Support “The Adventures of Penny Patterson,” A Short Film About a Superhero’s Love Interest

March 1, 2017

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So often in superhero narratives, the focus is on the superhero to such a degree that supporting characters rarely get fleshed out in any meaningful way. This is especially true for female love interests, who are regularly limited to a “damsel in distress” role in which they are there solely to further the male hero’s story. The Adventures of Penny Patterson is a new short film that’s set to flip this perspective. It’s a superhero origin story told from the point of view of the hero’s girlfriend, a high school student who just wants to get her science fair project done.

The short is the graduate thesis film project of Stephanie Donnelly, an NYU student and a lifelong comic book fan. She’s writing and directing the short, and has started a campaign at Seed & Spark to finance the project; she’s looking to get $12,000, and is 39% of the way there already at just a week into the campaign.

I got to read the script for the project, and it’s both a fun story and a pointed commentary on the traditional tropes of the superhero genre. Stephanie brings a sharp, feminist perspective to the underrepresentation of women not just in comic book narratives but also in the film industry as a whole. Stephanie’s a female writer and director, and has created a project with a female lead because to intentionally counter the lack of women protagonists in film today. As she explains, “As a filmmaker, I strive to change those statistics by telling more stories about strong, complex women. I think now more than ever, we need to see more empowered female characters in superhero movies.”

The Seed & Spark campaign has a variety of reward levels, ranging from thanks in the credits to a digital download of the finished film to getting to be an extra in the project and even an associate producer. That last one will get you on IMDB, by the way, which is all sorts of cool. It’s a great project with a smart perspective that looks like it’s going to be really entertaining as well. I encourage you to check out the Seed & Spark page, see the video they’ve put together and read up on the project, and consider sending some money their way to help the project come to fruition. You can also sign up to follow the project; more followers can help it get featured on the Seed & Spark homepage and thus reach more folks.

The superhero genre can always use more women in starring roles, and The Adventures of Penny Patterson gives us just that! Check out the project and support it if you can!

Women in Comics Statistics: DC and Marvel, December 2016 in Review PLUS Year End Totals

February 27, 2017

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My latest “Gendercrunching” column went up at Bleeding Cool last week, and the year closed with decent numbers for female creators at both major superhero publishers, as well as several positive signs for increased representation in 2017.

DC’s overall percentage of female creators ticked down slightly to 18.6%, but it was their third highest total of the year and the past three months at DC have been among their best ever. After a bit of a slump, Marvel jumped a couple of percentage points to land at 17.6% female creators overall, below their recent highs but one of their better showings in some time.

We also take a look back at the year as a whole and both publishers’ numbers for female creators, overall and by category, are noticeably higher than they were a year ago. Also, at DC the monthly numbers are trending in a positive direction in several categories, which bodes well for 2017. Marvel’s trend lines are a little more mixed, but all of the interior art categories saw strong gains and few of the declines were steep.

Head on over to Bleeding Cool for all of the stats fun!

Wonder Woman #17 Review: Free Your Minotaur

February 22, 2017

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Things remain bleak for Wonder Woman and the gang. Etta and Steve are on the lam, Barbara is in the clutches of Godwatch and Veronica Cale, and Diana doesn’t know who she is and remains in an asylum. While there is progress on one of those fronts in this second part of “The Truth,” there is a heartbreaking setback in another. All told, it is an issue about balance, about trading life for life and friend for friend, and in the end the gains and losses even out to leave the team no further ahead, except for one key element: Wonder Woman. It was a good issue and we’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I mean, if you’re reading this review then you’ve probably read the issue!

But if you haven’t look away!

I’m going to spoil it all!

So, balance. There was a lot going on in this issue, and it all felt like a scale tipping back and forth with each major action that ultimately ended up just as balanced at the end as it was at the beginning. Everything had its opposite, and Barbara Ann Minerva’s sacrifice was the lynchpin to it all.

Barbara’s been one of the most compelling character’s of this current run of Wonder Woman, and a key player in all four arcs thus far. Her transition from the villainous Cheetah to regaining her role as a trusted ally has been a great story, and her relationship with Etta only made the story better. She even got her own solo issue during “Year One” that dug into her backstory. I’m now very invested in Barbara, which is probably what Rucka wanted; he’s gotten us all attached to her so that this issue would hurt all the more. Veronica Cale forced her to become the Cheetah again in order to save her friends, a sad but noble moment that juxtaposed poignantly with the rest of the issue.

