Tag Archives: catwoman

Superwomen of the Year

girlscouts12015 was a really good year for female superheroes on screen. The rise of the superhero genre in cinema over the last 15 years, and the momentum of that success, from the X-Men through the Grimdark Batmans to the dominating force of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been dogged with a lot of… well, problematic gender issues.

Let’s be clear here, problematic gender issues have always gone hand in hand with the superhero genre, no matter the medium. A lot of the ‘ow, just got punched in the face’ gender problems of cinematic or TV adaptations from the comics are reproduced directly from the original source material – and it doesn’t help that while comics themselves have been developing new, diverse and interesting modes of storytelling that are far more inclusive of women, people of colour, alternative sexualities etc, the media adaptations often reach first for the original, very white, very male-centred versions of the stories.

(The only second generation super hero to make it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a ‘first’ movie, for example, was Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang/Ant-Man who was amiable enough, but so generic a character that I kept mistaking him for Chris Pratt whenever he put the mask on)

Still, we can’t blame it all on Seventies Stan Lee. Hollywood and TV production being what it is, modern media has a way of punching female audiences in the face in new, interesting and entirely canon-non-compatible ways. Women get fridged in new and interesting ways. The Phoenix Saga ends with Jean Grey’s sacrifice being 99% about Wolverine, because Hugh Jackman is the breakout star of those movies. Rogue’s storyline is literally excised from the most recent X-Men movie, even though there are enough fans to justify releasing a secondary DVD that still includes her. Gritty Batman Trilogy creates an original love interest only to horribly murder her in order to accentuate Bruce Wayne’s Man Pain. The first seasons of the TV adaptations of The Arrow and the Flash go to extraordinary lengths to prevent Laurel Lance and Iris West being useful, trustworthy or likeable, because future love interests don’t have to be real people. The plot of Ant-Man actually revolves around the way that women are overlooked in superhero stories. Gamora gets called a whore, in a line that contradicts the established characterisation of Drax, in order to get a cheap laugh.

Ahem. But. But. In all this, with all the problems, the movie and TV adaptations have managed to bring some iconic and legendary figures to the screen. And… it does feel like it’s getting better. If progress has been made in this pop culture battle about treating female characters with respect, then it feels like it happened in 2015.

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Gotham’s Women

Gotham-Season-1SPOILERS for Season 1 of Gotham (not a lot of spoilers, mostly character arc stuff, almost no plot), hardly any mention of Season 2.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Gotham when the show was first announced – a prequel to Batman? A story about all the characters of one of the 20th century’s most complex pop culture mythologies, before they got interesting? A pre-origin story in an era that has made us thoroughly sick of superhero origin stories? Bah.

So basically I was an idiot.

Gotham is an extraordinary piece of drama – and it deserves to sit alongside Agent Carter, Daredevil and Jessica Jones as examples of TV shows that use the meat of superhero comics while not conforming to the superhero genre. Gotham is a crime drama and mobster tragedy, set in a fascinating city that meshes 1940’s noir with 21st century technology – they all have cell phones, but the men wear hats.

It’s very much a love song to masculinity: Jim Gordon (a compellingly stoic Ben McKenzie) is the new cop with a chip on his shoulder, trying so desperately to be a Good Man in a city where police and government corruption are so thick you can’t see through it. He’s partnered with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), who took his Good Man hat off a long time ago, and now comfortably wallows in the moral turpitude of Gotham’s dirty cop culture. Harvey is awful but hilarious and compelling if you can get past the awful to be entertained – think Gene Hunt in Life on Mars.

You need a certain level of Stockholm Syndrome to properly enjoy this show, but once you’re there, it’s pretty great.

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Friday Links Don’t Own Me

The Cat PhoneOur family has been Batman-obsessed since my honey received the entire Batman 1966-68 box set on DVD for Christmas. My five year old is deeply attached to Julie Newmar to the point that she howls with delight when a cliffhanger ends on ‘Tune in Same Cat Time, Same Cat Channel’ instead of Bat Channel.

