Mass Effect goes gold.
Smith Micheals losing his job, his girlfriend dumping him, his flunking out of school to follow.
(This is our 275 post)
I just wanted to make this clear.
My problem with New Avengers #35 was not the concept of The Hood defeating Tigra. In the Platonic world of the forms there is nothing wrong with a male super-villain defeating a female superhero. Such things come with the genre.
But we do not live in the world of the forms.
The Hood/Tigra scene was terrible not because The Hood defeated her but the way in which the creators went about shaping the scene. The imagery they used, which has misogynistic over-and-under-tones, was the problem.
Tigra was not shown defending herself. Hell, she doesn’t even get a word in edgewise(beyond grunts!). The way the camera is positioned to highlight her cleavage. The man video taping the whole “fight”. Hell, the whole fucking way this scene is staged is filled to the brim with pornographic and mysogenistic imagery.
So, yeah, there’s no problem with a male villain defeating a female hero. But there is a huge fucking problem with New Avengers #35.
The other day at Borders, on an impulse buy, I picked up Warren Ellis’ novel “Crooked Little Vein,” released back in the summer. I was only familiar with his work in “Transmetropolitan,” or at least, the volumes I had borrowed from our ever-generous webmaster (and a few other people) back in high school. I definitely enjoyed “Transmet,” so I figured I’d flip through his book. The opening paragraph, describing the narrator’s vendetta with a rat living in his office was solid enough to hook me, so I went ahead and bought it.
Having finished the book, I know I enjoyed it, but I’m still not sure if it was actually a good book or not.
To say it was a quick read doesn’t really do it justice. I read it in three days, while at work. If you’re the kind of person who reads books in the store, here’s your golden opportunity. However, its speed and brevity works both ways. On the upside, the action moves quickly- the stage is clearly set in the opening chapter. On the downside, the plot is at best threadbare and you’ll only just begin to feel attachment to the characters by the time to book is over.
Here’s the basic idea: Deadbeat P. I. Mike McGill gets a visit from the White House Chief of Staff, asking him go on a search for a magical back-up Constitution, one that has the power to force anyone who hears it read aloud abide by its rules. The made-up American history at first made me cringe with memories of “National Treasure,” a movie I’ve never seen but feel perfectly entitled to hate. But Ellis makes the story distinctly his style by showing all of the things that the White House finds wrong with America in gleefully sadistic detail. If I gave you all the examples, I’d pretty much have to recap the book page by page, so I’ll just say “Godzilla porn” and “saline shots to the testicles” and leave you with the assurance that these are some of the least weird scenes.
Sometimes the book becomes just that- just plain weird. When Ellis is in his element, he can use the shock and humor of these moments to springboard into something a little more profound in the subtext. Other scenes, like a black cab-driver who believes in everything Charles Manson said and an airline stewardess handing out box-cutters, might be funny, but could also be filled out a little to gain some sort of purpose.
Which brings us to my only real complaint about the book. Pacing. Every once in a while, Ellis really accomplishes something with a occasional single sentence and single paragraph chapters. More often though, the new chapter headings are pointless. A chapter will end in the middle of a scene and pick right back up exactly where it started. For the most part it’s disorienting, and it seems designed to fill up pages more than anything else. There are moments where Ellis (as a comic writer) is clearly used to having artists take liberties with his story, and as a result forgets to paint a visual picture. He gets lost in dialogue and doesn’t let us know what characters are doing or give us some clues as to how they’re delivering their lines. It’s not that I want the story to get bogged down in voice tags, but I would like a few hints at body language to give me a better visual picture. This is really a shame, because in the handful of moments when Ellis really lets loose with prose, it’s really, really good. The opening paragraph is one example. Another scene, where the main character describes listening to a pirated radio station, is sublimely uninterrupted by dialogue until the very end, where it actually helps the scene end on a jarring note.
It is moments like this that are the book’s real surprises, not the shockingly gruesome and imaginatively pornographic scenes. Ellis manages to round out the main characters where I expected them to remain loyal to an archetype. When Mike meets Trix, a student writing a thesis on the extremes of human sexuality, it seems like their relationship will be pretty obvious. Boy (arrogant asshole) meets girl (free spirit) and she helps him to appreciate life and see beauty in blah blah blah. But Ellis throws a few curve balls in this formula. Trix’s rebellious nature sometimes proves ignorant, and in those moments it’s “shit-magnet”, cynical Mike who proves more intelligent than his character appears. It’s a more believable understanding of a successful relationship than most stories give- where both people involved are getting something out of each other rather than one being an unrealistic perfect being.
