Superheroes are larger than life and mythic in scope. Their clothes play an essential role in conveying their power. The dark silhouette of an armored Batman strikes fear in the hearts evildoers. The red cape and yellow shield of Superman brings hope to the hopeless. Wonder Woman’s bustier gives a great view of her breasts. Well, maybe that last one doesn’t have the same “effect” as the first two.
There’s long been a double standard in superhero comics, dating back to the very first female heroes. This isn’t news to anyone who’s been a fan of comic books. The hero is dressed to inspire, and the female heroine is dressed (or undressed) to titillate. Powergirl may be stronger and faster than Batman, able to shrug off bullets and lift tanks, but her clothes (which literally have a cleavage window) have all the subtext of eye candy, not hero.
It’s a problem that comic books still struggle with despite a century of progress in gender equality. You only have to look at the recent kerfuffle with Spider-Woman #1’s cover with a “painted on” costume to know we haven’t moved that far from Wonder Woman being tied up and fired at by phallic objects in the 1940’s. The move to mass commercial success with Marvel’s films has only exacerbated the problems. Black Widow’s representation in the Avengers proved fertile ground for the Internet meme machine, with her impractical cleavage and ludicrous posing.
Sexy Superhero is my addition to the ongoing conversation on this subject. It’s a short film that pokes fun of the impracticality of accepted female costuming in superhero fiction. I’m a big fan of superhero comics and movies. I wanted to create something that showed my love for the subject matter and share it with a larger audience. There’s a reason why comic fans are so passionate–Superheroes are great fun, and can be monumentally inspiring. I think everyone should be able to identify with his or her favorite hero without a cleavage window shutting them out.
Luke Patton is a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Sexy Superhero, a short film he wrote and directed, is one of the top 20 finalists in the Project Greenlight competition. To watch Sexy Superhero and place your vote in the competition please follow the link below.
Comic Review: Rocky and Bullwinkle vol. 2 by Al Kilgore, et al
Review by Prof. Jenn
Maybe the first volume was fresh and new to me and now the novelty has worn off? Maybe the stories collected in the first volume were actually better overall than the second? Maybe it’s a matter of quantity getting in the way of quality as far as an enjoyment palette? In any case, volume 2 of the Rocky and Bullwinkle comics didn’t delight as much as the first collection. Again, I can’t blame it on the makers, I’m thinking it’s a matter of overdose.
Don’t get me wrong: I love these guys, and I love the authentic style of both the writing and the art. It’s like watching a bunch of episodes. Maybe that’s it–maybe seeing this many episodes in a row is too much.
Bottom line: This collection is honestly just great. If you have kids who are getting into the franchise, if you’re a fan (or especially collector) yourself, this is a great collection to have. Either collection is a good collection for a coffee table or a bookshelf anyway, if I’m perfectly honest.
This two-part episode packed in a lot of information, while somehow raising more questions than it answered. Look out for AHS Murder House spoilers ahead.
First, it’s time to celebrate, because I was actually right about something! One of my (many) speculations about Tate is true–he is Constance’s son! That small tidbit was overshadowed by the questions about him brought up in this Halloween two-parter. For example, in one of the scenes he was wearing the rubber suit. Does that mean he is always the guy in the rubber suit? I’m hoping not, because gross. There’s a weird discrepancy with him. He seems to understand the minutiae of the Murder House, and appears to be able to manipulate some of it to his will (as in the episode in which he scared Violet’s bully). But then we are introduced to the dead high-schoolers who claim to have been murdered by him, and he unravels into genuine bafflement. It’s difficult to reconcile these two parts of Tate. More importantly, is he one of the many walking dead on the show? (I’m guessing probably yes).
I was absolutely shocked by Addie’s death in this episode. Addie was mowed down by a car whilst trick-or-treating, in such a casual way it almost seemed an afterthought. I wonder if it will ever be revealed how the dead function in the show. Will Addie be able to come back because Constance pulled her to the Harmons’ lawn? If she can come back, it seems like it could be difficult to keep this secret from Tate.
Hayden returned in this episode. I find her storyline tired, but I did like her better as a vengeful spirit, and the scenes between her and Vivien were powerful and needed. Vivien is really starting to get on my nerves. I’m glad that she finally had the guts to kick Ben out, but SHE was the one who wanted to leave that house, and with good reason, so why was HE the one who left? Wasn’t that a good opportunity to get her and Violet out of there? Why do the characters in AHS have that typical horror-themed lack of good judgement?
Wild speculation time. Because I can’t take any normal people for granted, I’m going to say that there’s something off about the security guy who Vivien is becoming attached to. I fully expect everyone to die by the end of this season, but I still have my fingers crossed that Violet will make it out.
Addie and the dismembered baby delivered to the original house owners bring the House Death Toll to 16.
