It’s time to head back to school and I’ve compiled a list of books I recommend you stock your shelves with for a profitable reading year.
Books For the Very Young
The Secret Garden: A Flowers Primer, and Don Quixote: A Spanish Language Primer ($9.99)
BabyLit, who specializes in introducing kids to classic literature with beginning reader board books, just introduced their latest pair to the series. Author Jennifer Adams and artist Alison Oliver celebrate “Little Miss Burnett” and “Little Master Cervantes” with The Secret Garden: A Flowers Primer and Don Quixote: A Spanish Language Primer.
The Flowers Primer shows young readers flowers featured in The Secret Garden, accompanied by a small quote. The Spanish Language Primer includes characters and items featured in Don Quixote, in both English and Spanish. This book works for both native Spanish and English speakers, with phonetic spellings on the back geared towards speakers of each language.
Both of these little gift books are a great way to get first-time students excited about reading and literature, as well as the natural world and different cultures. [Ages two and up.]
Books For Ages 8 and Up
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincibleby Ursula Vernon ($6.49) Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible is my favorite title on this list. It’s a graphic novel that follows Princess Harriet who learns that she cannot be harmed until her 13th birthday, thanks to a Sleeping Beauty-like curse she received as a baby. It’s a fun story about a young girl who wants the adventure and action usually reserved for the princes. Available August 18, 2015. [Ages 8 and up—though younger children will enjoy this title as well.]
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth graphic novel by Judd Winick($6.99)
A young boy falling from space has no idea where he came from or why going to school in his underwear is a bad idea. Sound like your kind of story? Then, this is the book for you. My son’s only complaint is that the sequel doesn’t come out until next year. It ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, so if you have young ones who can’t handle waiting till next year (and who can blame them?), I’d use this as an opportunity to have them write their own sequel. Available September 1, 2015. [Ages 8 and up, although younger readers may enjoy this being read to them.]
My Brother Is a Superhero by David Solomons ($10.61)
Two brothers are hanging out in their tree house, when the younger brother’s life is changed with the four little words: “I need to pee.” When he returns to the tree house, he finds that his older brother now has superpowers and he missed his chance all because “nature” was calling. It’s a fun story that my son loved so much, when I was too tired to read at night, he climbed into bed with me and read out-loud to me. [Ages 8 – 12.]
The Geography Collective
Get kids moving and investigating with unique, pocket-sized books by The Geography Collective. Each one is packed with activities that are made to be marked up and smeared as they’re used. Try Mission: Explore Food, with over 270 pages of strangely enticing ideas. Other titles include Mission: Explore on the Road and Mission: Explore Camping. Perfect for home or travel, and teachers can use these ideas too. Also know that more titles are available in the UK. [Ages 9-12.]
Medieval Lego by Greyson Beights ($11.06)
Take a journey through English history in the Middle Ages with Lego. Written with the help of medievalists and scholars, this title will keep your young knights and princesses interested in the medieval times. [Ages 8 and up.]
The Lego Adventure Book, Vol. 3 by Megan H. Rothrock ($18.46)
Follow the story of Megs and Brickbot as they face their toughest challenge: the return of the Destructor. On their journey, the two meet some of the world’s greatest Lego builders and show you how to build a Renaissance house, a classic movie theater, sushi, and much more. Available September 25, 2015. [Ages 9 and up.]
The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacyby Violet Blue ($13.76)
In the digital age, everyone needs to be more careful about what they do online. The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy takes young girls through the various ways they can protect themselves. It’s hard to believe how quickly a photo or video can spread, and this book covers what to do when you are a victim of a compromising photo online, how to fix reputation mishaps, how to act if your identity is stolen, and much more. A must-read for anyone.
Game Art by Matt Sainsbury ($28.03)
Video games are not just fun, they are a work of storytelling art. This book is ideal for art students, who will get a kick out of the art from 40 video games and interviews with their creators.
Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Sweigart ($22.86)
This title is perfect for anyone who has menial tasks they don’t want to spend hours doing. In this book, you can learn how to write simple programs that will help you rename files in bulk, search for text across multiple files, and add a logo to multiple files without opening each one. There’s also 18 chapters’ worth of fun programs to play with.
Doing Math with Pythonby Amit Saha($15.79)
I’m all for anything that makes high school math easier. Doing Math with Python helps students learn how to do math with the help of a little programming. It’s like learning two subjects at once. Available August 25, 2015.
Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Patel ($7.97) Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration is a hand-drawn, full-color journal by self-taught artist Meera Patel. Each left-side page offers an endearingly illustrated quote, while each right-side page asks the journal writer to answer a question in words, drawings, or both. This little book can fit easily into a backpack or dorm room, wherever it’s needed. You might want to include a package of colored pencils, because color.
Featuring “over 30 projects for fantasy fanatics, science fiction fiends, and knitting nerds,” along with gorgeous photos by Kyle Cassidy, Geek Knits (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015) will help you to knit one, geek two to complete your next great geek project.
But wait, there’s more: The models for each project include geek favorites Neil Gaiman, René Auberjonois of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Whitney Avalon, George R. R. Martin (with a knit Dire Wolf), and several familiar faces from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Author Joan of Dark (Toni Carr) says: “There are patterns in here for all levels of knitters. People who just know how to knit and purl can make the Baker Street Scarf and the really advanced can tackle the Muggle Artifact sweater!”
When GeekMom asked Joan about her geek roots, she shared:
As for my “geekeries,” I’m all over the place! I grew up going to sci-fi cons with my parents (family cosplay in next generation uniforms and all!) and I read everything I can get my hands on. I love Harry Potter, Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes, and Game of Thrones. I think the only thing I’m not into are video games. I get too mad at the controller!
A series of strange conversations prompted me to write this article about heroes: discussions of superheroes, jerks, and yes, even underpants.
I was told pretty plainly by a couple of people that any girl would be a fool to turn down Superman over Batman, or Captain America over Iron Man. Iron Man’s a jerk, isn’t he? Batman is tortured, and who wants a guy with all those issues? Why not go for a REAL hero? The nice, polite guys who would treat you like a princess?
This got me thinking, quite a bit, actually. Didn’t I deserve to be treated like… well, all I can think of is a “damsel.” Shouldn’t men behave in a chivalrous way toward me? Be my protector, be my rock? I suppose that’s nice for some people. I suppose some women like men to open doors for them, and carry the groceries, and tell them they are beautiful all the time.
But I find I’m just not one of those women. I find all those things kind of condescending. Sure it’s nice, if my hands are full and I’m having a hard time, for someone to get the door. But I am perfectly capable of doing things for myself too. Yes, I’ve stood and waited for guys to open the car door, but to tell you the truth, it gets old after a while. It’s much faster if I just get the door for myself. But I *get* the whole chivalry thing, really I do. I’m not saying that guys shouldn’t woo a woman in that way. It’s just not what I find attractive.
As the conversations about heroes went on in their various venues, I started to wonder—why is it that I am attracted to the tortured heroes, the anti-heroes, and the guys that some consider to be self-centered jerks? I mean, my mom was worried about me when I was younger, because I always went for the cold, calculating types, the selfish guys bordering on the obnoxious: the Professor Snapes, the Darth Vaders, the Batmen, and the Iron Men. I’d even go for the kind of villainous Lokis and Goblin Kings. The dark, the slightly mad.
As someone pointed out, these guys certainly aren’t easy to love. Well, maybe, for me, that’s part of it. There’s a challenge to these guys. I have to be more than just a pretty face, more than just an ordinary girl. I have to be my best me (and even a little wicked…). And I LOVE a guy who can bring out the best in me (the same with the wickedness). Working to impress these men won’t work. A woman has to be something special to get through to these guys, something real. And who doesn’t love to think that maybe they are that something special?
This wasn’t enough, however, to really explain why I dug these types of “heroes.” It wasn’t until someone said something along the lines of, “Heroes fill the need you have. That’s what makes them your hero,” then finally, it clicked.
I don’t need a superhero, some invincible hunk of a man. I need someone I can be on more even ground with. I don’t just want a hero. I want to be someone else’s hero, too. I want to rescue him even as he might rescue me. I’m strong enough to be his rock. I’m strong enough to handle his vulnerabilities, just as he can help me with my own.
I’m not saying someone should be codependent, or get involved in an unhealthy relationship so that they can “save” someone. But don’t sell yourself short. Don’t just settle for being a hero’s rescue toy. Show them that you are a hero, too. Even Superman has his vulnerabilities. They need a strong woman to listen, to understand, and to be there for them.
No, I don’t need a hero to rescue me. But maybe I do need one to make me be all the woman I can be. I need my personal hero, the one who is right for me.
How about you? Do you have a hero? Spill it—who is he? Would you rather rescue him, or be rescued by him? Do you like an all-good guy, or a guy with a bit of the devil to him?
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.
In comic book terms, Marvel is doing a reboot or hitting the reset button. Reboots are one of those weird phenomena specific to comics. Basically, the powers that be determine that their universe of characters have too much baggage, too much backstory, for any new reader to understand. The answer is rebooting and starting fresh with all the characters back to the beginning, perhaps with some new pieces, and perhaps with old, non-working pieces jettisoned.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that cleanly. DC has rebooted three times since the 1980s and each time, all the old stories were tossed aside and new ones were told. But sometimes the new stories were so similar to the old ones (see: Batman) that it was hard to remember what had happened to the Caped Crusader and what no longer applied. The Legion of Superheroes, which seemed to undergo perpetual rebooting, now has backstory so mixed up that likely only Mark Waid can keep it straight. I try and my brain melts.
Marvel Entertainment is, of course, now owned by Disney, and though details remain sketchy as to what the new universe will look like, a sure bet is that it’ll look more like the cinematic Marvel Universe. Because Disney isn’t satisfied with just the regular comic book market found in local comic shops. They want to reach all those moviegoers. This is likely their first step.
Xavier and Magneto Would Be a Couple in My Marvel Universe
A couple of years ago, I was playing a game on a comic board (the late, lamented Bendis Board on Jinxworld) and one of the exercises was to reboot and then recreate the Marvel Universe.
