We’re Thankful for ‘Lois & Clark’, Bat-kids & ‘The Omega Men’ This Week

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comics’ latest releases. Ray Goldfield is the proto-typical DC reader, while I’m the lapsed DC reader who needs to be pulled back in.

This week, when the stories were good, they were excellent but when they were bad, they were awful. The Batman line, of course, remains strong, but The Omega Men and DC Bombshells pull their weight. And we split on book of the week, with Ray going for Robin, Son of Batman while Superman: Lois & Clark is my favorite.

As for the worst, it’s good that Superman has the book mentioned above and that Wonder Woman has DC Bombshells because and the less said about their regular weekly books, the better.

Oh, and yet another sequel to the great Dark Night Returns came out. How doe sit stack up to the original? See below.

Robin, Son of Batman #6 – Patrick Gleason, script and pencils, Mick Gray and Tom Nguyen, inks,

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Not Book of the Week For Me But I Still Recommend It for the ‘Aww..”

Ray: The end of the first arc, before Damian heads back to Gotham to take part in the upcoming Robin War (which gets teased in another book this week as well). Surprisingly, the arrival of new Big Bad Den Darga actually takes a backseat this issue, with the villain fleeing to put his plan into motion, and the focus being on Damian and his odd supporting cast.

The opening segment shows one of Damian’s missions in the Year of Blood, which leads to him slaughtering a colony of Man-Bats. However, one young Man-Bat (who is sure to get all the fan art on Tumblr) survives, and Damian can’t bring himself to kill it. So he takes it back to his mother and gets approval to keep it as a warrior companion. It grows up into Goliath, natch. The powerful heart of the issue, though, is in Damian’s reunion with his mother now that they actually have time to talk. Continue reading We’re Thankful for ‘Lois & Clark’, Bat-kids & ‘The Omega Men’ This Week

Martian Manhunter Destroys Earth & The Secret Six Take on Aquaman in DC This Week

Welcome to our recaps of DC Comics’ latest issues. Ray is the prototypical DC fan. It takes a great deal for him to give up on a title. I’m the one who tends to have the quick hook, especially for titles are are just ‘meh.’

This week, the Bat-kids keep chugging along in Batman and Robin Eternal, the Secret Six get wet in a terrific issue featuring Aquaman, Martian Manhunter‘s many selves argue with each other about saving the Earth in a great whacked-out story, and the original Teen Titans try to get back together in Titans Hunt.

On the bad side, the title character of the Telos gets the most random origin ever, the aptly-named Doomed closes its run, and Jimmy Olsen gives in to the Dark Side in Earth-2 Society.

Batman and Robin Eternal #7 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, Genevieve Valentine, script, Alvaro Martinez, pencils, Raul Fernandez, inks

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy the Series.

Ray: I was waiting for this series – which has been consistently strong since it started – to truly wow me with an issue. Valentine’s first issue as the script writer does just that as it turns the spotlight on Cassandra Cain and Harper Row and their growing friendship. The team is a bit splintered, as Tim Drake has gone off the grid and is following his own leads – accompanied by Jason Todd, who tries to get the young genius Bat to open up about his issues with Dick and Bruce in his own snarky fashion. I’ve really enjoyed the interaction with these two in this series, even though it’s a pretty clear indication that we’re wiping out their previous hostility.  The flashback segments continue to show us how Bruce got closer and closer to Mother in the past, but they’re brief.

The meat of the issue is in Harper and Cass’ undercover mission for Dick. Continue reading Martian Manhunter Destroys Earth & The Secret Six Take on Aquaman in DC This Week

Gremlins Galore! Geeking Out About Hideously Adorable Sidekicks

Magic, mystery, and romance are three things readers can expect in Beth Cato‘s steampunk fantasy adventure, The Clockwork Dagger. But what might not be obvious from the book’s description is that behind the airships and spies, there is another force at play: that of a race of little…well…read what their creator, Beth Cato, has to say about them! I’m very glad to know I’m not the only one who has a soft spot for little green “hideously adorably” critters!

I geek out over the gremlins in my Clockwork Dagger series. One of the amazing things about being a published author is that readers geek out over my gremlins, too. That made it all the more exciting to write a novella in my book universe that is all about these hideously adorable chimeras.

My gremlins are like green-skinned furless cats with bat wings. They are creatures melded out of magic and science, very steampunk stuff, and cobbled together from bits of other living animals. Most of them can’t speak with words, though they comprehend human speech and mew, purr, and use other means to make their opinions known. Continue reading Gremlins Galore! Geeking Out About Hideously Adorable Sidekicks

‘Secret Six’ Goes Mystical In an Excellent Overall Week From DC

Cover to Secret Six #7, image copyright DC Comics
Cover to Secret Six #7, image copyright DC Comics

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases. Ray is the prototypical DC reader and I’m the agnostic, lapsed DC fan.

When this week was good, as with Secret Six, Titans Hunt, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Gotham Academy, Batman & Robin Eternal, Doctor Fate and Justice League, it was very good. Also excellent was Clean Room #1 by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt, the new Vertigo mature readers comic, and that earned a bonus review at the end of this column.

When it was bad, well, it was awful. Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman hit new lows. Continue reading ‘Secret Six’ Goes Mystical In an Excellent Overall Week From DC

The Bat-Crew Is Back Together, Including Cassandra Cain

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases. Ray is the committed DC reader and Corrina is the somewhat lapsed DC fan.

This week sees the debut of Batman & Robin Eternal which also features the return of a fan favorite character, another chapter in the complicated and intense Omega Men story, the continued adventures of that crazy couple, Midnighter and Grayson, and indie legend Carla “Speed” McNeil delivers a fine Wonder Woman story in Sensation Comics.

Batman & Robin Eternal #1 — James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder, story, James Tynion IV, script, Tony Daniel, pencils, Sandu Florea, inks

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy It (But I have reservations)

Ray: The second act of the greatest DC comics weekly ever begins here, and it does not disappoint. With a new creative squad in place and once again headlined by Tynion and overseen by Snyder, all the pieces are in place for another runaway hit. While the issue does push some buttons that might upset people, it’s been very clear with Eternal that things are rarely what they seem, and in terms of character, the Bat-family is rarely done better.

Continue reading The Bat-Crew Is Back Together, Including Cassandra Cain

Laura Anne Gilman Geeks Out on Muppets, X-Files & Leverage

Welcome to our weekly Geek Speaks..Fiction series where authors talk about the geekdoms that inspired them.

Our guest today, Laura Anne Gilman is the author of nearly twenty books, including the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy.  Her next book project, SILVER ON THE ROAD, is the first in the Devil’s West series from Saga / Simon & Schuster.

I am a child of fandom. Be it the Muppets or Star Wars (my childhood favorites), or X-Files, (my first “adult” fandoms), I’ve been one of the quiet but dedicated fans, who may not wear my heart as cosplay, but was cheering those cosplayers along.

You will never hear me saying “oh, I don’t watch tv.” I think television has been one of the greatest storytelling devices of our lifetime, up there with the commercial printing press and digitally-adjustable font sizes. Is there crap out there? Absolutely. But theres also genius.

And when I look at my own work, I can see their influence, from the very earliest to the most current productions.

  1. The Muppets. There is nothing about the Muppets that I do not still geek over, from the opening number to the guest stars, to the way their scripts managed to remain true to the ‘reality’ of their lives without ever losing the madcap glee of being a muppet. It was my first real experience with an ensemble cast, seeing how disparate stories interweave and overlap, without ever getting tangled. I learned how to snark from Statler and Waldorf – the fine and surprisingly delicate art of cutting without drawing actual blood – and how to love characters that are utterly self-absorbed from Miss Piggy and Fozzie, each in their own delightful way. Farron, the east wind magician in SILVER ON THE ROAD, inherited those balances, and his interactions with Gabriel carry the same real “on the same team but not friends” vibe that the Muppet Show brought out, every single week.

Continue reading Laura Anne Gilman Geeks Out on Muppets, X-Files & Leverage

Rape by Deception in ‘Aquaman #44’ is Poorly Handled

Welcome to our recap of this week’s DC Comics releases. Ray is the seasoned DC fan, I’m the more cycnical and lapsed DC reader.

We usually focus first on our favorite issue of the week, and work our way down from there but we’re making an exception today. There was one comic with such a problematic plot element, a rape by deception, that we have to start there.

Sorry, Batman Annual #4, our book of the week, and Grayson Annual #2 with your team-up with Superman. We’ll get to you after.

Aquaman #44 – Cullen Bunn, writer, Alec Morgan, layouts, Art Thibert and Jesus Merino, finishes
Ray: 3/10
Corrina: There’s bad writing and then there’s problematic writing. This is both. Continue reading Rape by Deception in ‘Aquaman #44’ is Poorly Handled

Geekomancer: You’ll Totally Want This Power

Michael R. Underwood (aka: Mike) has traveled the world, knows why Tybalt cancels out Capo Ferro, and rolls a mean d20. He was raised in no small part at his local hobby game store, and he spent so much time helping out they eventually had to put him on staff.

He is the author the several series: the comedic fantasy Ree Reyes series (Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek, Hexomancy), fantasy superhero novel Shield and Crocus, supernatural thriller The Younger Gods, and the forthcoming Genrenauts, a science fiction series in novellas. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books.

Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiancée and their ever-growing library. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he plays video games, geeks out on TV, and makes pizzas from scratch. He is a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show. Visit him at michaelrunderwood.com and on Twitter.

Last year, Fran had me on GeekMom for a special Cooking The Books/GeekMom crossover, where I talked about Attack the Geek, a novella in the Ree Reyes world. Now I’m very happy to talk about Hexomancy, which follows directly after the events of the novella.

cover courtesy Mike Underwood
cover courtesy Mike Underwood

The Ree Reyes series is about geeking out – Ree, the lead, is a Geekomancer, which means that when she geeks out, she can do extraordinary things – watching a favorite film or TV show lets her emulate the power of its heroes (watch The Matrix and do wire-fu, watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier and get Cap’s strength and speed, as well as a dose of old-timey righteousness), channeling the collective nostalgia for props to bring them to life (while emulating Captain America, she uses a prop shield and it comes to life as an actual vibranium shield), or using collectible cards like spell scrolls – tearing up a Green Lantern card to make a one-shot lantern construct to help her while chasing an enemy. Continue reading Geekomancer: You’ll Totally Want This Power

‘We Are Robin’–An Inventive and Unique View of Gotham

Welcome to our weekly recap of Wednesday DC comics issues. Ray is the long-time DC reader and fan, while I’m the lapsed and more cynical reader. This week, we enjoyed all of the offerings that include a Batman connection, particularly We Are Robin and Gotham by Midnight, Batman ’66 and Scooby Doo Team-Up. The last two make great use of Batman history.

However, best to avoid the titles featuring villains and Flash is becoming a serious disappointment.

We Are Robin #4 – writer, Lee Bermejo, penciller, James Harvey, insks, James Harvey with Diana Egea.

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)
Corrina: Buy It.

We are Robin #4 splash page
We are Robin #4 splash page, copyright DC Comics

Ray: I’ve been loving this title since the start, but my one complaint is that we were introduced to a big group of original characters right out of the gate without any real setup, making several of the teen heroes besides Duke blank slates. We even lost one, Troy, without knowing much about him.

Fortunately, after last issue’s shocker, this title slows down and gives us a done-in-one focused on the first of our new heroes, Riko Sheridan. This issue takes place in the immediate aftermath of Troy’s death, and deals with the fallout not just among their inner circle, but in the world of social media surrounding them. Guest artist James Harvey gives this issue a distinctly manga-esque vibe, managing to seamlessly blend Riko’s excitable inner fantasy life with the mundane reality around her. We learn a bit more about her personal and family life, as well as what led her to decide to join the Robins. Halfway through the issue, we shift to Riko going on a solo mission on the roofs of Gotham, and it soon becomes clear that she’s very much a rookie. Continue reading ‘We Are Robin’–An Inventive and Unique View of Gotham

Measuring FTL Travel For Fictional Worlds

SF, space opera, SF romance
cover copyright Christie Meierz

Welcome to our weekly guest blog for science fiction authors, Geek Speaks…Fiction, where writers geek out about what makes them happy.

Space opera fans, we’ve got a treat for you this week! Christie Meierz is the award winning, best selling author of the Tolari Cycle, novels of intrigue, suspense, and romance set in the future amongst the stars. Today, she joins us to tell us what made her geek out while writing her new release, Farryn’s War, the first book in a new series!

