Month: January 2011

Beginnings

I watched Batman Begins again last Friday. It’s been a while since I saw it, as I’ve found myself tending towards The Dark Knight lately (look, it opens with William Fichtner. I’m weak) but it really brought home to me how much I enjoy Christopher Nolan’s body of work, and how cohesive his films are.

Time and again, film after film, he returns to the same kinds of idea; revisiting the same themes over and over. Memory, destiny, personal responsibility, the whim of the psyche and the power of the mind… playing with unreliable narratives and even more unreliable narrators.

I still remember the headache I got from watching Memento – a film which really came about because of Nolan’s determination to apply the same narrative freedoms authors have had for years to films: again, fractured stories and untrustworthy tellers. That headache, I’ll add, has only ever been outdone by the one I got watching Pi in the old ABC on Tottenham Court Road (ohdeargodmyheadmyheadmyhead. No wonder I fear Black Swan.)

There is one thing I can’t take terribly seriously in Batman, though: Gotham’s law courts are blatantly, clearly and obviously the main corridor that runs between Senate House and the main entrance to the IHR and never the twain shall meet, not for all the suspension-of-disbelief under the sun. I haven’t spent four years schlepping books round that place just to pretend I’m in Gotham. Although, now I come to think about it…

This is also the film that made me weep back in December, for the sole reason that I realised I hit the Age of Bruce (30 – and why am I not yet a squillionaire?).

Still, am I looking forward to the next one? Are you kidding?

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Edge of the World

Things will be a little up and down around here for the next week (or five). There’s a couple of reasons for this: first is that I’m almost finished on the first draft of my novel-work-in-progress, and it’s starting to take over a little too much of my head for my liking. The only solution to this is surely to hit it with a stick until it goes away (the story. Not my head. Because that would be both painful and incredibly awkward to explain) and this is best done by writing it.

Second on the list of reasons is that I’m moving house on Friday. That’s this Friday, and as it stands, we don’t actually have anywhere to move to (don’t get me started on the joys of being part of a property chain). It’s not a terrible worry, but it’s a bit of a pain trying to work out what needs to be packed for storage, and what we’ll need for the next few weeks while we’re being all peripatetic. I’ve found gin immensely helpful–at least I did until I had to pack it. Now I’m going to have to start poking around all the sealed boxes with a penknife, a corkscrew and a straw.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I might drop off the world for a bit. But you know me: I’m like a bad penny (where did that phrase come from? Anyone know?) and I’ll turn up again soon enough.

I’ve still got a few days yet, though…

Around… and around… and around…

It’s probably not my favourite Daft Punk video. It’s not even my favourite Daft Punk song. Even so, it’s a shiny little disco-glittered, whacked-out piece of genius.

When it was first released, I thought it went on too long–but as time’s gone on, I’ve realised I can quite happily sit there watching it for hours. There’s something utterly mesmeric about it.

(I like the mummies best…)

Kill Shakespeare

The cast of "Kill Shakespeare" (c/o Bleedingcool.com)

I didn’t get round to this last night (it’s been a long week…) but I stumbled across a comic “inspired by” Shakespeare’s work: Kill Shakespeare.

The closest thing I can think of to it is Fables: it’s all a bit meta, with Shakespeare being sought out by his several of his characters in an attempt to defeat the forces of evil led by Richard III…

Exactly.

What intrigues me about this is not so much that it’s a straight adaptation, but one which takes Shakespeare as a jumping-off point for the kind of story we more often associate with comics–the website bills it as full of:

action, romance, comedy, lust, drama and bloody violence.

You had me at “Shakespeare”.

Obviously, I’m a little sad that the creative team looks to be an all-male one, (plus ca change, right?) but I’m curious as to what they do with their main female characters: Lady Macbeth and Juliet… who survives the events of “Romeo & Juliet” and apparently turns ninja-rebel-warrior-badass. Fingers crossed.

Read more about it here, and here.

Comics for Girls II (or: We Are Woman. See Us Draw)

I threatened, didn’t I? And I do make good on my threats (even the ones involving sledgehammers. Especially the ones involving sledgehammers). So here’s a round-up of a few things I’ve come across re: women and comics.

Eden, who writes the Comicsgirl blog, left me this link in her comment on my earlier post: an interview with Hope Larson & Raina Telgemeier, the authors of “Mercury” and “Smile” respectively. Incidentally, I’ve seen both of these being talked about as great examples of both female-written comics (with female protagonists) and as very well-written comics, regardless of the gender involved… ticking plenty of boxes.

Hope also conducted her own survey on girls & comics (bearing in mind she’s a YA author, the results are probably slightly skewed towards the mid-teens) which bears out a lot of what we all suspected anyway: that girls care about characters (but not to the exclusion of art), that they want to see more strong, female protagonists, that they need to feel welcome in the comics community–and that the extreme attitude towards women in mainstream comics needs to change. Interestingly, the survey also picked up that a lot of teen girls don’t really have anything more than a peripheral awareness of comics. The full thing–complete with Hope’s caveats–is here.