First, we got the return of an old friend, Ferdinand the minotaur from Rucka’s original run on Wonder Woman. Steve and Etta sought him out to help Diana, hoping that her seeing a long lost, friendly face might spur her memory and remind her of who she is. Plus it’s always good to have a minotaur on the team; I think he’ll prove useful in the months ahead. But this joyful return had to have its opposite: The loss of an old friend as Barbara returned to her Cheetah guise and gave up her newfound humanity.

Next up, Etta, Ferdinand, and Steve survived a serious attack from Colonel Maru’s troops. They got blasted with a minigun and explosions; Poison wasn’t screwing around. They made it out alive but, again, there had to be balance. Their lives were spared because Barbara gave up hers to become the Cheetah again. She’s not dead per se, but being the Cheetah means that her true self is buried as her animalistic urges take over.

Finally, it looks like bringing in Ferdinand did the trick. On the issue’s final page, Diana appears to recognize Ferdinand, which would be an excellent sign that she remembers she’s Wonder Woman and is set to return to her heroic role. However, opposites. The return of a hero in Wonder Woman had to be balanced with the return of a villain in the Cheetah. The parallels run deeper as well; both women were trapped in a prison of their own making because they chose to return to their pasts. Diana was mentally shattered because of her journey to Themyscira while Barbara was ensnared because she went back to Godwatch. Moreover, an old ally led to their transformations, with Ferdinand bringing back Wonder Woman and Veronica Cale bringing back the Cheetah. And, of course, all of this action was shown in back and forth panels over the last few pages to underscore the dichotomy of the situation.

All of these gains being countered with losses should leave the team in about the same bleak spot where they began the issue, but there’s one key factor here. Yes, while the return of Wonder Woman is tempered by the return of the Cheetah, if Wonder Woman is back for real then it’s a whole new ballgame. The Cheetah’s a decent villain, but Wonder Woman is an amazing superhero. The scales don’t quite balance; with Wonder Woman fully back, she and her allies clearly have the upper hand now and can begin to move against Godwatch instead of playing defense.

This was a solid issue all around, and “The Truth” continues to weave a compelling tale in ways “The Lies” never seemed able to. I also like that we keep checking in on Themyscira; the Amazons are clearly going to play a part at some point in this story, and I’m excited to see what it is. I’m hoping for a reunion more joyous and less damaging than Diana’s last attempt to return to her family.

Liam Sharp continues to employ different styles for each part of the story, and it’s working well. His Nicola Scott impression on Themyscira is fun, the grit he brings to Etta and Steve’s adventures is fitting, and the combination of clarity and confusion in Diana’s scenes is well done, though I will say that I find the cartoon snake a little goofy. I much preferred that one panel with the skeleton snake; that was way cooler. Laura Martin’s colors remain great, as always, and match each style well. And Jodi Wynne continues to excel with the lettering. This issue in particular had a lot going on in terms of distinctive word balloons and speech; the Amazon language, Ferdinand, the snake, and Dr. Cyber are all unique, and Wynne integrated them seamlessly into the book. She’s done stellar work on Wonder Woman all through this run.

So, Wonder Woman seems to be back? Final page reveals can be tricky, but this one seemed pretty clear. Woe to Godwatch if she’s returned to her full power. And fingers crossed that she can save Barbara and bring her back! If anyone can do it, it’s Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman Movie’s Mattel Figures PLUS Build-a-Figure Revealed at Toy Fair

February 21, 2017

Toy Fair 2017 was this weekend in New York City, and it provided us our first official look at Mattel’s upcoming Wonder Woman movie action figures. We saw some action figure/doll hybrids last week that were very cool, but these are the official 6 inch action figures that are part of DC’s larger “Multiverse” line. And they look good! There are only four of them plus a larger “Collect & Connect” figure you can build with parts that come with each of the primary figures, but there is some fun stuff in the mix.

Let’s take a look at them, thanks to the excellent reporting of Toy Ark; it’s my favourite toy news site, and their coverage of Toy Fair was great as always this year. We’ll start with Diana on Themyscira:

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We’ve seen a blurry picture of this toy before, which didn’t do it justice. This one looks very cool, and is a solid likeness of Gal Gadot. Plus it’s got a lot of points of articulation, which should make her easy to position in rad action poses. The only accessory appears to be a sword; I’d like to have seen a lasso as well. But still, I like it.

