The Normalization of Domestic Violence in ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’

A few months ago, I wrote about the normalization of domestic violence in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. There were a couple of comments on the article, one of which was to the effect of, “Well, Anakin is a bad guy, what do you expect?”

I don’t typically engage over stuff like that; through experience I’ve come to realize it’s unlikely I’ll change the minds of the close minded. People are entitled to their opinion, I suppose, even if I strenuously disagree.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for moment, however. Let’s leave the others out of it and pretend Anakin’s inherent seed of evil predisposed him to abusive behavior towards his wife. For the record, I think that’s a load of crap, but I posit it here so I may counter it.

I am going to counter it with Carter Hall as he appears in DC’s Legend’s Of Tomorrow.

I’m going to say at the outset that my only previous frame of reference for this character is the Justice League cartoon. I’ve done some research on him for a hero profile over at the Last Chance Salon, but I’m not super familiar with his comic self. What I am writing here is based purely on my observations of the first two episodes of Legends. Clear? Cool.

We the viewers are supposed to believe Carter Hall is a good guy. A hero. He has, for multiple lifetimes, been holding back the forces of darkness. He has given his life over millennia for the afore mentioned cause. He is also a lover, holding fast to Shayera whether they are together or separated. We’re to believe their love is true and enduring and has survived not only death but any possible extenuating circumstances such as: distance, personality changes, and other people.

In the Legends of Tomorrow framework? I’m not buying it. Continue reading The Normalization of Domestic Violence in ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’

‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’: A Lot of Potential & Some Potential Problems.

I have pretty much given up on the DC TV-verse. I didn’t want to. But now that we’ve had a taste of genuine rogue John Constantine, even one of my favorite characters of all time, Green Arrow, can’t keep me engaged. Mostly because our dear demonologist reminded me this Green Arrow is a whiny, dour, paternalistic, douchebag.

The Flash, which has kept itself alive on my watchlist as the goofier, younger sibling went *splat* with the midseason premiere. The reasons are legion and previously ranted about by myself and others.

See that Ray Palmer face? That's the one. Property of DC/WB/CW
See that Ray Palmer face? That’s the one. Property of DC/WB/CW

After the above debacles, I considered, even having been rather excited previously, skipping Legends of Tomorrow all together.

In the end, I watched.

And in the end I was pleased.

Mostly. Continue reading ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’: A Lot of Potential & Some Potential Problems.

Get Ready for Free Comic Book Day 2015!

Batgirl approves of this message! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Batgirl approves of this message! Image: Dakster Sullivan

Free Comic Book Day is May 2nd, and this year there are 50 different books available including: Wonderland (Zenescope), Gronk (Action Comics), Pokemon (Boom), Avengers #1 (Marvel), Secret Wars #0 (Marvel), and Divergence (DC Comics). I’m always excited to get my mitts on as many books as I can (and after I’ve grabbed all I’m allowed, I’ll send my son and husband to get the rest).

I’ve patrolled my local comic book store in costume the past three years and I have a few tips for anyone who is new to this day or new to some of the titles on the table.

powDon’t judge a book by its cover. Just because a title has a kid-friendly cover, doesn’t mean it’s a kid-friendly story. I saw more little kids with Zenescope in their clutches last year than I care to have seen, and each time I walked them back and pointed to a more age-appropriate title for them.

powMany of the FCBD books are jumping on points to get readers interested. You can bet if there is a title on the table that there is another book in the store that your child or you will be interested in.

powSupport the store with your wallet. FCBD costs the stores a lot of money each year, so help them out by buying something while you’re there. Most stores have sales and discounts on various titles that day, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

powMeet fellow fans and ask for recommendations. If you see someone else grab something you like, ask them if they have any recommendations for other books. If you don’t like a particular title, ask for recommendations that are different.

powCome in costume! FCBD is like a mini-comic book convention. Come dressed as your favorite character or let your child wear their favorite character attire (even if that means it’s their Batman PJs with the cape on the back).

powMake a day of it! Get to the store when they open for the best selection of free books and then, hit up another store, and another, and…well, you get the point. Not every store stocks the same FCBD books, so the more stores you hit up, the better your chances are of getting a wider variety.

powContests! Stay updated on contests and giveaways at your local comic book shop and on FCBD Facebook page. A few of these contests require pictures of you with your books, so take pictures of your family with their picks.

