Tag Archives: comic books

Comic Review: Watson and Holmes

I grew up watching Matlock and Murder She Wrote, so I guess it’s only natural that as a kid, I soon fell madly in love with Sherlock Holmes. I love the books, any tv adaptations I can find. I watch Sherlock and Elementary–and I apologize profusely over my doubts that the show could make a female Watson work with the usual bromance dynamic, because they have. Mea culpa. The point is, if it’s well done, I can’t get enough Holmes.

Watson and Holmes, the comic book by Bollers, Leonardi, and Menzoa, takes place in modern day Harlem. In this incarnation, Jon Watson is a medical intern who happens to be on duty when a twenty-something drug overdose patient comes in. Sherlock Holmes soon follows, and tells Watson that the guy has been drugged with “something unusual.” When Watson’s lab tests confirm it, he tracks down Sherlock and gets sucked into the case.

Sherlock is a private investigator here rather than the recently popular “police consultant,” which adds an element of danger as far as interference, but it’s a distinction I like. Holmes rarely has respect for the law; he just wants the truth. At their first meeting he tells Watson, “As for precincts, you won’t find me there… Only police and thieves. Though I’m sure there’s room for overlap.” So he retains his canonical jerkass personality–at least on the surface. Watson is an overworked doctor-in-training who’s curiosity keeps him following the PI, despite his unorthodox (and illegal) investigation methods.

The art work is gorgeous and detailed and the references to the original Sherlock Holmes are smartly done. The mystery is intriguing, complete with a gang (the Suicidaz) and a missing person. Sadly there’s only one issue out so far. But it’s only 99 cents, which is comic book dollars is basically free, so if you like Sherlock Holmes and want to see a new spin on it, it’s more than worth checking out. Hopefully the second issue will show up soon. (It looks like there’s a cover image for issue two floating around on their Facebook page, which I take as a good sign.)

Review: Claudia’s Story: An Interview with the Vampire grahic novel adaptation

I grew up on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I read the first book when the movie came out in 1994 and the rest of the series, to a point, and I’ve reread them a lot since. I’d always loved vampires in various forms, but something about Interview with the Vampire brought out the richness and realism of what being such a creature who used to be human might be like. I’m also a sucker for a good story framing and having a quirky reporter taping the interview was awesome. To this day, the first four books in that series remain some of my favorites.

Claudia’s Story, an adaption by Ashley Marie Witter, is Interview from her perspective, which is dark and disturbing. It tells how she was turned, how she grew from a true child vampire into a woman trapped into a child’s body for all eternity, and how she puts up with Louis (doting but self-hating) and Lestat (Monsieur Can Do No Wrong). I’m a huge fan of swapped POVs and unreliable narrator, which is part of the reason I love The Vampire Chronicles. One book is Louis’ take and the next book is Lestat going “Pfft yeah right, here’s how I saw it.”

So to give us an entirely new perspective is a great idea for a fresh way to retell the story. We get bits and pieces of Claudia’s diary in the third book, Queen of the Damned (which bares little resemblance to its movie incarnation), when Jesse, a supernatural investigator, recovers the journal. It’s always something I wanted more of, and here we are.

It is impossibly creepy to see it drawn out on the page. Claudia is small, maybe five in the novel, and in the graphic novel there are scenes where that alone is enough to make my skin crawl.

Louis' expressions of frustration, angst, and sadness are as perfect as Lestat's grin.

(Child monsters are always the worst, aren’t they?) Witter doesn’t shy away from the gritty darkness of a child who is not a child, nor does she avoid the uncomfortable conversations that arise because of it. It is Claudia’s story, after all, and Witter tells in all of its twisted, strange entirety. It’s devastatingly heart-breaking and completely disturbing at the same time.

The art work is breathtakingly gorgeous, too. Even if Louis looks constantly depressed (accurate). And finally, finally, we get a depiction of Armand that doesn’t make him look like a middle-aged man with a bear hide on his head. (I’ll concede Antonio Banderas played the hell out of that part in the movie but the costuming.. yikes.)

It works as a stand-alone story, but I suspect its best audience will largely be fans of the book and/or the film. Although if you like pretty and haunting vampire comics, this is definitely one to add to your collection.

 

(Also I forgot how much of a jerk Lestat is in Interview. Seriously, like, I know he’s the quintessential teenager pretty much always, but if he did like three things differently, everything could have been puppies and roses and sparkl–err… Well.. Maybe it’s better that he didn’t.)

GGC12 Panels: Capes & Canes – Disabilities in Comics

Geek Girl Con was so much fun, I don’t even know where to begin. Autumn and I have a zillion photos and reams of panel notes, and Autumn interviewed some ladies from NASA. So we’ll be posting our Con Converge as quickly as real life allows. (Damn real life!)

Barbara Gordon as Oracle from her Wikipedia page

This panel was proposed and moderated by Katelyn Bruhn. The other panelists were Greg Rucka, comic writer and novelist; Jen Van Meter, comic writer; Teal Sherer, actress and producer, and star of the webseries My Gimpy Life; and Jill Pantozzi, writer who contributes to many sites including The Mary Sue. This is a long write up because it was so awesome and so much was discussed.

So what inspired the panel, among other things, was the backlash last year when DC announced that in the New 52 reboot of Batgirl, Barbara Gordon would reprise the role. She had been using a wheelchair after the Joker shot her through the spine and had become the Oracle. In the reboot, she would be walking again.

Pantozzi says she was mostly in the dark about new 52 but a friend from DC gave her a heads up that they were getting rid of Oracle and putting Barbara back as Batgirl. She found it extremely upsetting. “Oracle is a role model of mine,” she says. And to have a bad ass female character alone is unique in the Dc universe, let alone one in a wheelchair. And of course back then, she had no idea how they would do it. Would they magic the wheelchair away? Pretend it never happened?

