Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Comic Book Women (Fatale, Velvet, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Supergirl)

Hi there! Dave-El here and welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, your internet source for underwear you wear outside your pants.

Today is Wednesday which is NEW Comic Book Day across America and elsewhere around the world. So as is my want, I like to dedicate this mid-week post to comic book related stuff. Today's post is about characters in comic books who are female women of the opposite sex.


One of most talented powerhouse teams in comics today is writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. Recently they completed their “film noir” series set in 1950s Hollywood, The Fade Out, which was about as far as you can get from super hero comics.   It was a complex and engaging character study set against the back drop of movie fantasies and the dark and seedy underbelly of the studio system that brought those movies to life.  For those not familiar with the term, “film noir” was a description of certain style of film with flawed characters caught up in morally murky situations. Typically such films were in black and white and featured a protagonist on the edges of normal society, often a private detective. And there’s a woman, a woman in desperate straits, frequently of her own making.  She gets the protagonist to help her, most likely against his better judgment. But she’s so hard to resist with sexual charm radiating off of her like the sun. The term attached to this kind of character is the “femme fatale”.  

I’m catching up on trade collections of the previous series from Brubaker and Phillips called “Fatale” which is a full on film noir tale with a supernatural twist.  At the center of this story is a woman named Josephine and her power over men is virtually a super power. A passing glance can reduce a man to a lovesick puppy who will do whatever she says. It is not a power Josephine is particularly happy to have; she is tormented by the men who have been destroyed because they got caught up in her orbit and capitulated themselves to her to their emotional self-destruction or even death. Josephine tries to stay apart from people as much as possible because she can’t control whatever this power is she has over men. But there are forces at work conspiring to keep her from isolation, evil men who want Josephine for she not only possess power over men, she is also immortal. Over the course of a century or more, Josephine has not aged. 

I just finished volume 2 of Fatale and so far this has been an incredible read. Brubaker and Phillips are a perfect combo with words and art coming together to bring to life these dark and disturbing worlds inhabited by dangerously flawed people. 

Their next new series project will begin in August and is called Kill Or Be Killed and I’ve made sure to put that on my pull list. Also when I’m done catching up on Fatale, I’m going to follow up with other projects from the Brubaker/Phillips team such as Criminal, Incognito and Sleeper. There’s a whole world from Brubaker and Phillips of dark, sick, twisted people out there and I’m looking forward to getting to know them all.

(And stick around until the end of the post for a bit more about Fatale.)  


Another series from Ed Brubaker that I’m following is the super spy series Velvet with artist Steve Epting. Set in the early 1970s, this series spotlights Velvet Templeton, a secret agent who came in from the cold to become a secretary but finds herself thrust back into the spy game when she’s framed for murder. The series remains a visual feast with Epting and colorist Elizabeth Brittweiser providing gorgeous art every issue. (And I should mention Brittweiser does an equally awesome job with the hues over Sean Phillip's work.) And Brubaker is very adept at exploring the byzantine mind of a spy forced to rely on years of training and her wits to stay ahead of a whole array of forces working against her.

However, the story itself seems to be twisting itself into a knot to keep the narrative going. The most recent issue has Velvet using knowledge of sexual infidelity to blackmail Vice President Gerald Ford to help Velvet get into the White House and kidnap President Richard Nixon. It’s a bizarre intrusion of real world politics that kind of works against the tone of the series so far.  I hope we’re closer to more answers than we are to just getting more questions at this point of the narrative.  

Nonetheless, for Brubaker's razor sharp dialogue and the gorgeous art of Epting and Brittweiser, I still highly recommend Velvet.


Wonder Woman gets her Rebirth issue this week from DC Comics marking the return of writer Greg Rucka to the adventures of the Amazon Princess. I actually have Wonder Woman on my pull list but I probably won't get by Acme Comics to purchase it for a few weeks yet. (Yeah, I'm still old school, reading my comics in print form.)  I'm hoping that Rucka is left alone from any undue editorial influence to develop a long term narrative for the character. Wonder Woman hasn't always been well served when it comes to executive meddling.

