Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas from Family Reads!

Happy Christmas, Gentle Reader, or whichever Winter Holiday you choose to celebrate. If you choose not to celebrate any at all, happy day-off from work! We Reads have had a lovely visit with Family, and I must admit, rather blushingly, that Mr. Reads and I have Raked Up The Gifts. Video Games, gift cards, lovely bags, and of course, the gift of a stereo receiver for We Reads, to each other.

This eve, we head off into the wild to dessert with family and friends, and then, This Humble Author is Away to Quite the Snowy State tomorrow morning! See you on the other side, and if I do not see you by then, have a lovely New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Amy (Belatedly) Reads the Week (of December 16th, 2007)

I know, I know, Gentle Reader: I am Woefully Behind on my weekly column. But I have little to offer you this week. There is a post In The Works on Ms. Simone's fantastic new issue of Wonder Woman, and I have some enjoyable--and critical--things to say about recent pop culture events, like The Golden Compass, I Am Legend, Life on Mars, finally back on BBC America, Mike Carey's recent Dead Men's Boots (interlibrary loan, How I Adore Thee), etc. etc. ad nauseam.

But rather, I will leave you with Amy Reads' Best of the Year Lists, as soon, the Readses will pack up the car for The Journey Home for the Holidays. Yes, Amy Reads, Mr. Reads, and the intrepid Pup Reads will endure a long car ride home in order to celebrate the holidays with the Reads Family and the Reads-In-Laws. Therefore there is Much Laundry to be done, Lots of Packing, Great Amounts of Housekeeping, and, of course, dissertation planning. I promise to update here and there, but consider this column, belated as it is!, as the last official "Amy Reads the Week" column of 2007.

That being said, let's away to the lists!

Amy Reads' Best of 2007

Best Album
The White Stripes - Icky Thump
runner up: Tegan and Sara - The Con

Best Novel
Joe Hill - Heart-Shaped Box
runner up: Chelsea Cain - Heartsick
runner up: Mike Carey - The Felix Castor series

Best Rediscovered Novel
Edith Wharton - The House of Mirth
runner up: Alan Moore - The Watchmen

Best Movie
The Coen Brothers - No Country for Old Men
runner up: Paul Greengrass - The Bourne Ultimatum (it was loads of fun, Gentle Reader, sincerely)

Best Rediscovered Movie
Brian Percival - North and South (BBC)
runner up:Sam Raimi - Spider-Man II

Best New Television Series
ABC - Pushing Daisies
runner up: NBC - Life

Best Continuing Television Series
NBC - 30 Rock
runner up: CW - Supernatural

Best Comic: DC and Imprints
Gail Simone - Wonder Woman
runner up: Grant Morrison - Batman
runner up: Brian K. Vaughan - Y the Last Man

Best Comic: Marvel
Joss Whedon - Astonishing X-Men
runner up: Brian Michael Bendis - New Avengers
runner up: Joss Whedon - Runaways

Best Comic: Independent
Joss Whedon - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 (Dark Horse)
runner up: Brian Lynch - Angel: After the Fall (IDW)

Any thoughts to add to the mix, Friends?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pride of Armaghetto

Jimmy Olson is “Misdirection” in Countdown to Formal Criticism!?!

It’s birthday time once again, Gentle Reader, and unlike last year, I am not suffering from a terrible virus, complete with hospital stay (!!!). In fact, it’s lovely and cold here in The South, and Mr. Reads and I are planning a long day of playing Spider-Man: Friend or Foe on the Wii. Part of my birthday present included all four Wonder Woman action figures, and part of it includes the following from Dear Mr. Reads. He has written us Quite The Delightful Read and has been so gracious as to grace us with his cyber-presence. Please join me in welcoming him to Arrogant Self-Reliance, and thank him for picking up my Blogging Slack as a lovely Birthday Present!

Hey! This is the apparently-so-called Mister Reads reporting live from wherever I am. (Find me and win a shiny coin!).

In point-of-fact, my long-running e-dentity in has been “Mister Fiction,” which, I suppose makes my married name “Mister Fiction-Reads”. Apropos, that. By that same measure, you can also call me “Mister Poetry-Writes” and “Mister Argument-and-Literature-Teaches-at-the-University-Level”.

You know what? Don’t call me that. However, it is in that latter role that I have been thinking about our four-color friends recently. I have been experimenting with using the graphic novel as a topic of discussion and an artifact of literature in classes for a few years now. This started when I created a prompt which required my students to defend what they were a nerd about— any secret hobby or passion— against an oppositional audience. I am amused by how many to date who have admitted to secret readers, collectors, closet cartoonists, and so forth. This has evolved into a variety of assignments that either critically dissect a graphic novel or expand on arguments made in the text to...blah blah. Yeah, you don’t care.

The long, shortened, is that after looking at V for Vendetta last Fall as a political text (discussing not only the book’s anarchic arguments and incorporating it into a wider discussion of subversive argument, but also comparing it to contemporary political rhetoric, other propaganda-of-the-deed culture jammers like Adbusters, and the lessons of Nell’s Primer in Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age), I decided to step back from heady political rhetoric and consider a lighter, “funner” book, like Pride of Baghdad, by Brian K. Vaughan and Nico Henrichson.

This is the closest you are getting to a spoiler warning: I’m not going to bother with spoiler warnings. The literature is in suspended animation on the page; let’s not concern ourselves with base worries about “surprise.” I’ve now read through the book two dozen times and I am still surprised by the end-- not what happens, but how and why. If you haven’t read the book, go read the book.

And here’s where I’m cruel. Not that I taught a book where Disneyfied, wholly humanized characters are killed because they ran into Man’s story of the current war in Iraq—killed by history in the guise of artfully faceless American soldiers. (It really is a powerfully realized scene, you should have read the book. Now it is ruined. Good job!) The cruelty is that I did everything I could to avoid lecturing on surface topics like “theme” or “plot”. I put this cunning book, with its complex, implicit political arguments, in front of students and would not untangle its sticky politics for them. For their papers (and, to a one, they outperformed my expectations-- good on them) they had free reign to look at what happens in the book and what it means, but for the sake of my lectures given and questions asked, I was more interested in the bare mechanics of the storytelling. The who, the where, the how seen. Why is the more “feminine” lioness the less maternal? Is the construction of the family in the story natural or artificial? Why is Safa's rape necessary to the plot? How is it more than a “women in refrigerators”-style attempt to achieve character-depth via rape? Why do we keep seeing the same panel construction at rhythmic intervals: the splash image of the lion straddling the reader's perspective, framed against a sky empty but for one bird, with a sprig of vegetation around the lion's foot? Why are the horses just dumb animals when all other animals are anthropomorphized?

Mini-lesson. To utterly mangle the basics of genre studies, as you'll see it in any literature textbook, stories can be broken down into constituent parts, mechanical structure without which there is no story. The common seven are (and usually discussed in this order) character, setting, point-of-view, plot, symbolism, tone, and theme. There are theorists who break this down and explain the mechanism, but what I have seen again and again, as a reader, a writer, an editor, and a teacher, is that, without the first three, nothing else works. You need one or more actors and they must stand somewhere—even a bare stage, even a foggy nothingness for them to flip coins in—and the audience must have a vantage. Without any of these three, there is no plot, no theme, no story. However, as long as these three elements are interacting, the rest just happens. It’s the basis of your local improv group. “Name me a profession.” “Give me a location!” An astronaut! In court! And the audience provides its own p.o.v. by sitting out of the lamplight, sipping overpriced microbrews or Italian Cremes and thinking “There is no way this will be funny.”

Advanced lesson. Imagine a hungry rat and a sleeping baby in a canoe. There is a definite tension, but it never breaks. Where are you in relation to it? Is it coming closer to you? (Feel that anticipation). Is it moving away? (Regret, anger, desperation?) Is it sitting still in the middle of the placid lake, forever out of your reach? As soon as the reader can orient his or her relation to the story, plot just happens, tone, symbols, and themes start accumulating.

Take a basic character: The Flash. Put him in a setting that brings some tension: a crater blasted into a Keystone City street. Does the artist lift the audience's p.o.v. to look down at the wreckage, shrinking our hero in perspective to a red twist in the dark pit, allowing us to literally look down at him? Does the artist set us down, looking past the glowing bolt of iconic lighting on Wally's chest and up at his jaw's determined jut just before he...

And that's where I took my students, as best as I was able. Playing around not just with close readings of the text, genre theory, smatterings of deconstruction and feminist theory, and Scott Morse's “gutter”, but intentionally leading them away from discussions of patriotism, war, politics, and so forth in favor of looking at characters, settings, and our forced perspective on the story. Because that last one, right there, that's what comics do that other art forms can't. We are encouraged to help create and maintain the character in the fashion of prose and poetry (not relying on an actor's interpretation) and having your point-of-view mobile but forced on you (as in film, or carnival rides). Pride of Baghdad gets this right; the story is about the lions and their interaction with the history of Baghdad. The nature of war is lagniappe. America's pride, which many of my students wanted to their deep heart's core to be at the center of the story, is no great actor in this story, nor was meant to be; it is a functionary of the plot, like Fortinbras, like Polonius. Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse, almost. At times.

This is what event-books like Countdown have gotten completely wrong. It has taken everything that comic books have to offer—visually strong, iconic characters, bold, imaginative, symbol-rich settings, and the aforementioned cinematic use of perspective—and thrown it away in return for that most mechanical of story-elements, plot. The dull accumulation of stuff happening. The slow arch—or in comics, the slow wave—of things going bad, getting better, getting worse, and a return the status quo. This is the process that even the writers themselves call “the illusion of change.” No one believes that Big Barda will stay dead, that The Hulk is “tamed”, that Black Bolt is gone forever, that Risk won't have revenge-fueled prostheses the next time we see him.

At some point, the writers and editors have cut corners or lost focus and misread that we would care about these things just because they happened.

Theoretically, we care about the characters and not the tragedy that befalls them. We care about Sue Dibny not just because of the wealth of stories in her past, but because we see the sorrow melt Ralph. I haven't talked to anyone who is upset about Bart Allen dying because it hasn't been treated as a real death, with real consequences for those around him.

It feels like it's just a plot, not a story.