Not only did we have to decide what the new starting point was, we had to decide on creative teams, and also on weekly shipping schedules. To make the game interesting, we couldn’t just pick creators out of a hat. We had to use creators who could reasonably expect would agree to be on the books. However, our reboot differs from the real upcoming reboot in that it contains the X-Men and Fantastic Four, whose movie rights are owned by companies other than Disney. Odds are good that the new Marvel Universe will find a way to work around these characters.
Participating in our group were myself and fellow board members, Wayland Smith (Kingsmythe on the board), Kedd, Slewo O., Mark4Myself, and JasonWGBB007.
It was truly one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. You can see we took chances on going outside the box and changed the nature of relationship between Professor X and Magneto from the books. I’d argue it’s a slight change because, really, one only has to watch the X-Men movies to see the subtext that’s practically text.
Our basic concept of the reboot was that more single titles that covered many genres would be more likely to appeal to the audience that isn’t reading comics on a regular basis, especially those we could reach through the same-day digital issue via Comixology.
In our reboot, we could assign creators if they were plausible. But if this was truly happening, we’d have to get all these people to agree to take on the work. Not an easy task.
My favorite single pitch was the Dr. Strange book set into the 1930s as a mystic agent of the British government. A mystic Indiana Jones. I know, Marvel won’t actually do it but I’d love to see it. Hey, someone tell Kevin Feige and Benedict Cumberbatch about this please. And some of our titles have come to pass, such as S.H.I.E.L.D., which is now also a television series, albeit with a different cast.
So, GeekMom readers, what titles do you love that you’d like to see more of right now and, if you’re not reading, what kind of titles would bring you in?
1. Avengers–Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and Captain Marvel are the army to call in when all else fails. Uneasily aligned, their first task may be their last: How do you stop the all-powerful Celestials from remaking the Earth?
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Olivier Coipel
2. Captain Marvel–Carol Danvers is an Air Force colonel, test pilot, and superhuman by virtue of her contact with the alien race, the Kree. Her first mission as a superhero is to stop their secret experiments on the human race, and planned invasion of Earth.
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Dexter Soy
3. Thor–For Thor, the god of Thunder, life has taken a turn for the worse: His father is missing, his brother is on the Throne of Asgard, and he is trapped on Earth. He must now use his godly powers to protect humankind, as well as find a way to return home and restore order to Asgard.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stuart Immonen
4. Iron Man–Billionaire inventor Tony Stark has a team of Iron Men to fight on the front lines of wars across the world, though with public opinion turning against his new weapon, Stark is fighting on multiple fronts. With support from his friend James Rhodes, and trusted assistant Virginia “Pepper” Potts, Tony fights in the boardrooms of his company and the military. But when money and finesse aren’t enough, Stark suits up as the Invincible Iron Man to protect what he holds dear and fight against threats to his company.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: David Aja
5. Captain America–James “Bucky” Barnes, the new heir to the Captain America title, struggles to continue filling the void left by his old partner Steve Rogers the original holder of the mantle and fight the new evils of the 21st century alongside his partner: Rikki Barnes, his great-niece and the new Bucky.
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
6. Captain America & Bucky–The history and legacy of Captain America through the decades. Featuring Steve Rogers and all of his successors.
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Artist: Dustin Weaver
7. Excalibur–The British lead European S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Made up of members from across Europe and focused on defending against regional threats, Excalibur tries to prove to the world that different cultures and nations are more powerful working together than against one another.
Cast: Captain Britain, Psylocke, Colossus, Pete Wisdom, Nightcrawler, the Black Knight, and Faiza Hussain.
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Alan Davis
8. Hulk–Bruce Banner struggles to control the raging monster that exists within him, while rebuilding the life he saw torn apart by his own obsessions.
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Dale Eaglesham
9. Avengers: The Initiative–Under Commander Maria Hill’s direction, unaffiliated Avengers Operatives insert themselves into the worldwide superhero community searching for allies in the on-going fight against the deep seeded reaches of terrorist organizations like HYDRA, A.I.M., and Black Spectre.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Bryan Hitch
10. League of Losers–Even henchmen have aspirations. Several low level henchmen from evil organizations around the MU come together at The Bar With No Name to commiserate, heal the wounds of a thousand beatings handed out by Spider-Man, Captain America, Luke Cage, and other heroes, and drink. But these lackeys want more out of life than being the punching bags for some roided up guy in a flag suit. They want to be their own boss. They want to create their very own super villain organization. But what will be their greatest enemy? S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Avengers or their own incompetence?
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Kev Walker
11. S.H.I.E.L.D.–SHIELD director Maria Hill leads a covert team of highly trained spies including Hawkeye and Black Widow, on the black ops missions that keep the planet from slipping into all out war at any moment.
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Deodato
12. Thunderbolts–The Avengers’ rapid response team. When situations are spiraling out of control the Thunderbolts are sent in to hit hard, fast, and without mercy.
Cast: Luke Cage (leader), Valkyrie, an exile from Asgard, Goliath, Inertia, Sunspot, and Songbird.
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Terry Dodson
13. Alpha Flight–Canada’s super-powered team operating out of Department H and slowly making themselves known as big time players in the super powered arms race, but with increasing pressure from the Canadian government for more oversight, and a growing distrust from the Canadian public, how long can the team truly last?
Cast: Guardian, Vindicator, Sasquatch, Northstar, and Snowbird
Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Artist: Esad Ribic
14. Black Panther–T’Challa has inherited the crown of the most technologically advanced and isolationist nation in the world, and his first act is to open the borders in an attempt to break down generations’ worth of paranoia and xenophobia. The only question now is will his external enemies get him before his internal enemies have a chance.
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Sara Pichelli
15. Young Avengers–The next generation of heroes. They’ve been trained, but being thrown into the middle of the fire won’t leave them all unscathed.
Cast: Patriot, a Captain America legacy character; Stature, the daughter of a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist who was accidentally exposed to his growth ray; the mysterious Iron Lad; Hulkling, the result of Skrull experimentation on humans; and super-powered twins Wiccan and Speed who were found as babies after a botched S.H.I.E.L.D. raid. Their origins remain unknown.
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Humberto Ramos
16. X-Force–The U.S. Government’s blackops team of mutants that has existed since the first World War in some form or another. Their existence is on a need to know basis only.
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Chris Bachalo
17. Uncanny X-Men–Magneto’s book.
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Tim Seeley
18. X-Men–Xavier’s book.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Barry Kitson
Professor Charles Xavier and Erik (Magneto) Lensherr were friends, lovers, and are now enemies. Xavier believes in teaching peaceful co-existence between mutants and humans while Magneto offers mutants a chance to survive, if necessary, by pushing humans out of the way. They’ll fight each other for the hearts and minds of the next generation.
19. Deadpool–The so-called “Merc With a Mouth,” Wade Wilson aka Deadpool is out to prove he was the greatest product of the Weapon X program, and gain all the fame and adulation he can handle, as the World’s greatest mercenary.
Writer: Fabian Niceza
Artist: Mark Bagley
20. Exiles–Magda Lensherr ran away from her husband, Erik (Magneto), when it became clear that the need for power would eventually consume him. Now she fronts a loose organization of mutant outcasts and misfits, some hidden beneath cities across the world, some hidden in plain sight, like her children Wanda and Pietro. But soon, Xavier & Magneto’s war will pull her world apart.
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Amy Reeder
21. X-Men Legacy–A trip through the mutant past of the Marvel Universe, peaking into the younger selves of Xavier and Magneto as well as mutants of generations past.
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Chris Samnee
22. Wolverine–He’s been everywhere in the world and done everything except find a cause he can believe in. But with a possible war between humans and mutants, he can’t stay on the sidelines.
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Butch Guice
23. Fantastic Four–The first family of science. They are explorers as well as heroes, often finding new problems simply through Reed’s inventions. Classic line up of Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben. Based in the Baxter Building in New York.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Marcos Martin
24. Nova–Richard Rider is pulled in way over his head when is mistakenly granted access to the Nova Force. When the responsibility of defending the planet is thrust in his lap will he be able to rise to the occasion or will fear and self-doubt lead to the destruction of the universe?
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Salvador Larocca
25. Guardians of the Galaxy–The universe is in chaos, with the fires of conflict spreading thick through the galaxy, something must be done. A group brought together out of necessity, rather than choice, forms to save everything. Star-Lord: Disgraced hero and now a wanted man, Groot: King of Planet X, Rocket Raccoon: Half-World’s top cop, Quasar: Protector of the Universe, Gamora: Deadliest Assassin in the Galaxy, Adam Warlock: Universal Savior. They’re brought together by Major Victory, a man who claims to be from the future, and the only one who can save the present from utter annihilation.
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Leonard Kirk
26. Inhumans–An offshoot of humanity created by the Kree and relocated by their advanced technology, the mighty king Black Bolt rules over Attilian, a mobile space station. With the Inhuman royals (Medusa, Crystal, Triton, Karnak, Lockjaw, Gorgon) they keep the peace aboard the station and deal with travelers, merchants, and criminals.
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Fiona Staples
27. Mar-Vell and the Starjammers–Kree Warrior Mar-vell is wanted by his own people as a traitor, he’s hunted by the Skrulls as an enemy and he’s hiding in Shi’iar space under the name of Corsair and leading a gang of pirates who try to be on the right side of justice. Crew: Hepzibath, Raza, Ch’od, Sikorsky, Xenith, and Lyja (a Skrull).
Creative team: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Artist: Declan Shalvey
28. S.W.O.R.D.–Tasked with keeping Earth safe from extraterrestrial menaces, S.W.O.R.D. is based on an orbital station, watching over their home world. Abigail Brand uses captured alien tech and whatever sympathetic aliens they can recruit to fight off the far too many aliens that are interested in Earth.
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Steve Sanders
29. Spider-Man–Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for only eighteen months and now he’ll have to enter the world as an adult following his high school graduation. As he moves out on his own, he’ll have to tackle college, dating, and a higher profile in the growing world of superheroes.
