was unfortunately, the Human Torch. Her case defies the formula, but if she was the Fantastic Four member to die, then my point would have been justified.


A Marvelous Summer!

February 24, 2011

Looks like we’re going to have a marvelous summer for 2011. Okay, that pun was definitely intended but superhero films are all the rage and Marvel Comics is completely dominating over DC comics’ properties. As a Marvel zombie, we have the tri-fecta of gold: Thor (May 4), X-Men: First Class (June 3), and Captain America (July 22) up against DC Comics’ Green Lantern this summer.

Sure, DC has always had the upper hand with television versions of Superman and Wonder Woman while Marvel has the Hulk, but the landscape has changed. This would have been unheard of in the 1980s/1990s when their only properties were Howard the Duck and the Punisher battling against the Batman and Superman franchises.

But with the final installment of the Batman series in the 1990s (Batman and Robin), the superhero genre died. Why? Superhero films were treated like kiddy cartoon fare: unsophisticated, childish, and bombastic. The resurrection of the genre wouldn’t have come if it weren’t for the realistic and gritty X-Men franchise or the angsty Spiderman series of the 2000s. It only becomes ironic that the X-Men series have gone full circle with this year’s prequel/reboot. Maybe the Marvel films are more successful because of writer Stan Lee’s formula back in the 1960s: Relatable superheroes that act human and make mistakes like everyone else.

So what are the future projects? Well the admittedly premature reboot of Spiderman and the massive uptake of the Avengers. But they’ll be tangling with DC’s big guns (yet again) with the final Batman film by Christopher Nolan and the second reboot of Superman by Zack Snyder.

Insiders have already predicted the demise of the genre because of the overload. Comic Book Writer Mark Miller stated: “I think it’s going to be difficult is once you’ve done that thing of putting all those characters in one film… you know, its like having Harry Potter, James Bond and Spiderman all in one movie. I think what’ll be difficult then is to try and top that because people want to see it get bigger,” he explains. “I anticipate things starting to slow down round about 2014 and 2015. I think that’s when it will really start to flat line a bit and we’re going to see our first failures.”

Sure there are flops like the first Hulk, Daredevil, Elektra, and Catwoman but I don’t see the downfall happening like it did with Batman and Robin. The reason being because their fan base keep these movies alive.

The New Superman and Catwoman?

Streamlining My “Graphic Novel” Collection.

August 11, 2010

For the Summer, I decided to clean out unwanted graphic novels. I’ve had a lot to read and there are some I know I won’t be reading again in the future as I’m strictly a reader-friendly “Marvelite,” particularly the Avengers and the X-Men. So instead of selling for money, I decided to donate them for a good cause to a few friends. Many of these donations were good to read once, not reader-friendly, or just “no thank you.”

  1. Casanova: I like Matt Fraction. He’s definitely one of the best writers out there. And while Casanova has everything I want with espionage, alternate realities, mind-blowing violence, and sex, I couldn’t get myself into it.
  2. Maus: Everyone has spoken great accolades for this collection. It’s the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of a survivor and his son. The only exception is that the Jewish characters are portrayed as mice and Nazi as cats. While the subject matter is brilliant and their journey tragic, these metaphors left me apathetic to their plight. I wouldn’t be reading it a second time.
  3. DC- The New Frontier: I measure everything to Marvels. DC: The New Frontier looked like the equivalent for the DC Universe as it’s a reinterpretation of the birth of the superhero genre during the 1960s. While entertaining, it seems like this book was tailored for people who had a good knowledge of the DC Universe: the hardcore fans. I was confused on characters so I passed on ever reading this again.
  4. The Amazing Spiderman, Vol. 1: Spiderman is an iconic character and his plight is revolutionary as it focused on an ordinary teenager dealing with life and fighting crime. But in modern times, it’s incredibly corny. My favorite issue was the origin issue, which I already had in a reprint so I didn’t need this collection.
  5. The Filth: This book is great as Grant Morrison explores a man’s abduction into a shadowy organization that fights off the dregs of society. It’s the author’s favorite but I find myself only reading it once. It’s still mind-blowing, nonetheless.
  6. Superman, Vol. 1: I wanted to read the first issue as it’s a classic that started the superhero genre. It’s a great issue but the next nine issues weren’t as memorable as he only fits two-bit thugs. I had a customer give me a trade paperback called Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told which had that issue and other greats throughout the decades.
  7. Air: I didn’t get it. A flight attendant is periodically whisked away into another world with terrorist organizations? The first six issues were underwhelming and hard to immerse myself with the world. I gave up when the last issue introduced Amelia Earhart as a supposed shocker. Huh?
  8. Sky Doll: This novel really lost me as it focuses on a life-like android with no rights who exists to serve the state’s desires. It’s about her escape and the possibility that she is a messianic figure. And the novel focuses on adult content so it’s a bit sexual. While the religious allegories were deeply profound metaphors, but I thought the novel wasn’t as great. There are sequels, but I couldn’t enjoy the first.
  9. Daredevil- Born Again: While a good story by Frank Miller, I expected true greatness. The Kingpin tears Matt Murdock’s life apart as his junkie girlfriend sells his identity for a hit. Still, an entertaining story that I wouldn’t reread again. It didn’t measure up to my own love for Alex Ross’ Marvels or Chris Claremont’s The Dark Phoenix Saga.
  10. Rawhide Kid: God, this was a mess. Take an iconic comic Western character and change his orientation just for shock value and ram his dialogue with “unfunny” stereotypical jokes on the gay community. This was a pain to read, and it didn’t help that he was a “ginger priss.”