I have had students over the years jokingly curse me because they can't just enjoy “good enough” anymore. They have to ask why there is so much anti-immigrant rhetoric in the Transformers movie, how the cases aren't thrown out due to the unjust behavior done in the name of justice on any episode of Law & Order, and so on. It's my favorite thing about teaching; I love being there when people teach themselves to ask questions.

I have to wonder though, as I read Countdown – Arena, exactly how we've reached this nadir again, where poorly drawn stories of interchangeable variations of recognizable icons stabbing each other in the eyes, posing, and shouting slogans can be “good enough” for anyone. Stuff happens, but we're never given reason to care. Following not just in the footprints, but in the same footwear, as the story-rich 52, Countdown seemingly is junking everything in the name of “stuff happening often.” The characters are two-dimensional at best, actions have no consequences, the settings vary between the middle of a deserted Metropolis street (“...A GOD DIES!!!”) to a deserted section of Apokolips, and our point-of-view is bleak.

There is a horizon, though, if we rise to see it. I just read Marc Guggenheim's Resurrection which is about anything but what you think it will be. And, at the end of issue #1, a book the author describes as answering the plotty question “What. Happens. Next?” is running instead on well-drawn characters reacting to their settings in a rich, intriguing way. I cherished much the same in the new Angel- After the Fall, The Goon – Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker, and (once you push past the discomfort of some of the textual tricks) Alan Moore's The Black Dossier. I really could just read continuations of these stories for years without any expectation of big plot payoffs. I just want to see more of their worlds and meet more of the people who live there.

Before I go, I also need to give credit to two recent books which have managed to create plot-heavy books which are entirely balanced are just telling nifty stories, DC's Booster Gold and Marvel's The Order—not necessarily my favorite two books in print, but the hooks I'm hanging my hopes for the future on.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled Amy Reads. Thanks for letting me ramble.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of December 9th, 2007)

What an exhausting week it has been, Gentle Reader, as the semester, and the fall television season, come to a close. Mr. Reads and I have been Quite Busy with the End of Term, and the end of Filmed Episodes of all of our favorite shows. Only a few more now, and then we shall wait, patiently, for the Networks to give the Writers their due.

But mainly, Netflix--o, beloved Netflix!--brought all four discs of The Wire, Season 4, and Mr. Reads and I have drowned, maddeningly, in the tales of our Baltimore Friends. More on that soon, when I've had the Proper Time to Reflect. But let me do say this: The Wire is just about as Perfect as Television can get.

And we've just returned--just!--from seeing Beowulf in digital 3-D, and I must admit, it was beautiful. The story was perfect, as I'm sure you, Gentle Reader, can imagine, as it was written by two great writers, Mr. Gaiman and Mr. Avary. The pacing, the story, the suspense, the twists, just wonderful, truly. This Humble Author has heard people express their displeasure of the digital effects, and I truly believe that seeing it in 3-D eliminates all of the complaints I've heard about the film. This was a movie made for digital 3-D. I assure you.

Other delights this week have included the final Pirates of the Caribbean movie (with the Delightful Ms. Knightley as The Pirate King), the Futurama movie, and Super Mario Party 8 on the Wii, which does me A Great Disservice as a Gamer, because I apparently cannot role animated dice to save my life, or the life of Daisy. But I outstrip Mr. Reads and our nemeses, Waluigi and Wario, on gold coins, hands down.

It is a rainy sleepy day here in Chez Reads, Friends, and I find myself in need of sustenance in order to continue. But this week promises further delights, as We Reads will go see The Mist (finally!), the Golden Compass, and I Am Legend on Friday, for the Amy Reads Birthday Celebration. What more to ask for in this world than good Indian food and a promising vampire movie? Not much, I say!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of December 3rd, 2007)

Last night I was A Bit Ill, and unfortunately, Gentle Reader, this has been Quite the Usual Case this past semester. But one great advantage of feeling ill is the self-permission to lie down in bed and read. Not a Room of One's Own, per se (gratitude, Ms. Woolf), but it does allow one to let herself go, just for a moment.

So This Humble Author decided to read some graphic novels scooped up from the library, and on the docket were Iron Man: Director of Shield, Moon Knight vol 1: The Bottom, and the graphic novel version of Gaiman's and Avary's Beowulf. Beowulf and Iron Man are, of course, Quite Familiar to This Humble Author, but not so much Moon Knight. I was surprised and a bit pleased by the foray into Marvel Comic's answer to The Batman Question.

Ultimately, what I enjoyed most was the introduction (to me, at least) and what I can only assume for familiar readers, reintroduction to a rather varied and interesting cast of characters. Marc Spector is a man driven half-mad over his god's abandonment of him. He finds himself alone, seemingly abandoned by all those who love him and who he loves: namely, best friend Jean-Paul and girlfriend Marlene.

What he discovers in the end is that if one has friends, one is not alone. And Marc does have friends, two of them, who despite the horrors he has put them through (horrors unknown to This Humble Author who is Rather New to This Storyline), trust him, and help him.

Help, and trust. Trust becomes the most important piece of humanity in this work, as is revealed when Jean-Paul's partner--and therefore his sexuality--is introduced to Marc. Marc tells Jean-Paul, "You should have told me," to which Jean-Paul responds, "C'est merde, Marc. I did. [...] Every day. I told you with my trust. With my life. With the hundreds of times I risked my life for you. For your cause. Your... god."

Ultimately, this is a book not about the hero but about those with whom the hero surrounds himself. The ones caught in the crossfire. The ones who, like Jean Paul, lose parts of themselves in sacrifice to the larger quest. The ones who, like Marlene, love the heroes enough to tell them the truth, even when it hurts. Even when it wounds. She tells Marc, "We sacrificed everything for you! We gave up our lives for yours. But when it got hard? You quit." The hero quits, and it is those left behind who must pick up the pieces. Marlene, despite the fact that she and Marc are no longer dating, despite the fact that she tells him, at the end, "I like my life. I don't want to go back all that--" she loves, and helps, and trusts.

Ultimately, Gentle Reader, this is a book about the evolution not of a hero but of the hero's life, separate, perhaps, from the hero himself. Marc finds not that his life has changed suddenly, but that his life has been different, always different, from what he perceived it to be. And that is, in the end, an excellent way to reintroduce characters to familiar readers, and to introduce, for the first time, characters to a new reader such as This Humble Author.

This is a Dark Little Offering from Mr. Huston and Mr. Finch, and by the end, I found myself Quite Intrigued by the complicated and rich storyline. In particular, I found the complexity of the minor secondary characters, Marlene and Jean-Paul, to be Utterly Fascinating.

Now, however, I must return to Work, Work, Work, as it is That Time Of The Semester. Which means, of course, grading, writing, dissertating, and reading, always reading. But We Reads do have lovely plans for the future, including holiday trips and shopping and Much Festive Making, particularly for This Humble Author's 31st birthday celebration next week. Let us hope it is better than last year's, which saw This Humble Author felled by a nasty virus!

And yourselves, Gentlest and Most Constant of Readers? Any plans for the winter festivities to come?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of November 25th, 2007)

It’s frightfully early, Gentle Reader, and Mr. and Pup Reads are still abed. Perhaps it is because This Humble Author found herself turning in almost too early on the last night of Thanksgiving break. We Reads finished Jericho (wonderful!) and have started the second season of Supernatural. About halfway through the third disc, around 10:45, I found myself dozing on the couch and not giving the Winchester boys My Full Attention. I was chastised by Mr. Reads and sent to dreamland, forthwith.

Today, Mr. Reads and I celebrate our third wedding anniversary with brunch at Our Local Fancy Restaurant and a trip to see Stephen King’s The Mist. It is rather cold and rainy here in Land Reads, which is perfect weather for those of us Reads-Inclined (well, perhaps Pup Reads finds it a Bit Annoying). Mr. Reads and I truly believe that we should live someplace that is cold and rainy all the time, like Scotland, or the Pacific Northwest. If only the job market would comply!

More reviews soon, Gentle Reader, as I have fulfilled my promise to Catch Up on my Comics Pop Culture. But until then, enjoy the rest of your holiday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, Gentle Reader, from We Reads: Amy Reads, Mr. Reads, and Pup Reads (who only cares about her proximity to turkey)! We have a quiet day planned: Jericho to watch, turkey to eat, dessert with Supadiscomama, Supadiscobaby, and Harrogate, with whom Mr. Reads and I just saw No Country for Old Men, which is Utterly Amazing.

Enjoy the annual American holiday of football and overeating!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of November 18th, 2007)

I have just—just, Gentle Reader!—finished preparing the Reads Turkey for the Reads Early Thanksgiving Extravaganza. That is to say, the Parents Reads have dropped by for an Early Thanksgiving before they drive to Another State to spend Thanksgiving Proper with their Young Godchild, whom they have not seen since the beginning of the year. We are having Quite the Thanksgiving Feast, as We Reads, despite blips and bleeps and Rather Annoying Rejection Letters and Health Issues and Chocolate Cravings and Comic Book Frustrations, have much to be Thankful For in 2007.

But part of the visit from Parents Reads is due to the fact that We Reads—the younger generation—cannot spare the few days of traveling to Head Home for the Holidays. Thanksgiving Break is a rather difficult time, travel-wise, for those in school or academia. Mr. Reads and I both have Many Papers to grade, and I do have That Pesky Chapter to get done. Given that school runs Up Until Wednesday, we had no time, truly, for travel.

But staying here means that We Reads also get to do things around the time spent on grading and dissertations. Reading Comics, for example, and finally—finally!—watching Lone Wolf and Cub with real attention, as My Dear Friend Mr. Fanboy loaned it to me many months ago, and This Humble Author has other delights to send to him, in addition to his kind loan of a DVD. (I do feel as if announcing it So Publicly will assure My Dear Friend that I have not forgotten him!). Mr. Reads, on the other hand, will spend the majority of his break playing Doom, Bioshock, and all the games for the Wii we have bought but have not opened. And there will be more turkey on Thanksgiving Proper, and, I dare say, many, many servings of leftovers.

But I have decided, declared, really, that Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, will be spent in the pursuit of nothing else but Turkey and Fun. Mr. Reads and I will stockpile episodes of Jericho and finish the season that day. Also, I will read some DC Elseworlds, and more New X-Men (also in anticipation of something in conjunction with My Dear Friend Mr. Fanboy!), and otherwise, spend a Fine Day on Couch Reads.

