Wednesday, May 23, 2007

AH! Digs Deeper

There were several things that I found discordant in Adam Hughes' defense of his Mary Jane statue over at

Hughes' argument that our society's presumed over-sensitivity to race/racism is an analogue to the unfounded charges of sexism leveled against him is unfortunate. The interviewer tries to draw him back from this stance, but Hughes proceeds to wade in further and deeper on his own.

Hughes believes that he is in the clear because MJ is not doing Spidey's laundry: she's actually finding his costume in the laundry pile! She's discovering that he's Spider-Man for the first time. Get it now? Clearly, Hughes argues, this makes the statuette non-sexist or, even, anti-sexist.

Primarily, though, I am dismayed by Hughes' I-am-the-victim tone and his some-women-like-my-art defenses.

For now, I wanted to single out just one item from the exchanges for comment:
AH: Well, that’s how I end up looking at this – is it really a sexist or misogynistic act if it wasn’t intended that way on the part of the people doing it? If you perceive something that way, but it wasn’t meant to be that way, and it’s not sending people back to the stone age, is it really a sexist or misogynistic thing that’s going on, or are you seeing something that’s either not there, or that the artist never intended to be there?

My response to Hughes' assertion is simple:

Yes, it is indeed sexism no matter what you intended. What you intended isn't the issue.

Where I live, you still get the traffic ticket even if you tell the cop you didn't intend to run the red light.

What Hughes doesn't understand is that telling women who are already offended by his work that their judgment is ill-founded is not the solution.

The artist problematically presumes that those aggrieved would support rather than condemn him if only they knew more, knew what he knows, or simply knew better. This isn't a valid defense.

It is actually an additional offense.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Chairwoman of the JSA

In Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come, an alternate future universe that is partially being folded into the present-day DCU, Kara Zor-L was called Power Woman by her comrades-in-arms.

This is Alex Ross' impressive cover to JSA #8, posted at

Now, more than ever, calling her Power Girl seems just wrong, doesn't it?

Friday, May 18, 2007

minx 1.0

I just finished The Plain Janes, and I liked it. Main Jane, the character at the center of the story, is a sympathetic young girl recovering from a trauma that still has got her mother in its grip.

Main Jane embraces and propagates art as her route to normalcy and self-identity, and what struck me is that the writer, Cecil Castellucci, shows her journey as a meandering one. There's no straight road to recovery in the book; Main Jane has her good days and her bad ones, a nice bit of realism.

Main Jane's parents are hair-dressers, proto-typical city folk, and they have decided to flee the city after their daughter is nearly killed in a terror attack. The government's fear-based responses to the ongoing terror threats produce ripple effects that reach even the small town to which Jane's family has relocated.

The state's pervasive fear-reaction exerts pressure on the Janes' school: the way it's monitored and run changes for the worse. Any teen book worth its salt has got to get across that schools can both serve as arenas of adolescent self-discovery and stultifying penal servitude. The Plain Janes definitely nails this.

Main Jane and the other People Loving Art In Neighborhoods (P.L.A.I.N.) girls, Brain Jane, Theater Jane, and Sporty Jane, start out as the lunch-room outcasts, band together as neighborhood art pranksters, and end up as bona fide threats to the public order of the school and town. By the close of the book they're seen as role models and inspiring heroes.

The story-telling is easy-going, with Castellucci nicely deploying epistolary narration throughout the book. On the minus side of the ledger, the characterization of the supporting players was a bit on the thin side, and I was peeved that Main Jane's boy-interest got to pull the MacGuyver that brought to fruition the team's culminating, Kramer-esque work of very public art. Having said that, though, my reaction to the novel was overwhelmingly positive.

A single panel justified the price of the book, for me. Sporty Jane is consistently drawn with a low-key, though noticeable, Frida Kahlo-style uni-brow. The team's plan for their culminating act of public art requires them to operate under deep cover as normal teens enjoying a vapid New Year's Eve party.

During the prep for the big night, Main Jane does Sporty's hair, which leads to this priceless exchange:


Amazing Spider-Girl #8
Mary Jane provides the narration for this effective Mother's Day issue, which is one of the few from the re-launched series that I've read more than once. What made this a good comic was the way that the writer, Tom DeFalco, handled the plot-device of the Watson-Parker sense of responsibility.

Mary Jane gets that May's sense of responsibility is what drives her daughter to wear the costume and fight crime. What's even better is that she also realizes that her own responsibility to May goes beyond clothing, feeding, housing, educating, and protecting her: she's also got to accept her daughter for who she is, and allow her to act in the world as that person. (The title of the story is "The Closet!")

Given the image of the idiotic statuette that appears to have broken the Internet in half, it's the MC2 universe's Mary Jane that I prefer to reproduce here at Mortlake:

Local #9
Megan is informed of her mother's death in the early pages, and reflects upon an uneasy relationship. Her recollections are organized around the various stages at which she ran away from home.