The real core of the book, the real point Ellis is trying to make, is to blur the distinction between the underground and the mainstream. It’s got a strong “power to the people” message, even while displaying that all most people can do with freedom of expression is satisify a bizarre or horrifying fetish. The plot might wrap up more tidily than it should, and there might not be much of a plot of a plot to begin with, but the book has some great moments and a solid, but not preachy, sense of purpose.
I read this review of New Avengers #35, by Graeme McMillan, last week and thought, “Wow that sounds offensive. I’m glad I don’t read New Avengers anymore.” Then I read this interview with Bendis and I was merely offended. But still, a part of me, held out. There was no way this issue could be that terrible. Bendis a talented writer of has never displayed such utter misogyny before. So this morning I went over to the alma mater and read the book.
Truly it was one of the most reprehensible pieces of shit I have seen in my life. The level of misogynistic shit contained with in the glossy cover of this 22 page comic book nearly transends the some of the darkest, most terrible fucking crap to emerge from fan-fiction.
I know that is a very shrill but it is also very, very true.
And really the Bendis/Newsarama interview makes it all much worse.
I’ve noted before, in a round about sort of way, some of the problems with Newsrama. But this Matt Brady interview really takes the fucking cake.
The terribleness begins before the interview even starts; with the “oh-look-how-clever-this-is” introduction designed to put the piece in its larger “context”: (Empasis are mine, of course)
[A]s those who watch comic book fandom know, there’s a hair-trigger on the misogyny gun that’s fired anytime violence against women is seen, or on occasion, even just presumed by the viewer.
Wow, Mr. Brady what a way to stack the deck. Because, you know, critics would have absolute no reason at all, in this very progressive little world of comics books, to call people out for misogynistic tendencies in superhero writing and art. Honestly, there has never really been a reason to fire this proverbial “misogyny gun” (mixed metaphors, anyone?). Officer, I swear, the gun went off accidently!
And that was just in the introduction! Brady gets worse once he starts asking Bendis questions:
I was somewhat reluctant to see what fans were saying. There does seem to be a segment of fandom that’s looking to go after anything that remotely looks like a misogynistic act, and here is a guy beating a female character unconscious in what’s not even a fair fight.
Because, obviously you’ve got to be a crazy feminist fan to think the brutal beating of a barely dressed superheroic female in “what’s not even a fair fight” is misogynistic.
While Brady comes of as a condsending prick with his “Honestly-what-problem-could-people-have-with-this?” attidute. It is Bendis who comes off worse. Much worse with such gems as these:
Any time someone’s being beaten, and it doesn’t have that aura of superhero derring-do…yeah, it’s going to be disturbing. It was supposed to be violent; it was supposed to be a complete reversal of what you’d expect…
The other reason I don’t think it was seen as misogyny is that I think my work has shown I don’t have that in me. Everyone is equal. Daredevil had an awful time of it in my run on the book; and that doesn’t make me anti-Catholic or anti handicapped people.
But to the larger point – there’s a lot of misogyny in comics, and a lot of misogyny in all media. Even female empowerment is sexualized in this country, and that’s not good. I completely agree with all of that. You’ve got to be careful in how you show it, but I just don’t think this scene fell under any of that. Most people seem to get it.
Through out the interview Bendis seems honestly perplexed at to why someone would think this whole thing was terribly misogynistic.
But really the work, speaks for itself.
What you have here is a man beating the living hell out a barely dressed woman while he threatens her family and another man video tapes the whole thing. How fuck can a decent person not think that’s misogynistic? The ‘fight’ scene could have easily been taken straight out of a snuff film.
But the honest to goodness best (worst) part of the whole interview is this little exchange:
NRAMA: And to cap that it wasn’t sexual, The Hood explained why he was going to do what he did beforehand…
BB: And he didn’t veer off course. Probably the most shocking thing is that he accomplished it. No one tapped him on the shoulder as he was about to give her the punch that would knock her unconscious, there was no one swinging in the window to her rescue. It happened – and it was awful.
Because, you know, how a person rationalizes something they do automatically makes the reality of it that way. And it seems to me that Bendis and Brady are denying the existence of a little thing called subtext.