Any good plans for the upcoming American holiday, Friends?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Inheritance of Same-and-Other, Human-and-Amazon: A Brief Review of Wonder Woman #14

I believe that I have admitted, rather shyly and in hushed, confessional tones, that I was a rather chubby, bookish girl-child, and Gentle Reader, that meant I read. A lot. Sports were not my forte, and never did the graceful art of dancing meet with such a travesty of clay feet as This Humble Author's. When in patterns and puzzles, Math and I were Great Friends; I found myself exceptionally fond of Algebra. When in grander, spatial, conceptual terms, like Advanced Math, or Geometry, or, Heaven Forbid, Calculus, I was lost In The Woods, stumbling around without compass, direction, or purpose. I was a Great Appreciator of Art, and still am; the Brother-Reads-in-Law and the Best Friend Reads are artists both, and the Reads Household is peppered with their works. But I cannot put straight line to paper, or color in the lines, or swirl abstract imaginative paint around a canvas. Too spatial, perhaps? Or it is just Beyond Me.

But oh, Gentle Reader, in literature, and history? This Humble Author found her niche. Books were my passion; the Parents Reads would reward my good academic behavior with trips to the local bookstore. I bought and read everything: children's lit, young adult, adult (Stephen King was read way too young, perhaps, but loved all the same), horror, fantasy, sci fi, history, mythology. When the Parents Reads remodeled the Reads Family Home some twenty-odd years ago, Young Amy Reads found herself displaced from her bedroom and lived, for some months, in the front room. I remember playing Mount Olympus, with all of my stuffed animals and Jem and the Hologram dolls and He-Man action figures standing in for Hephaestus, or Zeus, or My Beloved Athena. Was it any Wonder that This Humble Author's much younger self was entranced with the idea of an Amazon Princess, gifted with power from the gods themselves?

Wonder Woman is a character steeped in mythology; there would be no Wonder, no Woman, without the Greek gods. Without Themyscira, there would be no Amazons, no mysterious island of warrior women, alien, separate, Othered. There is tradition, and protocol, and cultural expectations. But further, Wonder Woman is a character steeped in history. She is the result of the first wave of the Suffrage Movement. Our Grandmother (Proto-) Feminists fought long and hard for a Vote, and a Voice, and Wonder Woman is the product of that. She fought for our rights in those satin tights in the seventies, but even before, she fought for Women. She was a Powerhouse among Powerhouses. Now, one of the Big Three, she still to this day is Stronger than Superman. As he has three weaknesses (kryptonite, magic, red suns), she has none. As he is the dichotomy, Man and Superman, she is Princess Diana, The Wonder Woman.

Constant Readers of This Humble Blog know well that I loved Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman. He brought the Otherness to the forefront. He showed us the strangeness of an Amazon Out Of Place. Not the strangeness of a Woman Warrior in the World of Men, but rather the strangeness of someone ruled by principle, tradition, and moral absolutes in a world of ambiguity. There is no gray in the world of the Grey-Eyed One's Champion. Even with Athena's eyes, Wonder Woman fights her battles the way she understands him.

Post-Crisis, through Mr. Heinberg's, Mr. Pfeifer's, and Ms. Picoult's runs on Wonder Woman, we saw the fumbling of connections. That is not to say that This or That Writer wrote Better or Worse than the other; rather, the difficulty of trying to connect such varied storylines in such short amounts of time wrought its tragedy upon the continuity of The Amazon Princess. Further, Amazons Attack demonstrated the difficulty of trying to manage multiple levels of storylines through the one figure of Wonder Woman. Neither One Thing or The Other, she was forced to be Both, and More. Diana was forced to be Human and Amazon, Same and Different, Us and Not-Us. But never consistently, and never with any true purpose.

Wonder Woman #14 brings a new writer to the fold, and Ms. Gail Simone takes her many and considerable talents to the Amazon Princess. But further, and most importantly, Ms. Simone brings her Understanding of the Amazon Princess to her run on Wonder Woman. That Understanding depends on the Same-and-Other construction of Princess Diana, certainly, but also it depends on the inheritance, the tradition, the ideas, and yes, even What Has Come Before, whether three or thirty issues ago.

We begin with a scene on Themyscira, Hippolyta running across the earth, sandaled feet flying over grass, eyes squinting against the sun and purpose, and the words, "It was more like birth itself. An act of DESTRUCTION, as well as CREATION." This thing-we-do-not-yet-know understands the Manichean dichotomy. One cannot have Creation without Destruction, just as one cannot have the Same without the Other. One cannot have new Agent Diana Prince without Amazon Princess Diana. One cannot have the New without the Tradition.

And we see New-and-Tradition in the pages that follow, images of Diana fighting Grodd's army, who challenge her to see if they are strong enough to defeat Superman. Diana, a warrior, is honored by the comparison. She knows their purpose, and she knows the dangers that can be wrought by discontent. When in battle she narrates that "their anger makes them mine," she separates herself, so distinctly, from emotion. It was not an angry or emotional Diana that killed Maxwell Lord; rather, it was the gods' Champion. It was the Royal Princess, performing an act herself because she would take the consequences on her own.

She does not defeat Grodd's army, but rather establishes dominance over them, because they are "Creatures of ritual, well used to a social hierarchy," and she is, above all else, a Princess. It is not that Diana is willing to use her royal status; it is that she is her royal status. It's why she "prefer[s] never to use Batman's methods." His way is violent simplicity; hers is ritualistic complication.

But what Ms. Simone brings to Wonder Woman is something precious that has been missing from its pages for Quite Some Time, even in Mr. Rucka's run. While I believe Mr. Rucka to be A Talented Writer, he is not, however, a humorous one. Gail Simone brings a much-needed sense of wit and fancy to these pages, and not only are all the characters charming and witty, they're likeable, as well. Even Nemesis, to whom This Humble Author never warmed, finally demonstrates why he might be an appropriate love interest for a Superhero who has had so few. Or, as one of Grodd's army states, "They will mate soon, if they haven't already," to which another responds, "Their movement and scent confirm it."

A sense of whimsy, of enjoyment, and this is a Diana that is likeable, too. Despite my love for her, something bred over close to thirty years, Wonder Woman is not the Superhero I would like to be, say, BFF with. Selina Kyle is someone with whom you could go dancing, and Black Canary someone to call when in trouble. But Wonder Woman, even in her Holiday Girls days, seemed a bit separate from me. Perhaps because she was such a grownup when I was a child, and even when I was an adult, she, the Ambassador, was too Royal and Proper for me. That is not to say I didn't want to be her, because I did. But never once did I imagine that we would be friends.

But this Diana, who is trying to "learn their rituals as more than an uncommitted observer," despite the fact that "it is a strange culture that outlaws the hug," enjoys surprise birthday parties, and cake. This is a Diana who will meet with a character that This Humble Author is thrilled, Absolutely Thrilled, to see grace these pages again. I will not ruin the surprise for you, Gentle Reader, but let me just say that it is worth it, after all, to have waited So Long for this reboot to finally—finally!—start.

Mr. Reads and I discussed once the best villain for Wonder Woman, and we both agreed: this was a Superhero made to Defeat Nazis. And Ms. Simone delivers, gives us not only Nazis but Super-Nazis. This will be a battle for both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman. This will be a villain we can hate, so very cheerfully, individually or as a collective.

There are other delights Here and There, too, and this feels like the beginning of what will prove to be a sensational run for the Amazon Princess. In This Humble Author's Humble Opinion, this is some of the best comic writing we've seen in the DC Universe since One Year Later Began, over One Year Ago. This is what Wonder Woman should be like, and I, for one, am glad that I held on, so very patiently, that I laid down my $3 a month for the past year to prove to DC that Wonder Woman is a title that deserves a dedicated writer once again.

This is a Wonder Woman that is the Inheritance of Themyscira and Our Earth. This is our Sister Suffragette, our Beloved Amazon, our Woman Warrior who is the Hope and Savior of Her People. She is Same-and-Other, Human-and-Amazon, Diana-Prince-and-Princess-Diana. Ms. Simone has taken What Has Come Before and has made it into something Quite Spectacular indeed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of November 11th, 2007)

Apologies for the lateness of this column, Gentle Reader, as the Internet Reads was down yesterday evening.

I feel like I have spent much of my past four months apologizing for the General Hecticness of My Life, and Gentle Reader, I have owed you the Lion’s Share of those apologies. Yes, You, the Gen Pop of a Comic Book Collective of Fans. You, my Friends, who listen, willingly, patiently, intelligently, to my babblings about Television, or Comic Books, or Novels. You, my Friends, who send care packages and discs of television series (gratitude, Mr. Fanboy), comics and necklaces (gratitude, Rachel), who listen, cyber-wise, in-real-life-wise (gratitude, Friends Reads). This I am so thankful for.

And yet I persist in General Malaise, Malingering, Busy-work, any number of things that keep me from filling the days of Arrogant Self-Reliance's Constant Readers with High Prose of the Popular Culture Variety. For this, I apologize, slightly teasingly, but in most sincerity.

Slightly teasing, of course, Friends, but I am teasing myself for my persistence in the busy-ness of my life. And to prove this, I glanced recently through my ever-increasingly-tall stack of Unread Comics and bemoaned to Mr. Reads that I would never, ever catch up. I am barely afloat in DC comics, enough to understand Wally’s frustration when Bruce chastises him on Child Safety. I am so far behind in the Marvel Universe that I still don’t know why Elektra was a Skrull. As for Dark Horse, I manage to keep abreast of Buffy, but my plan to begin reading BPRD has fallen to the wayside. Add in Vertigo and Image and Wildstorm, and you have one Very Grumpy, one Very Frustrated Ms. Reads.

That is not to say that I have not been reading, or viewing, or working through other comics, or books, or television series. I have. But Thanksgiving holiday looms near, and with it, I plan to finish—yes, Friends, finally!—that pesky dissertation chapter that has haunted me for so long, and I plan to sit and read several months’ worth of comics.

Many of you have recommended new series to me (Shelly, if I recall correctly, recommends Criminal), or old favorites (Matthew ever recommends Legion), or urge new characters into the fold (Sally, Ragnell, and Kalinara and the Green Lantern Love). Mr. Reads is pushing me towards back issues of JSA, Teen Titans, and the recently-read Watchmen.