The Alcoholic.

April 13, 2010

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, I wanted to read an engaging graphic novel. What better way than reading about the life of an alcoholic? Entitled The Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames writes an interesting graphic novel as his story follows the character named Jonathan A. It may seem autobiographical, but the story proves noteworthy as his story first started off like anybody else’s: drinking at a high school party. We are given glimpses of his life as a success with his college years and his writing through his hardships like the loss of best friend, parents, same-sex experimentation, and the September 11 attacks. His dependency on certain relationships (his best friend and the girl he pines for) proves to be his spiral into alcoholism. They are sad and very common, at times a bit irritating. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting quirky tale with simple, yet beautiful illustrations from Dean Haspiel. It’s a quick read that will leave an impression on anybody, sober or not.

My Rating: B+

The Retro Avengers Of Yesteryear.

December 30, 2009

It’s hard for some comic newbies, but the Avengers did exist before Brian Michael Bendis mutilated the brand. Although, I can’t hate on him too much as he redefined the team for the new millennium, but Avengers Disassembled (his first foray into the title) showed disrespect in the beginning and his signature looks tend to get annoying: building up a plot and finishing with a whimper, slow decompression, same non-distinctive voice for all characters, obvious pet characters, and very talky dialogue. Again, I don’t hate him because I’ve followed him since New Avengers started and will love his Siege. Again, it’s a love-hate relationship. But for nostalgia, here are 5 old Avengers story arcs (the final two I recently read) that gave all the Avengers a grand and epic feel:

Avengers 1 (1962)

The first issue as writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby gathers Earth’s mightiest heroes: The Hulk, Ant-Man, The Wasp, Thor, and Iron Man! They need to defeat Loki, the trickster god, and they do it with over-the-top silliness. Still, it’s a good issue that begins to tie the Marvel Universe.

Avengers 4 (1962)

Legendary World War II Hero Captain America returns from his icy grave as he cohesively intertwines the past and future of the Marvel Universe: the death of his WWII partner Bucky and Namor himself rescues the soldier. The Avengers weren’t complete until they had the Sentinel of Liberty shout “Avengers Assemble!”

Avengers 89-97: The Kree-Skrull War (1971-192)

Two alien races at war as the Avengers and Earth is caught in the middle. This is “War of the Worlds” style mixed with a political allegory stemming from McCarthyism and paranoia. With a classic lineup of Clint Barton (as Goliath), the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Quicksilver, Ant-Man, the Wasp, Captain Mar-vell and the big three (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man) joining in later, all of the heavy hitters are present. Artists Neal Adams and the Buschema brothers (Jon and Sal) shine with surreal and fun art. My favorite issues have to be Ant-Man entering Vision’s robotic robot and the final two issues of the war in space. This is a landmark storyline that the Avengers of today constantly bookmark and reference. Think Secret Invasion and Young Avengers.

Avengers 181-187: Knights of Wundagore (1979-1980)

A pretty good story that deals with the convoluted history of the mutant twins, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Drawn by superb artist John Byrne, he fixes their convoluted history by successfully incorporating the High Evolutionary, voodooism, the Gypsy clan, Miss America and the Whizzer, and a nod to their real father. This storyline also shines a light that the Scarlet Witch is a powerful force that should not be reckoned with. Plus, the first issue begins with an Avengers lineup reduction as they force The Falcon join because of minority quota. Whoa!

Avengers Annual 20 (1981)

I have wanted to read this for one purpose: the introduction of mutant Rogue. Her powers are intriguing as she beats the entire Avengers team all by herself. What comes after becomes much loved history on the Southern belle. But there is so much other factors to love this comic: the strong friendship between Ms. Marvel and Spiderwoman, the history between Ms. Marvel and Rogue, the threat of Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and, again, the complete takedown of the Avengers. Writer Chris Claremont does a fantastic job, especially considering how he seamlessly added the X-Men as crucial guest stars. Marvelous.

