Queer Comic Book Character: Orlando (Oct 29th)

Thinking about putting Orlando into my queer comic book character month celebration actually made me put the Naked Justice in yesterday. The version of Orlando (literary character created by Virginia Woolf) I’ll be discussing is the one in Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

And while it came be argued that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is not light reading, it is also extremely adult and erotic in nature. It just doesn’t usually get shelved in the cage with other erotic comic books. (Seriously, there’s a comic store where the adult comics are housed in a cage.)


Orlando leads the way with zi's sword.
Orlando leads the way with zi's sword.

As in Woolf’s novel, Orlando is a gender-changing immortal. Zi is also omnisexual and doesn’t waste an opportunity to go to an orgy. Or get into a sword-fight. Continue reading “Queer Comic Book Character: Orlando (Oct 29th)”

Queer Comic Book Character: Valerie Page (Oct 16th)

Valerie Page could’ve been just a side-note in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, but her story plays a central role in both convincing V and later Evey to fight against the fascist Norsefire party in this dystopian Great Britian. Valerie’s story brings a deep humanity to those put into prison camps and killed by the government for being “different.”

Valerie Page

Valerie Page
Valerie Page

Valerie was an acclaimed actress who originally came from Nottingham. While in grammar school, she meets her first girlfriend. Valerie’s teachers dismiss lesbianism as an adolescent phase. Later as an adult, she comes out to her parents and is kicked out the house. She heads off to London to pursue her film dreams. Continue reading “Queer Comic Book Character: Valerie Page (Oct 16th)”

Queer Comic Book Characters: Rorschach and Ozymandias (Oct 7th) Watchmen 3 of 3

Both Rorschach (Walter Kovacs) and Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) are also possible LGBT characters. However, the text does not directly identity either them as gay; it only gives undertones and innuendos. This could be Moore and Gibbons’ way of saying that neither Rorschach nor Adrian are self-aware enough concerning to their sexuality to self-identify and/or act on any urge, and both are essentially asexual. This could also mean that neither of them are gay as Moore and Gibbons had no problem identifying Ursula Zandt (Silhouette), The Hooded Justice, and Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis) as LGBT; and the latter two were very closeted, though couldn’t keep their relationship with each other a secret from their team members. Continue reading “Queer Comic Book Characters: Rorschach and Ozymandias (Oct 7th) Watchmen 3 of 3”

Queer Comic Book Characters: Normalization Through Marginalization in Watchmen (Oct 6th) 2 of 3

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave GibbonsWhile these posts are part of a celebration of LGBT History Month, Watchmen‘s problems go beyond just sexual minorities, and I’ll also be covering gender and racial minorities in this part.

As a great story, Watchmen must be able to reach across all types of people and become a universal story. A universal story is enjoyable no matter who you are and no matter if you physically or emotionally resemble the characters. Watchmen, however, falls short from being a universal story as Alan Moore and David Gibbons normalize women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities through marginalization.

Moore notes that he wanted control over his own characters for Watchmen so he could destroy or kill them without blighting the beloved DC Universe. This is important because Moore’s making a mockery of the perfect superhero, who has no flaws, by making his heroes murder and rape victims, become alcoholics, go crazy, etc., and he gives only one of them actual superpowers. Most of them are no stronger, faster, etc. than you or I. This meta text is credited with moving superhero comics into darker realms of human experience than they’d ever been before. Moore and Gibbons craftly uses the backdrop of the Cold War and millennial panic to show how everyone, regardless of superpowers, gender, race, or sexual orientation, is affected by life. Continue reading “Queer Comic Book Characters: Normalization Through Marginalization in Watchmen (Oct 6th) 2 of 3”

Queer Comic Book Characters: The Minutemen (Oct 5th) Watchmen 1 of 3

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is without a doubt one of the most celebrated comics ever created. Published in 1986-87, they took archetypes of classic Charlton Comics’ characters, gave them flaws, and put them in a dystopian alternative universe where the United States won the Vietnam War; Nixon’s still president for several terms; nuclear war with the U.S.S.R. seems imminent.

While Watchmen mostly focuses on the second superhero team, the Crimebusters, it features flashbacks to their predecessors, the Minutemen. The Minutemen had three notable LGBT characters: Ursula Zandt (Silhouette), The Hooded Justice, and Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis). Sadly, all three have been murdered before the story ever begins. This is problematic given the history of LGBT characters being killed off, and I will go further into this in Part 2 of 3.

The Queer Minutemen: Ursula Zandt (Silhouette), The Hooded Justice, and Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis)

The Minutement
From the movie L to R: Silhouette, Mothman, Dollar Bill, Nite Owl, the Comedian, Captain Metropolis, Silk Spectre, Hooded Justice
Continue reading “Queer Comic Book Characters: The Minutemen (Oct 5th) Watchmen 1 of 3”

Before there was CSI: Alan Moore’s From Hell

From HellFrom Hell is my second favorite Alan Moore novel, only surpassed by V for Vendetta. Moore takes the same zealous for research that he used in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and applies to the Jack the Ripper killings. However, it’s more effective in this historical novel. The tale is engaging and Moore’s relentless research makes it more than just another real life, re-told slasher tale. Moore’s notes, which appear at the end of the collected novel, are a wonderful addition to the text and definitely worth the read. (I chose to read them while going through the story itself. As we already know all the “spoilers” for this history, Moore’s notes don’t ruin the story.)

Eddie Campbells’ dark pencils and ink illustrations bring the horror of this tale to life. It’s certainly graphic — both with sex and with the murders themselves — but Campbell’s lines keep the graphic nature a little tamer than it might’ve been. Especially if they’d chose to do From Hell in color. Continue reading “Before there was CSI: Alan Moore’s From Hell”

Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Graphic Novels

I work in marketing, and we’re always putting together holiday gift guides. I figured I’d make a list of 10 excellent graphic novels. All of these can stand on their own, even if they’re set in the DC or Marvel universe. So yes, some are even for the non-comic book fan.

1. Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Lan Medina

Fables takes characters from fables, mythology, and other classic stories and puts them in present day NYC. They have a secret community in the middle of the City. The story focuses around Snow White, the deputy mayor of Fabletown, Bigby, the town’s sheriff, and Rose Red, Snow White’s sister who’s been tragically murdered. It’s a good who-done it. This story is a launching off point for the complex world of the Fables, so be careful because you’ll get hooked.

2. Unmanned (Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1) by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

This is another epic comic tale, but one that has a clear end at Vol 10. Basically, there’s an apocalypse where all the men and other male mammals on the planet are wiped out, except Yorick Brown and his monkey. While Yorick sometimes reminds me too much of loser ex-boyfriends in his directionlessness, the series has a bunch of kick ass women from tough government agents/spies to protective mothers. There’s mystery — what killed all the guys? Romance — Yorick purposed to his girlfriend Beth right before the apocalypse, but she’s stuck in Australia and him in the US. Fighting — The world has just lost half it’s work force, I don’t think Starbucks is going to stay open. Humor — Yorick has to pass himself off as a woman.

3. Runaways Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, and Takeshi Miyazawa

Notice an author theme? Runaways does exist in the Marvel universe. Though that doesn’t mean you need to be a Marvel reader. In fact, all the characters, teenagers and their parents, are created in this comic and for this comic. There are a few visits by other Marvel characters, but it’s set in LA, not NYC. (Don’t forget Wikipedia.) Plus, it’s friendly for all ages of readers. The main story revolves around how the teens find out their parents are actually super villains who are bent on destroying the world. Or at least turning it into a “paradise” of evil. The teens runaway and try to stop their parents. The teens are pretty diverse in their backgrounds with the backing of an interesting, universal story of thinking your parents are evil and out to get you. Runaways really stands out as a great modern, all-ages comic.

4. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Watchmen is a classic comic. It’s also a critique on comics. While I don’t think it’s necessarily a universal book, I do think that if you think someone would enjoy a comic, they would enjoy this graphic novel. Of course, Moore always creates more than just a comic and Gibbons’ art is really outstanding in it. (Keep your eye out for a symmetrical chapter.) The story features superheros and their foes that have been forced to retire and are being killed off. It’s also about NYC and modern world problems. There’s much millennial and economic tension. The perfect gift in our current financial crisis. And don’t forget, there’s a movie coming out next summer.

5. Gotham Central Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker

I love this entire series. I definitely wouldn’t stop at Vol 1, especially since Vol 2 is better. Gotham Central is about the Gotham Police Department and their struggles. It certainly takes place in the Batman part of the DC Universe, but if you’ve seen any of the Batman movies, particularly the last two, you’ll be okay. In fact, these comics were a heavy influence in The Dark Knight. This storyline focuses on good and bad cops and an investigation of Mr. Freeze. Gotham Central was the first comic to actually convince me that Mr. Freeze was a legitimate and scary villain.

6. Queen & Country Vol. 1: Operation Broken Ground by Greg Rucka and Steve Rolston

Yes, another Rucka book. However, this one’s independent. The story follows a British Special Operations office Tara Chace and her colleagues. It opens immediately with action as Tara is sent to assassinate a terrorist. This causes problems as Tara’s kill isn’t clean. Our world is very global and espionage isn’t that simple. Levels above the last Tom Clancy thriller in writing, but will appeal to the same audience.

7. White Tiger: A Hero’s Compulsion by Tamora Pierce, Timothy Liebe, and Phil Briones

Set in the Marvel universe, White Tiger features FBI agent Angela del Toro turned superhero. She takes up the White Tiger mantel after her uncle’s death. This story mostly features guest appearances from the B-listers in Daredevil and Heroes for Hire. The great thing about this story as it shows a superhero who is gaining her wings. But at the same time, she’s a grown woman and in the FBI, so she’s already used to detective work and some fighting. An interesting read, especially for anyone who’s interested in superheros who aren’t rich (like Iron Man) or immature (like Spider-Man).

8. Batgirl: Year One by Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon, Marcos Martin, and Alvaro Lopez

I love this title. A wonderful, heartfelt look at the origins of Batgirl in an all-ages comic. Barbara Gordon is young and spunky. She’s smart, but definitely not going to heed to her father’s warnings that she should stay in and be safe. Even if he is the police commissioner. I love the little elements, like Babs writing a fan/mentor-seeking letter to the Black Canary and her not wanting Batman to be her guide. It’s a sweet coming-of-age story with fun, colorful art.

9. She-Hulk Vol. 1: Single Green Female by Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo

Any story that starts with the hero being fired and kicked out of her home (the Avengers’ mansion) is hopefully going to be a good tale. She-Hulk (Jen Walters) is something of a partier. She’s big and green and loves life. However, her employer and her roommates (particularly Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler) are not amused. Even playboy Tony Stark (Iron Man) conspires with Steve Rogers (Captain America) to have Jen move out. Luckily for her, she immediately gets a new job offer. With a catch: she has to be Jen, not She-Hulk, while she’s at work. Her first appearance as Jen with her new employer has her puking on his shoes. (Her drinking killed Jen’s metabolism, while not touching She-Hulk’s.) Slott sets up a law firm, specializing in superhuman law, full of interesting characters, creating a different sort of world for Jen than she’s used to.

Since this review was posted, Warren Ellis was outed as an abuser. As comic books are a collective effort, this review will remain live, but I cannot in good faith recommend purchasing this book or other works by this person.

10. The Authority Vol. 1: Relentless by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch

The Authority are a different sort of superhero group. They’re saving the world, yet they’re doing it on their terms. They live on a ship, known as the Carrier, that they don’t quite understand how it works in a place known as the Bleed. However, every time there’s a crisis on Earth, they can just transport through a “Door” to where they’re needed. They all have flaws (arrogance, jealousy, drug addiction) and they can all win a fight without a sweat. They don’t hesitate to kill the bad guy or gal. Jenny Sparks, their leader, is the spirit of the century and she guides their mission to do exactly what they think is correct. It’s awesome.