So I ask you, Gentle Reader, to help me choose the material for my Thanksgiving Reading Extravaganza. I plan to catch up on current pull lists, but I also plan to work through old issues of one of the following:

Justice Society of America
Several Elseworlds series in the backlog
Ms. Marvel
Teen Titans

If we take it to a vote, which would you recommend for my upcoming reading marathon? Reviews promised, of course!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of November 4th, 2007)

I’m rather ill, Gentle Reader, and therefore I must Keep My Time With You Short. It has been an on-again, off-again, asleep-and-not-asleep kind of day, and I’ve expended most of my energies here in front of Computer Reads. But as a consequence, I have been watching some television, and reading some books, and I thought I would drop in and discuss, In Brief, my recent forays.

Jericho - Mr. Reads and I were interested a long time ago, but a plethora of circumstances, and Upcoming TV Shows, prevented us. Well done thus far! I look forward to watching more.

The Lightning Thief - a YA novel based on the legends of the Greek Gods, brought forward to Now, and well done, thus far.

Reaper - I am Continuously Surprised by the quality of this show, which gets more interesting, each passing episode.

Journeyman - Mr. Reads and I were, a few episodes ago, about to abandon this show, and then it became Very Interesting Indeed. And I do so love my Time Travel Shows.

More next week, Friends! Now I’m off to find some rest, some medicine, and the inevitable chicken noodle soup.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Amy Will Not Read the Week (of October 28th, 2007)

We Reads are in the middle of several family situations, Gentle Reader, including a visit from Parents Reads, so I must Beg Off from my regularly scheduled (and slightly delayed) weekly column. I will resume regular programming next week!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Monstrous Maternities?: A Brief Reflection on Recent Motherhood Events in DC Comics

Spoilers for recent events in the DC Universe, namely Catwoman, Birds of Prey, and the Black Canary/Green Arrow crossover events

For good or bad, known or not, we all have mothers, Gentle Reader. And Motherhood has been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks. A Dear Friend of the Reads Family is giving birth Any Moment Now—and sincerely, Friends, that is Any Possible Moment!—and when she is added to the Very Long List of Friends Reads who are recent mothers? This Humble Author looks at 95% of her Friends of the Double-X Chromosome Persuasion.

I, however, am not A Mother to a Human-Child. A Dog-Child, yes, as Pup Reads is Quite Loved. But Motherhood and Maternity as they appear in our literatures and popular cultures are fascinating subjects for me, and I find myself talking about them personally, professionally, while blogging, while reading comics, and for We Few, We Happy Few, We Fans Of Comics, we as of late have had a lot to read, Mother-Wise.

In the DC Universe alone, we have Hero and Villain alike: Catwoman, Manhunter, Black Canary, Hippolyta, Circe, all are mothers to children. Even farther and even faster (gratitude, Ms. Bishop) we have Mother Figures to Legacies, a Wonder Woman to a Wonder Girl, for example. Of these Heroes and Villains, two Mothers are more recent parents than others, and these two Mothers have now the both of them Lost Their Children. I speak, of course, of Catwoman and Black Canary.

Motherhood is a topic that This Humble Author finds herself returning to, again and again. Motherhood is an interesting storyline, certainly, as it adds Complication after Complication after Complication for Our Intrepid Heroines (and Villains). But these two recent mothers, Black Canary and Catwoman, both have had, in the very recent past, their children snatched away from them. Whether by “choice” (Catwoman) or “for her own good” (Black Canary)—and there is a world of hurt of the sexist variety in both, Gentle Reader!—these women have decided, or more likely, it has been decided for them, that Motherhood and Heroing Do Not Mix.

Parenting is *hard*, Gentle Reader, and This Humble Author can only imagine how difficult it is for someone who puts her life In Constant Danger, every day. Because we never see that In “Real Life,” no? Of course, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, teachers, cab drivers, stay-at-home parents, caterers, bakers, all of these and more have Quite Easy jobs that never Are Unsafe. Their lives, so easy to work around, their jobs, so simple and constantly safe.

Friends, is this not The Point? Is it not to say that Parenting is Hard, and that is why we have Interesting Storylines involving a Fighter for Justice and her Wee Child? Or, in Black Canary’s case, her child trained by Expert Assassins? Is this not why we see the “it takes a village” mentality for our superheroes, again and again? The Authority offered group parenting for Jenny Quantum, Batman can adopt children Willy-Nilly, the Amazons truly take the “it takes a village” mentality to heart with their children, but suddenly, it is Too Difficult for Selina Kyle or Dinah Lance to raise daughters, even with the help of dozens of friends and trusted colleagues?

Please do not think I am Belittling the Difficulties and Constant Constancy of Parenting, Gentle Reader, because I am not. I have not raised a human, nor have I tried to. I do not have children—although Pup Reads would Beg to Differ!—but we, as a society, have been having children, quite successfully, for thousands of years. Single parents, alternative families, traditional families, young and old alike all raise children successfully. Why is it suddenly so very difficult for the Chair of the Justice League of America? So difficult that the decision *must be made for her* that she Cannot raise her child On Her Own?

Yes, Gentle Reader. This Mild-Mannered and Rather-Humble Humble Author is a wee bit perturbed.

Yes, Friends, you may say that very thing.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl (Wonder)!: A Reflection on Recent and Forthcoming Wonder Woman Comics

An expanded “Amy Reads the Week” column for October 21st, 2007

Mr. Reads and I live in Quite the Small College Town, so that means, Gentle Reader, that there are only three ways home: Major Highway, Minor Road off of Major Road, and Even More Minor Road off of Major Road. I am, by nature, by choice, and occasionally—just occasionally, Gentle Reader!—by compulsion, a Creature of Habit. That is to say, often, I find myself taking the same route home, or to school, or to the store, because it is the most familiar route. It is no surprise, then, that by now, almost two years in the same house, that I know every bump, every pothole, every stop sign on these routes.

But lately, I have found myself traveling down Even More Minor Road because there is a house by which I am particularly intrigued, about halfway home. Not the house, necessarily, but rather, the cascade of green vines and blue flowers spilling over and along the fence of Said House. Perhaps it is my intrinsic love of All Things Colorful In Nature that makes me take this route home again and again. I find Bright Color in Nature absolutely fascinating, and not a little bit awe-inspiring. Despite my Rather Somber Attire—This Humble Author finds her wardrobe comprised mostly of various hues of blacks and grays—I do have an uncanny attraction to the Bright and Colorful. Splashed in with my blacks and grays are bright reds (my favorite color), ice blues, and brilliant purples. My decorating tastes are even more Victorian-eclectic: sleek modern obsessions with old cherry woods mixed in, a kitchen filled with bright red plates and accessories, a living room done in muted shades of sage and bright accents of maroon and purple and gold.

Or perhaps—just perhaps, Gentle Reader!—I take this route home because it is a Stolen Moment. There is something Rather Magical about these flowers. Late October in The South is a beautiful time. Leaves do change; flowers still bloom; peppers do ripen. These flowers represent possibility, and despite the fact that I Know Better, these flowers feel, to This Humble Author, at least, as if they are blooming just to make me smile.

A rather long Prologue to introduce the following three things:

1) I have had more than a few Stolen Moments this week, and that enabled me to read current comics.

2) Preparing for next semester has caused me to read old graphic novels.

3) The next Wonder Woman will be written by Ms. Gail Simone Herself.

Strangely, these are all connected.

As Constant Readers of Arrogant Self-Reliance know, such Stolen Moments have as of late been few and far between for This Humble Author. That is to say, between the Personal and the Professional, my life has been—how shall I put it?—Rather Overwhelming. Mr. Reads and I have managed to stay on top of our television watching, but just barely (I only need point to the two episodes of Torchwood, and recent episodes of Journeyman and Pushing Daisies that remain unwatched on our DVR to prove this point). I have managed to stay abreast of Comic News by reading My Brother and Sister Bloggers, but just barely. I have managed to keep my head above water in All Things, but just barely. Add in an upcoming visit from Parents Reads and everything has turned Rather Murky, at that.

But I have Stolen a few precious Moments, and in those moments, I have read Those Comics most important to me, with Wonder Woman at the top of the list. Wonder Woman #13 and The Annual both ask the same question as a natural setup for Ms. Simone’s impending run: Who Is Wonder Woman?

Gentle Reader, why must we ask this question? Is it because due to Passing from One Writer to the Next, Wonder Woman the Comic changed, so irrevocably and completely, in the One Year Later Crisis? Or did killing Maxwell Lord force the moment to its crisis (gratitude, Mr. Prufrock)? The Amazon Princess herself answers one version of this question in The Annual when she reminds Circe of her origins: “But I’m not even a real person,” Diana tells her. “I’m a Golem. A clay statue brought to life” (The Annual).

How strange that it is Circe who reminds Diana that loneliness and isolation, these feelings of insecurity, of fear after seeing the Eternal Footman hold our coat and snicker (again, gratitude, Mr. Prufrock) are the defining characteristics and great equalizers of Humanity. And even stranger, a second support by an equally surprising source: The Batman. Circe and Batman, two characters rooted deep in humanity, but never apparent until the situation explodes.

Loneliness is a defining characteristic of humanity, Circe tells Diana, and then points to the arrival of other superheroes to demonstrate how far from “alone” The Amazon Princess really is. Loneliness is a defining characteristic of humanity, as is love. Who better to remind Diana of the love she has from friend (and foe) alike than The Batman? Forged in love, existing in loneliness, desperately forming family after family after family, but loving and loved alike, The Batman speaks to the idea of identity formation, of the need for family and friends. He and Diana understand each other. More importantly, he understands Diana, because they are so very much alike.

It is this approval, this support, this identity-building from The Batman that seems the essential part of this chapter in Wonder Woman’s life. Batman, who turned from her so completely after the murder of Maxwell Lord. Batman, who helped her form her secret identity—who helped Diana Prince come to life—now helps her understand it. Batman, in forgiving Diana, forgives himself.

In the end, The Annual is the classic story: “[…] the servant of the gods sent to teach mankind” has “learned to be human, instead” (The Annual). Wonder Woman is the Outsider, the Other, who both teaches and learns. And in the lessons she learns lie the import of her role here on Earth.

