At last month’s Awesome Con in Washington DC, I took a few minutes to chat with writer Magdalene Visaggio about her recent work for Black Mask, particularly the excellent Quantum Teens Are Go. We also touched on her Element Girl backup story for Young Animal’s Shade, the Changing Girl #4.
In honor of Wonder Woman’s solo film debut this weekend, DC has proclaimed Saturday, June 3rd Wonder Woman Day. Created 76 years ago by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter as both a superheroine and symbol for women’s equality, Diana has had an eventful history. Her legacy is a rich one, which the staff of Nothing But Comics have often revisited. So, for those wishing to delve deeper into Wonder Woman and what she represents, here is a selection of writings from Nothing But Comics on the adventures of the Princess of Themyscira.
Two issues in, Animosity is proving to be one of the most original debuts of the year. The AfterShock series takes place on an Earth where animals suddenly gain sentience. Naturally, confusion leads to violence which only ratchets up the narrative’s tension. However, there is more to the title than a tale of animal resentment run amok. Writer Marguerite Bennett, along with artist Rafael De Latorre, are crafting a nuanced portrait of humans’ relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. At New York Comic Con, I had the chance to speak with Bennett about the series.
Back in January Valiant launched a new solo min-series for Faith Herbert, aka Zephyr. This was great news for those of us who have been happily following her adventures ever since Joshua Dysart reintroduced her to readers in the pages of his Harbinger series. Two weeks ago, Valiant announced that demand for Faith had proven so strong that not only would her story be continuing, but it would be upgraded from a sequel mini to a new ongoing title. This is no small accomplishment, as Faith will be the first ongoing female solo title published by the current iteration of Valiant. As such, the new series, which will retain writer Jody Houser, represents another successful step forward for diversity in comics. However, it also points to another trend that has been occurring recently: a shift in the tone of storytelling. Ever since Alan Moore asked “Who Watches the Watchmen?” and Frank Miller pondered the last act of The Dark Knight’s career, the medium has been dominated by the grim and gritty archetype. At its height in the 90s, the prominence of such figures somehow achieved self-parody (cough, Az-Bats, cough) without losing their popularity. To this day, a new creative team’s pledge to “strip our hero down to nothing and see what makes him (or her) tick” is frequently cited as a fresh approach to counter lackluster storytelling. It’s not. Which does not mean that it cannot work, only that there is nothing groundbreaking about it. Instead, a new generation of heroines, including Zephyr, are helping redefine superheroes for a new generation of readers.
This weekend Marvel Studios launches the latest chapter of their unfolding Cinematic Universe. After the highs of Daredevil Season 1 this April the production company’s results have been a bit mixed. While Age of Ultron and Ant-Man were both enjoyable films, neither matched the same level of quality as last year’s Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues chugging along, improving in bits though failing to live up to its potential. Now comes Marvel’s final entry for the year and their second series for Netflix: Jessica Jones. Based on the initial three episodes, Jessica Jones is a fitting follow-up to Daredevil. Where Daredevil brought a new sophistication and maturity to superhero TV, Jessica Jones dives even deeper. As with Daredevil, this is not simply outstanding comic book television, but outstanding television of any kind.
Continue reading Review of Jessica Jones Episodes 1-3
Diversity in comics, as we are reminded on a regular basis, is a tricky subject. True there have been plenty of successes recently, the most prominent of which is Kamala Khan. In only a year and a half the character has become a beloved fan favorite; when her best-selling series relaunches, she will also be a member of the Avengers. Not an auxiliary member but a full-status part of the main Avengers line-up. Clearly this character has resonated with readers. On a similar note there is the strong fan support for the current Jane Foster God of Thunder, who was one of the most popular choices for female cosplayers at this year’s New York Comic Con. Yes, there will always be a vocal minority of readers who are unwilling to accept any change, though, I often wonder how much of that is due to prejudice and how much is simply due to an unwillingness to concede that anything could be as good as The Golden Age of whatever was popular when they were 12. Regardless publishers are trying to diversify their lines. Not everything catches on as well as it should (DC’s Midnighter comes readily to mind), however, the intention remains honorable.
All of this is why when stumbles do occur they are all the more disappointing. In the past, you could simply shrug your shoulders and say “that’s how it is. Of course, DC would never allow a lesbian marriage in their series.” Now, however, the Big Two have pushed forward enough that expectations are higher. Proponents of diversity expect more than simply the occasionally tossed bone. Times, as they used to say, are a-changing.
Continue reading NYCC: Diversity Stumbles
By Paul Jenkins, Leila Leiz & Tamra Bovillain
On Wednesday, AfterShock released its latest comic, Alters. To date, the publisher has launched a variety of series covering a variety of genres from war to science-fiction to horror. They have a covered a range of tones as well. Writer Paul Jenkins’ previous project Replica was a goofy science-fiction yarn, while Marguerite Bennett’s Insexts is a literate feminist mashup of lesbian romance and Victorian horror. Alters shares elements from both titles. Like Replica, there is a breezy tone which embraces the four-color outrageousness of superheroes. Meanwhile, as in Insexts, Jenkins has deeper themes in mind, using the series to explore social issues. The results are a promising first issue that capably introduces a new world to readers.
For a little over three decades Alison Bechdel has been gradually building a reputation as one of the most important talents in sequential storytelling. Beginning with her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, she has been a creator of insightful, trailblazing work. Dykes was originally serialized in the feminist Womannews before being syndicated in alternative papers around the country. As her readership grew, the strips were collected in a series of books. At first, Bechdel simply made new installments without any concern for tying them together. Eventually, though, she began employing recurring characters and ongoing storylines. She also used humor to investigate a wide range of social issues relevant to both lesbian culture in particular and the boarder concerns of women in general. Most famously, her strip “The Rule” introduced the Bechdel Test, which has become a staple of discussions about representations of women across all media (it was originally used in reference to movies). Dykes made her a prominent voice for her generation, and yet she was only beginning to tap her potential audience.
In 2006, Bechdel published Fun Home, a graphic novel memoir. Bechdel had previously experimented with some narrative forms longer than a comic strip, but this was her first full-length book. No matter how complicated its creation may have been (Bechdel’s follow-up Are You My Mother? details just how difficult writing Fun Home was), the final project flows effortlessly. Easily juggling chronology and tone, Bechdel tells the story of her childhood and college years. The thread running throughout is Bechdel’s relationship with her father, Bruce, a closeted homosexual who dies in a presumed suicide.
Continue reading Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home