Regardless of how you plan to spend the day, have fun with it! Oh, and grab as many books as you can. You never know when you can trade a Wonderland or Avatar book for something else down the road.

For a complete list of free books, check out the Free Comic Book Day website or call your local comic book store to see what they will be stocking that day.

Passion and History in ‘She Makes Comics’

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Image by Respect! Films

Being a geek is becoming more and more mainstream. Yet there are still stereotypes of what makes a geek a “geek.” Being a comic book fan is a quintessential sign, and often linked to the old-school idea of socially-inept, single guys. For women who proclaim their love of comics (like me), it’s just…strange.

But that is changing. I was just invited to a Fan Girls Night Out at my local comic store by another mom who is also into comics. There are more of us than you realize. And although it may seem new to the mainstream world, it is far from abnormal. The history of women in comics as both fans and within the industry stretches back to the beginning.

The new documentary She Makes Comics is an eye-opening and heartfelt look at women within the history of comics, and I highly recommend watching it. The film is directed by Marisa Stotter and produced by Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert of Respect!Films. It is executive produced by Sequart’s Julian Darius and Mike Phillips and by Columbia University comics librarian Karen Green. It is a series of interwoven interviews of passionate people with different roles and points of view. My teenage son and I watched it together, finding it informative and entertaining.

Did you know that women and men made up equal numbers of comic book readership before the 1950s? American comics were about many topics, had various settings, and reflected every possible interest. By the ’70s, women readers started to drop off dramatically, partly due to the focus on male superheroes as the best-seller comic book theme, as well as the feminist movement awakening a generation of women who were tired of the same “wedding bliss” ending. An underground women’s comic movement began, and it was fascinating listening to the creators talk about it on camera: both the excitement and the fears.

Several women really changed the comic book world, from Wendy Pini, the original chain-mail bikini awesome cosplayer who then created ElfQuest, to Janette Kahn, former publisher of DC who broke the glass ceiling, to Gail Simone, notable comic writer, and author of Women in Refrigerators, an unapologetic look at how female characters are unfairly treated in comic stories, to Kelly Sue DeConnick, the creator of the hugely popular female Captain Marvel, and many more.

How do women get into comics in the first place? Better comics. The consensus of the interviewees was: Give us a variety of women featured, complex characters, and in-depth storytelling. As an X-Men fan, it was cool to know how many other women in this film cited that series as their turn-on to the whole genre. The fact that the male creator of the series had two female editors makes sense. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was another “gateway” comic, again, with a female editor. In fact, that editor, Karen Berger, is credited with developing the talents of some of the biggest names in comics for the past several decades.

I personally got into comics in the 1990s, and was quite alone. I took my two young children to the comic book store and was the only female there, let alone a mother. I found it interesting to hear about that time period. The film talked about how more women were getting into the creative side of comics then, but still not equally represented by a long-shot. The industry was not welcome to women or women-centered stories, but also, women are not as confidant in promoting themselves.

Comics used to be sold in supermarkets and bookstores, but then only in specific comic stores that were (and mostly still are) very much a bachelor den of boob posters and all-male staff who assume a girl is only there because she is dating a comic book fan. In 1994, a support organization for women in comics was created called Friends of Lulu which put out a book helping comic book stores understand how to attract more females to their stores—why shut out the biggest consumers in the country? The internet ushered in a huge change. This has given women a place to connect, collaborate, and share their love of comics. The film also mentions the influence of the manga craze during that time as well, with comics targeted to girls.

There is so much to this film, but what stood out to me most was the passion of the people interviewed, and the range of ages. I loved hearing from the elder pioneers in the industry, as well as the younger talents of today. Inspiring the next generation of comic creators came up a lot, and is something I support wholeheartedly. Everyone should be able to express themselves in whatever medium suits them best, boys and girls. Check out the film!

She Makes Comics is now available to order on DVD and as a digital download at SheMakesComics.com.

GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.