I am Rather Ashamed to admit the following, Gentle Reader, but I have never read The Watchmen. Tragic, I know, and Quite Worthy of the Revoking of my Comic Fan Card. But my Reading Relationship with Mr. Moore is Rather Complex, at best, and Rather Shaky, at worst, for reasons Rather Inarticulate, in all fairness. But like in Wonder Woman, in Rorschach we see the Outsider’s ability to read the Inside; or, we see how the Other is a reflection of Society.

I’ve not gotten that far into The Watchmen yet, so I’m not sure that my Comparison of Rorschach and Wonder Woman (and thus of Batman, too) as The Outsider as Reflection works completely, but this idea of the Other, the Outsider, is one that appears in comics again and again, and one I’ve discussed on this blog again and again. Wonder Woman, Othered in so many senses as a Woman, a Woman made of Clay, an Amazon, a Strong Woman, a Physically Strong Woman sent to Man’s World could work as a Symbol of Women’s Struggles on just one of those levels. When written well, she functions as a Symbol on all.

It seems no Wonder (!!!), then, that Wonder Woman has been taken as a symbol of the second- and third-wave feminist movements. She means so much to My Big Sister Feminists’ Generation as a representation of Women’s Equality. To My Generation, slightly younger, perhaps more wide-eyed when reminiscing on the Woman Wonder, she is a steady symbol, a rock in the sometimes precarious field of equal representation in pop culture. She’s the symbol feminists had, and got to wear, too. That is to say, Wonder Woman was the Hero of Girl Reads. She is the Icon I treasure as Woman Reads.

Because of this, I never felt the need to ask, “Who Is Wonder Woman?” because I already knew. She was us all. She is me, this Girl-Child turned Woman, this once-wearer of secret identity under banal school uniform. Wonder Woman is, above all else, the potential for greatness. She is a Wonder, a Wonder Woman, and despite the shakiness of the last year, I have laid down my $4 each month to ensure that DC Comics knows that I support her. And now, for our loyalty, November brings Gail Simone to the Wonder Woman table.

Who better to reveal the humanity of the Other than Ms. Simone? Welcome to Tranquility, Gen-13, and Birds of Prey all demonstrate her ability in making the Outsider a symbolic, sympathetic, and above all else, recognizable character. Ms. Simone’s empathetic approach to her characters, and of course, her writing ability, makes her an ideal choice to write on the Amazon Princess. Mr. Rucka brought us Wonder Woman’s Otherness; Mr. Heinberg brought us Wonder Woman’s Confusion. Ms. Simone, I believe, will bring us Wonder Woman, Herself.

And I, for one, am thrilled Beyond Belief.

Second-to-last paragraph slightly edited, Gentle Reader, on 10/22/07.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of October 14th, 2007)

It was Our Local Library’s biannual book sale this weekend, and Gentle Reader, Mr. Reads and I made a killing. Well, we made a maiming, at least, as there were Many People buying more books than we. But at $15/brown paper bag, there are many, many books to be found.

And find them we did. Mr. Reads and I came home with 2 ½ bags full of books, young and old, paperback and hardcover, and only $35 poorer for our troubles.

As always, We Reads explore the older titles, sitting abandoned, alone, collected from Some Old Soul’s attic, perhaps, or just Found. Last year’s Perfect Find was a 1940s book about the French Quarter, with the inscription, “Harry sent this book to Maude from New Orleans, July 8th, 1944,” and a stamped envelope—but no letter—dated July 28th, 1944. Mr. Reads found this while I was Out of Town, and presented it to me when I returned. Some wives receive flowers; I am All The Richer for the gifts of old books, action figures, and comics. Flowers wither, Friends, but Catwoman action figures are forever.

This year, we found pristine copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and George Pelecanos’s The Night Gardener, various gothic thrillers from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, several old novels from the 20s and 30s for our “Quirky Old Novel” bookshelf, a 1921 Baker’s Handbook (as This Humble Author collects odd and old cookbooks—the more rustic, regional, and annotated, the better!), and, the cream, a nineteenth-century pocket edition of Virgil’s Aeneid.

But upon carrying these books into Chez Reads, and unpacking them, Mr. Reads and I discovered that we are Perilously Close to Running Out Of Shelf Room.

These are Trying Times, Gentle Reader, when Our Book Bounty Overfloweth, onto The Floor.

Stacks of books, next to bookshelves, but not quite on them. All the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men could not cram another book onto My Cookbook Shelves Again. Some shelves are Double and Triple stacked, with paperbacks crammed into any available space. We have weeded, and weeded, and sold, and donated, and given away, but still, This Humble Author cannot part with one of her six copies of Jane Eyre, nor can she give away any of the books on the “To Read” shelf until she has tried “To Read” them again.

Of course, this is Part and Parcel with the job. Not one but two English majors in one home. Not one but two English instructors in one home, one M.F.A., one almost-Ph.D., and as books are Our Livelihood, we cannot rightly trim the fat, now can we? We’ve our book collection insured, in fact, as without my books, I cannot write my Dissertation.

But truly,
as without my books, I cannot live.

We’ve sacrificed much for our book collection: my once-Victorian attraction to knickknacks, now abandoned. White space? Overwhelmed by bookshelves. Closet space? Ask Mr. Reads, who has a five-foot deep bookshelf crammed into his. We’ve a need to purchase more shelves, but where to put them?

Any thoughts, Gentle Reader? Do you have Secret and Arcane Book Storage Knowledge you care to share with us? Are you the Dr. Strange of Organization? If so, Friends, please, share! We’ve little space to grow here, but we are in Great Need.

Unfortunately, so, too, are we in Great Need of remembering to turn on the alarm clock, as a surprise nap on This Humble Author’s end, and a long and much-deserved afternoon of video gaming on Mr. Reads’s end meant that we missed picking up our Pull List from Our Local yesterday evening. Wonder Girl, Booster Gold, Buffy, and others wait for us, and tomorrow, we shall endeavor to try, try, try again.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fall Lineup: The Updates

The briefest of brief posts, Gentle Reader, as it is Rather Late for This Humble Author, and tomorrow proves to be as long as--if not longer than!--today. Although tomorrow brings Quite The Treat at the end of the day: Elizabeth: The Golden Age, a film that proves to be as beautiful fashion-wise as it is Cate Blanchett-wise.

But perhaps My Constant Readers are curious as to what has stayed, and what has gone, in the Reads Fall Lineup. Well, sad to say, but We Reads have abandoned The Bionic Woman. If it were This Humble Author's Beloved Starbuck--that is, the delightful Ms. Sackhoff--all the time, then perhaps We Reads would stay loyal. But as interesting as Ms. Sackhoff's character is, so much less is Ms. Ryan's character. Not Ms. Ryan herself, understand, as she is an actress I have admired for a while now. But her character is 1 dimensional, at best, and cliched at worst, and I'm afraid I must Quite Now Whilst Ahead.

Tomorrow also brings Women's Murder Club, which I am curious about, but not expecting much of. This weekend, too, promises to be comic-heavy, as we head to Our Local to pick up Quite the Backlog. But in the interim, Mr. Reads has purchased for This Humble Author the new DC Catwoman, and I have found, on sale, no less!, the Gotham by Gaslight Batman. Quite the week for action figures, anyhow!

In other news, I have finished Mr. Lindsay's new novel, Dexter in the Dark, and have purchased Ms. Pierce's and Mr. Liebe's White Tiger collection, which is next. Huzzah, I say, for new book joy!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of October 7th, 2007)

Mr. Reads has Abandoned This Humble Author for a weekend of camping with his friends, and Gentle Reader, Pup Reads and I are Rather Sad for it. That is, we have graded, and watched many Film Adaptations of Victorian Novels, and while Wives and Daughters was a Bit of a Bust, Daniel Deronda is proving to be Worth Every Second. We have shopped, and dusted off the Halloween decorations, shaken out Pup Reads’ Wonder Woman costume, and we have Put Up The Window Clings and the Clever Metal Signs. Chez Reads is now Ready for the Holiday.

But Mr. Reads’s absence has meant Quite the Buildup of shows on the DVR, as much of last week was spent in preparation for said weekend of fun. Of the shows we have watched, either separately or together, I remain, still, Greatly Impressed with Journeyman, Impressed with Life, and always and ever In Awe of The Office and 30 Rock. I am one episode away from abandoning The Bionic Woman which proves to be mediocre at best and sloppy and contrived at worst, and the Dark Horse of the Fall Lineup, Pushing Daisies, blew all of the new shows out of the competition. Easily my favorite and the best of the new series, I expect Great Things From It. I urge you all, Most Constant and Gentlest of Readers, to add it to your schedule, forthwith.

A short entry for a busy day, but I promise a filler entry later this week.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of September 30, 2007)

And it’s here, Gentle Reader, finally! The end of September, and thus the precipice of Fall. October, the Reads’s favorite month of the year. Sweaters, hot tea, leaves changing color and falling—perhaps too much, as our Recent Forays into the Garden can attest! But We Reads have cleaned out our rock garden, have pruned back some of our plants, collected garden salsa peppers, and sweet peppers, and watched the sad demise of our tomatoes and basil. But Fall, yes, Fall is coming to the South.

And with it, of course, Fall Lineup. I’ve already pointed to the wealth of great new shows which are, thus far, Worthy of a Second Watch: Journeyman, Chuck, Reaper. Add to that Life, and take away Moonlight, which This Humble Author must agree with the majority of the reviews: I liked this show Much Better when it was called Angel.

But We Reads have been watching *and* reading, and rising to the top of the Reads’s Reading List is Chelsea Cain’s Heartsick which is utterly brilliant and Quite Smart Indeed! It reminded me a lot of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, but not in an “imitation is the greatest form of flattery” sort of way. Rather, the utter helplessness of the situation, the characters, the strange oddities, all of it added together to One Fantastic Read! Ms. Cain is an author on my Watch List, as I Quite Adored Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, her Nancy Drew "exposé."

Also completed: Absolute Boyfriend #4, an odd little Manga by Yuu Watase, Wicked Dead: Lurker, a YA horror by Stefan Petrucha of the Nancy Drew graphic novels fame. Next on the docket: Dexter in the Dark, the latest Dexter novel by Jeff Lindsay, Exit Strategy, the contemporary thriller by Kelley Armstrong. Coming soon from a pre-order near We Reads: White Tiger: A Hero’s Compulsion, the graphic novel by Tamora Pierce and Tim Liebe, Winds of Marble Arch, the short story collection by Our Beloved Connie Willis, 20th Century Ghosts, the short story collection by Joe Hill.

