Wonder Woman #27 Review: The One With The Doctor Brawl

July 26, 2017

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When we last left Wonder Woman, she was attending the wedding reception of Etta Candy’s brother and found a bomb hidden under one of the tables. Things looked very ominous, and this week’s Wonder Woman #27 picks up right after the blast. Then the story takes an unexpected turn into a sort of side conflict. It’s not a bad turn by any means, but the result is that the issue didn’t follow up on key parts of what Shea Fontana and Mirka Andolfo set up two weeks ago. While I enjoyed the issue, I’m now very much looking forward to the next outing to see if they’ll pick up on the threads from the first issue now that this side battle is all sorted. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to delve into details from this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

So the bomb situation was quickly resolved with Wonder Woman absorbing most of the blast. Etta gut hurt in what looked like it could be a very serious injury, but she’s going to be fine. Apart from the blast at the beginning and the last page of the issue, not much attention was paid to who’s coming after Wonder Woman. Instead, the coughing doctor we were introduced to two weeks ago took a dark turn, resulting in a conflict that occupied the bulk of the story.

It was an interesting fight; Dr. Crawford was dying from a syndrome that targeted both her body and mind, and after spending her life on research to help others, she decided to help herself by grafting Wonder Woman’s DNA into her own in hopes that it would cure her disease. It’s a cool premise that plays out as expected, in that it does not go well. Her new super strength charged her aggression and paranoia as well, leading to a battle with Wonder Woman that she ultimately lost, of course. If you’re fighting Wonder Woman with her own powers, she’s going to beat you. She knows them better.

I really liked the end of the fight, with its clever use of the lasso. Wonder Woman’s powers come from the gods, as does the lasso, and so when Wonder Woman tied Dr. Crawford in the lasso, like recognized like. The divine lasso recognized that the divine powers of Dr. Crawford were not her truth, and expunged them from her DNA, returning her to her previous form. I’m all for unique uses of the lasso, and this was a particularly good one. I doubt it would work on every artificially powered supervillain; I suspect that the divine connection is what did the trick here, so the application is limited. Still, it’s another fun use of the lasso to add to the arsenal and a fun, outside the box idea from Fontana, which is always good to see.

Throughout the encounter, though, I couldn’t help but want to see a bit more of what was set up in the first issue. I was really intrigued with the idea of Wonder Woman seeing herself as a warrior who could handle anything, and perhaps neglecting her mental health for fear of unloading the burden of her many intense, frightening experiences on others. I thought that was fascinating, and this issue didn’t provide many developments on that front apart from adding a few more harrowing experiences to Wonder Woman’s psyche. Maybe Dr. Crawford absorbing Wonder Woman’s DNA and getting overwhelmed with anger and paranoia to such a degree that she lashed out violently speaks to what Diana has to wrangle within herself, but that’s about it.

I also loved the flashback to young Diana on Themyscira in the first issue, and while we got a bit of that again this week, it was very brief. You can never go wrong with cute little Diana, especially in that rad outfit she was rocking during her training session in this outing, and I hope that she plays a bigger role moving forward.

The art continued to shine in this issue, with Mirka Andolfo killing it yet again. She’s just so good. Her artwork is unique and expressive and stylish and fun, and I love everything she brings to Wonder Woman and her world. Especially her Etta! Every DC artist should study Adolfo’s Etta and draw her accordingly moving forward. Unfortunately, this will likely be the last we see of Andolfo on Wonder Woman. David Messina is scheduled to finish the rest of the arc, and while I quite like his stuff, he’s got a tough act to follow. DC’s got Andolfo all over the place in the months to come, with guest spots here and there across the line. It’s cool to see her profile rise and to have her do many different things, but I think that Andolfo deserves more of a permanent showcase. Maybe a run on Batgirl or Supergirl where she can really dig into the characters, design fun stuff, and leave her signature mark on a hero and their world. Though I’ve also got my fingers crossed that she’ll be back for the new Bombshells United! So basically, I’d like Andolfo to draw everything, please. And with Romulo Fajardo Jr. coloring, too! He did an amazing job here yet again, and I hope he’s sticking around next month to color Messina as well.

So, next month we’ve got a new artist and a new villain on Wonder Woman’s trail, as the book’s final page suggests. I don’t recognize her at first glance, but she looks super cool. I love a good helmet design. And her rifle appears rather dangerous. I expect that Wonder Woman’s bracelets will be getting quite a work out in two weeks time!

