I am Iron Man or maybe you are

I was one of the many people who saw Iron Man in theater during its opening weekend. And I loved it. I’ll admit that it has problems: it doesn’t fully pass the Alison Bechdel Test and has questionable portrayals of Afghanis. It’s also pretty formulaic. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love it.

Iron Man is the movie other superhero films want to be. It’s the cool kid of a sometimes not so great superhero genre. It’s what Spider-Man wanted to be and what Superman never could be. It delivered a simple story about an asshole arms dealer turned superhero with an appeal to both comic and non-comic audiences. You don’t feel like you need to know any back story unlike with the X-Men movies and your viewing is subtly enhanced if you know the back story unlike X3 or Serenity.

Tony Stark might be rich like Bruce Wayne and incredibly smart like Reed Richards, but Tony Stark’s also an asshole. An asshole like you and me. This is perhaps a powerful universal appeal that so far superhero films haven’t embodied.

Peter Parker (Spider-Man) usually gets toted as the character with universal appeal for his sad story and acceptance of heroism. “With great power comes great responsibility” blah blah blah. I know people who love Spider-Man, who dragged me to the theater to see the second one on opening weekend. All that said, I don’t think the nerd-emo-boy turned superhero is a true universal appeal. It doesn’t appeal to me. I want to smack Peter Parker. I want to smack a lot of nerd-emo-boys too. (Yes, I was at a convention last weekend, why do you ask?) I can’t ever see myself as Peter Parker.

Iron Man was different. Finally, a superhero movie was produced where the main character didn’t cry over his/her hard decisions or someone didn’t give a pretentious piece of exposition about the weight of the world. Tony went from hardboiled arms dealer to humanist superhero without so much as a lecture about serving the world. It was refreshing.

Tony Stark is either the asshole we are or the asshole we wish we had the money and privilege to be. An asshole with really cool flying armor and gear.

I’m so there.

Strangers in Paradise: That “Girl” Book

I finally gave in and read Strangers in Paradise Vol. 1. My excuse was that it was highly recommended, and I found it at the used bookstore. (Which is the nice thing about loving to read comics, but not being overly concerned about keeping them pristine.) To my surprise, or not, I really liked it. Like read it in two days really liked it, which is a pretty good feat in between working full-time.

Strangers in Paradise always appears on those lists. You know, the ones by pretentious male comic book readers making recommendations of books your girlfriend might like. It always starts off with “Well, have you tried getting her to read Strangers in Paradise?” Author Terry Moore is also know as a women-friendly writer of “girl” books and usually another title he’s worked on appears on the list as well.

I’m really uncomfortable with the classification and pigeonholing of Strangers in Paradise and another “girl” books in the “girl” book category. I can’t help but wonder, what’s a “girl” book? And what does a “girl” book that non-girl books don’t have? Does that make other books “guy” books? Or does it just lead to theothering of women? (Not to mention the implied othering of racial and sexual minorities with the baseline normalizing of the white, straight fanboy as the sole comic audience.)

Hazards of the job make me tolerate marketing calling it a “girl” book. They make me okay with Target’s “Chick Lit” and the goings on about “Chick Flicks” starring Hugh Grant or Patrick Dempsy. That’s marketing, that’s companies wanting to make as much money as possible. That’s a publishing company making sure that it’s on the shelf of Barnes & Nobles and Borders as they know women are more likely to shop for comics there than the local comic book shops. This is the same marketing that also wants me to buy new, improved toilet bowl cleaners and yogurt. A lot of yogurt. Yum. Yum.

But the corporations are probably not controlling the fanboy who decides to write the “girl” book post after his begging of his girlfriend to go to the comic store every week or having to justify how he just spend over $100 on that really cool statue of She-Hulk on e-Bay. If she picks up comics than it’ll be what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Then they can have romantic weekends debating who would win Batman or Wolverine over burgers after sitting through two different convention panels which a guy on them did a “that’s what she said” joke.

My suggestion for fanboys is to find the woman who already reads comics. Who can tell you what issue of the New Avengers the entire team gets strung up naked in the Savage Land and how Batman could’ve totally not mended his broken back by working out really hard. Trust me, they exist. This is what my boyfriend did. Now when he goes shopping on e-Bay for those Alpha Flight comics, he also shows up with a box containing a She-Hulk bust and my lecture about saving money to buy a house doesn’t include sending the bust or the comics back. And if she’s not interested, I’m sure you can show her interest in her hobbies or the same respect as you expect her to show to yours.