Reading Comic Books With Your Pre-Schooler

Full Comic
All Images: Sarah Pinault

On a recent attic purge at the in-laws, we acquired something new to us: two boxes of the most varied ’80s comics you can imagine. The Toxic Avenger, Jello Man, Animaniacs, Spider-Man, you name it. My 4-year-old son could barely contain his joy. Having discovered comic books at PortCon last summer, he has read the few comic books  he has so many times over they don’t even pretend to hang together anymore.

So for the last few weeks we have spent the early morning hours, little brother’s afternoon nap, and much of bedtime, curled up in the big armchair reading, but also not reading comic books. How do you not read a comic book you are reading? Well, it turns out that not all cutesy comic books are created equal. (I’m looking at you Warner Brothers.) Some that seem to be good for a younger audience on the surface, actually contain some interesting language and metaphor choices that we’d rather not explain at this stage. So we selectively read for some time, skipping over certain frames and pages, before determining that the collection needed to be culled.

YOGIWe sat down one evening and went through hundreds of comics, determining which ones were good for now and which ones could be put aside for a few years. Now, some things are obvious. Most comic books that my friends read are not suitable for my 4-year-old. But some of the characters he loves, and that seem age-appropriate, aren’t always the best reading for little ears. So, if you get handed a collection of similarly random comic books, here are our criteria:

1. The Wolf Whistle Test. Any comics that depict a male character momentarily morphing into a wolf when a girl passes by—instantly gone. Don’t get me wrong; there are classic cartoons that contain this kind of imagery that I would love to share with him in years to come. At this young age, when he is absorbing the world around him like a sponge, that’s not an ideal I care to teach him.

2. The Language Test. None of the comic books we had in our stack contained any actual cursing, but there was a great deal of snark and sarcasm. Now, I am all about the snark and sarcasm. My pastor would say that sarcasm is one of my spiritual gifts, but on a 4-year-old, it is not cute. Animaniacs J’accuse!

comicbook3. The Violence Test. Some of the superheroes that my son adores are much more violent in the comic books than they are in the cartoons and movies. The language often describes what’s going on, but a picture speaks a thousand words. On the whole, I avoid many of the superhero comic books at this stage, but some of the more cartoon-like ones can still contain more violence than you would expect.

4. The Nudity Test. Closely linked to the Wolf Whistle test, this speaks more to the clothing of a character than the relationships depicted. A lack of clothing, on either sex, is a big no for our comic book library. My son gets more curious each day, and images in comics like The Toxic Crusader prompt questions that I’d rather deal with in about eight years’ time.

When all was said and done, we packed away about half of the Animaniacs comic books, most of the DC/Marvel lines, and were left with a good collection of Looney Tunes and Hanna Barbera comics.  My son is perfectly happy with Yogi Bear, and hasn’t noticed the shrinking pile. It is much easier to read to him now that we aren’t stumbling to edit a sentence every page or so.

Gotta Share ‘Em All: The Fun of eBay Collections, Comic Book Style

A snapshot of some of our eBay Collection!
A snapshot of some of our eBay Collection! Image: eBay

My eBay Collections were curated as part of a sponsored collaboration with eBay.

Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl
Girl Hero Purse Adjustable Strap Bag, part of the Accessorize With Wonder Woman collection. Image: eBay

You might have noticed eBay’s Collections feature popping up recently. Here at GeekMom, we were able to start our collections a little early, and we’re really excited to share some of our favorites with you. It’s a great way to organize your all the things you love on eBay and share it with your friends and family. Best yet, all our picks have a geeky slant. Y’know, with our readers in mind, too.

Wonder Woman was a natural first choice, as I’ve already cosplayed as Wonder Woman, and I have a Wonder Woman hoodie that draws compliments everywhere I go. This collection includes purses, earrings, that Wonder Woman hoodie, other jewelry, your very own tiara, bracelet and lasso set, a Wonder Woman throw, and even a poster. Basically, if I’d been let free with my purse, my house would look a little bit like an ode to Wonder Woman.

I took a different strategy with All Things Batman. Because with Batman, there’s so very much. First, I made sure to include a few Batman shirts, including the one in this post, and my favorite Batman story, Batman: Year One. I also wanted to recognize the other members of the Bat-Family: Batgirl, Robin, and Nightwing. You’ll find Nightwing and Robin t-shirts along with a classic Batman hoodie, as well as something for the toddler-size Robin, and even a necklace.