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Pia Guerra
30. Punisher–Following a deep cover operation gone wrong, Frank Castle’s family was targeted by a loose connection of crime bosses. Now Frank teeters on the edge of sanity, barely maintaining his day job as an ATF agent as his thirst for vengeance and his need to punish the guilty grows out of control.
Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Michael Lark
31. Daredevil–The city of Boston in a powder keg waiting to explode between the Irish mob, racial tensions, and the demands of a growing city. By day, Matt Murdock works within the flawed system, using his skills as a lawyer to right wrongs within the system, by night he takes to the streets as Daredevil using his fists to punish the criminals that escape through the cracks.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paolo Rivera
32. Marvel All Stars–Focused on short arcs and featuring team ups between street level MU heroes and villains. Cast rotates every arc or two.
Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Amanda Conner
33. Daughters of the Dragon–The Daughters of the Dragon are more plugged into the seedy underworld of the MU than any else. Acting as information brokers, vigilantes, and middlemen in the constant battle against the rot and decay of crime, the DotD prove that knowledge truly is power.
Cast: Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Jessica Jones, Paladin, Cloak & Dagger, and She-Hulk as sometime lawyer, sometime muscle.
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Alex Maleev
34. Strange: Agent of MI:13–In the 1930s, Stephen Strange works as a field agent and occult expert for MI13, he circles the globe hunting for obscure artifacts and battling against rival occultists, demon obsessed Nazis, and the occasional death cult.
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Francisco Francavalla
35. Iron Fist–The Seven Capital Cities have been destroyed, and it’s up to Danny Rand to find whatever is responsible and hopefully rebuild the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. But first, he must convince the champions of each city that he was not reason behind all of the destruction.
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Cassandra James
36. Ghost Rider–Too stubborn to die, Johnny Blaze clawed his way out of hell hoping to redeem himself, now he’s on the run from angels, demons, and fanatic freelance spiritual bounty hunters. With nowhere to turn all Blaze can do is ride.
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: David Mack
37. Moon Knight–Marc Spector nearly died, should have died, and his life was redeemed by Khonshu, Egyptian god of Justice and Vengeance. He now fights crime as the Moon’s Knight of Vengeance. He uses an array of weaponry adapted from his career as a mercenary, and receives guidance in the form of intuition and the ability to fade into the darkness of the night. He is joined on his quest by Frenchie, a helicopter pilot from his merc days, and Marlene, his lover and manager of his wealth and businesses from his cover identity of Stephen Grant.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mark Texeira
38. Sleepwalker–Nightmares are escaping from the dreamscape and it’s up to the Sleepwalker and his human alter ego, Rick Sheridan, to make sure the world can sleep easy.
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Ben Templesmith
39. Midnight Sons–Blade and Damien Hellstrom hunt the things that go bump in the night, but their uneasy alliance and history of bad blood may destroy them before the monsters and demons get a chance.
Writer: John Rozum
Artist: Becky Cloonan
40. Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos–WWII action from Nick Fury’s perspective. Nick & his commandos are out in the middle of the Pacific, stranded, and first must rescue themselves from a raging sea, sharks, and enemy subs before they can even begin the job of getting to mainland China and driving out the Japanese invaders.
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Will Rosado
41. Rangers–A loose team in the American Southwest dealing with the unique challenges of the badlands, including sometimes fighting among themselves. Shooting Star is a markswoman with trick bullets of different types. Texas Twister controls small cyclones. Red Wolf is a Cheyenne warrior with connections to the Cheyenne wolf god. Phantom Rider is a mystically powered cowboy ghost. Firebird is a mutant with flight, energy, heat powers who sees Red Wolf as a collaborator with the white conquerors.
Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Paco Medina
42. Runaways–When S.H.I.E.L.D. takes down a major villain, their families are often left in disarray. Under the guise of creating stability, S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the children of captured super-powered villains into custody. In reality, they’re monitoring the kids for signs that they may just be the super villains of tomorrow. How far will one group of kids go to escape S.H.I.E.L.D. custody and prove that they are nothing like their parents?
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Adrian Alphona
43. Brother Voodoo–Thrust into the role of sorcerer Supreme, Jericho Drumm must hold line and defend the mortal realm against a continuous bleed of mystical enemies.
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Sean Phillips
44. Silver Sable and the Wild Pack–Silver Sable and her Wild Pack operate in the gap left between heroes like the Avengers and official groups like S.H.I.E.L.D. If the money’s right and the client’s credit clears, they’ll take the job. They work for private clients, governments that want deniability, and the occasional good cause when their PR agent screams loud enough. First arc: The Chinese government hires them to capture a band of new rogue supers, but the team learns all isn’t as it seems and start questioning the nature of the job.
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Jamal Igle
45. Power Pack–A family outing unexpectedly results in superpowers for a group of young siblings. Granted superhuman abilities by the mysterious ship they call “Friday,” Alex, Julie, Jack, and Katie Power decide to try becoming superheroes. But in a world still just adapting to the idea, what will the reaction be? The return of a fan favorite by the original creator.
Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Gurihiro Studios
46. Venom–Venom is an alien symbiote that escapes from SWORD custody and bonds itself to Flash Thompson, who’s just blown out his knee and won’t have that college football career he so desired. Flash tries to balance his ego, his newfound power, and his fear of the scary men in black who seem to be chasing him.
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Darick Robertson
47. Ka-Zar and the Savage Land–Lost as a child, Ka-Zar has come of age in the hidden world of The Savage Land. Now outsiders threaten to destroy the only home he’s ever known and Ka-Zar must bring together the squabbling factions of mutates to repel an enemy force like none they’ve ever seen.
Writer: Brian Wood
48. Marvel Two-Gun Western–Matt Hawk always believed in the rule of law until he moved West and found the rule of the gun only applied in Tombstone. As things get ever weirder around him and the town is put under siege by steam gadgets controlled by an immortal alchemist, Diablo, Matt’s going to have to call in all the help he can get, whether they’re wanted men or not.
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Khoi Pham
49. Werewolf By Night–Cursed by the bite of a werewolf, Jack Russell is determined to find a cure, punish the creature responsible for his condition, and hopefully return to the life he was forced to abandon.
Writer: David Liss
Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino
50. Amadeus Cho: Prince of Power–The 7th smartest person in the MU is 16, loves riding his Vespa, playing with his puppy, Kirby, and has his hands full running the Olympus Group and reigning in the Olympian Gods that act as the board of directors.
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Skottie Young
51. Union Jack–Set in the 1960s, Brian Falsworth is an MI6 agent charged with hunting down war criminals across the world. His mission takes us from the rainforests of Brazil to the Australian outback and anywhere else evil men may hide. Falsworth has seen how desperate men will stop at nothing to escape justice for their horrors they have committed.
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Patrick Zircher
52. New Warriors–The New Warriors are young, popular, successful crime fighters funded by Lincoln Industries. They’re starting to think, however, that their boss is the vicious kingpin known as Tombstone and that he’s using them to eliminate his competition.
Cast: NightThrasher, Firestar, Debrii, Speedball, and MVP.
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Denys Cowan
Project Superhero‘s Jessie and her friends are the kids you want your daughter to be and be friends with in the eighth grade. She has an enviable comic book collection, and she loves journalism and science. (Things like the likelihood of Black Canary’s scream being possible bothers her.) Her friend Audrey is an electronics lover who has a room full of computer parts and builds robots.
In Project Superhero, written as Jessie’s journal, their class embarks on the Superhero Slam, a year-long 8th-grade project to explore heroes and superheroes—culturally, scientifically, and sociologically—culminating in a one-on-one debate for superhero supremacy.
Jessie’s stories will sound familiar to grown-up comic book geeks. They’re your friends talking about the characters. (“Zatanna…has cool sorcery powers, but I am kind of not so much into “magical intervention” when it comes to superheroes.”) They’re talk about women in and working on comics. (“There are lots of women on that team but they are still X-MEN—what is up with that?”) And it’s a pre-teen girl talking about her friends, parents, and figuring out who she is through the lens of her love for comics.
– Clara Hughes, six-time Winter and Summer Olympic medalist
– Bryan Q. Miller, writer for Batgirl and Smallville
– Jessica Watson, author of True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World
– Hayley Wickenheiser, Olympic gold medalist and World Champion in ice hockey
– Mike Bruen, NYPD sergeant-on-duty at Ground Zero
– Kelly Sue DeConnick, comic book writer for Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble
– Yuriko Romer, filmmaker (Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful)
– Nicole Stott, NASA astronaut and engineer
– Christie Nicholson, contributing editor at Scientific American and SmartPlanet
Project Superhero is all of this wrapped in a package of a lot of comic book history with a dash of science, history, and language lessons. It’s also delightfully illustrated by Kris Pearn, who co-directed Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.
Though described as for 8- to 12-year-olds and perfectly appropriate for that audience, some of the heavier topics (9/11, friends in the hospital, dealing with medical issues like depression and insulin injections) may warrant a parental pre-read before giving it to the younger end. (You know your kids the best.) I’ll be happy to hand it over to my 9-year-old comic book fan.
Welcome to this week’s adventures climbing the cliffs of insanity. It should be a great time to be a geek watching television. Arrow and The Flash crossed over. Gotham ended its initial one with a great episode. We have the Doctor Who Christmas special upcoming. The Walking Dead continues to be a juggernaut. And Preacher might be coming to AMC as a prestige series.
Except some of these show are using plot elements that are driving me away. And I’ll tell you why in a second.
But first, let me get my self-promotion out of the way. Ghosts of Christmas Past, a holiday novella highly influenced by my love of DC Comics holiday stories, particularly Batman stories, is out and available. There’s a terrific review here and on this post, I talk about why this Christmas is so full of hope for me, particularly since last year’s, quite frankly, sucked dead wharf rats at low tide.
So what’s driving me nuts, storywise?
Most of these are time-honored, er, cliched, superhero plots. Some of them might work now and again—but I’ve been reading superhero stories for forty years now and, dammit, show me something new, particularly something that uses women as three-dimensional characters, like Sleepy Hollow.