Sherer says she felt basically the same way. There are so few characters out there with disabilities.“There’s this misconception out there that people with disabilities are broken and need to be fixed..Maybe she doesn’t want to be fixed.She released a youtube video dressed as Oracle to argue that side of it last year. (It’s hilarious and I suggest you watch it. On having to be Batgirl again: “Girl, I’m 30 years old!”)

Rucka says he’s curious now, a year later, how you feel about it and how it was handled? He’s quick to add not about Gail doing a good job, because that’s a given.

Pantozzi says Barbara Gordon is a good character no matter what. “[Gordon] as Batgirl is interesting but also, we have seen that story.”

Rucka agrees and adds that Oracle was so successful as a story because the entirety of her journey was in the books. Readers got to see her before the wheelchair, and see the trauma of being shot and then disabled, and see her cope with it and accept it and move on. If DC were to say, Okay, we hear you, toss in another wheelchair-bound lady crime fighter, it would feel apologist.

Bruhn asks, How important is it that when we rejoin Barbara she is recovering physically and emotionally even though she’s out of the chair? Bruhn is a big Marvel fan, so she’s big on the idea that when you fix something with Tony Stark you give him another problem. It’s a constant battle.

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Becoming a Bad Ass: Uhh… Barbarella…?

I love Barbarella–the 1968 film starring Jane Fonda which was based on a number of French comic strips published in the early 60s. One of the local cinemas was playing it a couple of weeks ago and I decided to watch it for the second time as part of research for my series on female action heroes. However, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what I want to say about this movie and its title character. Is she really a bad ass? Is her character troubling from a feminist perspective or does the humorous light in which the movie is cast absolve it from being offensive? These questions are further complicated by the film’s place in history and my complete lack of familiarity with the comics it was originally based on. Instead of blathering on about my internal conflict about the merits of Barbarella as a bad ass, I’ll simply tell you about the movie and point out the positives and negatives as I go.

Barbarella, standing naked in front of her space ship’s telecommunicator after the movie’s opening scene,¬† is tasked by the President of Earth with finding the scientist Durand Durand (yes, Duran Duran is named after the character) whose last known location was the planet Tau Ceti. She is given weapons, something considered uncivilized in the year 40,000, and a device which will detect Durand Durand’s presence. With the tools needed to complete her mission and a change of wardrobe, she sets off toward her destination to find the lost scientist.

What follows is 98 minutes of clever scenarios in which Barbarella must overcome some difficulty–all of which resulting in damage done to her clothing and a subsequent change of costume. She meets a handful of people who help her out, be it by fixing her spaceship or rescuing her from a pack of rabid budgies. As a token of gratitude for the help she receives, she has sex with several of the individuals; sometimes in the barbaric old way of making love and sometimes in the new, civilized manner.

What kind of a girl are you? Have you no shame?

Upon finding Durand Durand, it’s revealed that he is evil and he puts Barbarella into his Excessive Machine¬† to kill her through pleasure. However, the machine “can’t keep up” with her and it sets fire. Durand Durand eventually locks her in a dream chamber with the evil city’s ruling Black Queen, leaving both women to be devoured by the Matmos–the energy-filled lake beneath the city which thrives on evil. However, because of Barbarella’s overwhelming goodness, the Matmos must protect itself against Barbarella by forming a bubble around her and the queen. Eventually, with the help of blind angel Pygar and a group of rebels, Barbarella defeats Durand Durand and escapes the city having saved the universe.

The problem I have with the character boils down to this: with the exception of saving Pygar once, she doesn’t do anything on her own the whole time. Every single thing she does is facilitated by someone else and she is always saved by someone else or saves herself by way of circumstance. Someone else has to fix her ship and her weapons are given to her by the President–it’s a small wonder she knows how to use either of them.

Her pseudo-helplessness aside, the movie is largely a device to unclothe and redress Jane Fonda. Due to the obviously self-aware and humorous ways in which this is done I don’t really take much issue with this aspect of the movie. However, I can’t help but think of the numerous video games that virtually force all female characters into what amounts to chain mail bikinis complete with actions scenes created just to get a close up of jiggling, barely-contained breasts. I then wonder why I am all right with Barbarella but not the borderline offensive, non-satirical representations of and attitudes toward women such as those becoming almost standard in comic books and other popular geeky media.

I think the difference here is two-fold. First, the entirety of Barbarella is basically a sex comedy in a science fiction setting. While partaking in the over-the-top displays of sexuality and overt under-dressing of women that can be seen in modern games/movies, Barbarella doesn’t take itself seriously. Additionally, it pokes fun at male sexuality and isn’t just focused on Barbarella being hot and liking sex.

This brings me to the second reason Barbarella gets a pass: Its place in history. The comics, while created by a man, were written during the early days of the sexual revolution and were the author’s (admittedly over the top) representation of a sexually liberated woman. The comics, according to their wikipedia page,¬† were even considered highly scandalous despite its supposed limited sexual content which would likely pale in comparison to what is being made today. The movie followed several years later, but this is all still highly relevant.

The point is this: Barbarella was created well before gross over-sexualization was normal and I think its representation of a female character enjoying sex and still being considered good was a highly positive thing during its time. Would I consider Barbarella to be one of my female bad asses I would model myself after? For being a sexual revolutionary (in the real world 1960s era, not the fictional year 40,000 setting), yes.

What do you think? What media representations of women do you find positive or negative? What do you think of Barbarella if you’ve seen it? I would love to hear what our male and female readers think.