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.