See also the great interview with Hope on the topic here: She Has No Head!

Onwards.

Geekmom’s post on women in comics looks at the template for the comic-book princess. Her theory is that they’re hard to find unless you adjust the pattern slightly, and stop looking for stereotypical fairy-tale princess figures, and instead look for superhero princesses. In other words, take Wonder Woman as your exemplar and you’re away:

Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince is actually Princess Diana of Themyscira. But wasn’t her status as a princess that made Diana the ambassador to the outside world. It’s her physical and mental toughness in a tournament that leads to her becoming a hero for all the world.

In other words, while she’s a princess, she’s also a warrior woman.

And this seems to be the template followed by most other superhero princesses.

They come from all over the Earth, from galactic kingdoms, and from far-flung fantasy worlds but none of them seem to be waiting for Prince Charming.

Instead, they’re all fierce defenders of their friends and their countries.

What I learned about super heroine princesses is that they will kick your butt, especially if you happen to be an evil overlord.

Gin & Comics comes at it from an altogether different angle, but nonetheless raises a valid point–that of merch. And he’s right: why should I be stuck with baby-pink tees with characters I don’t care about as my only options? (I should point out that I’m not above nicking my husband’s Silver Surfer t-shirt, but wouldn’t it be nice if I could get a shirt that featured Deadpool, or Gambit, or any of the other characters that apparently Girls Don’t Like)

An interesting blog post over here, on the “5 Worst Things to Happen to Women in Comics in 2010” (as well as, to be a little less doomy, the 5 Best). It’s a little more character-focused, maybe, but there’s some valid points.

A quick shout-out to the Ladies Making Comics Tumblr site as well as to the Laydeez Do Comics graphic-novel reading group (London-based). And I can’t miss out Selina Lock’s Girly Comic while we’re here, nor can I pass on the brilliant blog & website of Susie Cagle, which has just made me smile bigly.

It’s not entirely related, but it ties in with a different post I made on here a couple of days ago about The Vampire Diaries (and specifically the contrast between the female characters in the TV show compared to the books): yesterday, Alex Bell did her own post, and it’s a very good one indeed.

Thanks to everyone who commented and left me links: if I’ve missed something relevant, nudge me and I’ll update. I should add that I found several of these articles via the Fridge Dispatch site, which has been invaluable and comes highly recommended by moi (like that counts for anything…)

And yes, I know I’ve posted the Danger Maiden “Geek & Gamer Girls” video before, (and I accept it doesn’t exactly bring any sensible discussion to the table) but I like it, and you can’t be serious all the time…

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Alice of Abergavenny

The lower border of the third panel of the Ros tapestry shows Alice - complete with axe - seeking revenge for her lover's killing.

I’m still thinking about comics–and how they relate to women, and how women relate to them. And, god help you all, I’ve been reading about it.

Now I’m looking for them, I’ve found some fantastic blogs, articles and general geekery on the subject online, which I’ll come back to tomorrow once I’ve had time to organise the links (there will be many).

In the meantime, how’s this for Fem-Rage? The story of Alice of Abergavenny.

Her Welsh-Norman lover took her with him during the Fitzgerald-led Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170 and although the Normans were massively outnumbered on landing, their tactics enabled them to kill 500 of their opponents and take 70 prisoners. Unfortunately for Alice’s Marcher Lord, the invaders also suffered casualties–and he was one of them.

Alice’s considered response was to pick up an axe, and to personally behead each one of the 70 prisoners in revenge.

You go girl…

241543903

My brain’s slightly broken, and sentences are a bit of a challenge today. I keep forgetting to put in those, umm, things. You know. Whoozits. Whatchamacalls. Verbs. Yes: those. And the other ones. Nouns.

So.

Instead, I give you The Number. It’s like “Lost”, only not.

241543903

If you’ve not come across it before, go Google, and see what you come up with.

Tip: you might find an image search works best.

A post-publish note: I’m reinstating the link for the 241543903 site – but I’m told that Avast is bringing up a Trojan warning for it. (And while I’m all for Eric Bana in a skirt….) The owner of the site assures me it’s all clear, so possibly it’s just a glitch. I’ll leave it up to you, but it’s a fun meme, and a great collection of the pictures it spawns!

No Control Left to Lose

I’ve been mighty wordy this week, so it’s time for light relief in the shape of the  Friday music blog. It’s also a little more testosteronealicious than most of this week’s posts.