Next up is Wonder Woman in a cloak:

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I’m guessing that they did this cloaked figure because the “Multiverse” line has already released a standard Wonder Woman figure as part of their Batman v Superman run. Rather than duplicate that, it seems that they decided to go with this slightly different take. I understand the why of it, but this is sort of weird figure. The cloak is going to get in the way of doing anything cool with it, and it doesn’t appear to be removable. It’s kind of a bummer that they went this direction with the only proper Wonder Woman figure in the line; I’m worried this is going to be the trench coat Batman of the line, i.e. the figure every store in America has 472 of because NO ONE buys it since it’s just a superhero in a coat.

Hippolyta, however, looks amazing:

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First, how great is it that we’re getting a Hippolyta action figure? Plus she’s dual weaponed! We get a sword AND a spear. The sculpt looks great as well, and the cloak doesn’t seem nearly as cumbersome as Wonder Woman’s. I’m excited to pick this one up, and for Connie Nielsen’s Hippolyta in general; I can’t wait to see her on the big screen!

Next up, good old Steve Trevor:

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I remain underwhelmed by the texture, coloring, and all around look of this figure. It feels too action figure-y, if that makes any sense. The rest have a touch of realism to them, but this one looks kind of flat all around. I’m glad we’re getting a Steve, I just wish it was a little more detailed and capture Chris Pine a bit better.

Finally, all of the parts included with each figure add up to Ares:

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This is our first decent peek at how Ares will look in Wonder Woman, and it’s not bad. It’s got touches of the classic, Perez-style Ares with the darker, more ominous angle that’s characterized the DCEU movies thus far. I don’t know if I love the helmet, but I can see how it might look cool on the big screen. I’m curious if there’s a face in there or if it’s all just helmet. The figure also comes with a red sword and a shield, which is fun. Though in my mind, Ares should have a proper long cape; I’m too steeped in Perez comics not to want to see that!

So overall, it’s a cool line. Diana and Hippolyta are the standouts for me, and the Ares is kind of cool. I’m not sold on the cloaked Wonder Woman and the Steve is a bit underwhelming, but they could both still be cool. Only four figures is a bit of a letdown, though. Perhaps we’ll see more in another wave. I’d love to get an Etta Candy, and the movie’s take on Dr. Poison looks rad and action figure worthy. Keep your eyes peeled for the figures; they should start to hit stores later this spring.

Women at Marvel Comics Watch – April 2017 Solicits, 24 Female Creators on 19 Books

February 20, 2017

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After posting the highest number of female creators we’ve ever seen from either DC or Marvel last month, Marvel failed to match their record this month. In fact, they weren’t even close. Now, this isn’t a huge surprise; the story of these stats is always two steps forward, one step back. A high is rarely followed immediately by another high. Instead, new highs tend to be followed by a slightly lower plateau and an even further drop back before the numbers surge again. Marvel’s skipped the plateau this time around, though, and have dropped to their lowest number of female creators in over a year. Let’s take a look at who’s doing what at Marvel in April 2017:

  • Amy Reeder: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #18 (co-writer, cover)
  • Becky Cloonan: The Punisher #11 (writer)
  • Brittney L. Williams: Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! #17 (interior art, cover)
  • Elizabeth Torque: Elektra #3 (cover), Spider-Man #15 (variant cover), The Mighty Captain Marvel #4 (cover)
  • Elsa Charretier: The Unstoppable Wasp #4 (interior art, cover)
  • Erica Henderson: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #19 (interior art, cover)
  • G. Willow Wilson: Ms. Marvel #17 (writer)
  • Gabby Rivera: America #2 (writer)
  • Helen Chen: Silk #19 (cover)
  • Jody Houser: Star Wars: Rogue One Adaptation #1 (writer)
  • Kamome Shirahama: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #6 (cover)
  • Kate Leth: Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! #17 (writer)
  • Kate Niemczyk: Man-Thing #3 (interior art)
  • Kelly Thompson: Hawkeye #5 (writer)
  • Margaret Stohl: The Mighty Captain Marvel #4 (writer)
  • Marguerite Sauvage: America #2 (variant cover)
  • Mariko Tamaki: Hulk #5 (writer)
  • Myisha Haynes: Gwenpool, the Unbelievable #14 (interior art)
  • Natacha Bustos: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #18 (interior art)
  • Nicole Perlman: Gamora #5 (writer)
  • Paulina Ganucheau: Gwenpool, the Unbelievable #14 (cover)
  • Sara Pichelli: Spider-Man #15 (interior art)
  • Tana Ford: Silk #19 (interior art)
  • Yona Harvey: Black Panther: The Crew #1 (co-writer)

All together, there are 24 different female creators set to work on 19 different books in April, 13 fewer women than in March and 14 fewer books. That’s quite a decline. Last month was clearly abnormal; there were loads of variant covers with female artists that helped Marvel break their record total. But Marvel’s had at least 30 female creators for several months now, going back to the fall. Landing in the 20s is uncharacteristically low for them.