My ten year old has had a crash course on what sexism used to look like, simply by observing the gender dynamics in the show. We’ve been learning more about 60’s celebrities than I ever thought possible. Oh, and we’ve been counting down the episodes until we get to Season 3, because Yvonne Craig as Batgirl! (Ms 5 sneakily found montages on YouTube and watched ahead, I’m oddly proud of this)

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Where the Wonder Women Are: #11 Catwoman

Currently prowling around on stiletto (actual knife) heels on the big screen in The Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman is probably second only to Wonder Woman when it comes to female characters from superhero comics who have an iconic, recognisable status outside the world of comics readers. As with Wonder Woman, this is helped along quite considerably by a 1960’s TV show, a series of sexy outfits, and a whole bunch of nostalgia, though Catwoman also has the benefit of several appearances in big budget films over the last twenty years.

Catwoman has been played on screen by many different actresses, including Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfieffer, Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway. But while the television and Hollywood versions of Catwoman are often almost entirely different from each other, you can also see some pretty dramatic differences in the way she, her story and her costume are presented in the comics.

Catwoman, AKA Selena Kyle, first appeared in Batman comics in 1940, as a glamorous cat burglar who led Batman a merry dance. Her femme fatale status was helped along by a design based on images of Jean Harlow and Hedy Lamarr, though it has to be admitted that her first crimefighting costume, involving an actual furry cat mask, was less than seductive. She soon made up for that, committing her crimes in a designer purple evening dress and cape, and sighing breathily at Batman whenever he looked like getting tough with her. Wielding a whip, this classy bad girl intrigued Batman, and he would at times deliberately let her escape.

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Friday Links is Still Writing Strong Female Characters

Greg Rucka, like Joss Whedon before him, reveals how he writes female characters that don’t suck, in a medium that has a tendency to treat female characters badly.

This one is separate to an earlier interview with Rucka, reported on by DC Women Kicking Ass, in which he complained about the poor treatment of female superheroes by Hollywood and the comic book world.

Tor.com talks about the evolution of female superheroes in movies, and how they’re finally getting it a bit right with Black Widow and Catwoman.

Cassandra Clare talks about rape myths and why there isn’t one ‘right’ way for a fictional character to deal with sexual assault, just like in real life.

Ben Peek on the appalling “celebrity rehabilitation” of notorious political racist Pauline Hanson through Australian commercial television, and how she’s still being allowed wide media coverage of her white supremacist views.

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2011: A Year in Reading (Graphic Novels Edition)

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m curled up with my family watching the animated adventures of Batman. As you do. It seems oddly appropriate considering how my year in reading ended up!

In September, it looked unlikely that I’d even hit 100 books read this year, let alone equal the 120 books I read in 2010. But then I took an interest in the DC Reboot, and one of my best friends rediscovered comics and started raving about the Ultimate Spiderman, and one thing led to another, and my house spontaneously filled with graphic novels.

So, yes. My total books read for the year is 143. Of which 61 are graphic novels/manga, all but one of which were consumed in the last three months. YEAH BABY.

Let’s talk about those first. I’ll do a separate post about the actual prose books, for those people (cough, Alisa) who aren’t interested in comic books.

My stand out graphic novels/trade paperbacks for the year were:

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Friday Links Without A Princess Are No Friday Links at All

Funnily enough I have been drawn to links this week that tackle the ‘girl lego’ issue. The one closest to my own opinion & sensibilities is from Wandering Scientist, who points out how badly Lego has skewed “boy” for so long, and that while Lego is aware that boys consider “a castle without a dragon to be worse than no castle at all,” they don’t seem to have the same respect for girls who think a castle without a PRINCESS might be worse than no castle at all.

I also enjoyed reading her post, Princesses are not the Problem, about how she deals with her daughter’s craving for Disney Princess Culture, by allowing it in and working to help her daughter understand there are more options out of there, rather than forbidding it.