She will also be hosting a Facebook release party for Farryn’s War on Thursday, September 24. GeekMoms Corrina Lawson and Fran Wilde will be guests, and books and other prizes will be up for grabs. 

I’ve been an astronomy geek since the age of seven, when my mother bought a coffee table book on astronomy with a big color picture of the Orion nebula on the dust jacket. I picked it up for the pictures… and stayed for the math. I had just learned multiplication and division, and somehow never learned that girls aren’t supposed to be good at math. I spent a very happy afternoon working out the distances from the sun to each of the planets. In light-minutes. And light-hours.

Continue reading Measuring FTL Travel For Fictional Worlds

‘Prez’: Political Polemic or Entertaining Satire?

cover copyright DC Comics

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases where Ray Goldfield, long time DC reader and fan, and myself, more cynical and lapsed DC reader, give our thoughts. This week, we’re nearly 100 percent in agreement but where we disagree, we seriously disagree.

For instance, we both love Secret Six and Black Canary, but Ray believes that Prez is an absolute failure and I love it for its brilliant satire of the political world. He also thinks the current run of Wonder Woman is getting better.

If only.

Secret Six #6 – Gail Simone, writer, Tom Derenick, artist
Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)
Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: Now that Secret Six has hit its groove, it is quickly resuming its place as one of DC’s best books. Continue reading ‘Prez’: Political Polemic or Entertaining Satire?

Horror Author Sam Sattin Creates an Imaginary Game For His Book

This week on Geek Speaks..Fiction!, horror author Samuel Sattin joins us to share what made him geek out while writing his new book, The Silent End, a chilling novel for mature teens and adults alike. His work has been described as being full of fun, terror, tragedy, and delight.
Welcome, Sam!

About the author: Samuel Sattin is a novelist and essayist. He is the author of League of Somebodies, described by Pop Matters as “One of the most important novels of 2013.” His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Salon, io9, Kotaku, San Francisco Magazine, Publishing Perspectives, LitReactor, The Weeklings, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College and an MFA in Comics from CCA. He’s the recipient of NYS and SLS Fellowships and lives in Oakland, California.

It’s not overly difficult to describe what I geeked out on while writing The Silent End, mostly because the main character is a grade-A certified nerd, seventeen and on the edge of emotional collapse in many ways.

Continue reading Horror Author Sam Sattin Creates an Imaginary Game For His Book

‘Batman #44’–A Definitive Batman story

cover via DC Comics
cover via DC Comics

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases. Ray is the long-time DC reader, a prototypical DC fan, while I’m the lapsed and more cynical type.  But when we agree something is good, that means it’s darn good.

Which brings us to Batman #44, which Ray and I recognize as something special. There’s also great fun to be had in the latest issue of Starfire, and a road trip with Harley Quinn this week. Overall, an excellent batch of stories, and Ray is particularly high on the Green Lantern/Star Trek crossover that’s being published by IDW. (See end of post.)

If only this week was the last issue of Section Eight, an experiment that has failed spectacularly.

Batman #44 – Story by Scott Snyder, written by Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello, art by Jock. 

Ray: 10/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy This Masterpiece. 

Ray: Fill-in issues and done-in-ones in the middle of an arc are often throwaways, but that’s the furthest thing from the case here with this breather issue. Obviously, Snyder and Jock have worked together before, so it’s not a surprise that they’d do something special here, but I was really surprised how this story worked so well as both a small-scale, affecting story about Batman’s past and a piece of the puzzle in the ongoing superheavy story.

One of the biggest complaints about Batman from certain corners is that he’s “a rich guy beating up the poor and mentally ill,” but that’s always been a stereotype that doesn’t really work given all the work Bruce does for Gotham and its citizens. In many ways, this story shows how he got there.

It opens right after Zero Year, with two Batmen, present and future – Bruce and Jim – meeting to discuss a mysterious case of a teenage boy dead in a field. He has bullet holes in him, but Batman’s investigation reveals he actually died from a massive fall from the middle of nowhere. With the issue narrated seemingly by Gotham itself, Batman’s investigations lead him to a dark, twisty, and emotionally powerful tale that involves the boy’s run-ins with local gangs, rising Supervillains like Penguin, and a trigger-happy cop whose duty in the Corner (Gotham’s worst area) has left him brittle and paranoid. The issue takes on a lot of timely topics, like police brutality and gentrification, but it avoids easy answers and leaves a lot of shades of grey in every reveal.

In the end, it’s the story of a boy with very few choices who made a deal with the devil that led him to that field, and the reveal of just how he fell from a thousand feet up from the middle of nowhere is incredibly clever. Mr. Bloom factors into this issue, but I was a bit surprised that he was just a bit player (albeit a key one) and we know just as little about him as we did before. Jock’s version of him is fabulously creepy, though.

This is an incredibly strong issue, setting the stage for the man Bruce Wayne became as Batman and the man he is now, as well as a near-perfect stand-alone story of Gotham. If only all fill-ins and break issues could be this strong.

Corrina: Fill in? No, this is a masterpiece, a story so strong that if someone asks me why I love Batman comics, I could hand them this issue to explain why. The title is a ‘A Simple Case,’ and so it seems at first, the story of a boy trying to be a man caught in the middle of a gang war.

But, as Ray said, it’s about all of Gotham, it’s about why Batman does what he does, and why it sometimes works and why the job of cleaning up the city for good citizens is never easy. This reminded me of the classic Denny O’Neil/Dick Giordano story,  “There is No Hope in Crime Alley.”

It’s time for another addition to The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.

Gotham Academy #10 -Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher, writers, Karl Kerschl with Msassyk, art
Continue reading ‘Batman #44’–A Definitive Batman story

Bradley Beaulieu Geeks Out on Mother/Daughter Connections

Join GeekMom in welcoming epic fantasy author Bradley P. Beaulieu to Geek Speaks…Fiction!

Bradley Beaulieu fell in love with fantasy from the moment he began reading The Hobbit in third grade. While Bradley earned a degree in computer science and engineering and worked in the information technology field for years, he could never quite shake his desire to explore other worlds. He began writing his first fantasy novel in college. It was a book he later trunked, but it was a start, a thing that proved how much he enjoyed the creation of stories. It made him want to write more. 

He went on to write The Lays of Anuskaya series as well as The Song of Shattered Sands series. He has published work in the Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies. He has won the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award and earned a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination. Learn more about Bradley by visiting his website, quillings.com.

Brad’s highly praised novel, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, was released last week from DAW/Penguin Random House. Read on to find out what made him geek out while writing it!

When I start working on new books, it’s the world that gets fleshed out first. I write big-canvas fantasies, so it’s important to me to know the lay of the land, the kingdoms in play, their cultural histories, the political landscape, the magic, and so on. This is really important to me because I want to create characters that can believably inhabit this world. The world is the soil in which they grow, after all.

That isn’t to say that my characters aren’t individuals. They are. Of course they are. But this is the part that’s so interesting to me: Once you know the norms in this new world you’re creating—the social mores, the customs, traditions, religions, and so on—you can start to play with them and see where your characters diverge from those norms. They may hew closely to them, which may give clues as to how you can best challenge the character. Or they may diverge widely, bringing perhaps a more immediate and consistent sort of conflict as the characters struggle or fight against the norms.

The main character in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is a young woman named Çeda (pronounced CHAY-da, like mesa). She’s a pit fighter, and a woman who runs packages in the shadows beneath the nose of the twelve kings of Sharakhai. The kings, who have ruled the city with iron fists for over four hundred years, kill Çeda’s mother viciously when Çeda is eight. In some ways it comes as no surprise. Her mother, Ahya, had been tempting fate for a long while, running out on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir, when all are forbidden from roaming the streets and the ghul-like asirim come to the city to take tribute.

Çeda is shaped by many things, but foremost among them was her upbringing with her mother and the questions left in the wake of her mother’s death when she is hung by the cruel kings. Çeda begins to find the answers to those questions only years later when she too goes out on Beht Zha’ir to save her best friend, Emre.

One of the asirim finds her and whispers long-forgotten words in her ear, words Çeda has read before in a book left to her by her mother. It is through that one strange event that Çeda begins to unlock the secrets behind her mother’s purpose on the night she was killed. Like a blooming rose, the answers to those riddles complicate, leading to more riddles in turn. They point her toward the very night, four hundred years before, when the kings made their dark bargain with the gods of the desert to secure their power.

I often find that I don’t really know what a character is like until after I’ve created the first draft. Why? Because while I know something about them, I don’t know enough details to know who they really are. By the time the first draft is done, though, I know so much more. The characters are no longer plans in a character sketch. They have stories and accomplishments. They have hopes and fears. They have become real.

The connection between Çeda and her mother, Ahya, was one I expected to explore, but not as much as I actually did in the writing of Twelve Kings. So much flowed from that mother-daughter relationship: Çeda’s often-rocky adoption on the part of Dardzada, an apothecary who loved Ahya but now finds only pain when he sees Çeda; her befriending of Emre, a boy who becomes not only a close friend, but her best friend, perhaps her soulmate (a thing Çeda refuses to acknowledge); her ties to a desert witch that eventually changes her life; her connection to the kings.

All of it really opened Çeda up for me.

I found myself coming back to Ahya’s legacy often. It advised me, a compass by which I could navigate this complex tale. More than anything, though, it made me care for Çeda deeply. It’s a form of geeking out, I think, coming to love your characters, or hate them, or whatever we want the reader to feel about them, because it’s only when we truly feel for them that we can write truths about them on the page.

So there it is. I geeked out about Çeda. And I hope you will too.

About Twelve Kings in Sharakhai:
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite ompany of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

You can find Bradley P. Beaulieu at www.quillings.com and on Twitter as @bbeaulieu.

DC Comics This Week: You’re Gonna Love This Wonder Woman

cover copyright DC Comics.
cover copyright DC Comics.

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. Ray is the long-time DC reader and I’m the more skeptical, lapsed DC reader. As the last week of the month, it’s a relatively light week but the shining stars for me and Ray are twofold.

One, Detective Comics #44, which manages to be darkly funny and handles the cast of Gotham’s police officers better than any story since the late, great Gotham Central. This is what the Gotham show could be, if it focused on the right elements, instead of attempting to be an over-the-top villain fest.

Two, DC Comics Bombshells, which features a Wonder Woman we can get behind. Heck, the story in this issue would make a great start to a Wonder Woman movie.

But we part ways on Omega Men, a slow boiling SF story about terrorism, rebellion, and how far those oppressed are willing to go.

Detective Comics #44, Brian Buccellato, writers and colors, Fernando Blanco, art

Ray: Book of the Week. 9.5/10

Corrina: Buy It. 

Ray: Buccellato brings his  run to a close this month, making way for Pete Tomasi next month, and he closes it out in style.

This story could have easily gotten ridiculous, pitting Jim Gordon against a giant Joker Robot made from the power core of his own suit and piloted by the Joker’s Daughter, but the creative team has a deft touch that makes it work really well. The story doesn’t lose sight of the fact that Jim is very out of his element here, and his commentary on the absurdity of the situation is very welcome, as his practical, military-minded approach to taking out the threat. Continue reading DC Comics This Week: You’re Gonna Love This Wonder Woman

DC Reviews for 8/26: So That Was Lois’ Big Motivation?

Batgirl #43, copyright DC Comics
Batgirl #43, copyright DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. Ray is the long-time DC reader and I’m the more skeptical, lapsed DC reader. This week, we find out why Lois Lane outed Clark Kent as Superman in Superman #43. It’s not as bad as I expected but it doesn’t quite work, either, Ray’s in love with the old-school Batgirl vibe present in Batgirl #43, and We Are Robin has become a must read.

Of course, there are a few clinkers. I’m totally bored with Sinestro and Deathstroke. And Teen Titans? Maybe DC should toss the Batgirl creative team at it. Check out the end for how several comic adaptations of the DC Universe.

Batgirl #43, Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, writers, Babs Tarr, artist, Juan Castro, inks (pages 17-19).

Ray: 9.5/10 Book of the Week

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: I’ve said before that I think this book probably would have been served better if it had been the product of the hard reboot coming out of Flashpoint, as opposed to a soft reboot after Gail Simone’s run. The difference between the two Batgirls is so drastic that I’m not surprised a lot of people can’t fully embrace it.

