Posts Tagged ‘Fredric Wertham’

The Many Lives of Catwoman is Officially Out TOMORROW!

June 30, 2017

Catwoman Cover 1

While The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale is available online from several retailers and in a bunch of shops already, the official release date for my brand new book is tomorrow, July 1. Up here, July 1 is a holiday, and everywhere else it’s a Saturday, so let’s chat about the book today before all of the celebration and relaxation takes over tomorrow. Yesterday on Twitter I ran through twelve interesting and weird facts about The Many Lives of Catwoman, and here’s that list in a more expanded form:

  1. It covers EVERYTHING. Comics, television, movies, video games, animation, unfilmed scripts, online videos, and more. If Catwoman was there, it’s discussed. It’s all within a larger, chronological framework that explains the broader evolution of the character, though, so it’s detailed but also organized and accessible.
  2. All of the chapter titles are cat-related puns. This was hard than I thought it would be; half of them came together pretty quickly, and the rest were like pulling teeth. “A Conspicuous Pause” is probably my favourite of them all because I really wanted to get “paws” in there. I was hoping to make something work with “bastion” but I just couldn’t figure anything out.
  3. The book opens with a ten page take down of Bob Kane that becomes a celebration of Bill Finger. Bob Kane often gets sole credit for Batman and the larger Bat-mythos, but Bill Finger was a far more important figure who Kane actively screwed over for decades while hoarding all of the money and fame for himself.
  4. Catwoman disappeared for TWELVE YEARS, from 1954 to 1966. The timing suggests that it was entirely the fault of Fredric Wertham and his contention in Seduction of the Innocent that there were homoerotic undertones to Batman and Robin’s adventures. Catwoman was called out in this portion of Wertham’s book as a “vicious” woman who, when it came to dating Bruce, would “have no chance against Dick.” Seduction of the Innocent was published in 1954, and Catwoman was benched immediately afterward.
  5. The chapter on the 1960s Batman television program has more quotes from the show than is probably necessary, but they’re all amazing. It’s all just too much fun. The dialogue in that show is so specific, and I find that when I read it I can hear the campy cadence with which it was delivered in my head. So I quoted the great lines as much as possible.
  6. Selina dated Bruce Wayne in the 1980s, then turned into a stalker when he started dating Vicki Vale, then dated Batman. It’s all very bizarre, an eight year soap opera that made Catwoman a fixture in both ongoing Bat-books for most of the decade. I do a deep dive into it all, of course. It’s a fascinating era on several levels.
  7. The chapter about Frank Miller’s various takes on Catwoman is… not complimentary. From The Dark Knight Returns to Batman: Year One to All Star Batman to Holy Terror (a non-DC book that features a Catwoman analogue), Miller sexualizes and brutalizes Catwoman again and again, often in the same ways. His misogynistic tendencies become very pronounced once you take a closer look at the patterns in his work.
  8. On the other hand, the chapter about Michelle Pfeiffer’s take on Catwoman is… extremely complimentary! Because she is the BEST. Daniel Waters and Tim Burton deserve some credit for Batman Returns, of course, but the effort and dedication Pfeiffer brought to the role was considerable, with fantastic results. She’s so good that she steals the entire movie.
  9. My discussion on Catwoman in the 1990s includes a section about Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, and god help us all. Jim Balent’s hyper sexualized art dominated this era and was often at odds with the interesting stories in the book, and looking at Balent’s next project, Tarot, offers interesting insights into his approach to Catwoman. Balent’s intentions were good with Catwoman, but his execution remains rather divisive for Catwoman fans.
  10. Halle Berry’s horrible Catwoman gets a full chapter. The film’s awfulness is inversely proportional to how fun it is to write about; it’s so bad that you can revel in how fascinatingly terrible it turned out to be. Watching the movie several times while I wrote the chapter wasn’t a blast, but it’s a sacrifice I made for you, dear readers, in service of what I think turned into a fun and compelling chapter.
  11. The Gotham section is half praise for Camren Bicondova, who is GREAT, and half side eying everything else about the show. Bicondova really is a wonderful Selina, but the show around her is a bit of a mess. When I watched it all for the book, I ended up skipping every scene that Selina wasn’t in, and I 100% recommend watching the show that way. When it’s just the Selina show, it’s pretty good.
  12. The New 52 chapter has some serious side eye as well, but only for the first three years of the relaunch. After that, Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown launched Selina’s mob boss era, which was AWESOME. It’s a real shame that it only lasted a year; creatively, it was something fun and new for Selina that made for great stories, and commercially it brought a new stability to the book after it had tumbled down the charts over the three years previous. DC were fools to end it.

So yeah, Catwoman is amazing, the book was so much fun to write, and I hope that you’ll all check it out! I love sharing the fascinating histories of these great comic book heroines, and a strong reception for The Many Lives of Catwoman will hopefully lead to further historical showcases for the wonderful women of superhero comic books. I definitely have lots more I’d love to cover! But for right now, I hope you all enjoy this one and have a good time learning all about the unique history and evolution of Catwoman!

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

March 28, 2017

wwpsych

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!


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