celestialchild: (Default)
The blog-o-sphere's a buzz with the latest releases about DC's upcoming comics reboot. It's one of those clean-slate ideas that isn't bad in theory, but, seeing how DC has been scurrying around lately I figure this is just going to be another disappointment for me.

Although at this point the only thing I even buy from DC Comics anymore are the Red Robin trades, what with Tim Drake being my favorite character and all. Though if I'm honest I buy them 50% for Marcus To.

I'm a big fan of the Bat Family as-it-could-be, especially Batgirl Cassandra Cain, and so of course when I saw the following I had a mouthful to say.

“Barbara Gordon is pretty much my everything. Because of the Batman TV show, she was the reason I fell in love with superheroes. Because she was a redhead who could kick ass, she is the reason I fell in love with comics. She was always forward-looking as Batgirl, a girl who was smarter than the male characters, who had class and elegance and style, as well as tough-as-nails grit. For a long time, there was simply nothing else like her in comics, and for me and a lot of other readers, her every appearance was joyful and explosive.

For many years, I got to write the character as Oracle, and there is to this day, no character who means more to me. This is classic Barbara as she was originally conceived, with a few big surprises. It’s a bit of a shock, to be sure, but we’re doing everything we can to be respectful to this character’s amazing legacy, while presenting something thrilling that a generation of comics readers will be experiencing for the first time…

…Barbara Gordon leaping, fighting, and swinging over Gotham. Now, when citizens of that city look up, they are going to see BATGIRL.

And that is absolutely thrilling.”

[Source]

The way Simone is talking about the character makes me feel as if she’s fangirling over her favorite hero a lot like Johns seems to do with Hal Jordan. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, and while this doesn’t mean she can’t write a good Barbara Gordan is Batgirl story, it does mean that she’s just one more writer at DC who is so excited about her old-school hero that she’s less likely to give as much of a damn about anybody else who came after, or what they represented. Of course, I acknowledge that editorial mandate removes a lot of her control, so I guess being excited about Barbara is the best she can give us. I’d don’t wish to speculate on her situation that much anyway, because this really isn’t about Simone.

The direction DC seems to be taking is not one of an inclusive atmosphere—not in the general sense, and definitely not in the sense of diversity and representation that properly reflects our world. More and more, it strikes me as an exclusive circle of fanfic writers who only want to talk about their Silver Age heroes.

The fact that we are only to be reassured of Barbara Gordan’s legacy is hardly reassuring at all; what of the legacies of the many heroes that came afterwards? I think it’s pretty obvious that Silver Age heroes are the safest heroes at DC right now. It is not them for whom we need assurances.

…But hey, maybe Simone is just being cryptic in her statement and we’ll see Cass and Steph after all. I think it would be nice to acknowledge that both women have their own legacies, though, and are not uniformly just a piece of the “the one who came before”.

celestialchild: icon made by gate_shipland@livejournal.com (Avatar Kiyoshi)
[If it weren't obvious... SPOILERS ahoy!]

One Piece
589 is the final chapter in a long run of flashbacks in the manga, that takes us back to the childhood of Luffy and Ace, how they met, how they became brothers, and why they ultimately made the decision to set out upon the world. It ends with a rather stunning return to the present: Luffy is crying, still absorbed in the death of Ace, and declares aloud that he is weak.

This is a really pivotal chapter for me, because it changes altogether how I view this series and the respect which it earns from me. Up until now, I have only had a mild interest based on the following:

  • the world is a unique vision of fantasy, technology, and piracy
  • the entire conception of special powers is very different from anything else I have seen or read
  • the characters are, down to the smallest, strikingly unique from character designs to their very personalities
  • Luffy is is an atypical protagonist; neither short nor tall, skinny nor fat, a child nor a man, and with a personality that is both mature and immature; attractive nor unattractive; he has a power that is altogheter unusual (a rubber man?), and comes with plenty of limitations and downsides, while still being creative and inventive
  • Oda's art is beautiful, when he doesn't cram a lot of details into a tiny box

It was also rather interesting to me how Oda has managed to make so successful a story wherein, up until the death of Ace, not a single, majorly significant character has died on-panel in the present time line.

But there's always been one flaw to the story that never quite brought me in: Luffy himself. While on one had I adore the dynamicism of his character and the quirks, on the other I felt it always lacking a certain level of humanity. Luffy always felt more like the story's mascot rather than a human being. Luffy always seemed invincible. And I don't mean that in a sense of physical power, but rather emotional. Nothing could break his confidence, his sense of determination, and his belief in the world. And the viewers and readers of the series never witnessed a new threat which they believed he could not, would not, overcome, or that would break his spirit.

I contend: if Luffy were a woman I think everybody would have been crying MARY SUE! six ways from Sunday. The lack of failure took away his identifiable humanity, and while that certainly doesn't keep the reader from being moved and emotionally impacted by the decisions he makes and the things he does, it does place Luffy on a different level of being. At least for me. And it's not a level I am interested in.