In addition to Greg Rucka's involvement, another driving force for me to add Wonder Woman to my pull list is the high level artists associated with the title, Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott. So far, I've been very impressed with the samples of Sharp's pencils I've seen so far. And Scott is no stranger to Wonder Woman; she drew a very powerful Diana when she was working with writer Gail Simone and Scott has become an even stronger artist since then.

Wonder Woman was a very rare bright spot in the dismalness that was Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and there's a lot of heady expectation that her own solo turn will be a powerful vindication that a female super hero can carry her own movie. Couple that with a strong creative team on the comic book, Wonder Woman is finally getting the respect she deserves.


One of the things that Marvel Comics has lacked is its own answer to Wonder Woman, a strong standalone super heroine. There were super women in the Marvel universe but they were spin offs from male characters (She-Hulk, Spider-woman) or too closely associated with team books (Storm of the X-Men, Scarlet Witch of the Avengers) to be readily considered for a solo series. 

Recently, Marvel bequeath Moljinor, the Hammer of Thor, to Jane Foster, making her THE Thor in the Marvel Universe. So far, sales are strong for the new female Thor but there's always the shadow lurking over this that the son of Odin one day will reclaim his hammer.

In a stronger position as Marvel's leading super woman is Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. Carol began life as a supporting character in the pages of Captain Marvel's 1st series when the Captain was a male Kree warrior named Mar-Vell. Later thanks to weird cosmic radiation (thank you, weird cosmic radiation!), Carol gained powers similar to the Captain's and she became... Ms. Marvel.

Later Mar-Vell died (and believe it or not, is still dead!) and the next person to take the title of Captain Marvel was an African American woman named Monica Rambeau. You gotta give Marvel props for diversity but one thing led to another and the name of Captain Marvel was passed on to a couple of other Kree warriors who were Mar-Vell's cousins or something. And then some other people came along and... you know, comic book stuff happened and the name was unused once more.

Until Carol Danvers decided (and quite rightfully too) to take on the name of Captain Marvel. Marvel Comics has made a bit push to keep Carol's version of Captain Marvel in the limelight. In a very high profile role, Captain Marvel heads up one side of the latest Marvel comics event, Civil War II.

Captain Marvel's name has gained prominence outside of comic books with word that Oscar winner Brie Larson (for last year's Oscar nominated drama, Room) is up for the starring role in Marvel's movie version of the cosmically powered Carol Danvers. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. While DC's Wonder Woman is a goddess (sometimes metaphorically, other times literal), Carol in the comics has been portrayed as an ordinary woman who can do extraordinary things. The ordinary being lifted up to the extraordinary is a key Marvel trope both in comics and in the cinematic universe. If Brie Larson is indicative of the level of talent Marvel is looking at to make this movie happen, Captain Marvel looks to be another winner in Marvel's slate of super hero films.


One last note about comic book women but this is about the version on TV. When Supergirl returns for Season 2 this fall on the CW, we're going to finally have a proper meet up with the Man of Steel, that friendly neighborhood reporter Clark Kent, the one, the only...Superman!

In Season 1, the producers of Supergirl ducked and weaved around the presence of Superman to ridiculous extremes to the point that Superman's name was avoided early on. Lots of references to "that hero in Metropolis" and "my cousin". Supposedly there was some legal issues about invoking Superman's name too much but apparently those got worked through or perhaps Supergirl's producers were growing more confident that their Girl of Steel could carry this show just fine and did not need to fear comparisons to Superman. Still, Superman was kept at a distance. When his presence was unavoidable in the season finale, all we got to see...was his boot.

Well, apparently the barriers are not what they once were and Superman aka Clark Kent will appear in the first 2 episodes of Supergirl's sophomore season. Casting has not been announced but a lot of people are hoping its Tom Weilling who starred as Clark Kent on Smallville for 10 seasons but never got to be Superman. I imagine the producers will want to go with someone new but still, that would be a nice trick if they can pull it off.


OK, that's that for today's post. Another one is coming up tomorrow as we head off... to Sweden!

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 


Oh, one more thing. Here are some pages from Fatale by Brubaker and Phillips. Enjoy!  

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