Young Avengers 1-12, Annual 1

As a quick shout out, the first 13 issues is a great follow-up to the Avengers title as it mixes its 40-year history with the next generation of Avengers. New Avengers is a good read, but a complete departure to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The lineup of characters all have strong ties to previous Avengers or foes: Iron Man wannabe is the future version of Kang, Wicca and Speed are the long-lost twins of Vision and the Scarlet Witch, Hulking is the son of Captain Mar-vell and the Skrull princess, Cassie Lang is the daughter of Scott Lang, and the Patriot is the grandson of the “other” Captain America. Great stuff to read!

My Winter Reading List.

December 20, 2009

For every trip I go on, I like to gather reading materials to keep myself busy and hopefully keep my literacy going. Here’ s my list for my Christmas trip:

  • Gossip Girl: I usually read something “girly” and “trashy.” The past couple of years have been with Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada. Since my favorite television show is on a 3-month hiatus, I still need to get my “GG fix.” The first book inspired the first episode and I’m excited to reacquaint myself with the characters, as the plotlines are juicy, shocking, and fun. It will be a short read, and might get me to read the rest of the books.
  • Nordstrom’s Men’s Style Handbook: One of my favorite coffee table books is Detail Magazine’s Men’s Style Manual. I’ve been pursuing a similar book with the same topic, and I’ve finally found the answer. My friend surprised me with Nordstrom’s version and I was delighted to hear that I’ll be able to be a satorialist once again with nifty style tips.
  • Avengers: Knights of Wundagore/ Kree-Skrull War: I wanted to read a few good graphic novels and a chance to revisit good old Avengers stories, so these stories definitely popped to mind. Brian Michael Bendis has radically changed the Avengers landscape (better and worse), so to read what the champions were like before him in their mighty greatness was a treat. Not only are these graphic novels drawn by John Byrne, Neal Adams, and the Buschema brothers, the stories are epic and grand. From a membership minority quota to the origins of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to the cosmic wars between two alien races, the Avengers title was booming ripe with originality. Plus, it’s good to see the Marvel style circa swingin’ 70s.

When I come back for 2010:

  • The Ethical Slut: My friend advised me to read this book, as it’s very modern. I wanted to read this for my trip, but I wouldn’t receive it until after. Well, good to start the New Year by learning the rules while still being promiscuous, I guess.
  • Daredevil: The Definitive Frank Miller collection, Vol. 1: I was going to buy this book and fall in love with Frank Miller’s Daredevil, but I figured I had enough retro Marvel comics for my trip. But it’s next on my graphic novel read list.
  • X-Men: The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire: an important epic in the X-Men mythos that explains the third Summers brothers connection, Xavier’s re-emerged powers, the current state of the alien empire, and why there are three lost X-Men in space. Plus, it will complete my X-Men collection.
  • The Gossip Girl Series: Continue with the scandals? We’ll see. If I do, I’ll pay close attention to the sequel “You Know You Love Me” and the series prequel “I Will Always Love You.” There will be a greater emphasis on the finale “It Had To Be You.”
  • Siege: I’ve read the majority of issues in Road to Siege and the final Ultimate Spiderman collections, but I’ll buy them to fully understand the story. Especially with Siege as the next big event that ties everything originating from 2004’s Avengers Disassembled. I will definitely be on board.

I Kill Giants Review.

December 11, 2009

The [X]Press Magazine doesn’t come out until next week, but I figure I’d post my review for a graphic novel.

If Where the Wild Things Are was your cup of tea, then I Kill Giants should be right up your alley. In Image Comics’ graphic novel, the story is about a young girl who battles giants to cope with her issues. Like Wild Things, the novel chronicles a child’s escape from the real world to his or her own imagination. While reading. the story becomes alive and the reader may find themselves questioning whether or not these monsters are make-believe.

Inspired by his father’s fight with diabetes, writer Joe Kelly crafts an incredibly touching and witty 150-paged story that is very much like an indie film. Barbara Thorson, an outcast, deals with her teachers and peers in an unusual manner, as she is verbally and physically abusive while holding her special bag to vanish her enemies. The main story revolves around her quest to kill giants, catapulted by a bully, but as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that there is more to her issues than just enormous creatures.

Kelly is paired with artist JM Ken Niimura, who provides an energetic manga-inspired art rendered in black and white. The art may be hard to decipher, but the readers will be absorbed into the story, as each page grows stronger and tighter in the narration.

Without spoiling the poignant ending, Barbara describes her enemies in vivid details: “a giant comes to a place and destroys everything in its path. A giant is hate. A giant comes to a place and takes everything away from you.” The ending provides an epic fight and a resolution to Barbara’s journey that all readers regardless of age, gender, taste will easily relate to.

The seven individual chapters came out in 2008, but the full graphic novel came out mid-2009. I Kill Giants is worth a peek that will change your perception of the graphic novel. It may not be Homer’s The Iliad, but it is sure to entertain the disbelievers.

Writer Bio: Chris Huqueriza is sad his favorite gay pornstar is quitting to write a book. He’ll definitely read it. Come back Malachi Marx!