Besides the jack-assery on display in the Bendis/Newsarama interview, the issue itself is worse than the interview it spawned. New Avengers #35 is an example of the worst sort of misogynistic, pornographic violence that is so prevalent in comics today.
Honestly, would you ever see a cat-man, dressed purely in a pair of boxer shorts, be beaten close to death? I think not. This sort of imagery is virtually only envoked towards female characters. And it needs to fucking stop.
This whole affair has soured me even more on Bendis’ Avengers run. His writing for this books is almost a paradoy of his own style in its awfulness. The fact that pulled this crap is just another example of how this book just brings out the worst in the man.
It has been a year and we still haven’t been able to stop coming up with reasons to hate this man.
God, what an asshole.
If you don’t care to read it, Jeff Robinov head of production at Warner Brothers, has said that he will no longer be considering movies involving female leads. There are a lot of things I could say about this, many of these things are already discussed in the article itself.
I couldn’t even argue that this sets film back 50 years. Does Rovinov think that the Wizard of Oz or the Sound of Music were mistakes? Was Titanic a dumb choice for 20th Century Fox? How many millions have studios made with RomComs, or female action films like Charlie’s Angels, and Resident Evil series? God, Eddie Murphy lost Warner Brothers and Castle Rock $96 million with Pluto Nash (which would normally ruin a studio) and no one said anything about not casting Black leads in movies. They even let him go on and make Norbit, which Set racial stereotypes back 30 years. How do you even let an idiot that is working to have your films boycotted by half the population onto the senior staff?
I could discourse for hours on the schlock that Hollywood normally produces (like Good Luck Chuck and the Hearbreak Kid most recently), and how it is contributing to the destruction of the film industry, or I could talk about ignorant asshole misogynists that make more money then I’ll ever see, or I could continue listing successful films with female leads. I think though that you all get the point.
There is no “real” journalism of the comic book industry. There is no “industry” press that really covers the “behind the scenes”, the corporate aspect, of what goes into making comics (and by this don’t mean uncovering the fact that John Byrne hates Geoff Johns, or some such).
What we have is a “fan” press. That is to say 75 to 95% of the mainstream coverage of the comic industry prefers style over substance. This is obvious to many (especially online comic fans) but, I think, can not be stated enough.
Wizard is, of course, the worst example. But even the brand spanking new print version of Comic Foundry, the anti-Wizard, still suffers from some of the same problems.
(Brief aside, after reading the first issue of Comic Foundry I was struck as to how much it really is sort of the Indie-Wizard, or better yet, the comic industry equivalent of GQ. Which is kind of disappointing.)
In the online world Newsarama is the best and the worst comics journalism has to offer. Though Newsarama primarily serves as outlet to follow the latest dish about their favourite books and as a marketing/propaganda smoke screen for Marvel/DC, they often branch out and cover more difficult legal and industry issues (re: Superboy and the somewhat-recent Harlan Ellison flap). And, of course, Newsarama serves as the home for the great Blog@Newsarama.
I think the recent Imaginova announcement will make Newsarama worse, not better.
The money quote from the announcement was this: (Italics are, of course, mine)
And that’s really the story of this day …what you have come to expect from Newsarama –won’t be changing. We will continue to guide and grow the site editorially as we have since Day 1 and the writers you have come to know and trust will come along with us for this exciting ride.Starting now, however, we’ll be armed with the resources to begin phasing in additional content and introducing new media to improve site design, functionality, and dependability, and ultimately to expand our brand of coverage to other entertainment genres you’re all already interested in.
Even before Newsarama was aquired by Imaginova, I’ve been wary of their expansion into cover geek culture more generally. Newsarama didn’t always do a great job covering the comic book industry as a whole before it added more to its plate, expanding their focus even more is likely to make things worse.
Becoming a “geek chic” magazine made Wizard worse, a feat I did not think possible. What does that say about future of Newsarama?
Getting back to my point more generally, I think the comic book industry suffers from not having a true, semi-independent “industry” press. The “fan” press will always be at the beck and call of Marvel/DC because it serves their fannish purposes. It is not in the “fan” press interest nor inclination to burst the bubble of bullshit that Marvel/DC spin.
And, until a real “industry” press develops I think both the comic book industry and comic book fans are poorer for it.