You know how much I love Pendulum, right? And you know how much I enjoy their videos. This one is one of their strongest recent offerings: going back to a plot-driven format, but with a fractured narrative. It’s a perfect match for Rob Swire‘s lyrics (he always strikes me as being massively underrated as a lyricist because the kidz are all about da dub-beats. Or something.) and in all honesty, it’s almost exactly what I’ve seen in my head since I first heard the song.

Ladies & gentlemen: “Crush”.

Vampire Diary

It’s been a while since there were vampires round here. Too long.

I’ve been watching the first season of The Vampire Diaries, and despite my initial thoughts that it was essentially One Tree Hill-with-fangs (which, to be fair, it sort of was for the first 3 episodes) I’m almost up to the end and you know what? I’m really enjoying it.

Much of this, I suspect, is down to the character of Damon. He’s fabulous: snarky and spiky and many other things that make me intensely jealous I didn’t write him.

The show interested me enough to make me go and pick up the first two books in the series: something I hadn’t really been inclined to do before. This was less down to a crushing need to read another vampire-based YA book and more to do with my being curious how the story had fared in the adaptation process.

It’s quite surprising just how many points have changed: whole character backstories, appearances, ages, relationships… even the name of the town. The great plus that I seem to have seen, though, is the shift in focus from the high school to the town itself, involving a much wider spread of the population. I know that True Blood, for instance, has made some huge changes to the Sookie Stackhouse books as Charlaine Harris wrote them (unsurprising, given it’s Alan Ball who came up with the TV version) but these are an altogether different kettle of fish…. blood… fish blood. Whatever.

In the case of the Vampire Diaries, I can’t help but wonder now I’ve read it, how many of these decisions were taken post-Twilight. The scene in the book where the two protagonists (Elena and Stefan) meet for the first time is uncannily like the Bella-and-Edward-biology-lab scene. And Stefan certainly has his share of Edwardisms… years before Edward came along (The first in the Vampire Diaries series was published in 1991, then reissued in 2007 after Twilight appeared in 2005). The televised version of Elena is certainly a better role-model for young women than Bella: no moping, no mooching, no jumping off cliffs because her boyfriend bailed…(so far). She surrounds herself with equally strong young women, and generally comes across as a positive, empowered female character. I’m yet to be convinced by the book version, the self-proclaimed queen of the school who has never found a boy she couldn’t wind round her finger and who declares she’s going to have Stefan even if it kills them both. Umm.

Maybe the shift in focus from school to town in the TV show isn’t just about setting it apart from the “Other Vampires”, and more about opening up the audience demographic. After all: I’m 30. I did the whole school (and even college) thing back with Buffy. I don’t need to do it again. It just goes to remind me that yes, I am getting older and that no, I’m still not immortal. Oh, and yes: those teenage years in school were just as vile as I remember them.

Tell you what, though: Meyer may well be the new queen vamp, but she’s yet to come up with anyone as fun as Damon.

Sister-Stories

First of all, I want to say thanks to everyone who commented on the rambling musings about women in the comics industry I posted yesterday. There were some really interesting points raised: things I hadn’t necessarily ever thought about and things I’ve thought about plenty of times and still can’t get my head around.

One idea I have been batting around is something that came out of Comicsgirl‘s comment, which I sort of got going on in my reply. It was a question of whether women are possibly more noticeable on the indie side of the comics industry because of the relative narrative (or artistic) freedom afforded by a smaller press environment, away from the juggernauts of DC or Marvel or Dark Horse. Are women drawn to different stories and different ways of telling them from those offered by the big players?

This isn’t just a comics question either: you can expand it to encompass all literature… all art. I remember discussing a couple of Kathryn Bigelow‘s films with a (female) friend a while back–probably just after The Hurt Locker won the Oscar–and her reaction surprised me. She said she didn’t understand why a woman would want to tell stories which were so fundamentally rooted in violence, because that’s not what we’re about. I’m still not quite sure what the right response to that is, but it feels somehow relevant to the discussion of women in the comics industry–particularly the mainstream.

Is it true, I wonder, or–accepting it’s a monstrous generalisation aside–is this a question we even need to think about? Ever seen that shelf in a bookshop: “Women’s Literature”? What is that, exactly? Books for, by or about women–or all three? What differentiates it from just plain old bog-standard “Literature”?

Amanda over at Floor to Ceiling Books covered the idea of sexism in publishing in a post yesterday, and brought up a recent online discussion of women in SF which opens the debate up even further: if we go back to the question of whether women want to tell different stories, is this simply a case of SF being less appealing to women–or, like Margaret Atwood, do they see their stories as being “beyond” the genre? As a card-carrying Friend of Geek, I can’t help but think this is going to twist my noodle round another half-inch–so much so that I’m probably going to take a day or two to think about it, and work out whether I should be activating the Fem-Rage.

In the meantime, I’m going to go read a comic. Well, it’s either that or a bit of Germaine Greer….