The Many Lives of Catwoman Moments, Week Twelve: Duplicates, Designs, and Death Traps

July 24, 2017

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My new book The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale is available now in bookstores and online in an assortment of formats, and I’ve been celebrating the book’s release by posting key moment from her history on Tumblr. It’s a random assortment of comic book panels and film stills that spans her entire history, showcasing serious, significant, and/or silly pieces of her past while offering a sneak peek inside the book.

We’re nearing the end of this Catwoman fun, so this week we dialed things back to once a week. The five moments that we looked at included:

And finally, my favourite moment of the week was from Detective Comics #318 in January 1963, written by Bill Finger with art by Jim Mooney, Sheldon Moldoff, and Mike Esposito. Catwoman had been benched for nine years at this point, exiled largely due to her association with Fredric Wertham’s accusations of homoerotic subtext between Batman and Robin. So with Catwoman sidelined, DC introduced Cat-Man instead. His first appearance made only passing reference to the feline fatale whose shtick he was stealing, and subsequent stories were little more than rehashes of cold Catwoman tales. Look at these panels from Cat-Man’s 1963 appearance:

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It’s the same mash up of The Cask of Amontillado and the Cheshire cat that Catwoman used in Batman #42 sixteen years before in August 1947, right down to the dialogue:

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Not only was it lazy on Bill Finger’s part, it took one of Catwoman’s best stories and gave it to some dude. What’s more, this issue featured Batwoman going undercover as a new Cat-Woman, without any mention that there’d been a Catwoman previously! When Catwoman was on the outs, she was REALLY on the outs. It took another few years for her to finally return to the comics for real, thanks to her popularity on the Batman television show.

You can catch up on all of the previous Catwoman moments here, and follow along for more fun! The Many Lives of Catwoman is also available online in a variety of formats, including print, ebook, and audio, so check it out and learn all about this fascinating character!

Women & NB Creators at DC Comics Watch, September 2017 Solicits: 27 Creators on 21 Books

July 21, 2017

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After a series of fairly solid rounds of solicits in terms of female and non-binary creator representation across the summer months, DC looks to be starting the fall towards the lower end of that range with their September solicits. A few new books have increased the ranks, while DC’s major autumn event seems to be entirely dude-centric thus far, and things have almost evened out. Let’s take a look at who’s doing what at DC this September:

  • Amanda Conner: Harley Quinn #27 (co-writer, cover), Harley Quinn #28 (co-writer, cover), Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary Special #1 (co-writer, interior art, cover)
  • Babs Tarr: Bombshells United #1 (variant cover)
  • Becky Cloonan: Shade, The Changing Girl #12 (cover)
  • Carmen Carnero: Detective Comics #964 (interior art)
  • Cecil Castellucci: Shade, The Changing Girl #12 (writer)
  • Eleanora Carlini: Suicide Squad #25 (interior art)
  • Gail Simone: Wonder Woman/Conan #1 (writer)
  • Hope Larson: Batgirl #15 (writer)
  • Jenny Frison: Wonder Woman #30 (variant cover), Wonder Woman #31 (variant cover)
  • Jody Houser: Mother Panic #11 (writer)
  • Julie Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #14 (co-writer)
  • K. Perkins: Superwoman #14 (writer)
  • Kamome Shirahama: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #14 (variant cover)
  • Katie Jones: Shade, The Changing Girl #12 (backup story)
  • Marguerite Bennett: Batwoman #7 (writer), Bombshells United #1 (writer), Bombshells United #2 (writer)
  • Marguerite Sauvage: Bombshells United #1 (interior art), Bombshells United #2 (interior art)
  • Marley Zarcone: Shade, The Changing Girl #12 (interior art)
  • Mirka Andolfo: Teen Titans #12 (interior art)
  • Rachel Dodson: Bombshells United #1 (cover)
  • Rosemary Valero-O’Connell: Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye #12 (variant cover)
  • Shawna Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #14 (co-writer)
  • Shea Fontana: Wonder Woman #30 (writer)
  • Siya Oum: Batman Beyond #12 (interior art)
  • Stephanie Hans: Bombshells United #2 (cover)
  • Tula Lotay: Doom Patrol #9 (variant cover)
  • Vita Ayala: Batman Beyond #12 (co-writer)
  • Yasmine Putri: The Hellblazer #14 (variant cover)

All together, there are 27 different female and non-binary creators set to work on 21 different books in September, 2 fewer creators than in August and 1 fewer book. This is hardly a major change, and could very well just be normal shuffling around. We don’t expect the numbers to stay the same everything month, and a things going a little lower or higher is common. Small changes like this are only significant when it’s part of a larger trend. If DC lost 2 women/NB creators after posting losses in a couple of months previous, that would be disconcerting. This slight drop, though, after a decent August, is nothing too worrisome yet. Of course, we’ll see how the rest of the fall solicits unfold.