This is it, folks. The thrilling conclusion of 24 Underground is finally upon us. There’s a lot of action in this one including a big showdown in the end between the Russians, Jack Bauer, and the CIA. Will Jack escape both groups that are after him? Considering how Live Another Day starts, you can kinda take a guess, but it’s still some edge-of-your-seat excitement right up until the last page. My only complaint was that the ending wasn’t totally satisfying for me but that’s probably just me not wanting to let go. This miniseries did a great job of filling in the gap between seasons of the show, and was a lot of fun to both read and write about. I’m going to miss having Jack Bauer in my life, but I know it’s time to move on to other obsessions (like the new season of Doctor Who that is starting. Are you with me?) I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Comic Review: The Star Wars by Rinzler, Mayhew, et. al
Review by Prof. Jenn
So this is a comic trade that is based off of George Lucas’ original-original rough draft of the screenplay for The Star Wars. That is, Star Wars before it got edited for quality and way before it got re-purposed for less quality and more busy unnecessary additions.
I have my opinions, more as a literature expert than an old-school Star Wars nerd, though I must confess I am equally both. It’s important that Han shot first, but I can actually explain to you literarily why. The scene at the Millennium Falcon added in w/Jabba? Completely unnecessary. But I’ve got the literary chops to explain why, beyond my nerd rage.
Now, it seems that several geek-culture favorites these days tend to fall into the trap of the fan-service. The fan-service is the thing that happens in the story of a new episode of a thing that does nothing for the actual plot except show a thing that will make fans squee. See: the entire movie Phantom Menace. See also: the ending of Doctor Who episode “Deep Breath.” (We can talk about this later if you like.)
This comic story is based on Star Wars before it was Star Wars: we’ve got snippets of images of all three of the older movies (Tatooine, betrayed youg’uns, snippets of Yavin and the Wookiees very similar to the Ewok uprising in RotJ, a Leia and, well, Annikin romance but he’s really the Luke character in this story), some themes and dreary plot points from the newer movies (politics, trade embargoes, wily and lying politicians, overly ornate headgear for the Princess/Queen), and all the art smacks of the concept art all us Star Wars nerds know and love from the pen of Ralph McQuarrie. The oddly androgynous C-3PO, the Luke Starkiller with the buzzcut mullet, the green-skinned amphibious Han Solo, and the oddly bug-eyed Chewbacca all come from McQuarrie’s illustrations we all know and love.
Thing is, when you read this, you can really appreciate the changes made to Episodes 4-6. You really can. You can appreciate the available charm of its characters, its streamlined Hero’s Journey of an action-based plot, and its iconic tropes buffered to a new sheen. The story of this comic is tired, too complex, too wordy in ways no one speaks (okay well all the movies are like this too) and, well, basically, nothing really…happens.
What this is is fan service: for those of us who were obsessed with this epic series and who wanted more from the prequels, those of us who appreciated the streamlined storytelling before Lucas got the tech and was allowed to add in extraneous whatever-he-wanted, this is a window into the writing process and indeed the creative process itself.
It’s not a great comic.
Bottom line: I don’t recommend this to anyone but the most completionist collector or the most die-hard Star Wars fan. It’s a dreary, plodding, clunkily-drawn peek into an early draft of a movie series we’re glad got edited from it. It’s fun to see McQuarrie’s creations in a sort of action, though.
The past is finally meeting the present in the Thomas Alsop comic, and now is when it starts getting interesting. With a deeper connection to his family’s past, I’m finally seeing the potential in Thomas and the lengths he might have to go to in order to set things right.
Starting off the comic this month, we got an admission from Thomas about how he doesn’t feel as deep a connection to the island as his ancestors did. We’ve seen it hinted at, but I’m glad that he finally came out and said the words. In fact, he’s been sliding on his family’s history for all his current success, digging into family journals to find old ghosts and make good entertainment for his media image. But he can’t just keep going like he has been. Thomas has a destiny, and he’s got to make sure he lives up to it by reconnecting with the island. His solution on how to go about that, though, doesn’t quite instill a feeling of mental stability.
Thomas’ solution for reconnection is to risk death by overdose. If he can get close to dying, then he can feel the connection better and maybe uncover why there’s been a constant darkness over it for all these years. Whether it’s a hallucination or reality, Thomas’ mind-trip does provide us with more clues and better visual connections between the past and present. He has a waking dream of drowning, thrust back to 1702 where he overhears the situation with Neziah Bliss and the implication that the boat he’s so afraid of is indeed cursed. Thomas knows this to be true, as he gets a clear image of the wood’s power when he touches it. Virgins drained the blood of good men to feed the forest, grow the wood, build the boat. Then the blood from the virgin daughters of the priests of The Black Ring was used to etch in spells to the wood, which was all used to keep Tunde under control. He is the dark force that brought death and destruction to the island, and continues to do so to this day.