As much as I hate to say it, this story and the death of Ace are pivotal precisely because they have changed all of this entirely. At last, Luffy has taken a blow to his confidence. We see that he is vulnerable and capable of losing what is truly his most powerful quality. It says something about Oda's storytelling ability that he recognizes this.

Ace was my favorite character, although his appearances were so brief. I am terribly heartbroken over his death, and I honestly wish it could have been someone else, or things could have gone another way. Reading the chapters as they were issued was even worse, because it was a real-time blow I never saw coming due storytelling precedent. But on the other hand, I cannot at this moment think of a fictional character death that was more significant, well-plotted, well-developed and thought out, than Ace's. Ace's death changed an entire universe; it changed the game; it changed how fans looked at the story; within the story, it specifically marks the point of changing history; it defeated the Stue.


It's really hard to think of a more honorable death than that.

celestialchild: (Sailor Galaxia)
[contains SPOILERS through Naruto 499]

Dear Masashi Kishimoto,

I am a notoriously lazy blogger as of late, but my fandom activity is not dead. In spite of all the sexist atrocities in your manga, I am still keeping up with it to see where it goes (and to blast it if necessary).

It's no secret amongst my circle that Naruto: Shippūden was well on its way to making my best-manga-I-ever-read list, and also, quite possibly best-stories-I-ever-saw-crafted list; but after the crime you committed against Sakura's character in chapters 469, 470, and then later in her reunion with Sasuke, I was pretty much ready to go sell all the manga volumes I'd purchased thus far. Like a relationship gone sour, I was crossing Naruto out of my photographs, making angry journal posts, and badmouthing the garbage to anyone who would listen.

At the start of Shippūden I was really willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I was beginning to think maybe you were a genius, who introduced Sakura as the pathetic, shallow girl but who would surprise everyone and develop her into a proud kunoichi and a likable, admirable woman whom people would have a reason to respect (and not just say they respect, with no evidence to prove it). I was so excited to see what was next for her after she became the first character in the manga to defeat an Akatsuki member, even if she had some help. I held on to hope and faith so long that I didn't see the warning signs. And when Shikamaru and Sai confronted her and told her to grow up and realize what was happening to Sasuke? I was so genuinely excited for how she would conduct herself and approach Naruto I could barely wait to see what would happen.

And then came chapter 469. And 487 and 488. You showed that Sakura can do things, but that you just won't let her because you choose to use your sexist perceptions of femaleness to bolster the Heroic/Awesome Value of your male characters. While we're at it: 488 was a great example of your hypocritical crap; where do you get off having Kakashi lecture Sakura about the value of teammates when he didn't even fucking tell her the latest about the Uchiha clan, Itachi, and Madara?

It's not as if Sakura was the first incident. It was just the straw that broke the camel's back (although it felt far more like 1000 ton weight, and was indeed the worst straw). But like most female readers of any genre out there, I put up with the seemingly inevitable sexism to an extent because other aspects of the story were good, and, quite frankly, if I abandoned every story out there for a vein of sexism (among other things) each contains, I might very well run out of things to read at all. So I put up with the fact that Hinata was obsessed with Naruto, that Ino and Sakura and Karin are/were obsessed with Sasuke, that Tsunade was obsessed with dead men and then with Naruto's future, that Konan just "gave up" on everything she supposedly believed in because all the important men in her life had died, and that the Mizukage is somehow traumatized by a past involving men.

...in case you are still Not Getting It (which, by the way, is something you are very good at--and no, I don't really excuse you for it just because you are male), I'm talking about the fact that every--clearly damned--female character in your manga, with what are currently the possible exceptions of Temari, Ten Ten, Karin and Samui (who, by the way, have the most minor roles of all your ladies), has a character plot that is inevitably tied to the fate of a man; in other words, that every female character's individual story unquestionably depends upon, the plot/fate/decisions of at least one male character. You fail the Bechdel Test pretty hard.

I mean, honestly, there are moments when I wonder why you even bother to have kunoichi in this manga at all. After all that stuff with Sakura, I was almost hoping she would be killed off just so I could stop witnessing all of the horrible things you do to her.

So it really surprised me when you temporarily un-boxed Women's Potential in this manga and announced in 499 that Kushina was the previous Nine Tails jinchūriki. When I read that, I got chills down my spine and swore aloud to the displeasure of my sleeping roommate. I don't know what shocked me more: the revelation that Kushina was a jinchūriki, or the fact that you made a woman in this manga powerful and relevant because of it. And honestly, this whole thing really scares me, because I have no faith that you realize what you have just done, what it means, and that you will inevitably screw this up.

But I'm going to pray anyway that you have given this some thought and that you will not screw this up. That you will realize that this is an opportunity to expose and awesome female character who is not boxed by your vision of femaleness, and that she will be a character I can respect and admire even if she's dead. You may be able to recover some lost love yet. Some.

But if you screw this up--


Sincerely,

A woman

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celestialchild

June 2011

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