That’s a shame, because it’s fantastic, and even my annoyance over Oracle being erased can’t ruin that for me. This title is easily the closest DC has ever gotten to capturing the same zeitgeist that lifted Ms. Marvel, Runaways, and Ultimate Spider-man into fan favorites. It’s got a perfect balance of superhero action, personal drama, and the two intersecting in interesting ways. While Barbara is dealing with both her father’s role as the new Batman and the return of her best friend Alysia – who’s getting married to her longtime girlfriend Jo – a new crisis emerges as Barbara’s friend Luke Fox’s tech company comes under attack by an escaped tiger that kills an engineer. Continue reading DC Reviews for 8/26: So That Was Lois’ Big Motivation?

Geek Speaks…Fiction! With Deborah Bailey

Deborah A Bailey’s Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance novels include suspense, a bit of mystery and a lot of romantic heat. Her science fiction romance books include Hathor Legacy: Outcast, Hathor Legacy: Burn, and a short story collection, Electric Dreams: Seven Futuristic Tales. The upcoming novel in the Hathor Legacy series, Hathor Legacy: Revelations, will be published in the winter of 2015.

In the paranormal realm, her two books about a lion shapeshifter who runs a coffee bar, Family Pride: Love and Challenges and the upcoming Family Pride: Blood Fever, were inspired by her love for the TV show, Bewitched. In her other life, she’s a blogger and freelance writer specializing in small business topics, and her articles have been published in Working World Magazine, More.com, and CNN.com. She blogs at http://www.BrightStreetBooks.com and http://dbaileycoach.com.

Photo via Deb Bailey
Photo via Deborah Bailey

Thanks for having me!

I’ve been trying to remember when I haven’t been geeked out about something. When I was a little girl geek, I was a faithful Star Trek viewer, which is where my Mr. Spock fan girling started. Even as a child, I totally understood his character and loved all that Vulcan coolness. In fact, I still do!

During that time, I also bought tons of DC Comics. So many that I still have a huge box full of them. I was into Superman, Batman, and the Justice League of course.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]
Cover copyright Deborah Bailey
Back in the day it was the norm to have male superheroes, but there were women doing their thing as well. Though at times the stereotypes were overwhelming. For instance, Lois Lane had her own comic, though she spent a lot time competing with Lana Lang for Superman’s affections. Thankfully Lois’ character was ultimately allowed to have a character arc—and desires beyond becoming Mrs. Superman.

I think that change was reflecting the changes in the culture, which is what also brought a change in Wonder Woman’s story. She went from Amazon princess to human when she renounced her status, and for a while she was forced to sort her life out as a normal woman, Diana Prince.

Around that time, a rebooted female superhero was introduced as the second story in a Lois Lane comic. She was known as the Thorn. During the day she was a very meek woman, the Rose, whose police officer father had been killed in the line of duty, and at night she was an elusive crime fighter called The Thorn.

What struck me about her character was the duality. Which is probably the same thing that excited me when Wonder Woman had her Diana Prince interlude. The idea of a superhero who isn’t always a hero (or aware of being one) opened up a lot of story ideas for me. And you could say the Spock character has the same challenges. Is he human or Vulcan? What part of him does he claim? Can he really be both?

Electric Dream - High Resoluion
Cover copyright Deborah Bailey

Those ideas inspired me to create my character Nadira for the Hathor Legacy series. She has PSI powers that allow her to be a superhero of sorts on the planet, Hathor. Yet, she doesn’t always have a comfort level around the balancing act. Her mother had PSI abilities and her father was human, so she’s also in two worlds (though she’s only claimed one world so far).

What happens when you’re forced to choose? Is it even possible to do so and stay a healthy, sane person?

That’s what geeking out means to me. Asking these questions and exploring the answers while you create countless characters and worlds. There are no pat answers and no rules that must be followed.

It’s limitless and there’s always something new to look at and think about.

Back when I was running to the newsstand buying up my DC Comics stash, I never knew I’d be inspired to write my own stories. But the fun part is that the geeking never has to stop.

It’s not something I ever have to grow out of, and I never will.

DC Comics This Week: ‘Secret Six’ Is A Slam Dunk

Welcome to our capsule reviews of this week’s DC comics releases. Ray Goldfield is the long-time DC reader and I’m more the cynic. I might have faith in nothing but quality. I also look at these issues with an eye for a new reader. If it’s impenetrable to all but the most diehard of DC fans, I won’t recommend it.

This week, we have our biggest disagreements yet but we’re both happy to recommend Secret Six #5, which zips along dropping all kinds of revelations on the reader while it rights a serious comic book wrong.

The rest? Ray loves his Robin, Son of Batman. I’m already a tired of the pre-adolescent, arrogant assassin. But I highly recommend Martian Manhunter, which is an imaginative take on that a classic SF story, an alien invasion.

On the bad side, we’re waiting for the day we can announce the cancellation of Doomed and the ill-conceived Superman/Wonder Woman title.

Warning: total spoilers abound.

Continue reading DC Comics This Week: ‘Secret Six’ Is A Slam Dunk

Geek Speaks… Fiction! With Veronica Scott


She’s the best-selling science fiction and paranormal romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today “Happily Ever After” blog. However, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history, and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Three-time winner of the Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!

Thanks for inviting me to be your guest!

I love doing research and for my science fiction novels, I’m often doing a deep dive into odd things that I’m going to adapt for my future galactic civilization known as the Sectors.

SF Romance
Cover copyright Veronica Scott.

The first topic I geeked out about for a specific book was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, because my first published SF novel was Wreck of the Nebula Dream, loosely inspired by the Titanic’s sinking. (I’ve always been fascinated by Titanic though.)

For that book, I researched anything and everything to do with the real-life tragedy, including the ship’s design, its passengers and crew, premonitions and superstitions connected to the event, the cargo… I enjoyed the creative exercise of applying that wealth of detail to a luxury cruiser roaming the star lanes. For my recent best-seller, Star Cruise: Marooned, I researched the world of the charter yacht, which is somewhat different in nature than a liner.

The second thing I’ve geeked out about for my SF world is Special Forces military operators.

My heroes are pretty much always in that line of work and my goal is to create men who could walk into any bar on Earth today where SEALs and Rangers gather, and be accepted as members of the brotherhood.

My late husband was a Marine, so I’m very supportive of the military in general, have had SEAL and Ranger authors as guests on my blog in the past… but as actual research, I’ve read numerous real-life accounts, asked a lot of questions, subscribe to a (public) Special Forces-oriented website to stay current, have been to at least one conference I’m not allowed to discuss….

Veronica Scott square photo
Veronica Scott, image via Veronica Scott.

I guess by now you can tell my definition of “geek out” isn’t about the hardware or the science, so much as it is about the world-building and the people.

I worked at JPL [NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory] for many years and totally geeked out over everything built and managed there, from Mars rovers to space telescopes, so it’s not that I’m not into those things! We’ll count that as the third thing for this column.

Nothing like looking at the actual flight hardware that’s going to be on another planet or watching a giant multi-legged robot cross the street in front of you. And yes, a lot of the engineers and scientists who work there could be characters on The Big Bang Theory. Maybe slightly exaggerated, but there’s a resemblance. Being in the room with those guys and gals is amazing. Some of the finest scientific and technical minds anywhere on Earth. I feel very privileged to have supported the efforts from my business-oriented vantage point as a contracts person.

cover copyright Veronica Scott
Cover copyright Veronica Scott.

The fourth thing I’ve geeked out about, which certainly influenced me as an author, would be comic books. As a kid, I had thousands squirreled away in my bedroom, mostly DC comics. I wasn’t into Marvel then, other than Thor. Two of my all-time favorites were Magnus Robot Fighter and Brothers of the Spear.

More geeking?

Interviewing John Scalzi, which I got to do for my USA Today “Happily Ever After SciFi Encounters” column. Talking to him was fascinating! His mind goes a mile a minute in a good way and as an interviewer, I absolutely felt motivated to try to ask him questions he hadn’t been asked before a million times. Discussing the processes of writing a novel, comparing notes with him, was like a Masters’ class for me. Really a rare and memorable experience!

You can find Veronica Scott at her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Her latest is Star Cruise: Marooned, on sale for just 99 cents:

Meg Antille works long hours on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon so she can send credits home to her family. Working hard to earn a promotion to a better post (and better pay), Meg has no time for romance.

Former Special Forces soldier Red Thomsill only took the berth on the Far Horizon in hopes of getting to know Meg better, but so far she’s kept him at a polite distance. A scheduled stopover on the idyllic beach of a nature preserve planet may be his last chance to impress the girl.

But when one of the passengers is attacked by a wild animal it becomes clear that conditions on the lushly forested Dantaralon aren’t as advertised—the ranger station is deserted, the defensive perimeter is down…and then the Far Horizon’s shuttle abruptly leaves without any of them.

Marooned on the dangerous outback world, romance is the least of their concerns, and yet Meg and Red cannot help being drawn to each other once they see how well they work together. But can they survive long enough to see their romance through? Or will the wild alien planet defeat them, ending their romance and their lives before anything can really begin?

Geek Speaks… Fiction! by Aliette de Bodard


Today’s guest on Geek Speaks… Fiction is author Aliette de Bodard.

house of shattered
Order on Amazon image courtesy Ace/Roc

Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris, where she works as a System Engineer and herds a toddler nicknamed “Snakelet”. In her spare time, she writes speculative fiction: She has won two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, and a British Science Fiction Association Award. Her novel The House of Shattered Wings is out from Roc/Gollancz this month. 

Manga, anime, and my writing

My writerly influences tend to the eclectic: I have a tendency to read everything (including the back of the toothpaste package if I get bored), and my childhood was filled with a mix of books in all genres, bandes dessineés, movies—and manga, which I sneak-read because my parents weren’t overly keen on it (they’d caught a bit of the Ken the Survivor anime on TV and decided they didn’t want me exposed to that kind of graphical violence, so I couldn’t have any manga or watch any anime). Needless to say, I felt like trying both anyway!

Below are my five influential manga/anime and how they impacted my writing and my most recent novel The House of Shattered Wings (out August 18th from Roc in the US, August 20th from Gollancz in the UK).

  1. Black Jack (manga): It’s probably a good thing that my parents never actually opened the Black Jack mangas I was so fond of, since they might have had quite a few surprises about graphically explicit… Featuring the adventures of a blackmarket surgeon and his precocious adopted daughter, and hovering between body horror, black humour, and serious ethical dilemmas, this has had a lot of influence on me—notably teaching me a lot about creepiness and unease and how effective they are when deployed against the background of everyday life; and there’s plenty of dark and creepy in The House of Shattered Wings, from people drinking the blood of angels to shadows that slither just out of sight, just out of reach…
  1. Sailor Moon (manga): Another manga I found when young—one of the few carried by my (small) local bookshop. I actually had a period of feeling ashamed about having read it because it felt so girly to me, but I came back to it years later, when Takeuchi Naoko released the new editions, and was genuinely surprised to still find it excellent. It’s about magical girls, reincarnation, and time travel, and I loved the mythic undertones to the whole saga (also, Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus are the best). It’s taught me quite a few things about merging science fiction and fantasy in my own fiction—The House of Shattered Wings mixes a post-apocalyptic setting (a devastated Paris with nuked monuments where people struggle to survive) with the presence of Fallen angels and magic, and I think the merge of genres makes it a much stronger one than the pure urban fantasy it started out as.
  1. Cowboy Bebop (anime/movie): To the best of my recollection, I actually watched the movie of this first, and was so struck with the aesthetic that we decided to watch the rest of the series. And I wasn’t disappointed: I love the run-down atmosphere of the series, and most of all the soundtrack, which is unusual for an SF series but just brilliant. It made for great listening when I’m writing!
  1. Revolutionary Girl Utena (manga/anime/movie): I watched this one on the recommendation of Yoon Ha Lee, and it blew my mind away. It’s a freaking effective deconstruction of tropes, rpm fairy tales to gender roles to power dynamics. And the ending still makes me weep every time I get to it. The quality isn’t great (lots of recycled animations for scenes); the plot meanders a bit and can get repetitive, and there are a few triggery bits, and yet… and yet for all its flaws it’s got a freshness and an energy that drags me along every single time. It’s an object lesson that a thing doesn’t have to be technically perfect to grab the imagination of the audience (though of course as a writer I still angst over reaching perfection every single time—guess I can’t help it!)