Five Plot Elements That Need to Die in a Fire:
1. We must keep the secret to protect the girlfriend.
One of the oldest and hoariest of cliches, back from the time when all superheroes were men. It’s currently being used on The Flash and used so extensively, it’s dragging the show down, which is a shame because it’s a fun show in other respects. See, Barry gets superpowers. But instead of telling his best friend, Iris, he tells, well, everyoneelse.
Maybe you recall seeing Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz’s milky pinups and other photo (NSFW, nudity) series created used high-speed cameras and splashed milk on nude models. You may have seen those same photos used recently in Coca Cola’s Fairlife Milk campaign. Now he and his team at Aurum Light are releasing a 2015 calendar called Splash Heroes, with similar images, though with more color, and—of course—a superhero theme.
ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC was sold out this past weekend. Though a great event in its own right, this was likely thanks largely to its guest of honor, George R. R. Martin. At times you could have easily thought you were at a Game of Thrones convention rather than a general science/speculative/fantasy fiction convention, given the army of Khaleesis and Melisandres and GoT-inspired t-shirts walking around! But in his first talk, Martin talked not about the A Song of Ice and Fire books or the related HBO show, but instead about his older and continuing Wild Cards series.
Wild Cards is a shared world story, which means the universe is common to multiple authors who each create characters and stories within it. This world features an alien-created retrovirus that was released over New York City in 1946 and kills (in horrible ways) 90% of those who are infected. The other 10% who contract the virus, known as “jokers,” are changed, generally by being deformed in unfortunate and hideous ways. But one percent of the infected become “aces,” who maintain their human forms but also get superpowers.
Martin has been editing and writing Wild Cards since 1985, far longer than the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which he started in 1991. It grew from Martin’s gaming group in New Mexico. They began playing Call of Cthulhu, among other games (though, he noted, not Dungeons & Dragons). Then for his birthday, Vic Milan gave Martin a copy of Superworld. “It became completely addictive, and the biggest addict was me,” Martin said. “For two years I was running Superworld–I think it cost me at least a novel. Instead of writing, I was rolling up villains every day.” When the Albuquerque group was regularly gaming until 3 a.m. and having postmortem discussion until 5, he started a weeknight group nearer his home in Santa Fe.
“It was a great role-playing group–we really got into the role-playing part,” he said. “Many nights went by where we didn’t roll the dice; [it was] more like improv theater. Then I said the famous words, ‘There’s got to be a way to make some money out of this stuff,’ and the answer was shared worlds.”
Martin initially called the concept “mosaic novels,” though shared world anthologies were already popular, starting with Robert Aspirin and Lynn Abbey’s Thieves’ World, which Martin says started as an argument in a convention bar over whether Conan the Barbarian could beat Elric in a fight. Its success prompted other writers and editors to do similar projects such as Heroes in Hell and Greystone Bay. None ever quite equaled Thieves’ World‘s success, though.
“And no one had done a superhero shared world,” Martin said. “We wanted to take the form to the next level.” He talked to Abbey and Aspirin about their successes and problems and was able to avoid some of the pitfalls they had encountered as a result.
The Wild Cards authors came from the experience of reading comics during the Silver Age of comic books and a feeling that those worlds were flawed, a notion that also spawned stories like The Watchmen and The Dark Knight around the same time.
“As much as we love the superhero stories, they don’t hold up in a superhero sense,” Martin said. “They’re a hodgepodge of origins. This guy’s a god, and this one it’s a radioactive spider, and this guy finds a stick in a cave… this makes no sense. It’s partly fantasy.” His solution to a superhero fiction more rooted in science was to create a single cause for superhero powers, which became the Wild Cards virus. Initially he intended for the powers to be comparatively weaker but more realistic given the known laws of science. “But that broke down quickly,” he said, as the writers wanted to create colorful characters. He joked, “I didn’t have the heart to say no. We found you can mumble ‘psionics’ or ‘quantum theory’ and justify anything you want.” (The Takisian aliens that created the Wild Cards virus use it to improve their psionic powers.)
The next step was to ask the critical question: What happens to the world if superpowers are real? What do those people actually do? It seems unlikely that they’d spend their time going after bank robbers when existing law enforcement has that sort of thing already handled. And what about the “power” part of “superpower”? When superpowers are acquired at random, some people aren’t going to use those powers for good.
“It’s interesting to compare our solution to something like Watchmen,” Martin said. “I think Alan Moore was thinking the same thing, that the way traditional comic books were doing it wasn’t quite right. He kept the costumes but mostly did away with the powers. We kept the powers but threw out the identities and costumes.”
Wild Cards is entering its 23rd volume and has had 40 other writers participate over the years. Lowball, the 22nd novel in the series, is due out later this year, followed by High Stakes. They’ve long since stopped officially numbering the novels, though, as that makes it more intimidating for new readers to jump in. Martin noted that every few volumes, there’s a new entry point so that you don’t have to read all of the previous volumes to start.
The first three books in the series, Wild Cards, Aces High, and Jokers Wild work together as a trilogy and are intended to be read as one. The next three books, however, became four. “As happens seemingly with anything I’m connected with, one of the volumes got extremely long,” Martin joked. Then the writers who had been working on these anthologies wanted to write novel-length stories, so they contracted for two novels. If you’re not ready to commit to an entire series, the best entry points (that aren’t the beginning) are Aces Abroad (4), One-Eyed Jacks (8), Card Sharks (13), Deuces Down (16), Inside Straight (18, which is when the series moved to being published by Tor), and Fort Freak (21).
As to hopes of seeing Wild Cards on screen, Martin had no new news. The rights to the film were the first acquisition for SyFy Films, a partnership between SyFy Channel and Universal, back in 2011. Melinda Snodgrass, a writer in the series, has written a draft of the film, which they’re still hoping to see made.
There have been many posts and grumblings online regarding the ever-present gender-specific policy of Happy Meals from McDonald’s, which have increased with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Being responsible GeekMoms, we have an ongoing interest in examining gender stereotypes in toys. A post from last August took on the issue of the girl-focused Lego Friends line; Building on Her Own Terms: From Lego Foe to Lego Friends. The real-world results of Cristen Pantano and her journey of acceptance is one I can relate to with my own preschool geekling girl. Whether it be pink or red Legos, the thrill of seeing a new skill set blossom which was thought to primarily belong to sons and not daughters is greater than the sum of a few misplaced artistic choices and packaging fumbles.
To get to the bottom of the Mc-noise about the Happy Meals, I decided to brave the slings and arrows from those who boycott fast food to get to the bottom of this not-so-happy meal issue. We’re not a family that eschews McDonald’s. There is a certain nostalgic comfort in those golden arches. But it did catch me off-guard when the pleasant young employee asked if I was buying “for a boy or girl.”
We opted to buy both versions and found that Ella, my daughter, really wasn’t into the massive wind-up spider that came with the boy-themed meal. She did, however, love her purple hair clip with the Spider-Man insignia and immediately put on her black webbed headband. I was a bit disappointed in her choice to shun the spider, since she had more recently been playing with a friend, who is a boy, and came home wanting a remote-controlled tarantula that climbs the wall—so much so, it made her Christmas list (in May!). The flights of fancy of a 3-year-old do change quickly.
Another change I noticed recently is her vocabulary for toys and clothes in general. She has begun placing most things in either “boy” or “girl”categories. This was a little heartbreaking for me. I tried to explain that items do not have to sit in one gender or the other. I reinforced that it’s okay for her friends who are boys to like pink, just as it’s okay for her to wear superhero shirts. Still, she has become adamant about gender assignments. It may be a battle that I lose, but I will keep on trying to neutralize the playing field.
So it bothered me a little to discover that McDonald’s still offers boy or girl Happy Meals. It’s not the gender-predictable colors of the toys that bother me; I wrote a piece not too long ago explaining that in our house, “pink” is not a four-letter word. My concerns are about gender-assigned content. My feelings aside, Ella was pleased to have a choice in toys and ultimately went with the girl theme. This left me thinking that it may make more sense for McDonald’s to offer an “option A” or “option B” meal, leaving gender labels out. Gender neutrality could even lead to more sales and happy parents. Going forward with change, it would be wise of Ronald to remember that “with great meals comes great responsibility.”
Mc-fumbles and gender strides aside, my GeekMom Spidey senses were tingled enough by the Spider-Man 2 toys to create this short review with my 3-year-old daughter.
Let’s start off with something amusing/creepy and going viral. It’s a German supermarket ad. Oh, the bathtub part, I can’t even…
Next I’d like to introduce you to Dael Kingsmill and her MonarchsFactory vlog. This young woman has a smart take on superpowers in real life. In highschool she decided on Probability Manipulator. Women are so practical in our fantasies.
With my daughter getting ready to go to college this fall, this video came at the perfect/worst time. Hilarious, but, urg….
Not sure which is more entertaining: watching the skateboarder continually fall while flexing his muscles, or the gamer boys giggling.
For our learning segment, and in honor of the Olympics, here is a video with lots of downloadable graphics on the physics of different kinds of skates:
My daughter has been working on her beatboxing for a year now, and we often find talented people on the web. This guy gave a TED talk about his craft. What a musician! Be entertained:
It’s cold and snowy around here, but the beauty of snowflakes is something special when caught by this filmmaker:
Did you know a couple of GeekMoms are on YouTube? Check out Natania Barron reading chapters from her novel, Pilgrim of the Sky (Great book!)
And, well, me. Your Undead Heart is a zombie romance music video animated by Dave Barnis to my original tune on piano and cello:
And finally, in case you missed this one going around the fangirl circles: Tom Hiddleson and Benedict Cumberbatch dancing. Tom wins.
Ms. Marvel #1 hit comic book store shelves last week to a good amount of fanfare and hype. Since the series was announced, it’s been covered everywhere from CNN to USA Today to Stephen Colbert, garnering attention as the first comic book series to feature a female Muslim lead character. So now that it’s here, does the issue live up to expectations?
It exceeds them.
The first issue introduces us to Kamala and her life in Jersey City, where she feels alienated from her family (who just don’t understand why she writes Avengers fanfic) and her peers, who seem to live free from the rules Kamala’s parents impose. An ordinary-teen-turned-hero isn’t a new concept. Kamala might remind veteran comic book readers of other familiar characters–over at DC Women Kicking Ass, Sue sees some Stephanie Brown in Kamala; at Comicosity, Jessica Boyd views her as a potential Peter Parker for this age.