But the Most Important Consequence of this past week has been My Return To Comics. Yes, it’s true, Friends: This Humble Author read several comics this weekend, and has lived to Tell The Tale! Because I am So Behind, I offer you Reviews in Brief, as many of these comics will be Old News for my Constant Readers, I’m sure.

Batman #666-#668 - I am Ever The Fan of locked-room mysteries, and this one is No Exception. I adore the idea of Batmen from Around the World, banding together to solve a classic noir plotline. So Sayers, so Christie, so Poe, so Carr. And, of course, bonus Batman. I have yet to pick up #669, but I will, forthwith.

The Flash #232 - I am So Very Happy to have my favorite comic book family back, Friends! The Park-Wests were strong as spouses; as a family of parents and children, they are unstoppable.

New Avengers #34 - I love the pairing of Doctor Strange and The Night Nurse, who is one of This Humble Author’s favorite minor characters, Marvel or otherwise! Further, I love how this team is coming together in ways the other Avengers did not. As Mr. Reads and I watched the animated film on Doctor Strange this weekend—and it was surprisingly well done, Gentle Reader!—it has been a bit of a Stephen Strange weekend overall.

Teen Titans #50 - I Must Confess, Gentle Reader, to loving Mr. McKeever on Teen Titans. He brings a certain joy and light to the title that, paradoxically, revels in its darker moments. Well done, sir! I have not yet picked up #51, and I am curious to see where it takes us.

Walking Dead vol. 2 and 3 - Yes, I know, these are graphic novels, but I recently picked up this series and am enjoying it immensely.

Y the Last Man #58 - My heart is broken, Friends. That’s about all I can say.

Eagerly awaiting: Astonishing X-Men, Runaways, and Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman, which is Just Around the Corner!

More reviews soon, Friends, as I continue to catch up on my comics reading! Until then, please let me know how your Fall Lineup is faring.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fall Lineup Week #2

It's been a Very Long Day, Gentle Reader, and Mr. Reads's car, ever the ornery beast, has been Particularly Troublesome the past few days. So much so that We Reads have woken up even earlier than Pup Reads to bring Said Troublesome Car into the shop, the past two days, to the tune of an obscene amount of monies.

That being said, we also have experienced the first half of Week Two of Fall Lineup, and there are some good, some so-so, and some already dropped from the DVR schedule.

The Good
The cream, so far, is Journeyman, which I didn't expect to enjoy as much as I did. I've liked Kevin McKidd's work for Some Time Now, ever since watching Dog Soldiers a few years back. This show takes what could be a rather lackluster and familiar plot and turns everything on its head. What's more, I care about my characters, and that's a remarkable thing to accomplish in one pilot! The other surprise contender is Chuck, which again, is much smarter than I expected it would be. That, Friends, makes This Humble Author Very Happy Indeed!

The So-So
I must confess, Gentle Reader, to being a Bit Disappointed in Bionic Woman. The pilot just hasn't wowed me the way I anticipated, and believe me, I've anticipated this show for Quite a While. Too much happened in one episode, and I felt constantly adrift in a show that never allowed me a chance to know and then sympathize with my characters. Now, I fully expect for it to get Better, and I will keep you apprised over the next few weeks.

Dropped from the DVR Schedule
K-Ville, as I mentioned last week, failed to impress or even interest We Reads. I don't know if I can blame this solely on my New Orleans heritage, or on the lackluster writing of the show.

Saved on the DVR
See above regarding Mr. Reads's vehicle, and you then will understand why we haven't had a chance to watch the season premiere of Heroes or Life yet. But as soon as I watch them, Friends, I will Let You Know!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of September 23rd, 2007)

Welcome, Gentle Reader, to the new day and time for my weekly column! Fridays had become too problematic and stressful, Column-Wise, so I will see how Sundays work out. Please let me know what you think!

I must be honest, as Constant Readers of This Blog might have noticed the steady decline of posts, particularly those comic-related. I Do Apologize, Friends, but this past month has been, personally, academically, emotionally, professionally, Rather Busy. But this weekend afforded me Some Time to catch up on my comics reading, and what I read, First and Foremost, were Minx titles.

Three of them, in fact. Three months of Minx titles that had been waiting, patiently, at My Local, and while I picked them up last weekend, I promptly fell sick this week, and any spare time afforded by my schedule was spent in the Recuperation Process. While I still recover from a cold that has settled, Quite Stubbornly, in my chest and throat, I am feeling Much Better, and less feverish and delirious, as was the case Tuesday last!

Confessions of a Blabbermouth, Clubbing, and Good as Lily were on the docket, along with a bonus third volume of Kat and Mouse, the remainder of Mike Carey’s Vicious Circle (which Poor Mr. Reads has waited less-than-patiently for me to finish!), and issues of the new Wonder Girl and the current Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Several titles which all, in Some Way or Another, deal with the sometimes troublesome lives of adolescent and teenaged girls. As you might remember, Gentle Reader, this is a subject I am Quite Interested in, not only as a former adolescent and teenaged girl myself, but also as a former teacher of said girls, and a possible future parent of said girls. I’ve a goddaughter, too, and Mr. Reads and I are Greatly Concerned with her Happy and Healthy Upbringing outside of the safety of the familial sphere. Also, too, her Happy Comic Book Upbringing, and we supply her with Spider-Man, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman paraphernalia at Every Opportunity.

But as DC’s Minx line is an imprint particularly concerned with young female readership—it is, it seems, after all, the Reason for the Read!—it seems Obvious that the Subject Matter should be Young Woman Friendly. Some titles do this better than others, of course. Plain Janes rises to the top, as cream does, followed closely by Re-Gifters and Confessions of a Blabbermouth. All three of those titles seem to understand, and Understand Well, the particular concerns of adolescents and teens, and most importantly, how far to Push the Envelope. Confessions of a Blabbermouth has the unique perspective of a teenaged woman herself, as Mr. Carey’s daughter, Louise Carey, is one of the authors.

I say brava to Ms. Carey, and bravo to Mr. Carey (with whose works I have spent much of my weekend!) for such a creative partnership, and bravo to DC for pushing it forward. But, and I confess this hesitantly, Gentle Reader, as I do not believe that Only Women Can Write Feminist Literature, but, with that said, I wish there were more Minx lines written by women. As Minx seems to be an imprint aimed at young women, and an imprint that seems to want to put forth, More Often Than Not, strong, progressive, confident young female characters, I’m afraid that so many male writers on such an imprint might send a different message. But then, This Humble Author always wants to see More Diversity of gender, race, sexual preference, love-of-raspberry-cheesecake, among other things in Comic Books, and among Comic Writers, in particular.

Alas, Friends, I wish I could discuss this with you further, but the night grows late, I am still ill, and Robot Chicken airs shortly before my (much needed!) bedtime. Instead, I ask of you, Constant Readers: what are your thoughts on the Minx line?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Briefest Pop Culture Update

Forgive my brevity, Gentle Reader, but sometimes it is the soul of both wit *and* my access to popular culture. Suffice to say, I have dipped my toe Very Briefly back into my comic book and television world, and I had to share a few thoughts with you.

1) Wonder Woman Fighting Nazis+Gail Simone=One Ecstatic Amy Reads
Gratitude, Kalinara and Newsarama for the solicitous information.

2) Wonder Girl+3 Minx titles+Booster Gold Issue 2/Finally Acquired from Our Local=One Happy Amy Reads
More detailed reviews soon, but Mr. Reads and I finally--finally, Gentle Reader!--managed to pick up our pull list from the past several weeks.

3) Fall lineup+DVR+Office Season 3 DVD set+30 Rock Season 1 DVD set=Comfortable Sloth at Chez Reads
Mr. Reads and I both have been Under The (Proverbial) Weather, and so much television has been watched, and is in preparation for watching. Already removed from the DVR list: K-Ville, which I hope does Very Well, but as a New Orleans Native, I could not sit through for various reasons.

New Jeff Lindsay+new Mike Carey+new Chelsea Cain+Dissertation=One Very (!!!) Busy Ms. Reads!
Huzzah for new releases from favorite writers! Soon We Reads also will own Tamora Pierce and Tim Liebe's White Tiger collection, the new Alice Sebold, and the new Joe Hill, among others.

More detailed reviews soon, Gentle Reader. And that's a promise!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of September 14th, 2007)

Recently, Gentle Reader, Mr. Reads put a copy of Mike Carey’s novel, The Devil You Know into my hands. I read, somewhat greedily, I admit, a tale that despite a few flaws was quite the enjoyable and somewhat Perfect Read. By Perfect Read I mean, of course, that tale that 1) holds interest, 2) makes the reader consider the characters and plot when not actively reading, and 3) is Big Fun.

Mr. Carey’s book is all of those things and more, and because we enjoyed it So Much, We Reads just acquired its sequel, Vicious Circle, from the UK (gratitude, Interlibrary Loan). While reading the sequel, I also am reading several volumes of Hellblazer, available through Our Local Library.

I love the Crossover Writer, Gentle Reader, because I can see how the talent for one art form plays out, and plays out well, in the other. For example, in reading Mr. Carey’s sequel, I noticed his attention to detail, small, almost insignificant things that are the sign not only of a good writer, but a good Comic Book Writer.

Mr. Rucka, too, I enjoy, although I feel his comic book talent is greater than his novel talent, excepting Fistful of Rain, one of This Humble Author’s favorite novels. Also, Mr. Meltzer, and Mr. Gaiman—who better than Mr. Gaiman?—and Ms. Pierce. Some authors I have found comics through my love of their novels, and others, vice versa. But it is all the same, this tight-knit little community in which they exist. Jim Butcher, a writer I find Quite Extraordinary, has not written a comic book, but instead has written a novel about Spider-Man, which is as good if not better than some of the best comic plots out there. Or is it that This Humble Author does not love Spider-Man the way she, say, loves Wonder Woman, but does love Mr. Butcher’s prose style? Perhaps, Friends. Perhaps.

