Jan 19, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1059: Playbear #1, June 1995 (Eek! It's a Naughty Week! Day 2)


While I do file this comic in my adult section of the collection, it's actually pretty tame for an Eros comic. There's plenty of heaving bosoms bared, but no lower genitalia, and definitely no sex. It really is "good girl entertainment," in that it's more about the tease than the act. Felix's art is fantastic - I find this in many European imports (I think this is a European import). There is a definite attention paid to the bodies on these pages, both human and robotic teddy bear. And while I do appreciate close attention to one's draftsmanship, I also can't help but think that the reason so many artists, male artists, are so good at drawing women is that they've been raised to see women purely as aesthetic visual phenomena, rather than as, y'know, people. A lot of the time the characters in European erotica, specifically the women, move like they're runway models rather than human beings in three dimensional space. This is a marked difference from much of the erotic manga I've read, where characters might be able to do impossible things in the bedroom, but outside of that magical zone they're governed by the same laws of physics as the rest of us. Even on panel of a woman tripping while wearing a ridiculous high heel would demonstrate some awareness of the person as person, rather than as reflection of the male gaze.

Huh. Things got Feminist-y there. Wasn't expecting that. I think what it is is that in many erotic/porn comics, we at least see the women in the stories enjoying themselves (well, in the comics I have in my collection, at least). But here the women are literally there simply to provide set dressing. I'd never deny the allure of a beautiful person. Beauty fills an aesthetic need that we all have. But the problem, as I'm sure I've mentioned in this project before, is when someone is reduced to the level of solely aesthetic object.

To be continued.

The 40 Years of Comics Project Friday Magazine 23: Life With Archie #4, December 2010


When the Archie comics that chronicled the possible future marriages of Archie and Betty and Archie and Veronica came out, I picked them up immediately. It had been many years since I'd read Archie, but these comics seemed to in some way be speaking to those of us (and there are many) who read these comics as kids and wanted to know how it would all end up. I was quite pleased to see references to Robert Frost in those first six comics, one of my favourite poets, references that were proof that the writers on Archie were paying attention to the stories, not simply churning them out to entertain kids.

It would be a few years more until I started really enjoying Archie comics again, actively seeking them out in dollar bins and garage sales. But on my way across the country to Calgary, I picked up an issue of this series in my effort to get a comic in each of the towns we stopped in. It wasn't this specific issue, but that was the one that tuned me in to the fact that they'd continued the married life stories. I was intrigued.

Today's issue hit a bit close to home for me, unfortunately. These are well-wrought parallel stories that take the same personalities and project them beyond high school. It's fantastic to see the ways that the writers see the characters growing. Moose runs for mayor. In a fit of uncharacteristic insight, Reggie worries that he peaked in high school. Jughead, surprising no one, takes over the Chok'lit Shop. What's really great about these maturations is that none of them seem contrived. They seem, in fact, quite natural. That said, Archie, in both of the stories, is dealing with financial and employment woes, two stressors with which many of us can identify. While these might be somewhat uncomfortable subjects to tackle, it makes sense that this is what Archie comes to. He was always said to be "everyman" (though that's a problematic assertion if there ever was one), and even into his adult years he continues to be.

I have a few more issues of this in the collection that I'll get to eventually. You really can always rely on Archie comics.


Jan 18, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1058: Saucy Little Tart, February 1997 (Eek! It's a Naughty Week! Day 1)


I read one of Molly Kiely's graphic novels a while back for the project, and I was pretty positive about her particular brand of erotica. It's fun and happy, and deals not just with the bodies of sex but the emotions of sex as well. And today's comic is no exception. In fact, it goes even further into sex positivity and inclusivity. As far as I can tell, this series is the story of twin sisters, one of whom is a professional dominatrix and one of whom is queer. That's actually about all I know about them. Oh, and they like to have sex. Not, I'm assuming, with each other, but definitely with other people.

What's really lovely about this comic is that there's some excellent gender queering. You've got a sub male, a lesbian who lets herself experiment, and an object of desire who turns out to be something quite different than expected. And there's no hate or shock or derision, just people enjoying each others' intimate company.

Sounds nice.

To be continued.

Road to Infinity War - Re-Watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe part 1: Iron Man

In anticipation of the coming Avengers: Infinity War, I thought I'd refresh my memory and re-watch the films leading up to what is looking to be an amazing superhero movie. I've also recently got back into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one of the more under-rated superhero shows, I think. I am loving this season's arc thus far. Classic, full-on, superhero time-travel shenanigans. What more could we want? Sadly, though I'd love to do it some day, I won't be watching the television shows that intersect with the movies. One day I will, but probably only after I retire. Who has time for that otherwise?

And, of course, Iron Man is where it all starts. It had even slipped my mind that this film is the first time we meet Phil Coulson.