So while the teen hero isn’t new, Ms. Marvel #1 is a rare comic book that speaks to every reader regardless of their age, gender, background, or beliefs, thanks to writer G. Willow Wilson’s portrayal of Kamala as relatable and full of personality. Rather than Peter or Steph, I see myself in the new Ms. Marvel–someone who sees the world of superheroes from afar, and can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be a part of that universe.
Or as Kamala puts it, what it would be like to be “beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated.” Basically… Captain Marvel.
“Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” Ms. Wilson said. “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.’ ”
[Editor] Ms. Amanat said, “It’s also sort of like when I was a little girl and wanted to be Tiffani-Amber Thiessen,” from “Saved by the Bell.”
For anyone who has dreamed of being someone else, someone stronger, or prettier, or just plain super, they’ll see themselves in the pages of Ms. Marvel #1. The response to a call for photos for “#IAmMsMarvel” on Twitter and Instagram shows the wide range of new fans of the series.
While the road Kamala is on certainly won’t be an easy one, I can’t wait to see where it takes her. The series is off to a fantastic start, and it’s worth mentioning that the work by artist Adrian Alphona is gorgeous. If you’ve never read a comic book in your life, consider picking up this one.
In Disney XD’s new show Mighty Med, two ordinary teenage boys become invaluable assets at a secret hospital for superheroes. What makes them so special? Their lifelong love of comic books, superheroes, and video games, of course. If, as the saying goes, knowledge is power, then these two “normos” (the Mighty Med equivalent of muggles) may be the most powerful heroes of all.
On a recent visit to the set, I had a chance to talk with executive producer Jim Bernstein and supervising producer Andy Schwartz, as well as cast members Bradley Steven Perry, Jake Short, and Paris Berelc, about the wish-fulfillment aspects of the show and what viewers can expect in the first season.
“Our idea is that these kids have some special abilities that make them useful,” Bernstein says. “I think that’s sort of the message of this show. You don’t have to be like a lawyer or something. Everyone has something special and interesting about them. You might be a really good artist. You might love stamps. And that interest that you have makes you really valuable and special and you might be able to do something really cool with it.”
In the pilot episode, we meet best friends Kaz (Perry) and Oliver (Short). Kaz is the impulsive one who acts without thinking, while Oliver is more cautious and tries to keep him out of trouble (Bernstein and Schwartz describe their dynamic as “the gas” and “the brake”). Their relationship is put to the ultimate test when they accidentally stumble into the world of Mighty Med and discover that the stories and characters they’ve been reading about all these years are actually true. After they step in to help an incapacitated hero and figure out how to defeat an invading villain, the hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Horace Diaz (Carlos Lacamara), is so impressed he offers them after-school jobs, much to the annoyance of his resentful nephew, Alan (Devan Leos).
“They make a perfect duo,” Perry says of Kaz and Oliver. “And their knowledge of comic books and superheros and everything not only makes them good doctors, but makes them who they always wanted to be. Although nobody ever understood them and how they could be such fans and kind of put them down, like, ‘Reading comic books is a waste of your time.’ They can now prove themselves.”
Sounds pretty awesome, right? Except, there’s one big catch to this dream job: the boys can’t tell anyone about it.
“It’s hard for them and they want to tell people,” Perry says. “And sometimes it slips about this job they have. And they walk out and want to just be like, ‘I work at Mighty Med!’ But they can’t do it. They’ve got to keep it secret.”
Still, silence is a small price to pay for getting to be up close and personal with your idols. For Oliver, there’s an extra benefit that makes it the job even better–—he gets to work alongside his ultimate superhero crush, Skylar Storm (Berelc). Skylar has just recently lost all her powers and is forced to stay at Mighty Med while the doctors figure out how to get them back. Fortunately, the boys are there to show her how to get along in the “normo” world.
“It’s even more of a dream come true for Oliver, because he loves Skylar Storm,” Short says. “He didn’t know she existed, so when he sees her in real life it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh! What’s going on?’ It’s the greatest thing for him. So that’s another really fun thing about the show.”
Berelc has worked previously as a model and has training as a gymnast at the highest level, but this is her first screen role. She does all her own stunts, and though Skylar doesn’t have any superhuman abilities, she can still manage some major “flippage,” as Berelc puts it (“There’s a lot of flippage coming your way, everybody,” she teases). Besides the physical aspects, she says she can identify with the way Skylar is forced to cope with this major, life-changing event that keeps her stuck on Earth, far from her home.
“I’d say that we are both, in some ways, vulnerable,” she says. “You know, because when I first came here—because I’m from Wisconsin—I was like, ‘What’s up with California?’ I was very new to it as well. I eventually did find friends, like she does with Kaz and Oliver, to help along the way.”
Bernstein and Schwartz say they are pleased with all the casting choices, but they got even more than they anticipated in Berelc.
“We could not be more thrilled having Paris,” Schwartz says. “I mean, we write things and then maybe we write ‘she flips.’ That’s it, two words. And then all of a sudden you look on stage and she’s doing a million cartwheels. I don’t even know what they’re called. She laughs at us.”
She was also the key to figuring out how to incorporate the show’s target demographic (teens and tweens) into a workplace setting.
“We didn’t want to have a hospital where it’s a bunch of kids running around,” Schwartz says. “It wouldn’t have felt authentic. But then you also don’t want to do a show that’s primarily targeted towards kids where it’s all adults. So to us the key to the entire show was Skylar Storm, in that you have a girl who’s there who’s a regular and who you legitimately feel she should be at this hospital. And she’s a kid. And now, we start to fill out our world. And that was really important to us.”
Speaking of filling out the world, in case you’re wondering (like I was) whether the show will take advantage of the Disney-Marvel corporate synergy, it doesn’t seem likely. The creators aren’t completely ruling out any appearances by Marvel characters in the future, but there won’t be any big crossovers in this first season. For now, they’re having too much fun creating their own universe and playing around in it.
“For now we’re sort of enjoying the experience of creating our own superheroes, not being necessarily limited by the powers or the names,” Schwartz says.
“We’ve also gotten a lot of feedback that kids actually like the fact that we’ve created our own superhero world,” Bernstein adds. “And I like it too. It’s fun for us. I mean, if part of the whole idea of this show is these kids discover a secret world, then it should be our own world.”
Schwartz continues, “Stories could come from [creating] a superhero who could have x power, whatever it is, and now what would it be if this went awry? And we get stories from there. Most of our stories are character-based in that way. And one of the things, Jim and I, we love doing, is putting little headers at the beginning of scenes. Like, ‘Open up and say “ahh,”‘ and the guy breathes fire and it’s like, ‘You’re totally normal.’ We love that because it takes the medical element, it takes the superhero element, it takes the fun element. We love combining that stuff.
“We try to put a couple of those in every episode where there will be just a quick little moment with a superhero who has a funny power of some kind,” Bernstein finishes. “We live for that.”
Mighty Med premiered as a special one-hour event on Monday, October 7 at 8:30 p.m., ET/PT, on Disney XD.
Ed. note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Andy Schwartz as an executive producer. His correct title is supervising producer.
When my daughter was about a year old, I took her to our favorite local park to hang out, look at the ducks, and play in the sandbox. She was dressed in a cute Captain America shirt that I got in the boys’ section of Target. I must say it took me off guard when another mom asked me if Ella was wearing her big brother’s hand-me-down hero shirt. My reply, as it almost always is, was given with a smile and a wink and a direct message that no, she can like superheroes and wave her tiny geek flag just like her mom does.
It was quickly on the heels of this that I formed a meetup.com group with the intention to gather like-minded parents who speak the geek shorthand and know what it means to be a parent raising a geekling.
Geeklings and Parental Units was born on February 22, 2012. We are 188 members strong today, and have quite an active group composed of locals and online-only folks from all across the galaxy. Even though meetup.com has been around for awhile, I had only heard of it from one other extroverted friend pre-parenthood. It sounded cool but I was not into going out and collecting new friends. That all changed when we stepped through the wormhole, undergoing the massive transition from being a couple to being parents. Suddenly, those lazy Sunday afternoons playing Settlers of Catan and Power Grid til the wee hours all went the way of the ill-fated 2007 Bionic Woman reboot. We dropped out, fell from the stars like two Neil Gaiman characters, and found ourselves feeling very out of step with everything.
It was difficult in those first days to get anyone other than myself and maybe one other member to attend. Many of the geeky guild are introverts; it’s not always easy to socialize even at the best of times. I get it. It’s weird, right? Showing up to interact with people whom you’ve only chatted with online. Hoping that they are cool and do not mind that you’re not current on The Walking Dead because sleep deprivation has turned you into zombie parents. On one of my first encounters with a new mom member, I remember breathing a sigh of relief when I saw her with a Doctor Who shirt and TARDIS ringtone. I felt immediately at home.
As the group grew, members began to share their histories. They shared what they felt about parenting and the last Game of Thrones episode. Bonding happened over mutual fandoms and the feeling that it was sometimes hard to relate to other normal parents. I admit my heart grew very fond of our amazing, talented, brilliant members. Just a bit of communication and seeing new friends meant so much to me. I found the courage to pull myself out of postpartum depression and began to enjoy the sunlight again.
When members talked about why they joined the group, many of them echoed how I felt about the mutual respect for their geeky lifestyles. They, too, had a hard time approaching and maintaining friendships with other parents. Some members came from shared social circles, but more found the group through searching on meetup.com. The site has been a good hub and jumping off point. Without asking for donations from the members, the group raised enough money at the geekling garage sale to cover the bi-annual $78 renewal fee for the next two years.
As the organizer and creator, I have tried to let the growth of the group happen organically. I never pressure people to host an event or feel bad if their baby is having a warp core breach day and they have to cancel. There is enough pressure on parents. I wanted to be the Risa of social groups, a place where members could feel comfortable, escape, and maybe wear some tacky pseudo-tropical space outfits if the mood hit us. Being geeks, the group naturally tended to gravitate towards communication through the biggest social site, Facebook. There, members routinely post funny pictures, articles from GeekMom, and laugh along with George Takei’s daily funny.