And these books, like Strangers in Paradise, that I keep getting told are “girl” books, I’m going to classify as people books. People want solid stories about interesting, three-dimensional characters of all ages, genders, races, sexualities, abilities, etc. They want art that resembles what people, aliens, and creatures might really look like if you encountered them on the street. They want stories and art that are innovative and unique. Get that baseline and then we can start talking about targeted marketing.

I don’t see how a boy wouldn’t want to read Strangers in Paradise with it’s varied cast, thriller-plot, solid characterization, and good art. There’s even guns and violence in this “girl” book. The fanboy and his girlfriend should be reading it together. I think often times it’s not a “girl” issue preventing a newbie so much as a DC/Marvel have been in the comics business since the 1930s and it can be very overwhelming to try to figure out the back stories, not to mention expensive when you can’t get trades, for the person who’s trying to get into comics. No one has time to read all the Batman comics only to find out that Ace the Bat Hound and Bat-Mite aren’t regulars anymore. It’s much easier to pick up the first trade volume of a book like Strangers in Paradise and start there.

Besides, you can always get into the argument: Who would win Batman or Katchoo?

My money’s on Katchoo.

Iron Fist of My Pants

That’s how I feel about Brubaker and Fraction’s The Immortal Iron Fist. It makes me happy, in my pants. I highly suggest reading it.

The story’s hard to fit in the larger continuity of Marvel — hello, Civil War –, but considering how many titles feature Wolverine, I’m not too worried about continuity. But Brubaker and Fraction still get it in there and there’s luckily a mystical land where time’s all wonky. Yay.

It’s an original story of a hero who already knows how to fight, who’s already been a hero, who’s just figuring out why he’s the Iron Fist. It’s all about history comes back to bite Danny Rand’s ass, and it’s not even his own history; it’s the history of the Iron Fist, the Immortal Weapon. Specifically how Orson Randall, the pervious Iron Fist, tried to change the ending of the story and the consequences.

Danny Rand might be a rich, adventurous superhero, but he has a legacy he didn’t really know about and he has family and allies, he might’ve forgotten both on Earth and in K’un L’un. His story not only makes me love him, but it also makes me want to break the “traditions” and become the first female Immortal Iron Fist in a long time.

Together, Brubaker and Fraction are writing a hero’s journey, a mystery, an origin story, and a really awesome action-adventure tale. I’ll be on the edge of my seat as Danny helps out the revolution and save his old friends.

The Joker and Me

A little not about She-Hulk…

I’m super excited about The Dark Knight as Batman Begins quickly became one of my all-time favorite movies. I think Christian Bale is a great beginning Batman and that the movie really captured the feeling of Gotham. Of course, the casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker made me pause. Ledger was a very talented actor, but I can’t help but always see him as I first did, in his short-lived series Roar and in leather pants. *pauses for a nostalgic moment*

Moreover, I’ve felt that there’s a history between me being frightened by the Joker. And Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker in Batman as one of the first horrific performances I saw on film. I remember not wanting to re-watch the movie, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I was scared. Even when I read Arkham Asylum and the Joker’s storyline in Gotham Central, I still had that old Joker fear and intrigue. I really want to read Moore’s The Killing Joke before I see the movie as it’s what Ledger was given to read when studying for the part and it’s the only Joker story to give him some background. (I wonder if this makes him less scary or more…)

After I saw the pictures of Ledger in the makeup, I didn’t doubt the casting. There’s also a twisted perversity of taking an actor who’s beautiful and twisting him into something ugly and psychotic for film.

Of course, then tragically, Ledger died with a lot of speculating on how much of an imprint that being the Joker (a darker one than Nicholson’s) contributed to it.

The night after Ledger died, I had a horrific nightmare where the Joker had kidnapped me and was going to put a slice in my forehead and pull my eyeballs through it. He was showing me pictures of how he’d done it to Drew Barrymore before me. He stuck out his gloved hand to get me off the floor and told me it was my turn. He also kept saying something about sodomy. I started freaking out in my dream and woke up. I could not get back to sleep for hours.

I think there are probably scarier villains in the Bat-world (perhaps the Batman himself), but the Joker and I, we have history. We’ll see how long I’m going to sleep with the lights on after seeing The Dark Knight. It might be a long time given the leaked, hand-held recorded first 6 minutes.