While watching it last night, I was struck by what a great movie it really is. It might be traditional to leave such a summation until the end of my assessment/review/blog post (whatever we want to call this), but I think it's an important thing to put out there up front: this is a really good movie. Even if it hadn't spawned what is ostensibly the first shared universe in film, it would still have stood on its own merits as an entertaining and pleasing piece of cinema. A good story arc, likeable characters, bad-ass special effects. It does everything an action movie needs to do. But it's more than an action movie, isn't it?

I should interject here and say that that's not a derogatory statement about action movies. Please don't misunderstand. I like a good action movie as much as the next person.

But a superhero movie is slightly different. It's getting, or has long been, cliche to talk about superheroes and myth. Any reader of my blog knows that, for me, it's a foregone conclusion that these stories are attempting to serve the same purpose in our culture as the major religious texts did, and do, in their own cultures. Isn't it the perfect embodiment of the post-modern deity that we're all completely aware of its artificial nature? And what better embodiment of that artificiality than Tony Stark and Iron Man? The classic reversal of Iron Man is the man of flesh with the iron heart becomes the man of iron with the living heart. He takes the grossest of our contemporary material productions, weapons, and, as the second film (which I'll get to in a couple of weeks) says, turns them into a shield. This is the lesson that Tony Stark's story tries to teach us, the kerygmatic aspect of this particular myth.

All that aside, though, it's also the film that kicks off the MCU, and it's blatantly designed to do so. The tiny stroke of genius that is the final scene of this film, combined with the final scene in The Incredible Hulk (next week's feature) did the one thing that superhero fans have been waiting for for so, so long. They told us that these two movies existed in the same place. That while Iron Man was having his scuffle with the Iron Monger, Bruce Banner was on the run from the U.S. government, sometimes as himself, and sometimes as "the other guy." And off on a different plane we'd come to realize that Thor was getting himself in trouble. Or that somewhere in the Arctic there was a plane buried in the ice containing a hero who would rise again in the hour of our greatest need (you never thought about Captain America as North American-ized Arthurian myth? Me neither til just now!). Finally, we had the Marvel Universe we knew and loved, and it seemed that movies had figured out what kind of a vehicle they needed to be for the tenor of the genre.

Well, at least until DC came along and managed to bungle it supremely. But perhaps that's fodder for another post.

Iron Man is a great place to start because it's a great movie. The MCU hits the ground running and never stops, really. Though the next film, The Incredible Hulk, is perhaps the slowest spot. We'll talk about why that might be next week.

Jan 17, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1057: GLA #4, September 2005


Now, this is what I was hoping for from this comic. It's silly, it's superhero-y, it's a bit sad, but ultimately a happy(ish) ending. Rather than simply be cruel to the characters, they're put into a situation in which they handle themselves with their own particular brand of aplomb.

And one panel, 4 pages from the end, makes the entire series worth the read: the first meeting of Squirrel Girl and Tippy-Toe. Regular readers of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl will recognize the sassy chum of SG, and it was a really lovely moment when I realized I was witnessing the beginning of their friendship. Lovely enough that I almost blocked out the panel of SG crying over Monkey Joe, her former squirrel BFF.

This was a problematic series. I think it hit its stride way too late in the game, and didn't really evince the affectionate stance on its characters that a superhero comic book should. Even comics that focus on villains tend to offer a sympathetic perspective. This comic is not sympathetic to its characters, and in the kind of superhero writing that this comic demonstrates, that sympathy is important.

Not sure where we're going tomorrow. I have two things I want to do - either a week of adult comics from Eros, or starting on the first 25 issues in my run of Supreme, which will be monumentally bad. Guess you'll have to tune in tomorrow.

To be continued.

Jan 16, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1056: GLA #3, August 2005


Now, you all know I love Squirrel Girl, and as far as I'm concerned everything starring her is glorious.

Well, not this series. It's just cruel and unfunny. The first page is a disclaimer page, a trait shared by each issue, that decries the casual way violence against women is portrayed in comics. And then it goes on to reveal that the way that Big Bertha reduces her mass is to vomit everything up. Seriously. It's a bulimia joke.

Which the comic seems to be aware of, and seems to understand is inappropriate, but then goes ahead and does it anyway. I just do not understand what's going on here. If there was even the inkling of the comic presenting its violence as ironic, rather than slapstick, I think the series might be redeemable. And perhaps it is trying to do that and I'm just missing stuff, but it really doesn't seem like it. For example, on the aforementioned bulimia page, Squirrel Girl's sidekick Monkey Joe facepalms, and offers Marvel's address for complaint mail. But then the story goes on as if nothing bad has been said, and the ironic moment that might have saved the story disappears. And it seems to do this with each issue.

I'll admit, I'm a bit annoyed I paid so much for the final issue. Which we'll get to tomorrow.

To be continued.

From the Depths of Marvel: Bereet

This is hands down one of the best ways I've ever heard of keeping stories both in-canon and out of canon at the same time. Amazing.

Apparently she, or a member of her race, shows up in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie.