Tag Archives: women’s issues

Scarlet Witch: Issue #07 – Male/Female Duality and the Subtlety of Artistic Expression

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This arc continues to surprise and impress me. Not only is the writing and artwork excellent, but the creative team is bold enough to incorporate thought-provoking ideas. And they do so in a way that challenges to reader to look below the surface at to what is implied instead of what is overtly stated.

In this issue, Wanda collaborates with a Hong Kong detective named Alice Gulliver, also known as the Wu, who possesses mystical power. Alice is an intriguing character, specifically because of her balance of male and female energy. She has managed to incorporate aspects of her father and her mother into her being, becoming a balanced individual that transcends gender roles and bias.

Alice: My father was a Hong Kong detective, killed by one of the triads. My mother was the city’s magical heroine, the August Wu of the Coral Shore… murdered by a demonic entity.

Wanda: So you chose your father’s life and keep your inherited powers a secret?

Alice: On the down-low, that’s right.

A sign of great art, in my opinion, is to express something subtly, through what is consciously left out of dialog and what is conveyed through images. In this tale, there is a sexual attraction between Wanda and Alice that is only hinted at through the dialog and the images, particularly the eyes. I’ve always felt that eyes are the most expressive feature of a person’s face, and the artists captured an attraction through the way the eyes are rendered. It’s subtle, but clearly there.

At the end of the issue, Alice hesitates for a frame, eyes are averted, building tension. Then in the following frame, her eyes turn back to Wanda as she springs a question.

Alice: Hey… err … do you want to grab a drink? We can discuss how I do things differently.

Wanda: I don’t drink, Alice. I’m sorry.

Alice: How about tea? I know an amazing tea house.

Wanda: Oh. Now tea, I do.

And in the final frame, the two women walk off together.

I’m really impressed that a main-stream comic has taken on sexuality and gender issues. It takes courage, especially in an environment that appears to be more and more hostile to the LGBT community (looking at the states that have recently enacted legislation restricting rights of LGBT citizens).

I recently listened to a TED podcast that talked about moving beyond tolerance, and I have been thinking about that a lot since listening. Tolerating people who are different is not enough. We need to embrace diversity and not merely tolerate those who are different. I think this comic is a step toward embracing differences, and for that, I applaud the writers and artists who collaborated on this.

Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.

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Sexual Violation in Shakespeare’s “Double Falsehood”

DoubleFalsehood

It’s strange how often I read something and discover it relates to events taking place in the world around me. Many of us are outraged at the lenient sentence given to Brock Turner, a mere six months for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. As such, I found it serendipitous that Double Falsehood, written over 500 years ago, also addresses the issue of the sexual violation of women.

For those of you who do now know the history of this play, it is thought to be a lost Shakespeare play. The play has only recently been attributed to him and added to the collection of Shakespeare’s works. If you are interested in reading more about the history of the text, check out this Wikipedia page.

Anyway, I want to focus on the text.

First off, I want to point out that one of the central female characters, the one who is sexually violated in the beginning by Henriquez, is named Violante. I instantly noted the similarity of her name to the word “violate.” Remove the “n” from her name and you have violate, symbolizing a violated woman.

After forcing himself on Violante, Henriquez tries to convince himself he did nothing wrong, that even though she resisted, she did not resist enough and therefore acquiesced in his mind.

Hold, let me be severe to myself, but not
unjust. Was it rape then? No. Her shrieks, her
exclamations then had drove me from her. True, she
did not consent: as true, she did resist; but still in
silence all.

(Act 2, scene 1)

Afterwards, as is often the case with victims of sexual abuse, Violante feels guilt and shame.

Whom shall I look upon without a blush?
There’s not a maid whose eye with virgin gaze
Pierces not to my guilt. What will’t avail me
To say I was not willing?
Nothing, but that I publish my dishonour,
And wound my fame anew. O misery,
To seem to all one’s neighbours rich, yet know
One’s self necessitous and wretched.

(Act 2, scene 2)

In her despair, Violante escapes to the country and disguises herself as a young boy. But her master figures out she is actually a woman and also tries to violate her sexually.

Come, you’re made for love.
Will you comply? I’m madder with this talk.
There’s nothing you can say can take my edge off.