(And in case you’re wondering: Yes, I own the movie and the manga too :) )

  1. Full Metal Alchemist (anime/manga/anime): It’s hard to encompass the impact Full Metal Alchemist had on my life. I watched the first anime, which I found a bit disappointing; checked out the manga and then the second anime—and now own all volumes of the manga (a pretty hefty space investment for my small house). It’s a meld of wonderful worldbuilding with an original magic system (alchemy and the principle of equivalence), a wonderful cast of memorable characters from naive Al to ambivalent Greed (and badass general Olivia Armstrong will always have a special place in my heart :) ), and an ending that delivers both on an epic scale and on a personal one (Ed’s final choice is inevitable but wonderfully done). I learnt a lot from it about entwining plot lines, and doing badass characters: My Fallen angels and my heads of magical factions in The House Of Shattered Wings owe more than a passing debt to Arakawa Hiromu.
Aliette de Bodard | Image courtesy of the author.

And I was very struck with the redefinition of alchemy into a non-potion-based magical system, and re-used the word in my book as a homage to the series: In my world, alchemists are specialized in re-using the breath and body parts of Fallen angels to provide magical energy to practitioners so they can cast spells—so not FMA‘s alchemists, but definitely at the centre of things.

Those are my top five, but it was hard to limit myself to just these. (I wanted to mention Le Chevalier d’Eon, Ergo Proxy, Black Butler, Haibane Renmei, and so many others that I vividly remember!)

Visit http://www.aliettedebodard.com for book geekery, fiction, and Franco-Vietnamese recipes. Follow Aliette on Twitter.

Weekly DC Comics Capsule Reviews: Released 7/22/2015

Cyborg #1, copyright DC Comcis
Cyborg #1. Copyright DC Comics.

Welcome to a new feature on GeekMom, a look at DC Comics’ weekly output in a nutshell by columnist Ray Goldfield.

Ray is a writer/editor for Grayhaven Comics, as well as the author of two novels currently in editing. He’s a comic fan for over 20 years, particularly of DC and Superman, Batman, and the Teen Titans in particular. Now that Cassandra Cain is coming back, he will not rest until DC greenlights a Young Justice: Season Three comic. 

Ray’s been reviewing DC comics published each week for years, informally, and we’re happy to give him a formal platform.

Cyborg #1 – 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

DC has been trying to make a go of turning Cyborg into an A-lister for a while, complete with a permanent slot on the Justice League and a movie in development, but this is his first try at a solo series. They’ve said they were waiting for the right pitch, and it looks like it paid off. David F. Walker, an experienced indie filmmaker and writer, knows what makes Cyborg unique, and that’s his connection to the world of technology. Walker is partnered with superstar artist Ivan Reis, a clear show of faith in this book, and they waste no time throwing us into the action via an intergalactic battle between two alien forces. The Technosapiens, menacing beings of organic technology, are in pitched battle against the technology-hating Tekbreakers. Back on Earth, STAR Labs is being besieged by protesters angry that their tech isn’t being given out to normal amputees, but Dr. Stone has more pressing concerns. His son has shown up, sporting a new, more advanced look that he evolved after being killed off in the Convergence preview story.

If I had one complaint about this issue, it’s that it’s very dependent on you having read that short story in some places. It’s all recapped much more smoothly than Omega Men or Lost Army were, though. Walker does a great job digging into Victor’s complex relationship with his father, as well as his interaction with childhood friend Sarah and how he feels about his unique link to the technology that rebuilt him. Reis does a great job of capturing Cyborg’s new powers, and Walker works in just the right amount of humor in the script. To no surprise, the cliffhanger makes clear that the Technosapiens are coming for his technology, and it’s a great hook. I find that the best DC runs in recent years have taken a hero’s concept and used it as an intro into a much bigger world. One of the best first issues to come out of DC’s new wave.

We Are Robin #2 – 9/10

A lot of new titles, especially team books, spend a lot of time getting the team together and setting up characters. It’s often the first full arc before the team is fully together. Not We Are Robin. In fact, most of the team is fully formed before the series even starts, and the only piece left is to recruit POV character Duke Thomas. When we last left off, Duke had infiltrated the lair of a new villain—reminds me a lot of the Ratcatcher, although he hasn’t been identified—who has been hypnotizing survivors of the Joker gas, possibly including Duke’s parents. When the villain turned the crowd on him, Duke found himself bailed out by the mysterious team of Robins.

What I like about Lee Bermejo’s script is that he makes clear that even the more experienced team members are still amateurs, getting overwhelmed at times and making close escapes. This feels very much like a group of amateurs deciding to play hero, as opposed to the way the “official” Robins function. Duke’s narration to his parents grounds things nicely, giving a human face to a pretty big ensemble. Midway, Duke gets left behind and finds himself in the custody of a mysterious “recruiter” who gives him the hard sell on joining up without ever revealing who he is or who he works for. After escaping, he meets back up with the team and they make plans to stop the villain’s bombing scheme. There’s a couple of intriguing mysteries in this issue, both the identity of their benefactor and the being pulling the strings of the villain. It doesn’t quite have the same thrilling energy of the first issue, but this book is very quickly establishing itself as one of the elites in the new wave of Gotham books.

cover copyright DC Comics
Cover copyright DC Comics.

Grayson #10 – 8.5/10

This is one of the DC titles that’s taken the biggest jumps in quality since the Convergence break, and it did it without a single creative change. The original run of the title relied too much on convoluted conspiracy theories about Spyral, as well as bizarre plots involving super-organs. Now, it seems to have been retooled into a straight-forward spy thriller that allows Mikel Janin to show off his art. A mysterious serial killer is hunting Spyral agents who have worked with Dick, and he’s on the run after sucker-punching and framing his partner, Agent 1, for the theft they just pulled off. New director Helena Bertinelli, who Dick had grown close to, struggles with keeping Dick’s cover intact while Agent One wants to hunt him down.

The highlight of this issue, easily, is Dicks’ secret rendezvous with a top-tier Spyral client, Lex Luthor, who is trying to sell the agency some advanced cloaking tech in exchange for Kryptonite. Seeley and King’s Luthor is perfectly oily, the right mix of brilliant businessman with scheming criminal, and it’s great to see these two play off each other again after their memorable encounter in Forever Evil. There’s still some weird continuity hiccups with Batman’s status after Eternal, but it’s a minor issue. Next issue promises a major confrontation between Dick and Agent 1 in the catacombs of Rome. It took a while to get here, but this is a title that I’m pretty sure most Dick Grayson fans are going to dig.

Sinestro #13 – 8/10

Cullen Bunn, probably the most prolific writer in comics with books at DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Oni, Boom, and Dynamite, had made a name for himself as the king of anti-heroes. While it doesn’t quite reach the near-masterpiece that is his Magneto run, he’s writing probably the best GL-verse book right now in Sinestro. Last issue, we saw him forcibly remove his daughter’s GL ring and turn her into a Sinestro Corps supposedly to punish her for her rebellion—but this issue makes clear that thanks to Lyssa Drak’s prophecies, he knew about the disappearance of the GLC, and did it to spare her that fate. As well, of course, as forcing her to join his side and have her under his thumb, because Sinestro never does anything without an agenda. Despite the Sinestro Corps’ new member, they still have the pressing problem of New Korugar about to explode due to the treachery of a mole within the Corps. Sinestro, partnering with new member Bekka of the New Gods, travels to the core of the planet and uses his connection to Parallax to seal the core, but it requires him to let go of his hold on the fear entity, and Bekka is the only one who knows he’s lost that power.

The final scene reveals that Sinestro has known all along that Lyssa Drak was the mole, attempting to remove the distraction of the Korugans, but Sinestro still has use for her. So in a fantastically ruthless move, he executes a trio of foot soldiers to give the impression that justice has been done and cover his ally’s crimes. I’m hoping Bunn stays on this title for a while, because no one besides Geoff Johns has been able to do Sinestro stories this compelling.

Batman ’66 #25 – 8/10

There are two stories this month in this retro digital-first title, and I think it’s one of the best combos they’ve had in a while. Both stories perfectly capture the offbeat nature of the original series, and use concepts we’ve seen less often in this world. The first story, by regular series writer Jeff Parker and Lukas Ketner, features the return of this world’s Harley Quinn. Originally a nurse whose sanity was destroyed by the Joker’s mind machine, she breaks out of Arkham and sets out to establish herself on the Gotham criminal scene.

While I maybe would have liked a longer story featuring this character, the fast-paced tone is perfect for Harley and the way Batman and Robin get the drop on her is clever. I was partial to the second story, by guest team Gabe Soria and Ty Templeton. Barbara Gordon gets a day in the spotlight, as her new temp job at an ad agency is hijacked by the villains of Gotham seeking to rebrand themselves. With the agency taking hostage and Babs without her Bat-gear, it’s up to Barbara to play them against each other long enough for Batman and Robin to show up and take them down. This title is always fun, and I think this was one of their best issues in a while.

Gotham After Midnight #7 – 8/10

This is another title where I feel like the fresh start after Convergence has given it a shot in the arm. Juan Ferreyra, while not quite as distinct as Ben Templesmith, has a really strong, creepy style that suits this horror book well. The addition of Kate Spencer as a district attorney trying to warn the unit that they’re being investigated adds a new threat as well as a new fan-favorite character who had been missing until now. She hasn’t been given quite enough to do in this series yet, but I’m hoping that Ray Fawkes will expand on her character soon. This issue expands on the backstory of Sam Weaver and how he wound up on the Midnight Unit, as well as presenting a new supernatural threat for the team in the form of a parasitic demonic plant that kills people through sheer apathy. When it infects them, it simply causes them to give up on life and lie down until they die from lack of food and water.

The scene where the unit confronts this evil force is tense and well-drawn, but I wonder—is this book falling back on the Spectre a bit too often? Either way, it’s good to have an old-school horror book in the Gotham stable, and I’m hoping the book continues to balance the case of the month with the overarching story effectively.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters – Batman #1 – 7.5/10

Speaking of horror, this new digital-first title spins out of the upcoming DTV movie, and J.M. DeMatteis and Matthew Dow Smith do a good job of introducing us to a very different Batman. In a world where Kirk Langstrom attempted to cure his Man-Bat infection with an experimental procedure that turned him into a vampire-like creature, he attempts to slake his thirst on the blood of the guilty while protecting the innocent. I’ve liked the recent new takes on Batman that are very different from the iconic one, starting with Jim Gordon and now this book. This is a Batman that reminds me much more of the Hulk than anything, in that he’s a true loner with a monster always just shy of the surface.

After confrontations with his parents and some old friends from his hometown, the story really kicks into high gear when he massacres the Gotham crime lords, led by Lew Moxon. Despite how evil his targets were, he’s haunted by his actions and attempts to befriend Moxon’s seemingly innocent son. The story develops into a series of lies and betrayals leading to a tragic conclusion. This is only a setup for the main story, but it’s an intriguing alternate version of Batman that I’d like to see more of.

Aquaman #42 – 7.5/10

Cullen Bunn’s run on Aquaman is certainly ambitious, switching back and forth between two timelines as we see how Aquaman went from King of Atlantis to a hunted fugitive. Now accompanied by an ancient Atlantean sorcerer, Aquaman has become a protector of a secret race of ancient Atlanteans that are trapped in the strange artifacts that are bursting to the surface around the world. It’s a bit too talky at points, with Aquaman frequently expressing his doubts to his new ally. Things come to the surface towards the end, as a town in Alaska comes under attack by supernatural forces, and Aquaman and his team shows up to fend off the threat—only to come under assault by an Atlantean strike team of assassins led by Tempest and including King Shark and classic Aquaman villain Charybdis, as well as a pair of originals.

As this team of Atlantean radicals attempt to destroy their former king, a massive stone golem rises out of the Pacific and bears down on the town. Even if this comic is a bit of a slow burn as it reveals what caused the rift between Aquaman and Mera, the visuals are fantastic.

The Flash #42 – 7.5/10

This is another title that’s improved a lot since it came back from break. The interminable evil future Flash story is gone, Patty Spivot seems to have been written out for now to allow a bigger role for Iris, and an intriguing new mystery has been set up. When we last left off, Barry’s father suddenly broke out of prison along with a trio of super villains, going on the run after getting reason to worry about his son’s safety. Barry is being kept at a distance on the case by Singh and Frye, forcing him to do his detecting as the Flash. Meanwhile, Professor Zoom is stalking them both, manipulating things using his control of time, such as tricking Henry Allen into killing an innocent security guard.

The highlight of the issue comes when Barry confronts Girder at his grandmother’s home, attempting to get the information out of the villain while also dealing with one very devoted and persistent old lady. Barry is able to find the source of the escape—the guard at Iron Heights, who Henry bribed into looking the other way by promising to help his cancer-stricken wife. The issue ends with Zoom showing up to taunt Barry and lead him to the house where his mother died. This title has ditched a lot of the things that weren’t working and is bringing itself a lot more in line with the TV series. Definitely a good move.

Harley Quinn/Power Girl #2 – 7/10

These two have one of the most amusing buddy-team dynamics in the DCnU, as their adventure through deep space continues. Unfortunately, for the first half of the issue, they’re mostly separated on different adventures on the planet. Harley Quinn gets the better of the two stories, as she and one of Vartox’s allies wind up on the run from a sadistic robot with an obsession with sewing up orifices—that is, until Harley uses the planet’s strange art resources to reshape the robot into a giant bunny rabbit. Power Girl, meanwhile, mainly beats up alien spaceships and tries to close up a portal until she’s bailed out by a mysterious group of female alien warriors (and one male one), who are revealed to be an alliance of Vartox’s exes.

The one guy really doesn’t like that they keep saying “ex-girlfriends.” Harley, naturally, makes her typical excellent first impression by assuming they’re villains and assaulting them. And in the villain’s headquarters, Vartox is being brainwashed into a mindless slave. It’s a pretty light read, but fun, even if it drags a bit in the beginning. I suppose the lesson here is that if you have two characters with a great dynamic together, keep them together as much as possible.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #12 – 7/10

The second anthology comic DC releases this week, this one is 30 pages and two stories—one full-length and one half-length. As often happens with anthologies, there’s a pretty big gulf in quality between the two stories. Fortunately, the strong one takes up the majority of the issue. Derek Fridolfs and Tom Fowler team Wonder Woman with Poison Ivy in a story that takes Diana back to her fantasy roots. Themyscira is under assault by monsters, and Ivy’s arrival on the island is taken as an attack, but it soon becomes clear that she followed Gaia’s call to the island to help in the fight. The villain, Typhon, the father of Monsters, unleashes a monstrous invasion of the island and the Amazons battle his forces while Diana and Ivy descend to the depths of Tartarus. This story portrays a fairly light take on Ivy, but it’s effective and Fridolfs is obviously experienced at handling her. I always like seeing WW kill some monsters.

The second story, by Matthew Manning and Georges Jeanty, is a quick read where Wonder Woman, dealing with the fall-out from a gruesome case, decides to take Batman’s advice and take a vacation to a small village where she fights Solomon Grundy. It’s not bad, but it’s too brief to really make much of an impression.

Wonder Woman #42 – 6/10

The second main arc in this run is a definite improvement over the first, but that’s still not saying all that much, given that the first arc turned Donna Troy into a genocidal monster. The issue opens with Diana and her friend Hessia out on the town, where Diana beats up a sexual harasser and is about to give a homeless man a meal when she’s nearly hit by a magic arrow. She pursues her attacker into the sky, and it’s the same young warrior obsessed with killing her so he can steal the power of Ares. The thing that makes this guy work pretty well is… well, he’s a terrible villain. And this series makes this clear. He’s an arrogant, pouty teenage jackass who believes that he’s entitled to the power of the Gods because he’s a descendant of Poseidon. While he’s fairly incompetent as a threat, he’s more entertaining than most WW villains because of this.

I’m less interested in Donna’s unearned redemption arc, as she’s now wracked with guilt and seeking a way to end her life. Strife covertly releases her from prison and sets her on a quest to find the Fates, who can cut her thread and kill her. I’m assuming this book is planning to eventually turn her into a hero given the solicits for Titans Hunt, but if that was their intention, they probably shouldn’t have introduced her by having her kill a bunch of innocent civilians.

Prez #2 – 5/10

In a strong candidate for quickest cancellation ever, this offbeat relaunch of one of DC’s most obscure properties was cut back from 12 issues to six after only one issue was released. Honestly, it’s not hard to see why. This title doesn’t seem to be very clear on what it wants to be. On one hand, it seems to want to be the story of Beth Ross, aka Corn Dog Girl, aka the President. However, it also seems to revert her to a supporting character in her own comic. Aside from a rather forced scene where her father dies after giving her a motivational speech, most of the comic is actually a very broad political satire about influence trading.

As the presidential race is tied and in Congress, the candidates offer more and more elaborate favors to the various representatives, winding up playing them against each other until more and more wind up voting for protest candidate Beth. When Beth is elected, she’s met by Prez Rickard, a mysterious former teen politician who wants to be her vice president—warning her that she’ll need someone even more controversial than her to protect her from assassination. I salute this book for trying something original, but the total picture isn’t working. It’s way too broad and doesn’t have the compelling characters needed to really work as a satire.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four #6 – 5/10

This title has always been incredibly dark, but for the first two volumes, it was a rather fascinating study of the slow deconstruction of the DCU under Tom Taylor. We saw some of DC’s brightest heroes turn into monsters, and some of the rest sell their souls to protect the world from Superman’s invasion. It seemed like anything could happen and usually did. But since Brian Buccellato took over, it seems like this title has been spinning its wheels a bit. Each season seems to be focused on Batman recruiting a new powerhouse force into the battle against Superman, and then failing.

Last season was magic, this season is the Gods of Olympus. There’s an interesting subplot involving Luthor creating a new Superman clone to oppose him, but most of the issue is devoted to Superman in a fairly pointless battle with Hercules that resolves nothing. We know the main players have to survive to the game’s timeline, so there’s really little more to cover here.

Deathstroke #8 – 4.5/10

With last issue, I was starting to think this title might be finding its footing a bit by putting Slade in a different genre. However, things soon take a turn for the less-than-promising. Last issue, Slade shattered an ancient statue that contained the essence of the evil Titan Lapetus on Themyscira. Wonder Woman is less than happy with this, as you might imagine. This results in most of the issue being an extended battle between Slade and Wonder Woman, which goes about as well for Slade as can be expected. After he is sentenced to banishment for violating Themysciran soil, he and Wonder Woman reluctantly agree to work together to fight Lapetus.

One thing I really disliked about this issue was Wonder Woman’s bizarre defeatist attitude, constantly yelling that they’re doomed. It just doesn’t seem in character. The art is strong, and Lapetus shows up at the end of the issue and looks impressive enough. Hoping things pick up a bit next issue, but story is not this book’s strong suit.

Justice League 3001 #2 – 4/10

Slightly less of an embarrassment than last issue, which mainly seemed to be about how much this team hates each other and Superman not understanding gender issues, this book still thinks we’re way too interested in 31st century slavery law than we really are. While the League battles thousands of Starro slaves and Ariel Masters—who is actually evil Lois Lane—attempts to keep up the facade in the media, the team gets yet another new arrival as Supergirl’s spaceship crashes a millennium off schedule. She’s able to team up with the new Flash to find the prime Starro and stop the attack, but it’s then revealed that Ariel/Lois was working with the Starros all along.

It’s so weird that this is the only title Supergirl is currently starring in, given how big she’s about to get as a character in a few months. She deserves much better. The issue ends with a pair of strange “FAQ” pages featuring Ariel and Max Lord breaking the fourth wall with abandon, and it just makes me miss JLI.

Teen Titans #10 – 1/10

I’ve got a lot to say about how far Teen Titans has fallen as a franchise, but I think this issue nicely encapsulates most of them. The Teen Titans, which have been essentially a second family in most of their iconic versions, are at each other’s throats in this book, divided between the main team and the Wonder Girl-led “Elite,” bankrolled by Manchester Black. They’re out to apprehend Superboy, who’s accused of murder, except that the Elite contain Bar Tor, a known 30th century war criminal responsible for thousands of murders! He yells at Red Robin for leaving him behind on Takron-Galtos—after he was fairly convicted of mass murder!

There’s a lot of characters in this comic, such as an Indigo Lantern on the Elite, who are essentially blank slates. The main Titans spend most of the issue brutalizing each other, such as Superboy bringing Wonder Girl within an inch of drowning. Tim and Raven try to confront Black directly and force the information they need out of him, but Raven gets a vision of a secret prison that shuts her down, and Tim winds up alone against the Elite. This book is repetitive, ugly, and completely devoid of anything that should make a Teen Titans book. I don’t know who enjoys their TT like this, but it’s certainly not me.

Geek Speaks..Fiction by Erica Heflin

Erica Heflin, photograph copyright Erica Heflin
Erica Heflin, photograph copyright Erica Heflin

Today’s guest writer is Erica Heflin.

A classic geek, comic book and children’s fiction writer, Erica J. Heflin maintains a questionable degree of sanity in her household of small children and unruly animals. She finds working with geckos and snakes to be much easier than managing small people, though it’s easier to find superhero attire for the latter. Her comics works have been published by GrayHaven Comics, Inverse Press, Arcana, Bronco Ink, Pilot Studios, Alterna, and Zenescope Entertainment. She enjoys the freedom of small press, struggles with social phobias that make conventions as stressful as they are enjoyable, and identifies as bisexual.

Inner Minds

I’ve never been able to let go of the characters or the story, whether it be Thundercats or Star Trek or Marvel comics. And a lifetime of that love morphed into a career.

I was running on a beach.

ThunderCats, ho!!!

I was three years old and my mother ran breathlessly behind me. She was screaming my name, trying to get my attention, but I was no longer Erica Heflin. I was Cheetara and I needed to run.

I was five years old when I got so far into Cheetara’s head that the rest of the world didn’t matter. It might have been common for my age, but it was something that I never outgrew. It made me an oddity among the children who had once been my close friends.

By middle school, I was undoubtedly more interested in Star Trek (The Next Generation) than I was in dating or dances. A middle school science teacher had a Trek poster on her wall. Every day I’d stare at it and mentally work on the next story. It was fan fiction before the internet exploded with it, and I would carefully type on my old word processor and print out stories, but the internet was slow and the stories were just for me. I loved getting into the characters’ heads.

When high school rolled around, I was a self-realized nerd. I wore t-shirts in men’s large sizes, because that’s all anyone locally sold, and was likely all that was generally available. These shirts professed my love for comics, and in particular, the X-Men. That goofy cartoon with the exaggerated and often terrible accents and dialoguing encouraged me to dig into the back issue bins in the local comic shop, and soon I was reliving the lives of the all new, all different X-Men.

An X-Files t-shirt was the catalyst for many high school friendships, as the other local geeks and nerds loved the show as much as I did. The t-shirt provided an opportunity for dialogue among an otherwise sometimes shy or quiet community. These friends introduced me to a different form of storytelling. Tabletop roleplaying games.

At first it was all Marvel, complete with FASERIP, but secretly I began to play 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons. This was during a time when there was still a lot of stigma over the game and there were worries that satanic cults were using it to manipulate the minds of youths across the nation. For me, it simply served as another means of getting into a character’s head, directing them, and directly participating in the storytelling process. It’s a collaborative oral storytelling style that remains very powerful to this day.

I was truly hooked.

I’ve found other things that I am deeply passionate about. I love animals of all forms, with fur and scale alike. I adopt, rehabilitate, and work with many species. Like the story, it’s something I could never carve out of myself. A love of animals inhabits me as deeply. For a long while, I thought they would become my career. I’ve worked independently and at a zoo, and am deeply fulfilled by my work.

But about five years ago I realized that while my work was wonderful, I didn’t feel complete. My family and work life were enjoyable, but there were a thousand little voices in my head—characters in stories that I needed to tell.

It began with The Gathering, a small comic book anthology from GrayHaven Comics. I pitched a two page concept, was accepted, and then was introduced to artist George Amaru, who drew my story with incredible care and skill.

From there, the stories kept coming.

A character card from Flesh of White #2's Kickstarter page
A character card from Flesh of White #2’s Kickstarter page

I’ve managed to balance family life, animal care, and writing, with few stumbles. I’ve been fortunate to meet a great many talented writers and artists as the years have gone past, and worked with companies that make me incredible proud. At Alterna, The Black Hand features the story of a young woman with partial deafness whose black hand empowers her to slay the undead.

With Inverse Press artist Amanda Rachels and I tackle Flesh of White, the story of a mother protecting her son with albinism from the witch doctors in Tanzania. I also write the ongoing series Wonderland at Zenescope Entertainment, which follows Alice’s daughter’s twisted adventures on the other side of the looking glass.

The characters and their stories will never let go. And why would I want them to?

The Inequality Issue: The Fissures Crack

Maria Hill, SHIELD, Coulson
Look! They put a women in a Marvel set! This is a Toys R Us exclusive. Photo by Corrina Lawson

Welcome back to my adventures in climbing the Cliffs of Insanity. I’ve taken a break to get our new Geek Speaks..Fiction! column going and to finish my latest book. (It is finished but it’s not a truck draft yet. Meaning, if I get hit by a truck, it’s not yet publishable. Writers think of these things.)

I wanted to start the column by congratulating the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team for winning the World Cup, but then I became depressed reading about the treatment of the team from their parent organization. (To be fair, FIFA is doing lousy things on the men’s side too.)

After looking into this, I realize there is a correlation between FIFA basically finding the Women’s World Cup invisible and women in general being invisible, even when there’s clear proof that female consumers exist. But signs of hope exist too.

Take the Women’s World Cup.

On the one hand, you have the final audience of 25.4 million in the United States, the most watched soccer game in United States history.  Those viewing numbers were higher than the NBA’s Game 6, the championship finale.

For a full comparison, see this chart.

And you have Carli Lloyd of the United States with the most amazing, incredible shot, perhaps the most incredible ever, in any World’s Cup.

I wanted to revel in these accomplishments but, alas, ESPN didn’t seem that interested. I expected the same kind of wall to wall coverage as on the NBA championship and, yet, found soccer an afterthought. I wish I had a study of the minutes of the Men’s World Cup team versus the Women’s World Cup on ESPN, but I definitely found it harder to even look up the starting time of the women’s games or coverage of the interviews. I wanted Lloyd’s kick to be featured as much as Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed catch last year but, alas not.

Then, of course, there was the ridiculous interview later in the week on ESPN where three women’s team members were asked about being “inspirational” for the young girls watching soccer out there. Hey, ESPN, that was the 1999 champions. This team don’t have to “inspire” girls in that way, soccer is already thriving. (See ratings, above.)

How about treating them like athletes and asking about the plays, and the team, and whatever else you ask the winners of the NBA finals? I can bet you didn’t ask them if they felt a need to grow their sport because, hey, the popularity is self-evident.

Except they were beat out in the ratings race by a bunch of women.

But, hey, the official England Twitter account for the England’s women’s team beat that ridiculous interview. In a tweet that was quickly deleted but screencapped before it could disappear, England welcomed their players, who received third place, home in the worst way possible:

Image via Twitter
Image via Twitter

Can you imagine a male team being welcomed home as fathers, brothers, and partners?

Okay, probably not partners. That’s because there aren’t any openly gay members of the major male soccer teams. (Besides, they should be spouses, yes?)

Yet in the aftermath of America’s victory, team stalwart Abby Wambach ran over and kissed her wife, a moment captured and sent around the world.

I don’t think we’ll see that on the men’s side. That’s depressing.

Then there’s FIFA.

Not only does FIFA pay the women a pittance compared to the men, but FIFA doesn’t even *break down* the revenue brought in by the women’s team. So there’s no way to know how much FIFA made from the Women’s World Cup, no way to track if the suggestion that the women are paid less because the television revenue isn’t there.

It’s frustrating.

It’s as if the women have to prove over and over again that they can draw ratings, as if it’s never happened before. It’s like the only recently dropped insistence of the major comic book companies that women don’t buy comics. Well, until you make a comic that treats them like people and then…they do. See Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, Batgirl, Gotham Academy, and Harley Quinn.

Thank you Marvel and DC. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, you’re proof that perhaps comic companies will do the right thing but only when they have exhausted every other option.

It’s like Hollywood’s insistence that women-led movies don’t make enough money but, wait, there’s Pitch Perfect II and Mad Max doing well.


In honor of this sudden move away from invisibility,  I have a few toasts!

Here’s the the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.

Here’s to the United States attorney’s office and their (hopefully) coming indictment of FIFA head Sepp Blatter.

Here’s to Image, for responding to complaints about diversity in their lineup by adding Black Magick, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Nicola Scott, Crosswind, written Gail Simone and drawn by Cat Staggs, and for other series featuring the talent of women, like Bitch Planet and Shutter.

Here’s to DC Collectibles, whose action figures of Batman: The Animated Series include Batgirl, Zatanna, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.

Here’s to DC for the damn fine Midnighter comic, the first with a gay male lead. (Now, DC, can you bring back Batwoman and fix here? Where’s the marriage of Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer!)

Here’s to the crowds of women showing up at Comic Con International in San Diego this week, bringing the attendees to a nearly 50/50 gender split.

Here’s to the coming contest between Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders being about the issues, not the fact a woman is running for president.

Perhaps the world is changing, as the formerly invisible become visible all over the spectrum.

White House lit up in celebration of the Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage, image via The White House.
White House lit up in celebration of the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage, image via The White House.


Geek Speaks…Fiction!

Image: Melanie R. Meadors
Image: Melanie R. Meadors

Welcome to the weekly Geek Speaks…Fiction column, which runs every Tuesday, new book release day. Today, GeekDad Anthony Karcz, writer, father of two, runner, Marvel-phile, recovered WoW addict, and unrepentant Generation 1 Transformers nerd joins us to talk about how Saturday morning cartoons led to his writing a superhero novel, Nightingale.


Nightingale is what happens when you take a brain and steep it in 35 years of superhero-dominated pop culture.

When I first sat down to write Nightingale, I had one of those complete brain-lock moments where I saw a road paved with comics and movies and action figures and Saturday-morning cartoons leading to an impossibly distant horizon where my book loomed large.

You are in a clearing. The forest surrounds you in three directions, there is a path leading North.

“Take path.”

The path is far too large to pick up.

“That’s not what I meant you stupid subconscious train of thought! You know what I meant! Go down the path!”

You cannot do that. The path leads North.

“Fine. Go North.”

You are on the road to your novel. You are likely to be eaten by a Gru.

And so it went, with me arguing with myself at 5:00 AM every morning for about a year. But as I picked my way along the path, a few things became clear.

Image: Cliffhanger Press, LLC

1. Omnipotence Is Boring

My original main character, Magnificent, was born from the love of Wolverine that any 90s-era comic reader has (despite what they tell you). You know why he was in half a dozen comics, plus managed to be on both X-Men teams even after they split in half? Because we all thought he was the coolest thing we’d ever seen. His powers meant he could take and dish out a lot of damage, plus he was morally ambiguous in a way that Captain America or Spider-Man could never hope to be.

That popularity cuts both ways, though—and, right around the time we saw our former favorite hero regenerate from a single brain cell, we realized that the adamantium-laced shark has been jumped. Magnificent sports a somewhat similar core, and her powers are definitely inspired by ol’ Canucklehead; but I wanted her to experience real peril, otherwise it was only a matter of time before I was nuking her down to single DNA strands. So that healing factor of hers had to be dealt with; which led me to realize…

2. Secondary Characters Want the Spotlight Too

Alyson Hopkins was never intended to be the main character of Nightingale. She was my walking MacGuffin to keep Magnificent from tearing herself apart. But as I tried to keep her in the background, I realized that there was more to her story that I was ignoring. So I let the rein out a bit and, before I knew it, I had chapters that had nothing to do with what was then my titular character.

Nightingale soon started showing up in scenes that originally had someone else as the focus. But she wasn’t consistent. Sometimes she was wishy-washy, other times, she acted with a confidence that made it seem that she had far more experience. But both versions of Nightingale felt right. It wasn’t until I tried to resolve that disparity that I learned…

3. Everyone Has Demons

No, not literal ones (though some of the characters in The League universe have those too), but the kind of flesh-dripping, toxic sludge-spewing nastiness that lurks somewhere between your higher thought and your subconscious. The farther down the path I went, the more I realized that all these characters I was busy shifting around—the ancient brawler with a healing factor, the wet-behind-the-ears newbie with force powers, the old man clunking around in outdated armor—all of them had things they wanted, needed, to hide. In the end, Nightingale ended up being as much about how we present ourselves to the world as it was about spandex and plots for world domination (though it’s mostly about that too).

The dysfunctional group that I found at the end of the path looked a lot different from the few dozen character sketches I was shuffling around in Evernote when I started. What had been an exercise in cutting through the woods, laying down brick after brick, became an exercise in discovery. In fact, listening to the final draft of the audiobook (due out this month!), I find myself still surprised at how differently scenes can be interpreted by others. Which leads me to my last lesson.

4. It’s Not My Book

That looming tower of a book at the end of the trail? It’s actually made up of a lot of smaller facets, all focused somewhere else, on various bits of the tale that I never even considered. Since Nightingale has been released, I’ve had people ask me about characters that I hadn’t thought of at all, except as background noise. Events that I wrote just to bump the plot along were suddenly significant.

And the character I wrote in a coffee-fueled fugue state one Sunday afternoon? The one I thought that was too ridiculous to last more than the few pages he occupied in Book 1?

Everyone loves him (so, yes #Trending will be in Book 2, you can rest easy). It’s been amazing, being able to share a bit of the craziness that goes on in my head with the world at large. I can’t wait to share more of The League universe with you all.

Anthony Karcz is an author of superhero fiction and a regular contributor to GeekDad.com. You can learn more about Anthony and The League universe over on AnthonyKarcz.com. Nightingale (and the upcoming audio book) is currently available on Amazon (if Amazon isn’t your bag, head to AnthonyKarcz.com for links to other digital booksellers).

Geek Speaks… Fiction!

Imagined interior of Library of Alexandria, public domain image by O. Von Corven
People have been drawing inspiration from stories since we first began to tell stories. Imagined interior of Library of Alexandria. Public domain image by O. Von Corven.

Welcome to “Geek Speaks… Fiction!” a new weekly column where writers expose how their geekiness has influenced their lives and their writing.

Our upcoming guest blogs include author Jeffrey Somers, Anthony KarczMatt Forbeck, and Kathleen Cheney, with more to come.

First up, GeekMom Corrina Lawson, whose latest book, Phoenix Inheritance, is out in paperback today.


I can’t talk about my life without talking about comic books. They’ve been the stories that opened up the rest of the world to me, soothed my soul, and fired my imagination.

batman 1970s
Image via DC Comics

It’s 1976… and I finally have enough money to buy comics on a regular basis and I’m hooked on Batman, and the new villain Ra’s Al Ghul, written by Denny O’Neil and with the magnificent art of Neal Adams. Bruce Wayne is the hero I need. I lost my dad young; Bruce Wayne lost both his parents young. Yet, he found purpose and meaning to his life, so I can too. Sure, Batman is about the awesomeness of being Batman, but he’s also about compassion and helping those who lack the advantages he had.

Much later, in the 1990s, I met O’Neil in person, in the lobby of Radio City Music Hall, and only barely avoid dropping to my knees and saying, “I’m not worthy!” He is patient and explains magical realism to me. I nod and hope I sound coherent.

It’s 1980… and in my high school backpack is a copy of Uncanny X-Men #137, the conclusion of the Dark Phoenix saga. It’s in a brown paper wrapper because it’s impossible to find consistent monthly issues in rural New England and so mine come in the mail in that brown paper wrapper.

Jean Grey and Scott Summers are what would be called today an OTP—my one true pairing. It’s the first romance I’ve read and loved, Jean wanting to see Scott’s eyes, Scott’s determination to save her life, and her suicide on the moon are all moments burned into my mind from this day. It’s a saga about friendship, and love, and sacrifice, and deciding that someone and somethings are worth dying for. It’s a message I need as a lonely girl whose interests don’t line up with the other girls in my class.

Much later, I would see Chris Claremont at a table at a comic con and be afraid to approach him because all I could imagine blubbering out would be, “Thank you. Omigod, your story changed my life.”

Image via Marvel Comics

It’s 2003… and the series Birds of Prey has just changed creative teams for the third time in a year, and I’m worried about the cancellation of the adventures of Black Canary and Oracle, one of the few female-led comics being published.