Before we dig into things more, here’s a quick note on the change in terminology. We’ve been keeping track of female creators at DC for several years now, but I recently learned that writer Vita Ayala, who I’ve categorized as female in the past, identifies as non-binary. Since the purpose of this project is to showcase creators who disrupt the typical male hegemony of the superhero industry, changing the title and the terminology to be more inclusive seemed like the right way to go. We’ve always listed women who are transgender, of course, but that didn’t necessitate a shift in nomenclature. This does, I think. If there are other creators whose identity lies outside of the male/female binary, I’d be glad to know about them and will include them on the list moving forward; let me know in the comments.

We’ve mostly got returning favourites this month, but there are a couple of new names in the mix. Katie Jones is doing a backup story in Shade, The Changing Girl #12, while Rosemary Valero-O’Connell drew a variant cover for Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye #12. The “Young Animal” line has certainly been a solid outlet for representation at DC each month since it began, and these additions carry that on well.

In terms of new books, DC’s Dark Nights: Metal event and its various tie-ins continue to be male-dominated, both in terms of characters and creators. But in exciting news, the Bombshells are back! The superhero ladies will continue fighting the Second World War in Bombshells United, which will double ship with double Marguerites in September. Wonder Woman’s also got a new mini-series that teams her with Conan the Barbarian, and Harley Quinn will star in a special 25th anniversary issue.

So overall, September looks to be an average month for female and non-binary creators at DC. The numbers are firmly in the middle of the publisher’s range across 2017 thus far; DC’s stayed within a fairly narrow window. So things are relatively steady, but that also means that the numbers aren’t growing. It’d be nice to see things improve in the months to come; with ComicCon this weekend, perhaps we’ll get some exciting announcements to that effect.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women Trailer: A Tad Salacious, A Lot Inaccurate

July 19, 2017

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The first full trailer for Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, a film about the lives of the creator of Wonder Woman and his two partners Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne, premiered yesterday, and I’ve got some mixed feelings about it. I’m excited for the film; the Marstons are fascinating, and their lives and beliefs led to the creation of Wonder Woman. Plus the movie’s got a fantastic writer/director in Angela Robinson, as well as a stellar cast. I mean, Connie Britton is playing Josette Frank and Oliver Platt is Max Gaines. If you’re a Golden Age comic book history nerd like I am, that’s just amazing.

This trailer, however, left me a little bit underwhelmed and somewhat concerned:

It’s entertaining in and of itself, I suppose. It’s sexy and mysterious and intriguing, and it looks like a compelling story. My problem is that it doesn’t seem to be a very accurate story. There are some changes I can understand, like having Josette Frank grill Luke Evan’s Marston in person. In reality, their contact was mainly through letters. As part of her role on DC’s advisory board, Frank sent letters to Marston’s publisher objecting to Wonder Woman‘s bondage imagery, which Gaines then relayed to Marston, whose messages back to Gaines were then relayed to Frank. None of that would make for a interesting film, really, so it makes sense to put them in the same room for a tense standoff. It’s far more dramatic that way.

My larger issue is with the depiction of the Marston family, and the liberties the film seems to be taking with them. They were an unconventional family; they lived together in a polyamorous relationship, and Marston had two children with each woman. The problem is that beyond this, we really don’t know much about how their relationship worked. Elizabeth had a day job and Olive stayed home with the kids, and they both had a considerable influence on the creation of Wonder Woman. Other than that, details are few. They were a very private family, and most of what’s been written about their personal lives beyond those broad strokes is questionable research and guesswork.

Take, for example, the bondage issue. Marston’s Wonder Woman comics were FULL of bondage. I wrote a book about it; the imagery is considerable, and while it’s there for a specific purpose that ties into Marston’s psychological theories, it wasn’t without its problematic aspects. So yes, Marston’s use of bondage is a historical fact, and I think it’s fair to suggest that there was a fetishistic aspect to it. He basically said so in his own correspondence. However, we have no proof that the Marstons were into bondage activities in their private lives. They could have been, but suggesting they were is pure speculation without any facts to back it up. Marston seeming to have a kink does not mean that he explored it with his wives.

This trailer appears to suggest otherwise, with Bella Heathcote’s Olive Byrne getting tied into a leather corset and the trailer clearly conflating the bondage imagery in the comics with the Marstons’ personal lives. But suggesting that the Marstons were into bondage is pure conjecture. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with bondage, or that suggesting that the Marstons were into it besmirches them in some way. It doesn’t. There’s just no real evidence for it.