To give you an example of Geekling awesomeness, just this past Sunday the group gathered Time Lords and nap deprived alike to sample the wares at the Doctor Who Craft Faire at my favorite local place, The Harry Potter store known as Whimsic Alley. They had butter beer on tap, jammie dodgers, and more long scarves and TARDIS blue bow ties than you could shake a Sonic Screwdriver at.
Truth be told, one of my driving reasons to start adding scheduled events to our meetup calendar was to keep pushing me out that door too. Another reason: After I suffered a mini stroke when Ella was two months old, some things like calendaring and numbers had to be relearned and brought into focus again. A year later, the attention I needed to apply to these dates has helped heal these problem areas. I may not be a master at leading us where no families have gone before in a overly organized type A way, but damn it Jim, I got a lot of heart.
I am grateful every day for my tribe called geek, and it is my hope is to see more branches of the group settle in different cities and share just as much fun. It’s a good thing, being geeks and being parents, and the collective flag is waving high.
Superman and Monopoly. Can you imagine the world without them? Oh, you can? Do you know how much Superman has influenced ALL comic books, which in turn influenced radio shows, TV shows, and movies? And Monopoly? Besides chess, it is the most popular board game of all time. Both began in the 1930s.
Superman’s legacy is incredible. In comics, he is still going strong. I think every generation will get their own movie version. Before Superman, the popular comics were about normal humans in extraordinary situations. Superman was an extraordinary alien on normal Earth. This set the stage for all the superheroes to follow.
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman is an entertaining and eye-opening look at Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. I had to explain to my campers that being a geek at that time, heck during MY teens, was not cool at all. These two geeky guys escaped into their imaginations and pulled out the icon of Superman.
Monopoly, ah, the bane of my gaming existence. I never played a full game until adulthood in an epic battle that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. (I talked about that game in a previous post.) When I first met my husband, I couldn’t believe it when he told me he and his sisters would play MORE THAN ONE game of monopoly in a day?! How is that possible? As parents we’ve played Monopoly Junior many times with our kids, even creating a family song, “Loop de Loop! Loop de Loop!” about one of the spaces. I’m sure you have your own stories of this American pastime staple.
But there were other games and comics from that era that we know and enjoy today: Sorry (hate it!), Scrabble (love it!). There was more to comics than just Superman (“just” Superman, ha…). The 1930s are called The Golden Age of Comic Books. In fact, the style of the comic book (small, thin paper booklet) started at this point in comic history. Look at some of the comic book characters that debuted in the 30s: Wonder Woman, Captain America, The Flash, the Green Lantern, Batman and Robin, Captain Marvel, and more. (Seriously, there are more; it’s stunning how many started during this time.)
Released on April 23, 2013, and published by Broadway Paperbacks, Ex-Patriots: A Novel is Peter Clines’ follow-up novel to Ex-Heroes: A Novel. GeekMom has an exclusive excerpt. Plus, we are giving away signed copies of Ex-Heroes: A Novel, and Ex-Patriots: A Novel, courtesy of Broadway Paperbacks, to one lucky GeekMom reader.
I have to be perfectly honest with you. When my writer’s group friend approached me after one of our monthly meetings, and asked me if I’d ever be interested in writing for the GeekMom blog, I immediately had my doubts. GeekMom? Wouldn’t a Geek Mom be someone who understood a whole lot more about electronics, computer programming, and , um…math, than I ever would? I was an English person in high school and college. Math and the sciences were not my strengths.
But my friend, who is an editor for the blog, wouldn’t let me off so easily. She was on a mission to gather a group of women who were passionate about a lot of topics. I quickly came to see that the term ‘geek’ in the world of GeekMom actually stood for more than just a love of science. Now that I’ve been around the block a few times as a core writer for GeekMom, I’ve fallen in love with the concept.
GeekMom Laura Grace introduced us, as we branched away from the GeekDad forum, in this way – “Every day GeekMom.com demonstrates that fostering our own passions requires us to value them. Give them a little space. Hoist up our geek flags and let them fly.”
Here at GeekMom, when we say you ‘geek out’ about something, it doesn’t matter the topic. Anything that makes you happy, keeps you engaged, makes you squeal when you get to participate in it, can be considered geeky. Some of us geek out about science related topics. But beyond that, many of us geek out about so many other things.
Through this adventure I’ve met some of the most amazing people. Well, I use the word ‘met’ quite loosely. Most of the smart, funny women I’ve learned from and grown with, as we’ve discussed a huge variety of topics on this blog, I’ve only met online. We’ve had long email exchanges and encouraged each other in our individual passions. I’ve learned about conventions and hobbies I’d never known about before. I have come to understand huge areas of interest that were always foreign to me before. That’s not to say I adopted their hobbies. But I’ve loved learning about them, and understanding in a much deeper way, how we are all amazing women because we are all made up of a unique variety of passions.
I decided it might be time to show our readers just how diverse our group is. If you think you can’t relate to a website called GeekMom, read on. I almost guarantee that somewhere on this list you’ll see yourself. When I put the question out to our GeekMom writers, “what makes you geek out”, these were some of the answers I got back. Who do you relate to the most?
GeekMom Jules –
Academia and learning (specially STEM, some history)
WordPress Design (seriously, if I can find an excuse to buy another domain and design another website, I’ll do it)
Writing – I love to write stories, especially comic book stories.
GeekMom Ariane –
DIY/Crafts (though I’m terrible at them!)
Playing music (saxophone)
New experiences (I am easily bored, so I tend to obsess over a topic and then move on. You should have seen me in my saltwater aquarium days! Ah, back in the good ol’ days when I had no kids and unlimited time and money to pour into random hobbies! I also love seeing new sights, trying new foods, and making an adventure out of everything.)
Fantasy and Sci-Fi (I like fantasy a little better)
Disney (just found out that my in-laws might start being snowbirds in Orlando, which means more Disney trips for us)
Movies in general – my husband and I see a lot of movies in the theater and have a huge collection of Blu-Rays. We rank our favorite movies throughout the year.
GeekMom Rachel –
Cooking (baking and making bread)
Gadgets (tech and cooking gadgets)
Home Entertainment (movies and TV)
circuits with without soldering)
GeekMom Melissa –
Books, books, books, especially children’s books, and especially especially the work of L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Noel Streatfeild, and Maud Hart Lovelace. I’m a card-carrying member (literally, it’s in my wallet) of the Betsy-Tacy Society.
Gardening literature, especially the work of Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence. And Allen Lacy. I could read nothing but horticultural lit and be happy.
Japanese candy. Fortunately I have Kristen in my life to keep me supplied.
Fiber and fabric, all the fiber arts. I haven’t *made* much since my kids came along–my old loom is gathering dust in the garage–but anything to do with yarn makes my heart go pitty-pat.
British period dramas. Helloooo, Downton Abbey. And Lark Rise, Cranford, Garrow’s Law, Berkeley Square, all that stuff.
Education & homeschooling philosophy. Charlotte Mason, John Holt, the works.
I get very excited when I have a new social media platform to figure out.
GeekMom Amy –
– Kids’ books, especially the picture book variety
– Kids’ games and apps
– Kids’ TV
– Animated films
I guess I have a few grown-up things, too:
– Movies (particularly the libraries of directors like Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers)
– Violent or otherwise adult TV (play really well in contrast to the kids’ stuff: The Wire, Lost, Breaking Bad, etc.)
GeekMom Sarah – I’ve really learned a lot from reading the posts on GeekMoms and I now get excited about things that I wouldn’t have before, like the space program, STEM and Firefly which I just started to watch last week.
I geek out over amigugrumi and knitted goods. For example, I just created a Jayne Cobb hat for a friend and am working on some Amigurumi patterns of the Octonauts for my son. I avidly follow several amigurumi blogs and am constantly trying to come up with my own. I will spend a fortune on Red Heart Yarn and get high looking at the colors!
I also geek out over books. Old books, new books, vintage books, paperback books, hard cover books, pre-release editions, first editions, foreign language editions. I love to judge a book by it’s cover, as long as I can savor it for a while!
I geek out over Disney, that is my life long passion. I wrote my Bachelors thesis about how Disney represents foreign cultures to America.
I’m a big TV geek, some sci-fi, some not. X-files, Star Trek (TNG), Buffy and the life. I am currently devouring Heroes, having missed it the first time around. But I also have an obsession with Mash, The Good Life (Good Neighbors in the US) and anything from old school British comedians. Old cartoons, new cartoons. Okay this list could be endless!
GeekMom Sophie –
Well obviously X-Files is my number one geek out, I can literally talk for hours about even the tiniest detail of the show. I cosplay Scully, have two shelves of books, another shelf of the VHS tapes, the complete DVD collection plus other DVDs and random collectibles. I’m now building a collection of art pieces based on the show, got a private commission and a limited edition show piece in there already along with an original sketch drawn by the actor who played Langley. A friend’s old boyfriend did some graphic design and made her and some friends (including myself) these adorable cartoon badge sets, they’re like XF for kids so Mulder’s shooting an alien with a water pistol and the Cigarette Smoking Man has a lollipop instead. So freaking cute and there’s only three or four sets in the world.
As you might be able to tell, geek art is another huge geek out of mine. I wish I’d had time to keep Geek Art going but I couldn’t manage it alone alongside GeekMom and life.
Disney theme parks is a biggie, I’m not especially bothered about the films although I own most of the classics, for me it’s the parks. I have a whole shelf of books on the architecture, conceptual history and behind the scenes information. It’s why I was so thrilled to interview Len Testa last year, he’s an idol of mine for really getting into the nitty gritty of how the parks run. I’m hoping to get the Poster Art of the Disney Theme Parks book at some point.
Scores/sountracks from film/TV. I have dozens of them and look forward to their releases almost as much as the film itself. I’m so excited at the prospect of Volume 2 of The X-Files scores, more Hobbit and Hunger Games this year. I’m also hoping that the Room on The Broom score by Rene Aubry will be released and dream of a Castle score one day. The first X-Files autograph I collected was Mark Snow, I have a limited edition signed CD sleeves from the Vol one box set, the demand was so high the site crashed minutes after I got through!