Gail Simone takes over the writing and redefines Black Canary, a character who’s been tossed since around her debut in the 1940s. Simone rebuilds her, and creates a definitive run, crafting a character so strong that she’s finally gaining some recognition, someone who wants to be a superhero and have a family. This resonates because now I have a family. I end up naming the character in my first published novel “Dinah” as a homage.

About the same time, I end up on Simone’s message board and I get a chance to thank her in writing, where I’m much more articulate.

It’s 2013… and I attend GeekGirlCon for the first time, where I interview Kelly Sue DeConnick about her revitalization of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel. Like Black Canary, Carol has been tossed around Marvel for years, enduring several name changes, a ridiculous pregnancy, and even a death, all without a definitive run. Now Carol is a woman surrounded by friends of all ages, and she loves that her job includes times when she has to go punch a dinosaur.

After the interview, DeConnick is surrounded by members of the Carol Corps and she shows them the art pages from the last issue of the first run of Captain Marvel, where Kit literally helps bring Carol back to herself. It’s a lesson in friendship that resonates.

This time, I’m able to say “thank you” in person without losing composure.

It’s later in 2013 and early 2014… and my son is in the hospital battling an illness that few people understand and a change in his medication produces a seizure. Then, his condition is unstable and later requires another hospitalization. It’s terrifying for him and for me. I bring him the complete run of James Robinson’s Starman series, along with The Shade miniseries, plus Simone’s Secret Six. These comics are what keep him company during his recovery, and give him hope that he can get better, that he’s not alone.

It’s June 2014… and my son is able to talk to Gail Simone in person and thank her for Secret Six and especially for Ragdoll, who is so atypical mentally and yet tries so hard to understand the world. Simone is incredibly gracious, and my son does better than me talking to her because if I’d been that age and met Denny O’Neil or Claremont or Marv Wolfman or George Perez, I’d have just died.

My fondest wish as a writer? To provide the story a reader needs just when they need it and pass on what was given to me.

If I ever get to the point where someone comes up to me and hasn’t a clue what to say except a stammered “thank you,” just know:

I am you.

Eccentrics R Us

 are you eccentric,
Not just another apple off the tree. (iblushay, cco public domain)

I met Betty years ago. She was a large lady dressed in layers of brightly colored clothes, who walked with the help of a carved walking stick. Because her eyesight was so poor, she often asked for help reading street signs. I was the lucky person she asked that day.

We hit it off immediately, riffling on words and laughing wryly about politics. But when I made a banal comment (probably about the weather or something equally trite), Betty would have none of it. She asked why I bothered to say it. While I was busy thinking about her question, she moved on to far more fascinating topics. Her honesty was more overt than the huge pendant dangling around her neck. I admired her for it. I was newly married at 18, attending college full time, plus working and volunteering. Sometimes I felt as if I were playacting in all these unfamiliar roles. Simply by example, Betty made it clear that playacting didn’t cut it.

Until her last days, Betty was a fascinating woman. She could talk knowledgeably about religion, politics, and literature as well as motorcycle racing and vintage cars. She read avidly, even though her poor sight forced her to hold a book inches away from her face. Known in the area as a white witch, she cast spells for many notable people and organizations. (Her attempts on behalf of the Cleveland Indians to lift the Curse of Rocky Colavito weren’t one of her successes.) In the early 2000s, the city of Lakewood asked her to clean up what they considered an overgrown yard. When an inspector showed up, she toured him through her herb gardens, explaining what each plant could cure. Perhaps because she gave him a homemade remedy for insomnia, she was never cited for those unruly gardens.

The truly eccentric people I know don’t try to stand out. They don’t affect certain behaviors, clothes, or interests in order to be seen as non-conformists. They do their best to live in a world of conventions while simply being themselves.

We live in a marvelous time when we’re far freer to be who we are. That’s great for us as individuals but also great for humanity, since eccentrics seem to play a larger role than others in advancing exploration, the arts, and sciences. Their differences stretch the possibilities for all of us.

In Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness,  psychiatrist David Weeks explains that eccentrics are physically healthier and significantly happier than “normal” people. He notes that eccentrics are wildly diverse, yet share common characteristics. Here are his 25 descriptors of eccentricity, listed in descending order of importance. (Dr. Weeks says the first five are the most significant characteristics.)

  • Enduring non-conformity
  • Creativity
  • Strongly motivated by an exceedingly powerful curiosity and related exploratory behavior
  • An enduring and distinct feeling of differentness from others
  • Idealism
  • Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six)
  • Intelligent, in the upper 15 percent of the population on tests of intelligence
  • Opinionated and outspoken, convinced of being right and that the rest of the of the world is out of step with them
  • Non-competitive
  • Not necessarily in need of reassurance or reinforcement from the rest of society
  • Unusual eating habits and living arrangements
  • Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of other people, except perhaps in order to persuade them to their contrary point of view
  • Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy, and wit
  • More frequently an eldest or an only child
  • Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories, usually a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. (It should be noted that the family history method of estimating hereditary similarities and resemblances usually provides rather conservative estimates.)
  • Eccentrics prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings. There is a frequent use of the psychological defense mechanisms of rationalization and intellectualization.
  • Slightly abrasive
  • Midlife changes in career or lifestyle
  • Feelings of “invisibility,” which means that they believe other people did not seem to hear them or see them, or take their ideas seriously
  • Feel that others can only take them in small doses
  • Feel that others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. In some cases, this is well-founded.
  • Dislike small talk or other apparently inconsequential conversation
  • A degree of social awkwardness
  • More likely to be single, separated, or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced
  • A poor speller, in relation to their above average general intellectual functioning

See yourself here? A family member or friend?

The documentary A Different Drummer highlights people more overtly unusual than Betty. In fact, Dr. Weeks claims only one in 10,000 people are truly eccentric. I suspect the number is much higher.

Sure, some eccentrics are more flamboyant than others, but I think the Bettys of the world qualify. So does a toddler obsessed with vacuums, who grew into a little boy driven to fix broken appliances and equipment he rescued from the trash. So does a girl so fascinated by forensics that she spent weeks sketching the decomposition of a muskrat and recently assembled an entire deer skeleton in the driveway. So do many of the interesting people around all of us. My family tree is well leafed out with eccentrics, my friends are orchards of eccentricity, and maybe I’m eccentric too. How about you?

The Cliffs of Insanity: The A.I. That’s Better Than the Vision

Mad men, Peggy
Striding into work like a boss. Image via AMC/Mad Men.

Welcome to this week’s adventures in climbing the cliffs of insanity in pop culture. It’s mostly been a good week. Lois Lane: Fallout was released, Marvel’s Agent Carter was renewed and Avengers: Age of Ultron is in theaters, though I’m looking forward to Pitch Perfect 2 with as much anticipation.

Plus, the biggest romance review publication, Romantic Times, called my newest book, Phoenix Inheritance, “an all around great book.” (See full review at the end of this column.)

Of course, there was the whole thing with Black Widow’s characterization in Age of Ultron that Joss Whedon claims didn’t cause him to leave Twitter but Cindy White already covered that mess nicely here earlier this week.

However, to the group angry with Widow’s characterization, let me point you at The Flash television series and Iris Allen’s characterization, which is flat out terrible. Call that out. Go, get to work before the same creators mess up the new Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow showsIf enough people point out the problem, the creators might feel a need to solve it.

Onto more fun stuff, like, the best science fiction show on television, Tom Brady’s balls, and hype fatigue.

The Machine Has More Personality than the Vision or Ultron

the machine, person of interest, Finch, Root, Shaw, Reese, Fusco
The Machine speaks. Image via ABC television.

This week, I watched a story about two artificial intelligences at war with each other, with the good one imprisoned and nearly defeated by the evil one.

I wasn’t watching Avengers: Age of Ultron.

I was watching the season finale of Person of Interest.

The Machine has never had a semblance of a human body. It barely has a voice. It speaks to its creator via words on a computer screen.

Yet when its fate remained up in the air at the end of the finale, it hit me hard. I have feels for the Machine.

I’m worried about the potential death of a completely disembodied entity on a television show, as worried for the Machine as any of the other cast members.

Person of Interest started as a police procedural show with a tiny bit of SF, via a computer program that somehow predicted when civilians were about to become victims or perpetrators of a crime. With its creative use of flashbacks and subtitles that depict the Machine’s thought processes, Person of Interest has always been more than that. Each season has upped the stakes for the core team and utterly shuffled the deck. Things continually get worse.

This year, it looks like Samaritan, the evil AI, won, while the Machine, who was taught by its creator to value life, is on life support and might not be the same entity even if revived.

Person of Interest is not only the best SF show on television, it’s one of the best SF shows ever. You should be watching. Go watch, because renewal is uncertain. Binge watch. The show is made for it, with the backstory revealed in bits and pieces. The characters are terrific, the women on the show are amazing, and the slow build of the relationship between Root and Shaw is textbook in how to build a romantic relationship.

You don’t have to take my word for it, either. Listen to Lumberjanes creator, Noelle Stevenson, on Twitter.

Brady’s Balls

Yeah, I just like saying that. I’m juvenile that way. If you follow pro football, you might have noticed that the NFL released a report this week that said it was “probably more likely than not” that some New England Patriots employees and Tom Brady in particular deliberately deflated footballs for a competitive edge.

Reports have that the NFL spent $5 million on this “well, probably, maybe, likely” report that holds no proof, though has over 240 pages.

One wishes the NFL would be as concerned with the #1 pick in their draft possibly being a rapist.

If we’re going to use the “more likely than not” standard, perhaps the NFL should run with it and investigate to make sure that rapists don’t become the face of an NFL team.

Ah, well, no need to spend $5 million on that, right?

I’m Tapping Out on Casting, Trailers, and Exclusive Sneak-Peaks 

Lately, Hollywood’s hype machine has been churning out massive amounts of information about films before they’re released.

I’ve had enough.

Yes, okay, nice that Martin Freeman is going to be in Captain America: Civil War. I guess. The movie just started filming so, mostly, I don’t care.

I don’t care about the announcement that Civil War is currently filming.

I don’t care about set photos or the latest changes to Captain America’s uniform.

I don’t care about anyone’s uniform changes.

I don’t care about any casting decision in any Marvel movie right now. No, not even Captain Marvel because I won’t know how that casting choice works out until I see the movie.

I don’t care about those fifty zillion sneak peak trailers.

I care if the movie is good.

And the only way I’ll know if the movie’s good is when the movie’s finished and reviews roll in. If it turns out to be a movie I’m on the fence about seeing, okay, I’ll watch a trailer.

I’m tapping out of the rest of the hype. Hi, I’m Corrina, and I have hype fatigue.

Finally, here’s that promised review!

Everyone have a Happy Mother’s Day Sunday.

romantic times

The Cliffs of Insanity: Where Chuck Wendig Is Wrong

© DC Comics
The new DC SuperHero Girls line announced this week, image via DC Comics

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of our climb up the cliffs of insanity that is pop culture. The above headline is eye-catching and completely a reflection of the article below but first, a disclaimer:

Mr. Wendig, I enjoy your blogs immensely, love your presence on Facebook that leads to some terrific discussions, and while I don’t love your books yet, they’re on my to-be-read pile, including an ARC of your upcoming novel.

But with all due respect, you’re wrong about something in your column about the new DC Superhero Girls line. Oh, we agree that this is generally a good thing, but we disagree that by gendering this item boys will absorb the message that girly things are only for girls and boy things are only for boys. Before we can mix the marketing and make everything gender-neutral, we first have to solve one large issue: girls still need aspirational role models separate from boys.

They need to learn first that they’re just as valuable as boys, even if they like pink. Especially if they like pink.

I would consider your concern for your son and his view of girls valid if there weren’t already a ton of young reader books that treat girls like people, starting with Harry Potter. I know this because I was careful what I bought for my son (now 19) when he was growing up because I wanted him to read about wonderful boys and girls. He loved the female characters in the Ranger’s Apprentice series, and, more recently, there’s Honey Lemon and Go Go from Big Hero 6, Gru’s three daughters in the Despicable Me series, Sabine from Star Wars Rebels, and, heck, both Avatar series.

I’m not saying that we don’t need more representation in pop culture aimed right now at men but I’m saying that even suggesting gendering this superhero line to girls is possibly contributing to the overall gendering problem is misguided and, well, just plain wrong.

We need DC Superhero Girls. Girls need them. Society, right now, lacks all the tools to teach girls that they matter.

