Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Review of Books’

Have Some Spooky Halloween Fun With Afterlife With Archie And The Comics Code Authority!

October 31, 2014

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It’s Halloween today, and what better time to do some spooky reading about the history of comic books? Just in time for the creepiest day of the year, I’ve got a review of the first volume of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife with Archie up over at the Los Angeles Review of Books. I look at the zombie-filled series as the death knell of the Comics Code Authority, the content guide first introduced in 1954 to counter accusations that comic books were leading to juvenile delinquency.

When the code was being developed, Archie Comics’ publisher John L. Goldwater was heavily involved and patterned parts of the code on Archie’s own in house guidelines. For decades, Archie Comics clung to the code, publishing harmless and unobjectionable family friendly comics, but recently Archie left the Comics Code behind. Now, free of its limitations, Archie is going to town with a variety of titles in an assortment of new and more mature genres.

Afterlife with Archie is a gleeful celebration of everything the Comics Code stood against. The code banned horror and bloodshed, and Afterlife with Archie revels in it. The code promoted respecting one’s parents, and Afterlife with Archie has a character kill his zombified father. The code expressly forbade depictions of the undead, and Afterlife with Archie blew past that one the moment that the series was first conceived. Plus, it’s a fantastic comic book!

Head on over to the Los Angeles Review of Books for my full essay. It’s a spooktacular way to spend your Halloween!

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“America’s Silver Age,” My Piece On Gender And Race In Silver Age Wonder Woman Comics For The Los Angeles Review Of Books

April 14, 2014

This weekend, a piece I wrote about Wonder Woman’s Silver Age comics went up at the Los Angeles Review of Books. We really could have called it “Ugh, White Men, Am I Right?” but “America’s Silver Age” is a classier title choice. Ostensibly a review of Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess Archives, Volume 1, which came out a while ago, the piece looks at the depiction of women and people of colour (or rather, the lack thereof) in Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito’s revision of Wonder Woman that began in 1958.

In the Golden Age, William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter’s Wonder Woman was all about female strength and superiority. It was also a fairly racially diverse comic for the time, though these depictions of people of colour ran the gamut from moderately positive to offensive stereotypes. Marston himself wasn’t nearly as forward thinking about race as he was about gender; in his psychological writing he frowned on interracial relationships, and he had a number of connections with known eugenics supporters and sympathizers, including his de facto aunt, Margaret Sanger. Nonetheless, the early years of Wonder Woman actually portrayed people of colour at least, however problematically.

When Kanigher, Andru, and Esposito began their new take on Wonder Woman in 1958, Marston’s feminist messages went out the window, as did people of colour. In the thirteen issues collected in this first Silver Age Wonder Woman Archive volume, there are only three very brief instances that feature people of colour. This panel from Wonder Woman #103, featuring Inuits fleeing a glacier, was the most any non-white characters spoke in the book:

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It was a whitewashed book, removing race all together at a time when race was a daily issue in American society as the Civil Rights Movement continually gained momentum.

You can read the full piece over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, and of course learn more about Wonder Woman’s history generally in my book, Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine.


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