The same can be said about the relationship between Elizabeth and Olive. We know they were both with Marston, and that they lived together for decades after his death, but the exact nature of their relationship with each other is ill-defined. It may have been romantic. It may have been sexual. It may have been companionate. Again, we just do not know. But like with the bondage aspect, the film seems to be putting them together in a sexual way that’s just not historically provable.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Woman looks like it’s taking theories about the Marstons’ relationship that are maybes at best and presenting it as fact. It’s leaning into salacious speculation rather than what we definitively do know about the Marstons, which is fascinating material on its own. The Marstons are unique and interesting without these elements, and the movie playing fast and loose with history makes me worry that the filmmakers may not fully understand what is compelling about their subjects.

At the same time, this is only a trailer. And making it eye-catching is just smart marketing. There’s always a bit of embellishment and sensationalizing with biopics, and I understand that. I remain curious to see what the movie actually says about the Marstons, and it would be nice to see it try to stay true to established facts. We’ll find out this October, and I’m hoping for the best.

The Many Lives of Catwoman Moments, Week Eleven: Pals, Plunder, and Punches

July 17, 2017

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With my new book The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale available now in bookstores and online in a variety of formats, I’ve been showcasing key moments from Catwoman’s history on Tumblr. They’re a random, fun assortment of comic book panels and film stills drawn from her nearly eight decades of unique incarnations. Some are lighthearted, some are heavier, and they all offer a peek inside the book and highlight Catwoman’s fascinating history.

Last week, the ten moments that we looked at included:

And finally, my favourite Catwoman moment of the week is courtesy of Catwoman #54 from February 1998, written by Devin Grayson with art by Jim Balent and John Stanisci. This era of Catwoman is best remembered for Balent’s art; he drew an exaggeratedly curvaceous Catwoman in a skin tight costume, and did his damnedest to showcase her figure in every issue. However, his hyper-sexualization of Catwoman was often at odds with the book’s strong, clever writing, and this issue was case in point. It was a one-shot story in which Catwoman stole a diamond from a museum and, displeased with the museum’s security system, returned it. After they upgraded their security, Catwoman stole it again with ease and returned it once more, beginning a cycle of thefts, returns, and upgrades. The exasperated museum curator eventually decided to pull one over on Catwoman and purchased a ludicrously expensive insurance policy for when Catwoman finally kept the diamond for good, but Catwoman found him out. She then decided to leave the diamond in his care, where he’d be forced to pay for both the policy and the latest in his lengthy series of new security systems. It’s a funny, enjoyable issue that perfectly captures the chaotic fun of Catwoman and is a real standout from this divisive era.

You can catch up on all of the previous Catwoman moments here, and follow along for more fun! With the book out now, we’re shifting down to once a day as we run out the remaining moments over the next few weeks. The Many Lives of Catwoman is available for purchase in a variety of formats, so pick it up and dig into her captivating history!

Wonder Woman #26 Review: Diana Meets Her Destiny

July 12, 2017

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After a year of stellar comic books from Greg Rucka, Bilquis Evely, Nicola Scott, and Liam Sharp that restored Diana and the Amazons to their proper status in the DC universe, Wonder Woman‘s new creative team has some big shoes to fill. And I’m pleased to report that Shea Fontana and Mirka Andolfo are off to a fantastic start! I had a good feeling about this team; Fontana’s been doing great stuff with the DC Super Hero Girls comics, and I absolutely love Mirka Andolfo’s work on DC Comics Bombshells as well as her recent fill-in issue on Wonder Woman. Together they’ve crafted a story that moves Wonder Woman forward from all of the drama surrounding her origins and her past. That drama made for compelling comics, of course, but Rucka and co. wrapped it up perfectly and now it’s nice to see the new status quo carrying on in a new tale. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Well, less spoilery than usual; more of a broad strokes overview!

Reading this probably won’t ruin the comic for you!

But regardless, go read the comic! It’s super good!

First off, before I get to how good this comic was, I’ve got to say that the cover is not great. Andolfo’s art has a stylized, cartoonish element that is so expressive and good, and pairing it with such generic, standard superhero art feels like a bad decision. It’s a poor advertisement for what’s inside the book, which is so much better. I don’t mind a book having different cover artist than interior artist, but the cover art should give some sort of indication of the tone and style of the interior. This does not, and I wish it had a fun, bad ass Andolfo cover instead.

