Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Read My Essay in Riverdale Avenue Books’ New Anthology, 1984 in the 21st Century

April 4, 2017

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George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 has been resonating with the world since its publication in 1949, and it’s become increasingly relevant these days with “alternative facts” and the bizarre doublethink that characterizations the current American presidential administration. To explore the impact and legacy of 1984 in these tumultuous times,  today Riverdale Avenue Books is publishing 1984 in the 21st Century, a new anthology with contributions from a variety of great writers, and I’m very excited to be a part of it. Most of the pieces in the book are thoughtful and compellin, and delve into important, serious issues of the day in fascinating ways.

My piece, meanwhile, is about an Archie comic book. I am nothing if not perpetually on brand.

I picked up 1984 as a young teenager because of an Archie comic. The story was “It’s 1984 at Riverdale High” and it centered on Mr. Weatherbee installing a new video security system in the school that allowed him to closely monitor all of his students and employees. Archie sensed Orwellian overtones, and took a stand against the system. Luckily for him, Mr. Weatherbee had purchased it on the cheap and the system didn’t last for long.

Archie mentioned Orwell’s novel repeatedly throughout the story, so when I saw 1984 at a bookstore a little while later, I decided to check it out. I figured if Archie liked it, it must be fun and cool and definitely appropriate for readers my age. It was not any of those things. But I loved it all the same, and the book was both illuminating and served as a gateway for me into more serious literature.

My essay digs into the original Archie comic that got me into 1984 as well as how such an Archie story was both an absolutely bizarre and extremely fitting avenue for Orwell’s dystopian themes. I also talk about the adaptability of the novel, and how it’s evergreen quality has kept it in the public discourse for decades. I hope you’ll check it out, as well as the rest of the excellent pieces in the book.

The e-book is available today through the Riverdale Avenue Books page as well as Amazon; the publication date corresponds with the day that Winston Smith began his illicit journal in the novel. And today only, you can get a free digital copy of the book on the Riverdale Avenue Books site by entering the code 1984FREE. A print  version of the book is coming soon, too. Please enjoy my weird little Archie story!

Check Out New Book, Wonder Woman Psychology, And My Essay On Marston and Wertham!

March 28, 2017

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There’s a fascinating new book about Wonder Woman set to hit stores next week (though Amazon seems to be shipping it out already in America), and I’m very honoured to be a part of it. Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth is edited by Travis Langley and Mara Wood, and examines Wonder Woman from a psychological perspective through a series of essays, all of them with unique viewpoints and insightful thoughts on the Amazon princess. Travis is a pro at this style of book, having written or edited similar volumes on Batman, Doctor Who, Games of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and more. The psychological angle is an interesting lens through which to view these properties, and one that’s especially fitting for Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was created by a psychologist, William Moulton Marston, to be “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world,” and my essay in Wonder Woman Psychology compares and contrasts Marston’s optimistic approach to comic books with Dr. Fredric Wertham’s pessimistic view of the medium. Wertham famously decried the comic book industry in his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent, and was especially hard on Wonder Woman, accusing her of being a lesbian (no minor allegation in the 1950s) and calling her a “morbid ideal” for young girls.

And yet, despite their very different views on Wonder Woman, the two men had a lot in common. They both believed that psychological principles could make the world a better place, and shared progressive views on many issues. They also agreed that comic books had a powerful potential to influence the youth of America. Their major divergence was their reaction to the medium; Marston sought to harness that potential for good and influence young readers while Wertham sought to protect young readers from dangerous messages that could lead them to juvenile delinquency. Both men are fascinating figures and key players in the history of Wonder Woman, and it was a lot of fun to dig into their histories and discuss them in such a close comparison.

Travis Langley co-wrote the piece with me, which was great. I’m a historian first and foremost, and psychology is not my area of expertise, so I provided all of the history and researched the psychological work of both men as best I could, and then Travis took the baton to the finish line. I was very glad to have someone with his impressive psychological knowledge on board, both to check my own work and add to the piece. It was a fun, easy partnership and I’m really pleased with how the essay turned out.

You can order Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth now, or ask for it at your local bookstore. If they don’t have it ordered already, I’m sure they can get it for you; the series is popular and well known. I heartily recommend picking it up if you’re a fan of Wonder Woman, and not just because of my own part in it! There are lots of great writers delving into interesting components of the character, and there’s even an old biographical piece by Elizabeth Holloway Marston, William’s wife and a key player in the creation of Wonder Woman, which is ridiculously cool and worth the price of admission alone for any hardcore Wonder Woman enthusiast. You’re in for a great read across the board!