Her mother allowed her the freedom to make decisions on her own, and Megan realizes that she wasn't ready to have the kind of autonomy at the time it was given to her.

The issue avoids easy sentimentality, and conveys an essential truth: children estranged from a parent can actually have a clear and empathetic understanding of how and why the parent thinks, feels, and acts the way that they do.

JLA #9
I've realized that I prefer my comics to follow the Law and Order formula: the central characters can certainly have personal lives and engage in profound, transitory, or sordid relationships with wives, boyfriends, and casual acquaintances, but I don't need to see that stuff for the stories of their battles against injustice to work.

Meltzer's devoting a single panel to the Power Girl/Hawkman kiss, and a series of four panels to the entire relationship, felt right to me.

I am not connecting with Countdown at all so far, and have even found myself skipping the "villain sections" of the issues. Like the Joker, I do find myself hoping that Duela Dent is not actually dead. A DCU with a teen version of the Joker running around in it is an interesting place.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Spider-Woman III, Redeemed

The last time I caught sight of Mattie Franklin was in the pages of Brian Michael Bendis's Alias. In issue #10 the Marvel Universe's only active Spider-Woman broke into Jessica Jones' apartment expecting to find Jessica Drew. (Maybe her Rolodex was organized by first names.)


Mattie Franklin was in poor shape. (And what's worse, she was served up as the story-line's damsel in distress.) She had fallen in with the wrong crowd, staggered around in a drug-induced haze, and suffered the serial indignity of having her body gruesomely harvested by a smarmy, pimp-like, drug-dealing boyfriend to produce Mutant Growth Hormone. (A process which was depicted at one point on-panel.)


At the close of the story arc, Mattie was rescued by the Bendis dream-team of Jessica Jones and Jessica Drew, and restored to her guardians, J. Jonah Jameson and his wife. And though she was little more than a plot device, she served the plot fairly well in that capacity. She evoked the reader's sympathy, and elicited fierce maternal and protective responses from Jessica Jones.

However, Mattie was almost entirely passive throughout the story. She suffered an ordeal, and was delivered from it through the actions of other characters.

Given this bit of fictional ignominy lurking in her recent back-story, I've been gratified to see Mattie Franklin cast as one of the central figures in C.B. Cebulski's Runaways spin-off called The Loners.

She's tracked the bastards who exploited her to L.A.; attends a support group for retired teen super-heroes solely in order to recruit some assistance; takes little crap from anyone; and, most importantly, is actively setting her life in order by punishing those who screwed with it in the past.


Contrary to her characterization in Alias, Mattie comes across as a different kind of compelling figure in this book, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Amazons Attack! + Wonder Woman #8.

Here's what I liked about the issues:

1) Dodson's art in Wonder Woman #8; Woods' art in Amazons Attack!

2) That Hippolyta's first post-resurrection thoughts and words are about Diana.

3) Diana taking care of the guards, and then creating a tunnel with her fists. The Silver Age Superman used to do this all the time, and for some reason I think it's cool.

4) If the comic world is ruled by cross-over "events," it's somewhat nice that Wonder Woman is at the center of one of them.

What I disliked:

1) I know I sound like some kind of an extremist, or purist, here, but it bugged me that Nemesis rescued Diana.

2) The "light-hearted" banter between Diana and Nemesis bothered me, too.

3) Nemesis' characterization as a Wonder Woman fanboy who has his wet-dream fulfilled by his interactions with the real Wonder Woman just irks me.

4) The "I've fallen on top of you by accident but like it here" panel was lame.

I suppose I can live with the cold-blooded, murderous, rampaging "Amazons" in the first issue, so long as Diana comes through and makes all of this right in the end. (Unfortunately, I don't see how the resurrected Hippolyta has a long future in the new DCU.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Reading Habits

I've been enthralled by two sketchbooks:

James Jean, Process Recess: The Art of James Jean, (Adhouse Books, 2005).
Gary Panter, Satiro-Plastic: The Sketchbook of Gary Panter, (Drawn & Quarterly, 2005).

These magazines devoted to sketches and drawings have provided hours of pleasure:

Uovo: Drawing 2004-5, three (fat) volumes.
Esopus #6: Process (2006)
Graphic #10: Diaries, Notebooks, and Sketchbooks (2006)

And I've been reading these books:

Tara McPherson, Lonely Heart: The Art of Tara McPherson, (Dark Horse, 2006).

Marina Abramovic, The House with the Ocean View, (Charta, 2004); and Seven Easy Pieces, (Charta, 2007).

Cindy Sherman, The Complete Untitled Film Stills, (Museum of Modern Art, 2003); and A Play of Selves, (Hatje Cantz, 2007).

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