Tomorrow, Mr. Reads and I make our very (!!!) belated pilgrimage to Our Local to pick up what seems to be at least a month’s worth of comics, including the past few months of Minx titles, late in shipment to the store. I put the entire line on My Pull List, as otherwise, I don’t think My Local would carry them. Doing my part, yes, for DC, but also, for the idea of Minx. Wonder Girl out this week, I believe? Forgive me, Friends. It’s been a Rather Difficult And Trying Time in Chez Reads, and I confess that staying on top of my comic book pop culture has fallen to the wayside.

But in a recent review of Confessions of a Blabbermouth, the Onion’s AV Club made note of Mr. Carey’s many, many projects, and I began to realize that he is one of my Unsung Comic Heroes. How many of his projects have I read and adored, and not realized? Re-Gifters, My Faith in Frankie, Hellblazer, God Save the Queen, not to mention Lucifer. As Confessions of a Blabbermouth should be waiting for me at My Local. Rather a Mike Carey-full weekend ahead of me, a welcome respite from the plaguing pressures of Personal and Academic Life, both of which have risen, quite painfully, to the surface of my attention this week.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Amy (Belatedly) Reads the Week (of September 7th, 2007)

It’s been Quite The Week, Gentle Reader, for reasons vast and sundry. Needless to say, my Weekly Blogging Expectations quite got away from me. So here we are, two days late, and not much to tell, I’m afraid.

Well, that’s not Entirely True. I did finish a book this week (Greg Rucka’s Patriot Acts), as well as two television series (Dexter and Deadwood), and did try a new television series (Torchwood). Mr. Reads and I made our Fall Lineup Plans, and we are DVRed and ready to go come new season schedule.

What’s on the Reads Family Lineup, you ask? Well, Friends, I am Very Glad you did! Here are the shows We Reads are most excited about. Or, at least, will give one or two episodes a chance.

Bionic Woman perhaps tops the list. All the trailers and clips I have seen thus far look amazing, and there is bonus Katee Sackhoff, one of This Humble Author’s favorite actresses.

Chuck seems Quite Interesting indeed, as I’ve always loved the Philip Marlowe school of chance (bumbling person stumbles into intrigue and danger). Bonus Adam Baldwin.

Journeyman has what is for This Humble Author one of the most intriguing plot devices ever: time travel. Bonus Kevin McKidd.

K-Ville which I, as a New Orleans Native, must confess to a sincere curiosity about. After The Wire, there is no other cop show worthy of watching, in my humble opinion, but this is due at least one viewing from me.

Pushing Daisies, from the man who brought us Dead Like Me, Heroes, and Wonderfalls, can you argue with a pedigree like that?

Also new on the lineup for fall: Carpoolers, Reaper, Life, Torchwood, and Moonlight. Returning on the Reads Family Lineup: Heroes, 30 Rock, and The Office. But truly, it's the New Year I'm most looking forward to, Gentle Reader, because with it, the return of Battlestar Galactica.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Meme; or, Ms. Reads Feels the Burden of Work

I have Just Been Tagged, Gentle Reader, by Supadiscomama, and as she controls the Reads' access to Her Adorable Child, I thought that I should comply, forthwith.

4 jobs I've had in life:
1) Like all Liberal Arts Majors, I have worked in retail, selling entertainment.
2) I have also waited tables.
3) Teaching, of course.
4) Answering phones.

4 places I've lived:
1) Louisiana
2) Small College Town in Big American State
(that's all, sadly)

4 favorite foods:
1) Indian (esp. curry chicken and tikka masala)
2) Greek/Lebanese (esp. gyro and falafel)
3) sushi
4) fried shrimp po-boys

4 places I'd rather be:
1) Scotland
2) the Pacific Northwest
3) London
4) Chicago

4 movies I can watch over and over:
1) Moulin Rouge!
2) North and South
3) The Princess Bride
4) Pride and Prejudice (BBC)

4 t.v. shows I like to watch:
1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2) Firefly
3) The Office
4) Deadwood (which Mr. Reads and I are watching currently)

4 websites I view daily:
1) Gmail
2) my Google homepage
3) campus mail
4) my blogroll

4 computers I've owned:
1) My Acer laptop
2) My HP desktop
3) My Dell desktop (currently)
4) My Dell laptop (currently)

4 people to tag:
Hmm, let's see. I'm really Not Sure who has done this already, so I Apologize if I tag repetitiously.

1) Matthew at Legion Abstract
2) Mr. Fanboy at Mister Fanboy
3) Robyn at First-Person Narrator
4) Ragtime at Comic Book Thoughts

Unfortunately, that is all I have the mindset for today, given the heat (!), my dissertation chapter revision (!!), and my still-baffled thoughts on the conclusion of Amazons Attack (!!!).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Amy Reads the Year (on August 31st, 2007)

I should tell you, Gentle Reader, that this post was, originally, to speak out against the suggestion that they are “Just Comics.” As in, why do we Speak Out So Articulately against injustice in comics when they are, so They Say, nothing more than comic books? And by “we” I mean, of course, any number of combinations of persons who reasonably object to injustice in our favorite pop culture medium, but for the purposes of my month-long retrospective, I refer, at this juncture, to Women, Specifically.

But in truth, this is a subject near and dear to my heart as I have Sung It Long and Often. In fact, I have sung it So Long and So Often that I fear Constant Readers to This Humble Blog might grow weary of my bellyaching and look to more moderate climes for reading and enjoyment.

That is to say, Friends, that you know How I Feel about the importance of comic books, and popular culture at large, and that to say so, again, would be a tad bit repetitive.

So, then, faced with the dilemma as to what subject best to offer to you, Gentlest of Readers, I was Rather Uncertain. This is a retrospective, is it not? A display of a year’s worth of comic blogging by This Humble Author in order to capture, to the Best of my Abilities, the flavor of the year, comic-book-wise. But retrospectives do not look to the past alone. Rather, they look forward, and offer a view of the future through the comfort and solidity of the past.

What is past is past, no? We have Come Through The Dark and entered, if I may be so bold as to say, The Light. That is, we *know* what is to be done in comics. We *know* what is to be done in our pop cultures.

More women in positive, leading roles. More superheroes of various racial, economic, class, and diverse backgrounds. More positive portrayals of alternative relationships. Remember the Ladies, yes (gratitude, Mrs. Adams), but Remember, too, the Girls. Protect the female characters so that they are not reduced to stereotypes, Refrigerated or Otherwise (gratitude, Ms. Simone) but do not tiptoe around them, either.

I could go on, Gentle Reader, but there are those who have said this before me, and said better than This Humble Author ever could. I point to my sidebar and draw your attention to the brutally honest and wonderful critics there. This year has, more than anything else internet-wise, introduced me to a coterie of well-read, critically thinking, diverse bloggers who are devoted to the betterment of comic books (Gratitude, When Fangirls Attack, Girl-Wonder.Org). And they are devoted *precisely* because They Love Comics.

I, too, Love Comics, and rather than repeat myself once more, rather than offer a response that dulls in comparison to Those Bloggers I Respect, Admire, and above all else, Read On A Daily Basis, I offer you a list of the best things comics have brought to me over the past year. No surprise to you, I’m sure, Gentle Reader, as we are all Well Aware of This Humble Author’s affinity for lists! Without further ado, then?

August 2006-August 2007: The Best of the Comic Book Universe
as viewed by This Humble Author

Welcome to Tranquility – Constant Readers of Arrogant Self-Reliance are Well Aware of the Reads’ adoration for All Things Simone, but Ms. Gail Simone truly has Outdone Herself with this title. Smart, ruthless, funny, poignant, it offers an interesting dichotomy to her other new title this year, Gen-13, but, in my humble opinion outshines its Sister in Every Way.

52 – While I am No Fan of Countdown, I believe it is because I am Overwhelmed by the ingenuity of 52. Bringing forward characters like Booster Gold—and paving the way for his Own Title!—was a stroke of genius on the parts of Mr. Rucka, Mr. Waid, Mr. Johns, and Mr. Morrison. While the title begins slightly before my self-imposed time frame of August 2006-August 2007, it peaks during this time.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season #8 – I came to Buffy Rather Late, I’m ashamed to admit, although I remember trying to watch it during the original airing of Season 2. Alas, lack of funds and of television prevented me from doing so, and I caught on to the phenomenon much later. To bring forth new ideas in such an innovative way—and what is more innovative than the marriage of image-and-text?—is not mere fan fodder but *true* innovation.

DC’s Minx Line – There has been some skepticism regarding the Minx line, and while I believe that some of the skepticism is Much Deserved, I also believe that it is, in No Small Part, a Step in the Right Direction. These are fun and smart stories that may function as bridges for younger readers, introducing them to the comic book universe. Personally, I would love to see more diversity of author and artist in this series.

The New New Avengers – I miss Cap, Friends, and I am Quite Angry at both Tony Stark and Reed Richards. But more importantly, I am Intrigued and Fascinated by the New New Avengers, and as one of the few Marvel lines I am reading, this title is encouraging me to explore further options, Marvel-wise.

Manhunter – While not confined to the timeframe to which I’ve confined myself, Manhunter is new to This Humble Author, at least, and I’m Quite Happy for it. Kate Spencer is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating female comic book characters being written today. DC, don’t lose this title. I Beg Of You. Just Don’t.

The Justice Society of America: One Year Later – Friends, I’ve chastised myself enough for this, but I will do it again, for sake of argument. Why, o Why was I not reading This Title Sooner? The art! The writing! The characterization! Power Girl! Liberty Belle! I am sometimes, indeed, Almost Ridiculous, and in this case, certainly, The Fool (gratitude, Mr. Eliot, Mr. Prufrock). I regret my earlier disavowal, and promise to be consistent with my readings, forthwith.

Thank you, Friends, for a Wonderful Year Of Blogging. Here is to Many More To Come!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Amy Will Not Read the Year (on August 24th, 2007)

It's the beginning of Fall Term, Gentle Reader, so I have miles to go before I sleep (e'er again, it seems!). Please forgive the Delay, but the column Will Resume Again next week with the final installment of Arrogant Self-Reliance's Year-In-Review.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Amy Reads the Year (on August 17th, 2007)

It is Week Three of Arrogant Self Reliance’s Blogiversary, Gentle Reader, and originally, I planned to answer All Four Questions I posed in my initial post two weeks ago. For those in the audience Not Following Along At Home, I have seen these four questions over and over again throughout this past year, regarding the Woman (in comics) Question. Sometimes sincere, sometimes ironic, sometimes snide, the four questions boil down as follows:

1) "Do women read comics?"