Always Be Batman t-shirt from
The Always Be Batman t-shirt from the All Things Batman collection. Image: eBay

But if Wonder Woman and Batman aren’t among your favorites, there’s also the Wear Your Favorite Superhero Collection, where I picked out shirts featuring other heroes. Of course, Superman and Supergirl are included, and a few joint Girl Power-style shirts, but also some Justice League with logos about dating superheroes, and even Dream from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.

You get the idea. You can check out all our collections here, and stay tuned for some thoughts from Jenny.

My eBay Collections were curated as part of a sponsored collaboration with eBay.

ComiXology: The Changing Face of Comic Book Readers

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Screenshot of the ComiXology app. Take note of the “New to Comics?” section.

comixology-300x277Yesterday I peeked behind the digital curtain at ComiXology, the cloud-based multiplatform digital comics reader, as co-founder and CEO David Steinberger talked through what’s new for ComiXology, what’s been working well according to a recent survey of over 16,000 readers.

ComiXology just passed the milestone of 200,000,000 downloaded comics. A good handful of those have been downloads in our household. As someone relatively new to comics, ComiXology is my favorite way to read them. I like the shopping experience of having comic book discovery at my fingertips, and the guided view technology used make comics so beautifully cinematic. I’ve been pleased as well with their nice selection of independent and kids’ comics.

It turns out, I’m part of the changing face of comic book readership. In their survey of readers, they found that the core customer of ComiXology is who you might expect:

  • Male
  • Age 27-36
  • Has been reading print comics for a long time

But a new customer is emerging:

  • Female
  • Age 17-26
  • Newer to comics, with many reading comics for the first time digitally

Of buyers new to ComiXology in the last three months, 20% are women. That’s up from less than 5% when they started the app, and it’s a number that Steinberger says is changing rapidly. Comic book publishers, take note. The survey also found that of the readers who were reading their first comic digitally, many went on to buy comics in print. Again, comic book publishers, take note.

I suspect that the ComiXology Submit program is helping, and will continue to help, cultivate new comics readers. In fact, since its launch, Submit has become a top 20 publisher by revenue. Content creators can deliver their independent comics to ComiXology, and if it’s professionally-created, it will likely get approved. (Unless you use Comic Sans. Be prepared to face certain rejection.) Browsing through the independent comics, you’ll see a huge range of voices and styles represented, including many underrepresented voices in mainstream comics. It’s great for creators. Steinberger said he sees much more risk-taking here than in mainstream comics. And these creators can go from having their comics in a few shops to having an international marketplace to find their readers.

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Selections from the Guided View Native content, and new offerings from DC.

Here’s a handful of things I learned about ComiXology:

*  The average ComiXology customer spends about $100/year. A quarter of readers spend over $400/year. A single reader has spent $63,000 and counting. Is it you?

*  There’s a line of comics that are Guided View Native (GVN). These comics take deeper advantage of the deeper platform with cool effects on lighting, focus, etc. Motorcycle Samurai is a good example worth checking out.

*  Your local comic book shop can have a digital storefront that allows you to still give your business to the small guy while buying digitally. Stores can even run deals and keep pull lists for their customers.

COMICS_READER_SURVEY_INFORGRAPHIC
Infographic from ComiXology’s reader survey

Naturally, ComiXology also has some launches and deals to align with New York Comic Con, too:

*  There’s a new Android Holo release with a refreshed design. HD content will now be offered for the first time on Android.
*  Apps have a new Fit to Width function that helps the reading of portrait pages in landscape view.
*  DC graphic novels and collections are now available.
*  If you’ve ever thought about reading The Walking Dead, now’s the time. Issues #1-114 are on sale for $99.99, or $0.99 each.
*  Ape Entertainment is coming to ComiXology, with titles like Sesame Street, Kung Fu Panda, and game-based comics like Cut the Rope. Hurrah for more kids’ comics!

If you’re at New York Comic Con this weekend, definitely check out all that’s new with ComiXology. And have a look around and all of the different types of comic book readers you see.