That’s partly because Mirka Andolfo is GREAT and I’m never not excited to see more of her art. She’s got a style that’s clearly her own; I always know that I’m reading an Andolfo book from page one. Her work is gorgeous, and captures the characters wonderfully, almost exaggeratedly. There aren’t a lot of subtle emotions here. Instead, every feeling is displayed across each character’s face clearly, and I find their expressiveness so compelling and fun. Andolfo’s also got an amazing eye for style, and Diana and Etta’s outfits when they attend a wedding at the end of this issue are so darn good. Her work always feels fresh and modern to me, and I love when Wonder Woman has that sensibility.

Plus, here’s some amazing news: While the bulk of Wonder Woman‘s creative team over the past year has moved on, colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. is still on board! This dude is a wizard. He adds depth and texture to every panel in a way that brings so much to every page without overwhelming the line work at all. I’m so glad he’s still on Wonder Woman. He’s one of the best colorists in the game today, and his stuff just gets better and better. He pairs well with Andolfo, too, highlighting her character work beautifully.

In terms of the story itself, this issue hits a lot of the elements that will make me love a Wonder Woman book. We’ve got Wonder Woman helping those who need it most, here dealing with an attack at a UN refugee camp in Greece. It always feels right to see Wonder Woman dealing with international issues, and never more so than when they are timely topics. We’ve also got young Diana on Themyscira, which I’m a sucker for. It feels like Fontana is drawing from the opening of the Wonder Woman film a bit here, and I’m all for it. Little Diana is so entertaining. We’ve got Etta Candy as well, i.e. Wonder Woman’s greatest supporting character of all time. And even better, we’ve got them hanging out at a wedding. I love Diana as a superhero, of course, but it’s also nice to see her having a life beyond that, hanging out with her friends outside of the costume. The costume is such a powerful symbol that it’s always interesting to see Diana away from it, partly because the gal deserves a break and partly because she can’t help but still be Wonder Woman to some degree, regardless of what she’s wearing, as her adventure with Destiny, a little girl at the wedding, shows.

So all of these elements are great, but I also really like what Fontana seems to be digging into in terms of the psychological cost of being a superhero. The flashback to Themyscira gives us a good look at Diana’s mindset, as her younger self tearfully locks away her beloved doll to toughen herself up and become the warrior that Amazons are supposed to be. Wonder Woman is very well adjusted as far as superheroes go, but the story effectively points out that she has to deal with seeing so many terrible things, all the time. Moreover, it suggests that this could be taking a toll on her mental health, despite her insistence that she can handle it all. There’s a scene where she says that she doesn’t want to put the burden of her experiences on someone else, and I think that’s going to be key moving forward. That’s a very heroic, self-sacrificing notion, but while Wonder Woman can handle a lot, much more than most, trying to deal with everything on your own can only work for so long. I’m curious to see how Fontana explores this with Wonder Woman as the story continues.

Also, there’s a big crazy cliffhanger at the end! That’s just fun comic booking. It’s a bit of a doozy, too, that leaves Wonder Woman in a very difficult spot. I know she’s Wonder Woman and all, but she’s really up against it with this one. It’s going to be hard to get out of it without any collateral damage. We’ll find out what she does in two weeks time, and I can’t wait! This was an excellent, gorgeous first issue for this new creative team, and I’m very excited for more.

The Many Lives of Catwoman Moments, Week Ten: Manipulation, Inspiration, and Animation

July 10, 2017

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My newest book The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale is now officially available in bookstores and online across a variety of formats, and I’ve been celebrating its release for several weeks now by sharing key moments from Catwoman’s history on Tumblr. It’s a random assortment of comic book panels and film stills that span her many incarnations across nearly eight decades of entertainment. Some are silly, some are serious, many are both, and they all showcase what is great and fascinating about the character while offering sneak peeks inside the book.

Last week, the ten moments that we looked at included:

And finally, my favourite Catwoman moment of the week is Gina Gershon’s take on the character in the animated series The Batman from 2004. Now, The Batman is no Batman: The Animated Series and Gershon’s Catwoman pales in comparison to Adrienne Barbeau’s brilliant take on the character. But that doesn’t change the fact that The Batman is a great, underrated show with unique versions of Gotham City and its villains, including Catwoman. She was a villain, but she was in the game just for the thrill of the heist. Catwoman saved Batman multiple times, flirted with him shamelessly, and was far more interested in the fun of the adventure than getting away with an item. She appeared in a handful of episodes during the show’s first three seasons, and they’re all delightful.

You can catch up on all of the previous Catwoman moments here, and follow along for more fun twice a day! The Many Lives of Catwoman is available for purchase in various formats, so check it out and learn all about her fascinating history!


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