The whole situation with Tunde is interesting, especially the yet-to-be-seen extent of his powers. We know he is said to be able to raise the dead, and The Black Ring wants to learn everything he can do, wants him to teach them his tricks. I have a feeling he’s going to be killing a few of them before willingly giving over his secrets, but I can believe that his overwhelming darkness has stained the island for all these years and continues to do so.
The implication that the 1992 burial of “The Box of Lost Things” with the sealed spell inside is connected to the tragedy on September 11th was a bit too thin to follow, though Thomas believes it has a strong connection to Tunde’s situation. We leave the issue with him ranting to the EMTs and his friend Marcus Rogers that he has to save all the 9/11 victims. How he’s going to do this is yet to be seen. Personally, I’d like to see the connection spelled out in more concrete terms, but for now I’m willing to wait.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
I gotta say, I was a little thrown off at first by the style of this book. Having not read the previous issue of this series, I didn’t know what to expect. Once I got past that though, the story itself sucked me in pretty quickly. I also immediately recognized the fact that while I might not love the photojournalistic style of this book, other people would probably love it since it does make you feel like you’re watching an episode of TOS appear on the pages.
You can even hear the voices of the characters come to life in your head with each bit of dialogue. It also helps that the story is pretty solid and enjoyable to read. Overall I was pleasantly surprised with how this one played out, and would recommend it to the real Trekkies out there who would like a fresh taste of the old series.
Book review: Jackrabbit by Ian Healy
Review by Prof. Jenn
Ian Healy has delivered again in this next installment of superhero novels in the Just Cause universe. As I have written before, I have and continue to enjoy Healy’s ability to embody the coming-of-age voice, as well as the voice of the “regular Joe,” whether they are superpowered or not. (Sorry, “parahuman” is the correct term in his universe.) In Jackrabbit, though, we run into a new kind of parahuman–that of the Herald. The cheeky rabbit god and his buddy the frog god run into a new, insectile god in God’s Land–and it is revealed that this new god isn’t one invented by humans. This is a big deal, and not a good thing, at all. So (as it so often is) it’s up to our trickster god Leporidus to save the day. He begins his rescue plan by choosing a Herald–that is, a human who will embody the god on Earth. He selects hapless nerdy teenager Jay and, as it turns out, he has made an excellent choice.
Since I know Ian personally (we grew up together through Talented and Gifted programs in junior and senior high school as well as the theatre programs in said schools), I can slap him a virtual yet hearty high five in glorifying the nerd in this world. Even with today’s “geek chic,” nerds are still the victims of bullying today, and actually the nasty insect takeover of Earth event in this novel is connected directly to the theme of bullying. What Healy does very well is illustrate real human beings, whether it’s the coming of age type of Jay/Jackrabbit here or Mustang Sally in his earlier works, or “normal” folks trying to deal with the extraordinary, as in yet other novels in the Just Cause universe. And I love that the female hero is adorably annoying–it’s so great that she’s not flawless, but we still love her. Thanks for the realism and the joy amid the tense action. Also, thank Heaven for an African-American protagonist hero.
Usually I adore Healy’s Just Cause books without question, but I had a couple minor reservations about this one: a) why does Jay have to get all buff and huge when he transforms? Isn’t he a better Rabbit god herald by staying slight and quick? b) Bunny, Jay’s best friend, smacks of the stereotypical Gay Best Friend. In fact, he reminds me of the gay dancer friend in the 1984 movie Breakin’. maybe it’s the dance studio thing. Anyway… c) Jay turns real cheeky once he becomes Jackrabbit. he was pretty meek before. I’m not quite buying his snarky transformation. Maybe if he were already getting in trouble because of his wit and cheek, before he transformed? That way we can see exactly why Leporidus chose him, and his personality later would fit, etc. d) I hate to say it, as I love the ending, but I think it was a little too easily achieved. All of you, go out and read it and come back and tell me what you think.
Bottom Line: Jackrabbit is a fantastic novel and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
It’s the fight we’ve all been waiting for. Even though a few years ago we didn’t even know we wanted it.Reactions to the new Sailor Moon series have varied wildly, ranging from excited to horrified after Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal began airing worldwide on July 5th. As the third episode was released on the second of August, and we have another week to wait for the fourth, it seems like an appropriate time to analyze the two series in a completely professional and unbiased manner.