2) "Why do women *still* read comics?"

3) "If you don’t like it, Ladies, why not *make the comics*?"

4) "Why don’t women understand that they are *just comics*?"

And in some Roundabout Way, I intend this post to be an answer to Question Number Two.

Recently, I returned from the Annual Before-School-Starts Trip Home to visit the Parents Reads. As the Parents Reads live in New Orleans, this trip, inevitably, coincides with Hurricane Season, so I drive, always, in case we need to make A Clean Getaway.

The trip from Small College Town to New Orleans isn’t *terribly* long, but long enough, all the same. Longer than Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, shorter than a Twilight Zone Marathon. This Humble Author often stops in the same town both to and from New Orleans, for gas, for lunch, for a stretch.

This past week, while driving back to Small College Town and thus Mr. and Pup Reads, both of whom were Unable to Accompany Me Home due to Prior Obligations (on Mr. Reads’ end, anyhow, as Pup Reads contributes little to the running and management of the household other than love and adorability), I stopped at a Large Chain Fast-Food Establishment to acquire sustenance, however greasy. While in line, I noticed a little plastic box on the wall, about waist-height, with two rows of toys in them: some miniature teddy bears, and some action figures a la Legion.

Gentle Reader, it has been Some Time since I have purchased a Happy Meal, but that time is not as distant as You Might Think. In particular, fun action figures, the Very Happy Plastic Halloween Happy Meal Pails, I’ve been known, On Occasion, to Indulge the inner Girl Amy Reads. And she was, if I may be so bold to say, Rather Giddy over seeing DC characters in Happy Meals.

Not just This Humble Author, however, but another Girl, Bona Fide “Girl” by Age at that, waist-height, staring, with awe, at the Legion Toys. She reached out a chubby hand and pressed it against the glass, right over Lightning Lad’s face. And then Said Girl’s Parent came over, took the child by the hand, said, “No, honey, you want a girl toy,” and led her away.

Now, let us forget, just for a moment, my Other Problem with this scenario. That’s right, Friends, the unmentioned one: the lack of female Legion members in the toy set. Let us move past that and instead, look directly at the problem as to why some express shock and awe over the fact that Women Read Comics, and *still* Read Comics. Really, it’s quite simple: because people don’t believe Girls Should.

Now as the Delightful and Articulate Ms. Healey reminds us, and often, Girls Do Read Comics, and they are, at times, Rather Perturbed at that. I certainly read comics at a young age, and as a child, I was bombarded with images of Strong Women in Comics and Science Fiction.

It’s true, Friends. I can recount wearing Wonder Woman and Supergirl underoos under my school uniform. I remember my aunt coiling my long hair into Princess Leia cinnamon buns for Halloween, for Friday afternoon, for fun. I remember sitting in front of the television, watching Wonder Woman, sitting in my bedroom, reading comics and sci fi/fantasy books. But also, I remember watching The Incredible Hulk, and reading Action Comics, and pretending to be Spider-Man. I remember watching The Challenge of the Super Friends. I remember getting boy *and* girl toys with my cheeseburgers, because my parents allowed me to choose what I wanted.

Now, Gentle Reader, let me assure you: the Parents Reads, while Wonderful and Lovely People, are Rather Shocked by the—dare I say it?—rampant liberality of their daughter. That is to say, the Parents Reads had No Agenda, Feminist or Otherwise, in the raising and maintaining of their Girl Child. So when I say that I got both boy and girl toys, both He-Man and She-Ra, both GI Joe and Jem and the Holograms, both Wonder Woman and Superman, that was the product of Good Parenting. Because of things like this, I grew up knowing “Math is Hard!” *not* because Barbie said so, and *not* because I was a Girl Child, but because, for an English-and-History Reader like myself, Math *was* harder, not nearly as easy to grasp as Books, and Dates, and Abstract Arguments.

That being said, I saw this Girl Child in front of me denied a toy *simply because it wasn’t a “girl toy”*. And I was reminded, one year after beginning a blog on feminism and pop culture, the very reason why I began said blog in the first place. I remembered the reason why Future Babies Reads will have Spider-Man *and* Wonder Woman, regardless of gender.

A few weeks ago, I read a Brother Blogger’s Post about trying to find fun Spider-Man, et al clothes for his Daughter. I curse my faulty memory, Gentle Reader, so please, if you know Said Blogger’s name and web address, send it to me! But I empathized with his plight, and applauded his solution which was buy it anyway.

Of course telling *you* this, Most Gentle of Readers, is a bit of the proverbial Preaching to the Choir. Who knows this better than Constant Visitors to Arrogant Self-Reliance? But occasionally—just occasionally, Friends!—others wander in from the proverbial woodworks, and there, perhaps, a change is sparked.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Amy Reads the Year (on August 10th, 2007)

(Or, Yes, Friends, Women Read Comics)

Gentle Reader, I write to you tonight from the home of the Parents Reads, which, as some of My (More) Constant Readers may recall, is in New Orleans, now nearly two years Post-Katrina. And while I would like to tell you all that everything is Shiny in the Big Easy, I cannot do any such thing. This is not a city in the sterile cleanup of afterbirth, but rather a city stuck in messy birth, or perhaps even in resuscitation, pumping life into something that so many consider dead.

But this city is, first and foremost, My Hometown, and one cannot return Home without remembering how one came to be in the first place, no?

That is to say, sitting in the very room in which This Humble Author first stayed up past bedtime to finish a book, in the very room in which This Humble Author first read a comic book, first pretended to be The Amazon Princess, makes one consider the first question I posed in the first post of my month-long blogiversary:

Do Women Read Comics?

The answer is rather simple, Friends.

Yes, they do.

. . .

But of course, the answer *isn’t* that simple, is it? Women Read Comics, but they don’t read superhero comics. And Women Read Comics, but they only read superhero comics. And Women Read Comics, but really, they read graphic novels. And of course Women Read Comics, but only Manga, and only Manga from Japan, and etc. etc. ad nauseam infinitum.

So I wonder, Gentle Reader, what that question could mean in The Larger Scheme Of Things. Is the Question—and I do acknowledge it as A Proper Noun Question as I have heard it repeated over and over again with a Certain Tone that implies credulity, i.e. “*Do* women read comics??”—relegated solely to Cape Titles, or is there a larger wonderment over whether Women, whomever They Might Be, enjoy the marriage of Art and Text?

Ekphrasis is a term with which only recently have I become familiar. And while my understanding of the marriage of art-and-text is more William Blake than Grant Morrison, more LEL than Gail Simone, there is something to be said for the perfect harmony of art-and-text. One is not merely a complement of the other, but rather, they are two parts of a whole.

In comic books, we see even more than the marriage of art-and-text, no? In fact, what we see is art-as-text and text-as-art and both as Text, that is, Story. So to ask a question as loaded as “Do Women Read Comics?” is to suggest that women are not artistic, or not interested in text, or in Texts, which we all know is Rather Ridiculous, when we spread it thin in such a way.

But, and there is a “but,” Gentle Reader, there is a Very Real Dichotomy in the perception of male and female comic book readership. Certainly, as we are all Well Aware, there are more male than female writers, artists, editors, and executives in the Comic Book Industry, but does a gender majority automatically mean gender exclusion, gender neglect, gender bias? That is to say, does a large male readership and authorship automatically mean a *lack* of female readership and authorship?

The logical fallacy rears its ugly head the moment the idea is presented, and we all trip and fall, flat on our faces. Here, Friends, I will be the first to trip and break the mold:

I am a Woman, and I Read Comics.

There I break the mold and with this one negation, or rather, this one affirmation of Female Readership, we can no longer ask: “Do Women Read Comics?” Now, we must ask why so many insist that Women Do Not Read Comics, or, if they do, they Read Them Wrong, and if they discuss them, they Are Too Loud (and wrong).

Gentle Reader, a confession: I love, absolutely *love* superhero comics. Again and again on this blog, I have shouted To The Rooftops my love for superhero titles. Hearing my Brother and Sister Bloggers rave about Manga, I have dipped my toes into those waters, as well. I adore Graphic Novels, too, and find the idea of art-and-text to be truly visionary.

I cannot answer for every Man or Woman Reading Comics, but I can answer for myself, and my answer is this: I read comics because I am terrible at art, and seeing a story unfold visually and textually astounds me.

Or, my answer is this: I read comics because I am a good storyteller, and seeing a story unfold over generations astounds me.

Or this: I read comics because I enjoy science fiction, and fantasy, and historical fiction, and realism, and modernism, and Victorianism, and postmodernism, and fashion, and cultural critique, and subtext.

Or: I read comics because I read comics.

The idea that one would have to ask if Women Read Comics seems almost silly, and it is a question I have heard less and less over the past few years. And Gentle Reader, let me do say that it is a question that is less spoken and more implied. It is a question implied every time I reveal that I am a Reader of Comics, and the implication usually goes Something Like This:

“Really? *You* read comics?”

Yes, I do, and whether that shock is because I am a Woman, an Academic, Middle-Aged, none or all of the above, it is still there, and it means something that it is. Why is there incredulity over the Reading of Comics? Why must one express utter disbelief over something that should be commonplace? Everyday? A Shared Experience among Men and Women alike?

We need to reconsider *why* We, All Of Us, Men and Women Alike, Read Comics. Then, we need to *remember* why We, All Of Us, Men and Women Alike, Read Comics.

My answer is this: I read comics because I love them.

. . .

One final outcome of my time spent at my childhood home, the Reads Parsonage, if you will: I am, at this very moment, Doing “Homework” in the Very Room in which I did Every Scrap Of Homework I ever had pre-college. As I am Rather Egalitarian about my memories, both good and bad, I offer you, Gentlest of Readers, some Homework Of Your Own.

I am a Woman who Reads Comics, and also, a Woman who enjoys Finding New Comics, so please, Friends, take a glance at the sidebar to your right. There you will find This Humble Author’s Current Pull List, both Cape and Manga. Are there Comics that this Woman should be Read(ing)? If so, what are they, and why?

Until then, Friends, Good Night, and Good Reading.