Disney princesses are problematic, but I have a similar policy in my house, and I find it frustrating when people automatically criticise pink and girliness as if these are terrible things. My daughter had her pink phase. I didn’t push it on her, but I didn’t kick and scream, either, and now she’s come out the other side and she likes purple and yellow and Batgirl and, yes, Lego. And if she was still super princess-feminine-sparkly-rainbows in her outlook, I’d still be rather fond of her. Kids need choices, and it irritates me beyond all measure when pink is the only choice for girls, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to provide a castle without a princess in it.

(Megabloks, btw, provides a castle with a princess AND a dragon. How is this not the best of both worlds?)

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Lego for Girls

So, LEGO is going to start including girls. Or, rather, they’re going to try to make up for lost time (market) by pitching directly to girls and their toy preferences, in a separate line, LEGO Friends, from the standard boy sets.

Which is, you know, what they have been doing all along with Belville, a rather grim dystopia of pink cottages, ponies and jodphurs. Only now they’re going to do it in lavender and aqua! There’s a great critical article about the problematic nature of this line at the Mary Sue.

I have mixed feelings. From the Business Week article, it does look like Lego are working hard to look at what girls want and need out of toys, rather than just spraying pink on ponies and hurling it at them, machine-gun fashion. But while I agree that yes, my six year old would probably prefer to play with the LEGO Friends mini-figs that look like real girls instead of little yellow barrels with faces, I’m also concerned that as with Belville, this new line will be an excuse not to be as inclusive as they could be in the standard Lego sets.

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Galactic Suburbia Episode 44

The new episode is up here! Go, listen.

In which we fight crime, rail against derailing and read a million books.

News

Our Sisters in Crime, Still Fighting
and
Why the Faux Oppressed Whinge

Ada Lovelace Day

Wonder Woman gets a father (yesthisisnews)

Alisa’s news:
Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex now available as e-book

Tansy’s news: publishing date for Reign of Beasts
and the Creature Court Fashion Challenge Contest

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alex: The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons; Yarn, Jon Armstrong; Thief of Lives, Lucy Sussex; Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts; The Word for World is Forest, Ursula le Guin; Eyes like Stars, Lisa Mantchev

Tansy: The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood; Thief of Lives, Lucy Sussex; Catwoman: Crooked Little Town, by Ed Brubaker; Fablecroft blog series On Indie Press wraps up; Sofanauts interviews Paul Cornell; Two Minute Timelord round-table about Season 6 Doctor Who

Alisa: Doctor Who. Shorts: The Book of Phoenix (Excerpted from The Great Book) – Nnedi Okorafor (Clarkesworld March); Younger Women – Karen Fowler (Subterranean Summer), Valley of the Girls – Kelly Link (Subterranean Summer)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

DC Reboot Month 2! JLI #2, Hawk and Dove #2, Stormwatch #2, Huntress #1

So it’s the second month of the DC Reboot, and I’m still reading comics. Not quite so many, though!

I’m still reading Justice League International hopefully. I like the art, and there’s potential here, but it feels like the writer is pulling his punches. There are quips aplenty, but not enough character stuff, and in particular neither Fire nor Ice are being given enough to do, still. Vixen is also criminally under used, and after hearing much discussion about how Batwing is set in ‘Africa’ as if that was a country, not a continent, it felt very jarring to have Mari refer to ‘my native Africa’ as if she was not aware of any more specific geographic borders.

On the whole, it has to be said, most of the international elements of this comic are being handled in a very clumsy, steretypical ‘duhhh this is what Americans think the world looks like’ kind of way – so our Russian and Chinese superheroes get to snark at each other like they’re fans of rival football teams, Godiva gets to say those British swear words that Joss Whedon loved so much (it’s funnier if you pretend she has Dick Van Dyke’s accent and indeed dresses up as a chimney sweep on her days off) and so on. Of course, this was always the case with JLI and JLE (do we remember the Beefeater, whose alter ego was John Cleese? Do we remember France???) but at least they made it funny by recognising the silliness, and it helped that they had Wally West there, always willing to send himself up as the worst example of a loud-mouthed tourist.

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