Cover Reveal For My New Book: The Many Lives of Catwoman, Coming In Summer 2017!

September 1, 2016

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There was a big reveal on the Chicago Review Press Instagram account yesterday: The cover of my new book! I’ve now written a trilogy! And the third book is The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale, due out in Summer 2017.

The book was an absolute blast to write. Catwoman is a fantastic and fascinating character with so many distinct incarnations over the past 75 years, and digging into all of the comics, shows, and movies was so much fun. Apart from the Halle Berry movie, I suppose. That sucked pretty bad, but so much so that it eventually became kind of hilarious, and I ended up writing an entire chapter on what went wrong with the movie and how it influenced the superhero film boom of the past decade. Plus I got to watch the good stuff too, like the old Batman show and Batman Returns, both of which are amazing in completely different ways.

And the comics! I had a rough idea of Catwoman’s comic book history before I started the book, but her journey over the decades was even more intriguing than I’d imagined. From her transition from small time cat burglar to supervillain to reformed citizen in the Golden Age to her disappearance in the Silver Age to her often dark and twisted romantic stories in the Bronze Age, the old comics were spectacularly interesting. And her more modern incarnations were just as compelling, from unpacking the sexualization and objectification of “Year One” and the 1990s series to exploring her renaissance in the 2000s. Catwoman’s always had something fascinating going on in her adventures; there was little in the way of flat, boring stories.

Ultimately, the book is an examination of the superhero genre from the perspective of a female villain, and the ups and downs of empowerment and exploitation that come with being a part of this world over the past 75 years. After doing two books on outright heroines, it was  fun to dig into the morally ambiguous world of Catwoman and see how the trends of the genre impacted her depictions in new and different ways.

The book’s not out for a while yet; it’s scheduled for July 2017 right now, so we’re ten months out. It’s not even available for pre-order yet, though you can be sure I’ll let you know when it is. But it’s written and it’s happening and it’s got a cover and I couldn’t be happier about it all. I’m really excited for you all to get to check it out, and I hope you’re looking forward to some Catwoman-centric fun as we ramp up to the book’s release starting early in the new year!

Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond is Officially Out This Weekend; GO BUY IT!

April 29, 2016

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If you’re a Lois Lane fan, you’re about to have an excellent week: The sequel to last year’s fantastic YA novel Lois Lane: Fallout will be officially released this weekend, and it’s so good. Author Gwenda Bond is back with Lois Lane: Double Down, an adventure that’s even bigger and better than its predecessor. Like, literally bigger; it’s longer, so you get even more teenaged Lois fun.

And this time, Lois is up against the mob and evil scientists, trying to crack another big mystery and help her friends, as well as get a good story for the Daily Scoop. There’s a lot of action and suspense, but also a lot of heart. What I love most about Bond’s Lois is how much she cares, how she can’t let a wrong go without a response; despite her cool exterior, Lois is all compassion underneath.

The book expands Lois’s world considerably, taking us into new parts of Metropolis and introducing several additional characters. For those with a background in the Superman mythos, there are some fun nods to classic villains and other elements of the comics, but Bond is sly with them. You don’t have to know anything about Lois, Superman, or their decades of comics to enjoy the book. Heck, you don’t even have to read Fallout to enjoy Double Down, though I’d recommend doing so. While you’ll get caught up on things pretty quickly, I find it’s always more enjoyable to read a series in order.

I’m being generally vague here because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. The book is fantastic, with lots of fun twists and turns, so I’m leery of saying more than “It’s Lois and her pals against some bad guys again and it’s super rad.” But it really is super rad. I was luckily enough to get an early copy a few months ago, and I read it in a day because I couldn’t put it down.

For me, Gwenda Bond writes the best Lois Lane out there right now. The best Lois of the 21st century, really, at least. When I wrote Investigating Lois Lane, I read/saw/listened to pretty much everything Lois has been in, and Bond’s Lois is one of my very favourites. She encompasses everything I love about past incarnations of the character while also being fresh, modern, and unique in her own way. Here’s a spoiler for my own book: Fallout and Double Down are the last things I talk about in Investigating Lois Lane, and there’s a reason for that. In an era where Lois has been criminally underused, Bond has crafted a Lois that shows why she’s a relevant, fantastic character who deserves the spotlight.

Lois Lane: Double Down is officially out on May 1, though copies have been shipping out early so if you head to your local bookstore now you might luck out and nab one. It’s a great read, and just a wonderful take on Lois all around. Plus, every copy sold is a step towards a third Lois Lane book from Gwenda Bond, and we definitely need to make that happen. Happy reading, fellow Lois fans! You’re going to love this one.

Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane: Fallout YA Novel Is Out Today And You Should Go Buy It

May 1, 2015

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When Lois Lane: Fallout was first announced, I was excited but wary. DC treats some of my favourite characters badly in their own publishing division and they own them, so farming out someone as fantastic and often poorly used as Lois had me a bit nervous. I immediately went to the library to get the first Gwenda Bond book I could find to see who we were dealing with here. I found The Woken Gods, and it was pretty great. Kick ass female lead, huge scope but nice small moments as well, lots of fun all around. I was feeling a bit better.

Then I got an advanced copy of Lois Lane: Fallout, and it blew my socks off. It’s Lois in a completely different setting, as a teenager starting high school in Metropolis, with almost an entirely new cast of characters and villains, but it’s so absolutely Lois Lane. Everything I love about all of the different incarnations of the character is distilled into this fearless, tenacious teenager. I devoured the book in one sitting, and have been looking forward to its release day, when everyone else will get a chance to read it.

I’ve got a full review of the book up at The Comics Journal, where I dig into Lois Lane: Fallout and situate it in the context of how Lois has been presented in the past and the current direction DC Comics appears to be heading with Lois and their female characters generally. My thanks to the folks at The Comics Journal for getting on board with the review; it’s a little bit outside of their wheelhouse, but I was keen to get it in front of a comics reading audience and they kindly obliged.

So yeah, go read the book! Lois is such a fantastic, iconic character and it’s so much fun to have her in this new setting. I recommend it even if YA isn’t really your jam; Lois Lane: Fallout is a great bridge between comics and YA. It’s got enough classic comic book elements to please comic book fans while still working well as a fantastic YA novel. If you love Lois Lane, you’re going to love this book.

Read A New Lois Lane Short Story By Gwenda Bond In Advance Of Lois Lane: Fallout

March 6, 2015

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Lois Lane: Fallout, a new YA novel about a teenage Lois starting high school in Metropolis, isn’t out until May, but now you can get a first look at this Lois in Lois Lane: A Real Work of Art, a free short story by the book’s author, Gwenda Bond. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Lois Lane: Fallout and it is fantastic; trust me, you’re going to want to read it. It’s the Lois we all know and love, just younger, and she’s got a nose for news even as a teen.

The novel begins with Lois starting a new school, determined to make a fresh start after every other school she attended as a military brat had resulted in a new, ominous addition to her permanent record. Lois is a born troublemaker who refuses to sit idly by when something seems suspicious, and the lengthy file that accompanies her to Metropolis is a testament to that. Her plan to blend in at her new school quickly goes off the rails in the novel, but this new short story is an earlier tale set another school, a sort of trip back through Lois’ legendary permanent record.

Much like the novel, the story begins with Lois’ first day at a new school. She’s been assigned to an art class, so what sort of trouble could come from that? Paint a picture, have a nice time, make some friends. Easy peasy. But, not at all surprisingly, Lois soon finds herself on the trail of a mysterious teacher, and things escalate from there. The story is a lot of fun, and a great introduction to the new, teen Lois.

Lois hasn’t had much to do in comics as of late, so it’s very exciting that she’s about to star in her own YA novel. And you can get your Lois fix right now with this free short story! I highly recommend checking it out, and picking up Lois Lane: Fallout on May 1. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Review – Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948 by Noah Berlatsky

January 14, 2015

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It’s always a little bit odd to read someone else’s book about Wonder Woman when you’ve written one of your own, and there have been a few of them as of late so it’s been a particularly weird time for me. The latest, Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948 by Noah Berlatsky was an enjoyable read all around, though. My full review of the book went up yesterday at The Comics Journal.

Berlatsky’s book is quite different from mine, which made it especially fun to read. Whereas I come at Wonder Woman from a fairly straight forward historical perspective, Berlatsky has more of a theoretical approach. For example, the majority of his first chapter is a close reading of Wonder Woman #16 through the lens of earlier Freudian theories on incest, which is quite fascinating.

As a historian, I tend to put more of a focus on intent than interpretation, so the theoretical approach has certain limits for me, but Berlatsky does a great job combining both approaches in his final chapter. It’s a queer reading of the Golden Age Wonder Woman via modern theories on camp and closeting (among many other interesting ideas, including a comparison of Dr. Psycho and James Bond).  Berlatsky brings in a lot of Marston’s psychological work and prose fiction in a way that sets up a solid foundation for his analysis and bridges the gap between theory and history. While the whole book is quite good, his final chapter is a really impressive piece of comics scholarship.

Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948 is available in stores and online today, and for more of my thoughts on the book be sure to pop by The Comics Journal.


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