(Act 4, scene 1)

She manages to escape her new attacker, but is then wracked with guilt and despair. Sadly, she considers suicide as the only way to rid herself of the pain she feels as a result of her violation.

And O, thou fool,
Forsaken Violante – whose belief
And childish love have made thee so – go, die!
For there is nothing left thee now to look for
That can bring comfort but a quiet grave.
There all the miseries I long have felt
And those to come shall sweetly sleep together.

(Act 4, scene 2)

While this is certainly not one of Shakespeare’s best works (if in fact it truly is the work of the bard), it’s an easy read and worth checking out, if nothing else but for insight into a social plague that still vexes us today. All sexual assault should be condemned and perpetrators given punishments that suit the crimes. But let me not get too high on the soapbox. Give the play a read and feel free to share your comments in the space below.

Thanks for stopping by and showing an interest in literature.

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Scarlet Witch: Issue #05

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I had mixed feelings about this issue. There were aspects that I really liked, and then there were things about it that I thought failed.

I’ll start with what I liked. I loved the concept and the story. Wanda is asked to investigate cases of possession at a vineyard in Spain that is operated by the Catholic Church. It is made known that the vineyard was once a nunnery and during the Inquisition, the nuns were accused of witchcraft and burned on the site. So it’s not surprising that issues of misogyny and religious prejudice are addressed, and they are done so in a very engaging and creative way which works really well. In addition, as a twist, people become possessed as a result of speaking (the nuns had taken a vow of silence and whoever speaks breaks the vow and becomes possessed), so the central bulk of the story is driven solely through images, and textual dialog only occurs at the beginning and the end. I found this very creative, and having the image-driven section flanked by the text-driven sections was interesting and engaging.

But this leads me to the problem with this issue: the artwork. For a story that is so image-focused and that is basically driven by the visuals, the artwork seemed flat. It almost felt like this was thrown together in a rush to meet a deadline. The characters lacked depth and expression, and many of the panels looked like duplicates where Photoshop was used to slightly alter the images. For a story that relies so heavily on the graphics, more time and energy should have been invested in the artwork. That’s just my opinion. Also, I checked my older issues and there was a new artist for this installment. I wonder if something happened that resulted in a last-minute change of artists. Regardless, I would rather have waited for something a little better, but I guess Marvel has a schedule they must adhere to.

Anyway, like I said, the story is really good and that alone makes this worth reading. That said, I’ll leave you with a snippet of dialog from the early pages that addresses prejudice and open-mindedness, important issues in these times:

Wanda: I’m sorry if my being a witch upsets him.

Sister Lorenz: You’re a woman, Wanda, and you have power in the world. You’re known. That’s more than enough to upset a man like Father Gabaldon, even before you start casting spells.

Wanda: You, on the other hand, Sister… My being a witch doesn’t bother you?

Sister Lorenz: Oh, I’m very much a bride of Christ, but like my Savior, I keep an open mind on all things.

 

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Neil Gaiman’s “Miracleman” Issue #4

Miracleman_04

Gaiman incorporates some very interesting metafiction into this issue. The story is about a woman writer who is in a failing relationship with a man who is getting ready to leave her. She is putting the kids to bed and they ask her to read them a bedtime story, so she reads them “Winter’s Tale,” which is a kids’ book about the experiences of Winter, Miracleman’s daughter. The central part of the story is “Winter’s Tale,” as a story within a story.

Symbolically, Winter’s story is based on the archetypal hero’s journey, where she ventures away from home, learns deep truths, and then returns home to Miracleman, who symbolizes the divine source.

The entire story implies a world where the divine masculine has become the primary creative power. The mother symbolizes a creative divine that has become weakened and subjugated in our modern society.

This is a very sad story. The mother is depicted as lonely and unhappy, hoping that her joy for life will be rekindled through her children. Unfortunately, this is the reality for too many women in our society, who think that having children will ultimately save them from an unfulfilled life. But contentment and happiness can only come from within. Any time you seek something outside yourself to change how you feel, it will always lead to disappointment.

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Monstress: Issue 1

Monstress_01

I saw this comic advertised in the back of another comic I read recently, and it seemed like something that was right up my alley. I went to the comic store and picked up a copy from the shelf. The woman working there said it is an amazing graphic tale and that the first printing sold out so fast, they are already on the second printing (yes, I bought the second printing). Anyway, I read this first issue and was totally blown away.