I still can’t wait for the summer.

New Year: Re-Direction, e-Baying, and New Writers

My attention to comics the past six months was wanning. I moved to Seattle and left behind my local comic book store, Atomic Comics. My comics friends moved away and, in some cases, completely out of my life.

Because of this, I gained a new life outside the comforting white noise of my computer and reading comics. So much so that I turned in my mod-ing cape over at Girl-Wonder.org and put to rest or added other people to my other online activities. I stopped reading comic blogs. I stopped debating. I stopped reading several titles. I was even behind on She-Hulk.

However, I did manage to go to Comic-Con in San Diego with amaresu and meet Dan Slott (plus other authors). I think he thought I was 12, given my tendency to wear pig-tails, and showed me some of the early art for his last few issues of She-Hulk.

My slump ended when I met this boy.

That’s always how this story starts, doesn’t it. It’s like my dirty secret is my comic life started and re-started because of boys. Though I maintain my integrity in that I’ll listen to suggestions on what to read, but I always pick it myself, even if I get made fun of. And I have.

So the boy, he loves comics. He’d also kind of fallen away in his move across the United States. He agrees with me that we still haven’t found a comic book store in the Seattle area we really like. It’s a need for a mixture of customer service and stock – both new and old – that we’re still searching for.

Did I mention there’s not a comic store within 12 miles of my house? And I live in Seattle proper.

My boy knows my love of She-Hulk. He’s also good with the e-Bay. For my birthday and Yule, he presented me with a good portion of The Sensational She-Hulk and She-Hulk’s time with The Fantastic Four, among other things. I have a lot of reading to do.

And some catching up. I’m still not sure what to think about Peter David’s voyage into the title.

What I do know is that I’m almost finished reading the entire run of The Savage She-Hulk in an essential volume and the boy is bidding on e-Bay so I can tell just what color the She-Hulk robot in #3 is.

Ten Things I Wish for Future She-Hulk Comics

1. Characters of color and I don’t mean the green kind. I can praise this comic in the way Slott writes women, but really where is the racial diversity?

2. Queer characters. Also lacking.

3. A signal to the final end of John and Jen’s marriage. Even Jen signing divorce papers would do or making a side comment to Pug when he asks where her husband is.

4. Pug. More Pug and a mending of a relationship between Jen and Pug. I’m not saying that they have to hook up and live happily forever after. But a “I was wrong. No, you were wrong.” And what about the magic anti-love spell? (I do have faith that this will get wrapped up, but I’m impatient.)

5. One of Jen’s cases being the A plot. Starfox was almost an A plot, but not quite. Maybe Captain America could hire her when he comes back from the dead.

6. For Jen to get a day off where she just has fun at home. Seriously, there’s probably some meta about repairing drywall that Slott could write.

7. Matching covers with inside art better. Horn needs to focus less on perfect circles and super saturated colors.

8. The return of Awesome Andy.

9. Jen bonding with some of her female buddies over something besides boys. Or really just her hanging out with the gals would be nice. Her and Mallory having a beer n’ bitch night or Janet stopping by for a cup of coffee.

10. A nice long run for this title and less people going “She who?” when I mention that She Hulk’s my favorite superhero. Marvel, if you need a marketer, I’m here, but only if I can telecommute. I’ll be the first one lined up for a She Hulk t-shirt.

Bendis’ Avengers Disassembled

I do enjoy how nicely this sets up for Slott’s run.

However, I was not thrilled that all the women – She Hulk, Wasp, and Captain Britain – were take out of the running right away. I don’t see Jen as that fearful of the hulk taking her over the way that it does Bruce. And while it’s a comment on how hulk powers can get completely out of the control – and how really dumb it is to have the Hulk, as in Bruce, on a team – it’s not dumb to have Jen. Her powers manifest as yes, a little too carefree of an individual and too much a party girl, but she still maintains the human mind.

That and I think Jen’s gotten more pissed about other things besides a teammate’s death if she was going to lose control over something. Starfox, anyone?

So yes, she can lose control, but the Scarlet Witch took it to an extreme. I’ll admit that my She-Hulk-as-an-Avenger canon isn’t that solid, so there may have been forward shadowing. But I still think it was an easy elimination.

At least, Ms. Marvel came back in to represent for the women.

It’s also interesting that She Hulk uses Jen as a cover when she needs her.