Having women on fewer variant covers is one of the big reasons for Marvel’s drop this month. It also looks like a few creators with regular gigs are on a skip month, with someone else filling in, or the creative teams have been changed and women are no longer working on those books. It’s an odd month all around. For example, there’s only one woman working on more than one comic this month, Elizabeth Torque on a variety of covers. In March, there were six women with multiple gigs. Everything’s contracted across the board in April.

In terms of new books with female leads, there are a handful of team books with women in prominent roles. Manifold, Misty Knight, and Storm co-star in Black Panther: The Crew, Marvel Girl is a part of X-Men Blue, and Kitty Pryde, Prestige, and Storm are part of X-Men Gold.

Overall, April doesn’t look to be a great month for women at Marvel relative to their past year or so. What’s unclear is if this marks a shift for the publisher or an aberration. Aberration seems more likely; Marvel’s established a solid track record with female creators as of late, and I’m expecting to see at least a few missing creators back next month. Time will tell, as always, but I’d expect stronger numbers in May. For now, though, April is a rather underwhelming follow up to March’s stellar numbers.

Women at DC Comics Watch – April 2017 Solicits, 26 Female Creators on 24 Books

February 17, 2017

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Female creator representation in DC’s April 2017 solicits is about par for the course for the year thus far. DC’s been hovering around the mid-20s for months, an okay level but noticeably below their recent highs last fall and Marvel’s current highs. Given the progress both major superhero publishers have made in expanding their female creator ranks over the past few years, DC’s run in 2017 thus far is slightly underwhelming. Let’s take a look at who’s doing what at DC in April 2017:

  • Afua Richardson: All Star Batman #9 (interior art and cover)
  • Amanda Conner: Harley Quinn #17 (co-writer, cover), Harley Quinn #18 (co-writer, cover)
  • Aneke: DC Comics Bombshells #25 (interior art)
  • Becky Cloonan: Gotham Academy: Second Semester #8 (co-writer), Shade, the Changing Girl #7 (cover)
  • Bilquis Evely: Wonder Woman #20 (interior art, cover)
  • Cecil Castellucci: Shade, the Changing Girl #7 (writer)
  • Eleanora Carlini: Green Arrow #20 (interior art)
  • Emanuela Lupacchino: Green Lanterns #20 (variant cover), Green Lanterns #21 (variant cover), Supergirl #8 (cover), Trinity #8 (interior art)
  • Gail Simone: Clean Room #18 (writer)
  • Hope Larson: Batgirl #10 (writer)
  • Jenny Frison: Clean Room #18 (cover), Wonder Woman #20 (variant cover), Wonder Woman #21 (variant cover)
  • Jody Houser: Mother Panic #6 (writer)
  • Joelle Jones: Supergirl: Being Super #3 (interior art)
  • Julie Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9 (co-writer)
  • K. Perkins: Superwoman #8 (writer)
  • Kamome Shirahama: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9 (variant cover)
  • Lilah Sturges: Everafter: From the Pages of Fables #8 (co-writer)
  • Marguerite Bennett: Batwoman #2 (co-writer), DC Comics Bombshells #25 (writer)
  • Marguerite Sauvage: Shade, the Changing Girl #7 (interior art, cover)
  • Mariko Tamaki: Supergirl: Being Super #3 (writer)
  • Msassyk: Gotham Academy: Second Semester #8 (interior art)
  • Nicola Scott: Red Hood and the Outlaws #9 (cover), The Flintstones #10 (variant cover)
  • Sandra Hope: Gotham Academy: Second Semester #8 (inker)
  • Shawna Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9 (co-writer)
  • Tula Lotay: Everafter: From the Pages of Fables #8 (cover)
  • Yasmine Putri: The Hellblazer #9 (variant cover)

All together, there are 26 different female creators set to work on 24 different books, 2 more women than last month though 3 fewer books. DC’s now settled into their “Rebirth” lineup, and there’s not a huge amount of change from month to month, so most of the women above tend to have steady gigs, but the ranks don’t seem to be growing much. The numbers are stable, but below what DC has shown they’re capable of.