GeekMom Kelly –
Video games, in particular the creation/development and game soundtracks
A long time ago I used to geek out about anime big time. I wrote something like 100 reviews for an anime review site, and I watched every series completely before I reviewed them. I shudder to think how much time that adds up to. It later turned into love for Japanese dramas, which I still enjoy.
Oh this is a weird one, dancing shows. I love So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew. I even figured out the choreographer for a random commercial and geeked out that I got it right. Dancing With the Stars isn’t my thing because I don’t think it’s fair to the stars to be judged.
GeekMom Helene –
New advances in science
My Little Pony
GLBTQ equality activism
Breast and Ovarian Cancer Info
And that leaves me, GeekMom Judy –
Reading/books (I have a library card from the NYC Public Library System, because I couldn’t resist, even though we lived in Upstate and just visited New York City 3 or 4 times a year)
More specifically, Memoirs. (after having written my own, and having spent decades reading others, I am still fascinated to see how a person goes from childhood to adulthood and becomes who she’s supposed to be. It’s twice as fascinating to me as a story someone made up)
Lego anything, including learning about the behind the scenes action. (with three sons, and having collected sets for almost 20 years,at each holiday and birthday, we have about as many bricks as Legoland)
Travel/Exploring new places (with an archaeologist husband, we’ve seen some pretty amazing places, following his job around the country)
Winter Sports, including skiing, snowboarding, sledding and snowman creating. It was a huge treat for us to attend the Winter X Games, just up the road from our house, for the past two years. Those athletes are our rock stars.
And speaking of rock stars, in the past few decades I’ve come to really appreciate and love small indie bands. You know, the chicks and dudes who play because they love to? Check out this amazing song, “Not Born to Beauty” that says it so well (track 8). We have a fantastic local venue in my hometown, and I have an old artificial leg that has the whole Bacon Brothers Band’s signatures on it. I’ve met the most amazing people, who also happen to be talented musicians.
So that’s our list. What would be on your list? What topics would you like us to write about more, or cover less? We’d love to hear what you love to read about. Welcome to the new, independent GeekMom. Welcome to your GeekMom.com.
How many of the following does your preschooler find appealing: robots, zombies, monsters, pirates, superheroes, pie? The more of those you say “Yes” to, the more you should take a look at Robot Zombie Frankenstein! Watch the preview video, which shows you how the first few pages go:
Robot Zombie Frankenstein! is a very simple story of one-upmanship between two robots who have a great costume box. The pictures are made from basic shapes and colors, which give you a little bit more to talk about with a small child. What color is that robot’s eye patch? What shape is his body?
The entire book is a conversation between the robots, which means it can be a lot of fun for you and your pre-schooler (or two of your kids) to each be a robot and take turns reading lines. Because each robot’s line is additive and based on his costume change, after just a few reads, even a younger child who can’t read the words can look at the pictures and participate. Bedtime for my three- and six-year-old now sounds like this:
You get the idea. And I promise — the robot buddies work things out in the end.
At author Annette Simon’s website, you can download the Robot Zombie Frankenstein! Fun Kit, which includes 16 pages of activities to print. My favorite is the Bot Builder, which lets you cut out all the robot parts to build your own.
I love superhero stories, but I’m not big on visual formats like comic books and graphic novels. That’s why I was so excited to review Corrina Lawson’s new novel, Phoenix Rising. It’s a comic book kind of story anchored in novelistic prose, so it’s definitely my kind of read.
Aside: After reading the review, check the end of the post to enter a free giveaway of the book.
To those who know him, Alec Farley is the closest thing to a superhero they’ve ever seen. He can move things with his mind, he can control fire with a wave of his hand, and he looks good enough to pull off a spandex ‘n’ cape ensemble (although he doesn’t wear one).
Trouble is, not many people know Alec. That’s because he’s been kept under lock and key for most of his life, “protected” from the world by his adoptive father, who just happens to be the power-hungry director of a shadowy organization called The Resource.
Beth Nakamora wants to change that. Herself a telepath — although her power’s been latent since her childhood — she understands what it means to be used for your power and given no choice about your life path. In the guise of a mental health counselor, she infiltrates The Resource and gains Alec’s trust, hoping to show him another way to live.
But things go a bit awry, and Beth ends up kidnapping Alec, which leads to a string of shootouts, desperate escapes, rebellions, and reversals. Oh, and there’s a radioactive dirty bomb heading for New York City, and Alec might be the only one who can stop it.
Phoenix Rising keeps up an intense pace and a gripping narrative. As outlandish as the characters may sound, they’re actually quite believable and relatable, and watching them come to terms with their powers and fight to make their own decisions — all while fending off bad guys — is endlessly absorbing, and in the end, quite moving. Alec in particular is a unique mix of tough-guy supersoldier and naive youth, and his emotional arc as he learns to think for himself is very compelling.
Vivid writing makes the climactic scenes incredibly visual — you can almost picture these fiery explosions and tension-filled standoffs as gorgeous full-page panels in a comic book. But I’m just as happy to have read them in print.
Full disclosure: Yes, of course, I know Corrina Lawson! She’s one of our fine editors here at GeekMom, and we’ve been friends and occasional critique partners for years. That doesn’t unduly influence my review, though, because the fact is that I only hang out with awesome writers. Cory’s definitely one of them, and Phoenix Rising is a terrific read. I’m looking forward to the next book in what looks to be a fantastic series.
To enter to win a copy of Phoenix Rising, just comment below and Corrina will pick a winner via random number generator. Winner will be announced in the comments on Tuesday of next week.
Want to attract women? Publish good material that doesn’t actively chase them away.–Kurt Busiek, on Twitter, 10/24/2011
I have been a reader of superhero comics since I could read, buying them off the spinner rack for a quarter.
My love for them was sealed when I watched (in reruns) the first appearance of Batgirl on the Batman Television show. A girl could fight crime like the guys? She had a cool motorcycle? And she was smart?
Sign me up for that.
But back then, Batgirl was somewhat alone. It was hard to find strong female characters to follow. Of course, there was always also Supergirl and Black Canary in Justice League of America, though neither had their own title. Mostly, I gravitated to the team titles or followed the male superheroes that I always loved. (Batman, Captain America, Iron Man, forever, yes.) Superman, not so much, but the great extra-size Superman Family had both Lois Lane and Supergirl.
Then I got supremely and utterly hooked on the two comic series that exploded onto the scene in the early 1980s: The New Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans. I still have my copy of Uncanny X-Men #137 of the original run. Quite possibly my choice for favorite comic ever.
These comics were also the two sales powerhouses for Marvel and DC–X-Men so much so that it spawned an industry.
Best of all, both titles featured women in prominent roles, with cool powers. Most importantly, they were also friends with each other. I stayed hooked for a long time, until my twins were born about a decade ago and I ran out of money and time to read superhero comics on a regular basis.
But I came back, as I still love superheroes, hooked by the original run of Birds of Prey, first by Chuck Dixon and then by Gail Simone. Slowly but surely, I got pulled back in.
But one thing made no sense to me. While the rest of the world had discovered strong females characters who sometimes carried the lead in movies and television shows, superhero comics seemed to have flat-out regressed.
You think I’m off base or exaggerating? Here’s a cover by the late Michael Turner featuring Black Canary and Power Girl. I liked that Power Girl’s breasts are as big as her head.
The artwork has taken a turn into cheesecake alley and never come out. Even Simone’s run on Birds of Prey featured some of the most pin-up girl artwork I’d ever seen. (Ed Benes has never met a thong he didn’t like.)
And not powerful poses.
Come hither, I will seduce you poses straight out of porn. Yes, the men all look sexy too, but the sexiness is a result of their looking powerful. With the women, it was hips out, butts prominent, show that cleavage lady and make goo-goo eyes at the reader. Male heroes are drawn as idealized, as someone men want to be. Women are invariably drawn as people they’d like to have sex with. Even Amanda Waller, full-sized in Justice League Unlimited, got the sexed-up treatment in the new Suicide Squad #1. Make sure she has cleavage, that’s the message I receive.
Neal Adams, Marshall Rogers, Dick Dillin, Dave Cockrum, George Perez, John Byrne…all drew extremely good-looking women whose primary characteristic wasn’t that the male readers considered them bedtime companions. They were sexy because they were strong and competent. But the current artwork isn’t about that. It is, to be blunt, about women as fan wank material to a great degree. It’s not all artists and all artwork but it was enough that when I took my daughter into a comic shop several years ago, she said “Mom, why do all the girls have so few clothes on? And why do they stand that weird way?” (And she was looking at DC and Marvel titles, not Image!)
I more or less accepted the situation because the primary source of comics is the direct market, meaning the books are sold mostly in local comic shops which tend to have a heavily male clientele. Some are great and welcoming to women and kids, a good chunk are not and are far too much like the comic shop on The Simpsons.
And then DC announced its “New 52″ with the reboot of its entire universe that would also be available same day digitally.
DC stated that they wanted to appeal to a wider audience than the current direct market. While I was bummed to see the end of several titles I was enjoying that were canceled to make way for this new thing, I thought this was a great step. Get comics out of the shop and into the hands of a wider audience. And that wider audience should include more female-friendly titles or, better stated, non-fanwank material. DC had most likely noticed that 40 percent of the audience this year at San Diego Comic Con were female. They must know that 40 percent of the 12 million registered World of Warcraft players are women. They had to see the planning of the first ever Geek Girl Convention. What a chance to reach a wider audience.
Um, not so much.
It’s clear after sampling 10 of the new 52 books, checking out a larger sample in the comic shops and talking to other readers that what DC really did with their reboot was try to nail down the current audience–straight white males ages 18-35.
In the past few months:
1. DC officials were so dismissive of question from a female Batgirl cosoplayer at SDCC about the lack of female creators on the new 52 that the company felt compelled to later issue an apology after an internet firestorm.