Though the original series added some lovable elements to the Sailor Moon franchise, it’s no secret that the majority of the anime was ridiculous filler. The primary motivation for the remake is to make a series more faithful to the manga’s source material. I’ll miss getting to know the villains better, but filler was taken to a criminal level in the original, stalling character development and plot. The first three episodes of Crystal each correspond to the first three manga chapters, in which we meet Sailor Moon, Mercury, and Mars respectively. To compare, Sailor Mercury isn’t introduced until the eighth episode of the original. That’s an extreme delay to plot, even if the manga is a bit too fast-paced at times. The obvious winner of this round is…
Sailor Moon’s transformation sequence is iconic, and it’s important for it to be perfect because we have to watch it so many times. There’s no better way to compare the transformation sequences is than watch them. I’m not a fan of the new CGI transformation. Why are her limbs so… noodly? Toei Animation also managed to make it longer. I don’t know how anyone could have watched the original and thought, “Well, we clearly need to see the main character spin in circles for more time before we get to the action”–even if they did cut it down in episode three to allow the other girls some air time. The winner of the Transformation Sequence Award has to go to…
Related to the transformation sequence is the importance of music. I don’t dislike the opening theme of Crystal, it’s pretty epic with decent lyrics and some whirling guitar solos. I also like the choir that accompanies the most epic moments of the show. On the other hand, coming from a girl who has the original series’ transformation sequence as her ringtone, the old show’s music was catchy as heck. Though I like the suspense the new music creates, I miss the theme songs that would get stuck in your head for days, and I think a series that is ultimately made for kids should have that sing-along quality, so this award also goes to…
Art & Animation
Here’s where I’ve seen the most contention about the new series. I will admit, Crystal seems to have missed the mark when it comes to animation. In the very first scene you can see the frames stagger, and there have been a few times I’ve winced to myself because the face proportions were so bad. Some of those close-ups make the girls look truly inebriated. The shading is snappy, though, and it has a much more modern feel. There’s something about the lengthened, looser style that embodies the manga better (at least to me) though why they thought it was a good idea to draw the lips in is beyond me, as that always looks creepy in anime. The old series certainly feels dated in comparison, and some of the drawings in it are just plain bad, too. Whether or not it was good for its time seems irrelevant.
I have to get serious for a moment, because I feel this is where Crystal is receiving the most criticism. People aren’t happy with the quality of the animation, some refusing to watch the new series. I have to point out that maybe Sailor Moon isn’t being remade for you. By you, I mean the other 20-somethings who wanted it to be the high-budget remake that encapsulated all of their dreams while still reveling in the power of nostalgia. Sailor Moon Crystal was made for two reasons–to closer follow the story and character development presented in Naoko Takeuchi’s manga, and to bring Sailor Moon to a new audience. I want a new generation of girls and boys growing up with the feminine power of this set of magical girls. I want them to be introduced to the non-censored version of the content in Sailor Moon, and I want it to be theirs. Sometimes, a show will feel too dated to be relatable to a younger audience, but I don’t think kids will notice the animation quirks in the new anime as much.
So I’m giving this category to Crystal, which makes this competition a tie, and I think that emphasizes my points. There will always be people who prefer the quirk and fun of the original, but dismissing the remake because it isn’t perfect is unjust, and I think in the future there will be people just as loyal to the new series as they were to the old. In the meantime, we can enjoy the influx of Sailor Moon swag that will be in stores, and be content knowing that a new generation will learn that girls can be intelligent and powerful on their own.
Book Review: Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann
Review by: Prof. Jenn
How good a combination is a ninja-detective, seriously? What a perfect set of skills to be able to solve a murder in 16th-century Japan. Blade of the Samurai is a sequel to Claws of the Cat, which are historical thrillers starring Hiro, our shinobi protagonist, and his partner in solving crime, Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. With these two intellects at the helm of any investigation, no murderer will stay safe for long. Admittedly I haven’t read the first in this series, so I can’t tell you how the characters have evolved in this sequel, but I can tell you if this is your first foray into the investigations of these two, you will have no problem getting to know our characters, their situations, and setting immediately.
An official in the shogunate has been murdered, and a whiff of a plot to assassinate the shogun himself is in the air as Hiro and Mateo are conscripted to investigate the murder before Oda comes to invade Kyoto. The inclusion of real historical figures (Nobunaga Oda, Hattori Hanzo, etc.) and detailed descriptions of the 16th century Japanese setting plunges us right into the setting as good historical fiction does. However, the quick, clipped pace, the tension begun right as the story begins, and the short chapters make this also a well-crafted whodunit. This book is difficult to put down, and is a quick, exciting read. It’s also a fun addition to have the cultural differences pop up between Father Mateo and his Japanese surroundings (especially noble and samurai encounters, normal Western gestures and thoughts being offensive to the Japanese characters). The outcome of the mystery is complex and not cookie-cutter easy, and the end leaves us with many open ends ready for another sequel (Flask of the Drunken Master, out in 2015).
Bottom Line: Blade of the Samurai is highly recommended.