The comic works for me on many levels. Firstly, the writing is excellent. The story immediately draws you in. I felt a strong connection to the characters, even in the primary development phase. This is a sign of impeccable craftsmanship.

Secondly, the artwork is breathtaking. This is some of the most vivid, beautiful, and creative artwork I have seen in a graphic novel. The intricacy and detail are magnificent. I cannot praise this enough.

I also love the blending of adventure and mysticism. I am intrigued by the story so far, very much intrigued. I love stories that incorporate the mystical, and I can see already that this is one of those stories.

Finally, I really love that this is written and illustrated by women. The central character, Maika, is a strong female character, and she is not sexually idealized as is too often the case with heroines in graphic novels. I did a quick search online and found out that the writer, Marjorie Liu, is an American New York Times best-selling writer, and the artist, Sana Takeda, is an acclaimed Japanese artist. Together, these creative women have come up with something unique and impressive. I for one am eager to follow this arc.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this comic, particularly if you have read it. I’d love to hear what you think.

Cheers!

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Star Wars Shattered Empire: Issue 3

StarWarsShatteredEmpire_03

I wasn’t much impressed with Issue 1 or Issue 2, but this one really pulls the story together. It’s like the frayed threads of the storyline have come together and it now feels more cohesive. In addition, I love that this installment features three strong women working together: Princess Leia, Shara Bey, and Queen Soruna. And I am also pleased that the women are not portrayed as sexual objects. As a parent of two daughters, I understand how important it is to have strong women role models, and this graphic novel delivers that.

I really don’t have a whole lot more to say about this issue. It’s very plot-driven and would be hard to say more without giving spoilers, and I avoid spoilers at all costs. I will say that it is worth reading this arc. It really does seem to be setting the stage for the new film, which is only a month away. I can’t wait! My geek heart is all aflutter.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to read some cool stuff today.

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JLA Witchblade

JlaWitchblade

Several weeks ago, when I went to the comic store to pick up my latest issues, the woman working there told me that they had gotten this graphic novel as part of a collection they purchased. Since they know I am a Witchblade fan, they set it aside for me in case I was interested. The price was right, so I figured I would purchase it. It took me a while to get around to it, but this morning I finally got around to reading it and it was pretty good.

The graphic novel is a stand-alone story and was published in 2000. The basic premise is that Kenneth Irons has enlisted the help of Lex Luthor in acquiring the Witchblade. Sara is injured and taken the the Justice League headquarters for treatment. While she is there, the Witchblade determines that Wonder Woman is the more powerful female, hence more suitable bearer, and the artifact detaches itself from Sara and “chooses” Wonder Woman. The result is that Wonder Woman becomes corrupted by the weapon’s darker power and turns on the other members of the Justice League. At the climax, there is a confrontation between Sara Pezzini and Wonder Woman.

I found this tale to be entertaining and fun. There is nothing deep or thought-provoking, just a basic retelling of the classic “power corrupts” motif. There was some irony here that did not escape my attention, though. The women characters were definitely depicted as sexually idealized, which is annoying. But the irony is that at one part of the novel, Wonder Woman is addressing the United Nations, scantily clad and looking like a teen poster pinup, and talking about the importance of women opposing patriarchy and assuming leadership roles in the world.

… As you are all well aware, our mother planet faces grave economic, environmental and social problems; in order to solve them—I call upon women across the globe to rise up and throw off the yoke of patriarchal tyranny!

I was glad to see that there was at least an attempt to promote gender equality here, but as is evident, there is still a long way to go.

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Star Wars: Princess Leia – Issue 3

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I really love this series. Leia is such a great leader and we need more women leaders in graphic novels, literature, and in the real world. In this issue, Leia and Evaan locate another group of Alderaanian survivors, but they are suspicious of Leia. And when the imperial forces descend on them as a result of a traitor, then the group turns against Leia.

One section of this issue that stood out for me was a brief discussion on hope.

Evaan: Never seen you give up hope, ma’am.

Leia: Hope led me to the rebellion, and Alderaan paid for that. Now my hope has led the empire here. I don’t think the galaxy can survive much more hope from me.