2. Only two female creators are so far involved in the DC reboot. That’s less than one percent.
3. DC kept describing the new Catwoman as “dirty, dirty, sexy, sexy.” And, indeed, that turned out to be accurate, as the first panels of Catwoman #1 featured her breasts having an adventure and ended in an abrupt sexytime with Batman that was just … eww … I’ve written published erotica. This is not the way to write a hot sex scene, one, and two, the art on that scene was so distractingly bad (how did Batman grow extra abs?) that any impact was lost. Was no one looking at the sex scenes in the previous Catwoman volume by Ed Brubaker between Selina and Slam Bradley?
4. Starfire, a character on a popular Cartoon Network program marketed to kids, while previously full of sex appeal in the comics but also warm and engaging with a personality, was turned into an emotionless sex doll in Red Hood & the Outlaws. I wrote about that in an article for GeekDad. That comic also spawned a great article by Laura Hudson at Comics Alliance and later a follow-up delving into why the art is this way.
5. The Catwoman short that accompanies the excellent Batman: Year One direct-to-DVD release has her using a stripper pole, unzipping her costume to the navel to “distract” the bad guys, and then she pulled two things out of the skin-tight catsuit.
One, Catwoman is a sneaky thief. Why would she announce herself on a stripper pole instead of sneaking up on these guys? Two, hello, boobs do NOT work that way. I’m guessing Selina Kyle has magic boobs that somehow stay inside her catsuit even when it’s unzipped to the navel and she’s clearly not wearing a bra.
DC has so far refused to make any more female-centric direct-to-DVD films because they said sales of the Wonder Woman DVD were disappointing. In fact, they were on par with the Green Lantern: First Flight DVD. But, apparently, DC has decided its audience is the people who love clearly gratuitous stripper scenes with magic boobs.
6. The entire first issue of the new book, Voodoo, which features the first African-American female lead, features her as a stripper as well.
7. Power Girl, who had her own title before the reboot, is now a supporting cast member in Mister Terrific, primarily serving as the friend-with-benefits of the lead character and an antagonist for another women who’s hot for Mister T. (Thus not even passing the Bechdel Test.)
There’s more but these will do as a list. Separately, one can explain away one or two of these things. Taken together, with the past history of women in superhero comics, the lack of female creators especially, it’s disturbing.It’s not mustache-twirling sitting in the backroom cackling sexist–no one’s doing that right now–but it’s functionally sexist. (And I say right now because, according to this report by a former DC Editor, it was decided that “we need a rape!” when the Identity Crisis was planned back in 2005.)
But this time something fascinating happened with the DC reboot.
There was an explosion of criticism on the internet, a lot of it from women. Intelligent, articulate, superhero-loving women. Women with platforms to reach a large audience, like Laura Hudson.
Along with Hudson, there’s The Mary Sue,DC Women Kicking Ass, The Geek Girls Network, the Nerdy Bird, myself over at GeekDad on Wired.com, Sequential Tart, and a number of others. That they are too many to keep track of them all warms my heart and proves my point. We’ve reached a tipping point where this idea of “superheroes are only male adolescent power fantasies” is going to be challenged and, eventually, proven a myth. It wasn’t always so and there’s no reason it should be that way. Superheroes are a mythic fantasy about taking control to do the right thing. There’s nothing inherently male about that.
DC said with the reboot that they wanted to push past the boundaries of their current audience, yet the majority of their content so far says otherwise. It was a perfect storm in which many of these women, myself included, said “enough is enough.”
And they’ve kept on saying it, despite the vast internet cries of “beating a dead horse,” and “comics are not for girls,” and “they’re just not the target market.” And my favorite, the “men are idealized too, so stop complaining about the female artwork.” That one is so prevalent that a professor at Bowling Green University repeated it in an article for CNN on Monday. Really? Are we still having that discussion? It is so hard to see that point? Apparently so.
But I object to the idea that somehow, well-written and well-drawn female characters who look beautiful and powerful at the same time will suddenly make the male audience run for the hills. Women read a ton. They love male characters. They’re not asking for a radical changeover. They”re just asking, as Busiek said and Hudson said in her article, that the two major superhero companies stop actively trying to drive them away. The movies, especially Marvel’s movies, do a great job also appealing to the female audience.
I don’t see why that’s so hard to replicate in comics.
If there was a major corporation that said “you know, our audience is just white people, we don’t have to listen to any concern of minorities because they just don’t buy our comics, we want the white consumer” I don’t think that would go over well at all. But because it’s women, it’s somehow more accepted. It shouldn’t be.
DC has done some things right. I’m enjoying the new Batgirl. What I’ve seen of Supergirl looks good and Batwoman, featuring a lesbian superhero, looks fantastic. DC also provided several titles featuring multi-cultural characters, such as Batwing, the aforementioned Mister Terrific and Voodoo, and Blue Beetle.
Greg Rucka at a panel at Geek Girl Con said that the only way to effect change is to speak out, not only about the things that are done well but the things that are done badly.
I take that to heart. I’m going to continue to speak out.
And I won’t be alone.
I won’t even be the loudest voice.
And that’s what makes me optimistic about change actually happening.
Almost a year ago, I wrote one of my first posts for GeekMom. It was about my then-2-½-year-old son, my sense that he would soon be interested in superheroes, and my worries about how to explain supervillains to him. I wrote:
“… How am I supposed to explain good guys like Superman without getting into the evil-doing, world-destroying bad guys? How do I let him know that these stories depend on bad people trying to hurt other people — and indeed, that this happens in real life, too?”
Commenters on that post had some great suggestions, which I took to heart as I geared up have these “bad guy” conversations with my kiddo. What’s implied in some of those comments, and what seems obvious to me now, is that the best approach to handling this involves “leveling up.” You don’t start with terrifying psychopaths who want to murder innocents or blow up the world, you start with vaguely selfish and easily reformed bad guys who want to “swipe” things or maybe do some occasional hitting. At 3½, my son can handle that.
Handle it? Who am I kidding? He loves it. Playing “bad guys” is now one of his favorite activities, so I’ve spent many an hour practicing my bwah-ha-ha laugh and running off with toys before he swoops in to stop me by shooting a web or using his freeze power. We’ve started reading some of the DC Super Friends and Marvel Super Hero Squad early reader books, and he’s hugely satisfied by the bad-guy-goes-to-jail endings. And he recently drew a picture of himself that included weird lines coming out of his ears and told me the lines were streams of glue shooting out to “stick the bad guys.”
Obviously, he’s thinking a lot about villains, but oddly enough, he hasn’t asked me as much about them as I expected. He seems to understand that a bad guy does selfish or mean things, while we try our best to be helpful and kind, like superheroes. He even developed a superpower that transforms bad guys into good guys who can then help him root out other bad guys to be brought back from the dark side.
As in so many areas of parenting, I guess I was overthinking it. Turns out, villians aren’t so hard to understand, especially in a comforting context where the good guys always win.
I’m a sucker for re-purposing. When I was younger I would take my dad’s beer bottle caps, punch holes in them, and make earrings. When it came time to plan my best friend’s baby shower, I massacred some Little Golden books rather than visit One Stop Party Shoppe. So when Sue at Comic Salvage contacted GeekMom and said “Hey check this out!”, well I couldn’t resist.
I’ve been an Etsy surfer for several years now, I helped my mother-in-law set up her shop, after being introduced to the site by a friend, then I toyed with my own store. I never did get over my fear of PayPal to make anything of it. When I saw Sue’s creations at Comic Salvage, I decided to take the plunge and make my first Etsy purchase. A few days later, one very nice delivery man, and I am in love, with the jewelry that is.
I don’t have the patience to make my own jewelry. I’ve tried, it doesn’t make me happy. Having someone else do it however — now that I can do. I bought a “POW!” necklace for myself, and a speech bubble necklace for my 16-year-old niece that I thought was more than appropriate. I’m always a bit dubious buying sight unseen, but these pieces satisfied every doubt I had about weight, length and quality. I was impressed by the craftsmanship that has gone into these pieces; the wrapping itself was a work of art. I couldn’t resist chatting a little more with owner, Sue Smith, about how she got into the comic book/jewelry business.
GeekMom: How did you get started?
Sue: This idea was floating around in my head for about two years. I never really knew how to go about starting it, so I researched a lot. I tried to figure out what kind of materials I would use, what would look best and without costing a fortune. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I was looking for something to do that was creative, but could also bring a little money into our home. I started with an Etsy shop that had some of the comic book jewelry, fabric and vintage inspired pieces. I realized very quickly that the comic book jewelry was doing well and that I should start a shop dedicated to it!
GeekMom: What made you pick comic books?
Sue: That’s an easy one. My husband is an illustrator and has been collecting comic books since he was a kid, so I’m surrounded by them. We love collecting anything vintage, especially toys and books from our childhood. We are often scouting out garage sales and flea markets for some good finds. I’ve always noticed the excessive amounts of distressed comic books that were out there. A lot of them are missing covers or ripped and not worth much. I loved the idea of recycling them into little pieces of history that you can wear!
GeekMom: What have been your favorite pieces to work with?
Sue: I love them all, but I guess my favorite are the necklaces with the dialogue balloons. I love being able to express an emotion whether it’s inspirational or funny. I also love making my “puzzle links.” They are cuff links that reveal one image when put together.
GeekMom: Do you make duplicates?
Sue: I haven’t used a duplicate yet. There are so many comic books out there, that I haven’t come across the need to use an image I’ve used before. I probably won’t for a long time. Each piece is taken from an original vintage comic book, which makes it unique. I only use comic books that are 20 years or older.
GeekMom: Do you do custom work?
Sue: Yes, I do custom pieces! There are so many characters out there and people have their favorites. I wouldn’t want to deny them that!
GeekMom: Have you had any peculiar requests?
Sue: No, I wouldn’t say I’ve had any peculiar requests. I have had one favorite so far. A customer asked me to make her cuff links for her fiance as a wedding gift. It was for Robocop, which was actually really hard for me to find. I found the perfect picture and sent her the cuff links and the comic book it came from. It’s going to be handed to him on his wedding day, which is so cool! It’s stories like this that make my job so fun!
No Superheroes were harmed in the making of this jewelry.