In terms of new names, Aneke is someone I don’t think we’ve seen at DC before; she’ll be drawing an issue of DC Comics Bombshells that brings back the universe’s Suicide Squad, so that should be a blast. K. Perkins is back too, though I don’t know if her writing gig on Superwoman is a onetime thing or she’ll be there moving forward. Finally, it’s very cool to welcome Lilah Sturges to the list! She’s been working on Everafter for a while now, but she’s recently transitioned to living openly as a woman and this is the first batch of solicits that reflects this change.

There aren’t any new series set to debut in April. As I said above, DC’s lineup is pretty set right now. We’ve got a new book or two since 2017 began, but not much else. I’m guessing they’ll be a new wave of “Rebirth” titles at some point soon, but for now things are pretty steady and uneventful.

Overall, April doesn’t look to be a bad month for women at DC, but it’s another average outing that doesn’t near their past highs. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive group of creators doing great work. The ranks are just leveled out right now. I wouldn’t expect much change until DC launches some new books or has a major creative overhaul.

More Wonder Woman Movie Toys Revealed, And They Look Super Fun

February 15, 2017

We got an illicit look at a couple of action figures from the upcoming Wonder Woman film a couple weeks back and they were intriguing, but now we’re getting some official images of upcoming Wonder Woman toys. And they’re kind of awesome! Mattel’s got a full line that looks to be a mix between and action figure and a Barbie; the figures are poseable and have the joints you’d expect from an action figure, but also have the hair and clothes you usually get with a doll. Entertainment Weekly had the first look at the toys, and let’s run through them now.

First up, we’ve got a fully armored Wonder Woman:

Photographer Dennis DiLaura Stylist Mary Jordan

I don’t know that the resemblance to Gal Gadot is spot on, but it kind of looks like her. And getting the full array of weaponry is very cool. I’m definitely interested in this one.

Next is Diana in her Themyscira garb:

Photographer Dennis DiLaura Stylist Mary Jordan

This one is fun as well. Also, I’m impressed with the braid; I hope it holds, because if it comes undone I have no idea how to rebraid it! The bow looks a little dinky in terms of scale, but arrow shooting action is pretty rad.

This one is a lot like the first one:

Photographer Dennis DiLaura Stylist Mary Jordan

But without all the extra stuff? It’s a cheaper, bare bones figure, I guess. It does retail for $5 less.

Next up we get Diana in her formal wear:

Photographer Dennis DiLaura Stylist Mary Jordan

This is from the scene in the trailer where she has the sword hidden in her dress, and apparently you can do the same with this figure. Glamorous AND dangerous!

Hey, there’s one with a majestic horse:

Photographer Randel Urbauer Stylist Lin

It looks like the first figure, plus a cloak and a dang horse! This might be the best deal of the bunch, really. You get the Wonder Woman figure and all of the accessories as well as a cool horse for her to ride on. It’s only $29.99 too; that’s a deal. I proclaim this the bargain of the bunch!

Hipployta’s got a horse too:

Photographer Dennis DiLaura Stylist Mary Jordan

Hers is white, and also majestic. She’s also got her own unique weapons and armor, just like Connie Nielsen in the movie. This is pretty rad. I love that there are going to be Hippolyta toys! And even better, she looks really cool. I may end up getting the horse pair, really. Mother daughter horse adventures!

Finally, a two pack:

Photographer Dennis DiLaura Stylist Mary Jordan

Steve and Diana, in their island garb. Chris Pine’s even got a wool turtleneck. And it looks like the Diana figure is a version of that second figure, but with a cloth outfit, which is neat. I like this set.

Entertainment Weekly also lists a bunch of accessories you can get, like a sword, Nerf bow and arrow, and a tiara. They are probably kid sized instead of grown up sized, which is a bummer; the sword looks rad. But that’s how toys go. Dang kids, getting all the fun.

With Toy Far just around the corner, I expect we’ll see even more of the Wonder Woman toy line this weekend, including the rest of the action figure line we got a peek at two weeks back. I’m going to go broke, gang. There’s just too much cool stuff.


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