I have grappled with the question of whether hope is a good thing or a bad thing. Hope can cause people to remain in bad situations, thinking that they will change. Hope can create expectations which can lead to disappointment and disillusion. Hope is one of the plagues in Pandora’s Box. But loss of hope can also lead to apathy, to despair, and to the diminishing of the determination needed to face challenges. Hope has certainly carried me through some dark times in my life. I think hope is one of those things that transcend good and evil, since both good and evil can result from it. At least, that is how I feel about hope right now. I suspect my feelings will change again.

One last word regarding hope as it relates to this tale. I do not think it is a coincidence that hope focuses prominently here, since the original Star Wars film was subtitled “A New Hope.” What are your thoughts on hope? Feel free to share them below. Thanks for stopping by!

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Star Wars: Princess Leia – Issue 1

Leia_01

I’ve had this issue for a while and have only just gotten around to reading it. My expectations were somewhat high, since I have heard only good things about this. Happily, I was not disappointed.

This is the first of a five-issue miniseries focusing on Princess Leia. The tale begins where the original Star Wars film left off, at the ceremony where Leia presented Like, Han, and Chewbacca with awards. The members of the rebel alliance are critical of Leia. They view her as cold and heartless because she does not display the “appropriate” level of emotion over the loss of her parents.

Rebel 1: That’s all she has to say? Man, what’s with the Ice Princess?

Rebel 2: You know royals. They don’t show emotions to the plebes.

As I read this, I could not help thinking about Cordelia in King Lear, or about Mersault in Camus’ The Stranger. It is like people expect a show of emotion.

Leia decides to disregard General Dodonna’s instructions to remain under protection and instead sets out with another woman pilot to search for surviving Alderaanians. By doing so, she establishes herself as a strong, independent leader.

I expect you to object, but hear me out: What is my alternative? To collapse in grief, as everyone seems to wish? To keep my head down and hide? To rule over nothing? I reject that. The last royal of Alderaan must be too strong to cower. Too certain to despair. And more than that, General, she must be too stubborn to quit—if her subjects—and her culture—are to survive. If you will not allow me to aid the rebellion, I can do this.

What I love the most about this is that Leia is portrayed as a strong woman who is a natural leader. As a parent of two daughters, I understand how important it is for girls to have strong women figures to look up to and be inspired by. Princess Leia definitely fits into this category. I am looking forward to the rest of this series.

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The X-Files: Year Zero – Issue #5

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This issue concludes the mini-series and does so superbly. Unlike the previous issue, there is a lot of great stuff woven into this story.

Mulder and Scully discover Dorothy Sears’ identity in the present day. Having gained immortality by tricking the trickster Xero into giving her ambrosiac, she has lived below the radar and maintained her youth into the present day. There is a great panel where she relates to Scully what it was like to be a woman in the 1940s.

“But then, you don’t know what it was like in the forties, Agent Scully—for women, I mean. We had very limited roles, very few options. And a Cape Cod house with a picket fence was just a pretty cage—for me, at least.”

(p. 4)

During the climactic confrontation with Xero/Zero, Sears again tricks the trickster and escapes. Angered, Xero vows to hunt her down, but Mulder challenges him, claiming to know the tricksters true, secret name.

Xero: No! She will not do this again! She has broken her word—and so shall I! I will unheal her son, then hunt her down and—

Scully: You won’t hurt either of them!

Xero: No? And how would you stop me?

Mulder: By saying your true name!

Xero: You… play a card you do not have.

Mulder: Try me.

Xero: You are foolhardy, Fox Mulder. I like that in a man. It has earned you a reprieve. Until we meet again…

(Xero vanishes)

Scully: So… for future reference… what is his true name?

Mulder: Rumpelstiltskin?

(pp. 13 – 14)

I particularly loved the ending. It flashes back to 1947 where Ellinson and Ohio are setting up their new office space, from where they will begin investigating X-files. The two discuss how to set up their filing system.

Ohio: How should we have these sorted? The Sears case could go under “S”—or “L” for Long Island. But our Christmas trip—should that be “D” for Detroit? “H” for Hardin? “G” for gremlin?

Ellinson: Let’s keep it simple, keep them together so we can get at them quick. Bottom line is, these weird cases we’re looking into—past, present, and future—they’re all because of Mr. Xero. They’re all X-FILES.

(p. 20)

So this explains how the X-files got the name. Mentally filing that away for future trivia.

Hope you have an X-ellent day!!

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