I wish you could have been with me, Mr. Wendig, while manning the GeekMom booth at GeekGirlCon last year. We had board books featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I was supposed to be giving them away but one little girl, about four years old, saw the Wonder Woman book, grabbed it, literally hugged it, and promptly sat down on the floor to try and read it.

Her joy at seeing a book for her, finally, was the highlight of my con.

2015-02-20 17.05.25
A board book I found in CVS, of all places, photo by Corrina Lawson

Here’s a dirty secret: sometimes girls want and need stories that speak to them and not necessarily to boys.

And that’s okay.

There’s a reason GeekMom is separate from GeekDad. I wrote about why that is in another blog but, in short, we live in an unequal society. It’s all well and good for girls to read about Hermione and the other great female characters in Harry Potter but, in the end, it’s Harry who’s the main character, Harry who is the hero. We can guess at many events with Hermione but they’re not the focus of the book because she’s not the main characters. (Thus, reams of fanfic were born.)

When I was growing up, I devoured my Batman, Captain America, and Iron Man comics, all of which had fascinating female characters like Bethany Cabe, Sharon Carter, or Barbara Gordon. I also read my Black Stallion series starring Alec Ramsey, my Tolkien, and my Mary Stewart Merlin books, all with male lead characters and some with three-dimensional female characters.

I also read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. When my daughter, soon to be a college graduate, was a young reader, she devoured The Baby-Sitters Club series. I wouldn’t change those books one iota to appeal more to boys. If boys want to pick them up, fine, but they spoke mainly to girls.

That’s good.

I can only imagine my glee as an 8-year-old if someone told me there would be a Lego set of Nancy Drew, with her two best friends, and her awesome blue roadster convertible, and maybe one depicting the secret tunnel. I would have been all over that as a Christmas present, begging and begging.

And Trixie? A Lego set with Trixie and her Bob-White Club?

Sign me the f*** up.

No boys need apply.

I’m sure if there had been a Baby-Sitters Club Lego set, my daughter would have been all over that. I’m sure she’d have devoured action figures and t-shirts like she did the books. These books were about female friendships, helping each other, and surviving.

My daughters are too old now for this new Superhero Girls young reader books series. But I can picture a little girl out there, maybe African-American, wandering down the book or toy aisle and seeing Bumblebee available in a story or as a Lego set and tugging at her parent’s hand, saying the child equivalent of “Sign me the f*** up.”

Girls need their own stories, in way that boys don’t, because boys already own the vast expanse of the pop culture. Your worry that this gendering is going to damage your son and give him the message of “oh, see, these are girl toys” is likely misplaced.

Because I see the message as:  “Girls might have their own way of doing things sometimes but they can be superheroes too!”

Girls and boys already know at an early age that society is gendered. What girls are taught is that means they’re weaker and sillier than boys. This line is directed to showing them that “girly is not weak,” a message that Wonder Woman is uniquely positioned to send. This week on Twitter, Shea Fontana, the writer of the DC Superhero Girls books, told Gail Simone that her Wonder Woman comics were an inspiration. With that basis, I can’t see these books as being anything but positive.

So what if some of them emphasize pink? Some girls love pink.

Mr. Wendig, you should have your son read them,  your son needs to know that girls can be main characters and that being girl or liking pink isn’t weak.

But it’s not your son who needs to internalize that message the most.

It’s young girls.

To girls, it’s going to send a message that, yes, you can be the hero of your own stories, you don’t have to aspire to be the female Tony Stark, you can be Bumblebee, who also created her own costume and powers. You don’t have to aspire to be Superman, you can aspire to be Wonder Woman.

Now all we need is Lois Lane, Girl Reporter, added to the announced line, and I’d be in Nirvana.

Sign me the f*** up.

The Cliffs of Insanity: Should Monthly Comics Die?

See why I love Jim Gordon? Image from Batman Eternal #52, copyright DC Comics
See why I love Jim Gordon? Image from Batman Eternal #52, copyright DC Comics

Welcome to the latest installment of my adventures in climbing the cliffs of insanity that is our pop culture.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written this column, mostly because I’ve been busy being my fiction-writing self. Part of that may be to your benefit, as I’m part of a month-long Fools for Love celebration across numerous blogs celebrating science fiction romance. Grand Prize is a $75 certificate to your choice of iBooks, B&N, and Amazon. Other prizes and goodies are being given away at the individual blogs, which you’ll find listed at the linked post. (There’s also an exclusive except from my prose superhero novel.)

Image via SF Romance Station
Image via SF Romance Station

Onto comics…

Should I Start Reading Monthly Comics?


Let me explain that answer. (Unlike Inigo, I can’t sum up.)

One of the questions I get most from my fellow romance readers who are eager to read about the print adventures of Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne or Peggy Carter is: “How do I start reading comics?”

It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. There are so many different variations of their favorite characters, across so many years, by so many writers, and so many stories.

But what they’re asking boils down to “where can I read an awesome superhero story?”

Recommending monthly comics as a starting base will only drive them batty, so I never do.

Take Batman Eternal. Suppose I started raving about how good it was to my friends when the story began one year ago and one of them said “Great, how do I start reading it?”

Option One: 

1. Locate their local comic shop, if it exists. If not, send them to my online store, G-Mart.

2. Hope that comic shop has the previous issues of Eternal in stock. Chances are only 50-50.

3. They got lucky! All the back issues are available. Great. Next step: set up pre-orders at the local shop so all issues are pulled before they go on the shelves, thus ensuring possession of a copy each week. Careful, now, pre-orders have to be done three months in advance to ensure delivery.

So you’ll be picking out the comics you want to read three months from now and hoping that the creative team stays with the story you love for that long, instead of ending it abruptly.

4. Visit the comic store once a week to pick up your stash. It’s possible to visit less often but some stores will put a bestselling issue back on the shelf in a few weeks rather than taking the chance that the customer won’t pick it up.

5. Pay at least $155 for all 52 issues.

I could tell my friend that they download the Comixology.com app and have guaranteed access to Batman Eternal each week, even back issues. They’ll still pay $155 at $2.99 each or over $200 at $3.99 each for the entire story. And they aren’t even physical copies that can be passed around.

This is called creating barriers between your product and potential new customers. At least with digital, customers can be assured of reading the next chapter of their monthly comic, and sometimes there are sales.

Option Two: 

I say, “If you love Captain America, read the Ed Brubaker Omnibus that you can buy right now on Amazon. Or read Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, or the collected trade paperback of Captain Marvel or the first Gail Simone Birds of Prey story, Sensei and Student.”

The last thing I’m going to do is recommend they jump into the monthly comics scrum which features constant creator changes, universe reboots that wipe out beloved stories, and characters who can change personality at the drop of a hat. (Looking at you, Donna Troy.)

The frustrating element in all this is that if the monthly comic sales aren’t there for a quality title that’s low-selling, it may never be collected in trade. The sales of those monthly comics support their publishing costs. If it isn’t successful, the company may not chance publishing a collection that also won’t sell.

So in the current business model, if the comic is canceled, the collections may never exist.

I waited years for the trade paperback of Chase and the John Ostrander/Kim Yale Suicide Squad. I’d like to recommend to you the excellent Batman Family mini-series by John Francis Moore from some years back but it’s never been available as a collection. Marvel does a much better job with its collections, so it’s much easier to recommend their stories. And, of course, Image Comics collects everything in trade so, don’t worry, if you missed that issue of Walking Dead or you can’t find a physical copy of Bitch Planet, the collections are coming.

What’s the answer to all this?

Eventually, it might be just ending monthly comics altogether and instead commissioning full stories and collect them in original graphic novels. This would mean the price of the collections would increase. Currently, most of them run from $14.95 for paperbacks to hardcovers that are $24.95 to omnibus collections up to $100 and above. Original graphic novels might start at $40 and reach $100 or more.

But what’s the better deal? The awesome Absolute edition two-volume hardcover box-set of DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke, currently selling for approximately $66 at Amazon, or $155 and up for a year’s worth of the monthly comic story, Batman Eternal?

Monthly comic publication is an old system that rests on predicting pre-orders and asking the customer to invest time and effort even before the comic appears in their hands. It’s a dinosaur and truly requires climbing the cliffs of insanity.

The only problem is that, thus far, no one has figured out how to replace the dinosaur.

The Cliffs of Insanity: Kindness Shouldn’t Make You a Doormat

Lily James as Cinderella, in one of her few moments of doing what she wants. Image via Walt Disney Co.

Hello and welcome to this week’s adventures climbing the cliffs of insanity. This week, I ponder why the kindness displayed in Big Hero 6 and Disney’s new live action Cinderella struck me so differently, Wonder Woman gets a new costume as DC doubles down on stabby things, and, down at the bottom of the post, you’ll see a Goodreads widget to win one of my books in softcover. Enter fast, as the giveaway ends tonight, March 13. 

But first, the virtues of kindness and how they’re perceived differently for men and women.

The twins, now 15, came with me to a press screening of Cinderella last week. I had no preconceptions about what this new movie would be like, though I hoped the fairytale had been updated for modern times. Instead, what we watched was essentially a live-action version of the animated film from 1950. It entertained all of us, save for a slow beginning, and any movie with Derek Jacobi and Richard Madden (Robb Stark) can’t be all bad. Plus, Lily James did a fine job with the title role.

But the story itself bothers me for reasons I couldn’t articulate at first.

I thought of how much I loved Baymax’s kindness in Big Hero 6 and how that story taught Hiro that violence and rage aren’t the answer. So why did Cinderella’s kindness in the face of a stepmother who hated her and stepsisters who dismissed her make me so angry?

The answer is that Baymax exists to help Hiro deal with his anger and grief. Hiro’s story is that he must control his darker emotions and become a hero. Also, Baymax doesn’t stand by and do what Hiro asks him to do. He becomes involved, literally pushing his way into Hiro’s life.

In contrast, Cinderella’s story showed the death of her parents and her home being turned into a virtual prison. Her reaction? Just let them because it’s… courageous? All Cinderella has to do is to exist, let her innate goodness shine through, and all will be well.

Kindness is why the Prince falls in love with Cinderella and why the Fairy Godmother (wonderfully played by Helena Bonham Carter) gives Cinderella the night off and the dress. Cinderella has no character journey. She’s the same lovely girl at the end of the story as she was at the beginning.

Cinderella the movie tells us that women should be kind and deal with all sorts of horrible things, and if they do and just wait around, good things will happen. If you believe that, perhaps there’s this bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.

Worse, Cinderella isn’t kind at the end. Yes, she forgives her stepmother, but that gesture is hollow because the narration informs us that the woman and her daughters have been banished from the kingdom. Now, that’s cruel because these three women have no means of supporting themselves and while the stepmother may have earned her fate, the daughters knew no better. Aside: How did Cate Blanchett manage to somehow make me sympathize with the stepmother in several scenes? Possibly because the character’s fear came through.

Cinderella could have been shown being proactive and won over her stepsisters’ allegiance at the end through kindness. That would have made her more proactive, kept the fairytale mostly intact, and made the kindness into a superpower of sorts, as Baymax does.

Alas, that’s not the movie we get.


Onto Another Princess… One Who Seems to Never Traffic in Kindness Anymore

Page 1 of a Children's board book about Wonder Woman.
Page 1 of a children’s board book about Wonder Woman. WW copyright DC Comics.
The new Wonder Woman costume coming in April. Image via DC Comics
The new Wonder Woman costume coming in April. Image via DC Comics.

When I said DC seemed to consider Wonder Woman “Princess McStabby Sword,” that wasn’t a suggestion. I was being ironic. And yet here’s the new Wonder Woman costume, beginning in April. First thing I noticed: Why does she look so angry?

Second thing I noticed: Why does she have two swords now? Has she been watching Wolverine: Origins?

The rest of the costume is a bit busy, but mostly fine. But this is not Wonder Woman. It’s some angry warrior who seems ready to poke out your eyes.

I want the Wonder Woman from the first image. This is from the introductory page of a children’s board book. In three short sentences, it provides young readers with a perfect encapsulation of Princess Diana. If a children’s book knows who Wonder Woman is, why doesn’t DC Comics?

Moving Onto a Prince
Ghost Phoenix is the third book in my Phoenix Institute superhero series and the one that features a lost prince from history as the hero. I like to think the heroine is kind. But her journey in the book is to stop being a doormat for her family and create her own path in the world. That’s my version of the fairytale.