Batgirl #5 Play-by-Play

December 11th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Immediate cut!

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Ideals and Identification

October 19th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I was thinking today about Diana and Stephanie, the two female characters whose comics I buy.  Diana, Wonder Woman, is perfect.  The embodiment of compassion, strength, honor, bravery, and beauty, she’s a princess and a warrior and an ambassador.  Despite her iconic status, and the fact that she’s had an ongoing comic for the better part of a century, female fan interest in her has only recently heated up – due to Gail Simone’s decision to write her comic.

Stephanie, Spoiler/Robin/Batgirl/Who’sNext?, is decidedly not perfect.  A perpetual screw-up, she’s earned both my and general female fandom’s accolades by picking herself up, dusting herself off, and starting all over again.  It’s possible that her moment of greatest popularity was after her death.

While it’s normal for fans of any gender to decry a comics character’s death while pretty much ignoring their life, I wonder if something extra is at work, here, especially when I think of other media.  Most TV shows and movies about female characters are about the adorable main character trying to get her life together.  She’s clumsy, and awkward, but tries so hard.

And she’s at war, usually, with the ultra-perfect glamazon who is after her job/man/scholarship/position in society/what’s next?  I hate that dynamic because it has always been, in my experience, false.   What’s more, it embraces the values it supposedly abhors.  Whether it favors the popular girl or the outsider (And who are we kidding?  Like any show, book or movie in the last fifty years hasn’t sung the praises of the noble outsider), it still villifies one segment of the population for, basically, having different values, tastes or interests.  Still, I wonder if, no matter how I resist it, it’s at work in me, or at work in many women.

While media that sings the praises of the powerful man (The Sopranos, The Tudors, Kings, etc.), the brilliant man (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, CSI Miami, House, Monk), or simply the eccenric or egotistical man (Dexter, House again, Nip/Tuck) do well, women are always given a heroine they can relate to not one that they feel they have to compete with, and certainly not one they feel they’d lose out to.

Even in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the heroine is usual beset with troubles and struggling, instead of blowing everyone away with her strength and brilliance.  Buffy, the mystical chosen one, is always one step away from getting kicked out of school.  House, the doctor who can’t be assed to restrain his own bad behavior, finds out that his supervisor has budgeted in lawsuit money for the various patients who sue him because he is just that good.

Is this about what’s offered to women?  Is it about what’s taught?  (Tina Fey’s movie, Mean Girls, was hailed as an insightful satire about teenage girls.  It had a group called ‘The Plastics’.  We never had groups like that in my school, but how many movies can you watch before you develop an attitude of ‘it’s us versus them’.)  Is it just my lopsided view of pop-culture?

In the end, girls and women are given many examples of heroines about winning out when odds are against them (just as men are) but relatively few examples of just plain winners.

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Batgirl #3 Play-by-Play

October 14th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

There is hope, friends!  I have read the comic and there is hope!

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Batgirl #2 Play-by-Play

September 16th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Aaaaaaaaaaand cut it.

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Click Moments

August 25th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I have said that I don’t warm up to new characters easily, and it’s true.  If anything, I find myself hostile to new characters.  Here’s a new person, taking up panels that could easily be devoted to characters that I already like.

Lately I’ve been examining what exactly causes a new character I hate to become someone I like.  It helps when they’re shown to be someone I can understand, but I understand plenty of people I don’t like.

What it comes down to are ‘click’ moments, moment when the character is so fantastic that I’m lifted out of my knee-jerk misanthropy and become a fan.  I haven’t found any particular common thread to these moments, but I’d like to share some with you.

Sasha Bordeaux:  She becomes Batman’s sidekick for a little while.  While sidekicking she meets up with Huntress during a crisis.  Huntress saves her, and snarkily says, “You can thank me later.”  Sasha replies, “Why wait?  Thanks!”  That’s when I began to like her, to cheer her on, and to follow her.  She’s a decent person.  Not a weak person.  Not a soft person.  A strong person with a level enough head not to answer rudeness with rudeness.  She exemplified the strategy of turning the other cheek.  In Gotham.  That takes some doing.

Cheshire:  In the Villains United miniseries, Mockingbird threatens to kill her child in order to keep her on the team.  Her strategy?  Immediately betray the team.  Oh, and sleep with a man to get pregnant so she can ‘replace’ her child.  When the other members rightly point out that his is sociopathic on a level never seen before, she says something like, ‘We were caught and only I managed to cut myself free.  Because I dared.’  Damn.  Just damn.  It’s horrible and it’s fantastic.

Booster Gold:  When he tried to save Ted Kord despite knowing the world would suck because of it.  That’s just self-explanatory.  What?  I’m not made of stone! 

Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown:  These two entirely won me over when they spar until both of them vomit and then decide to do it again the next day.  Their friendship is literally my lead-in to both characters.  It features everything I like, people being kind to each other, being loyal, helping each other out, and a broken jaw every now and then.  Really, it’s a chick flick waiting to happen.

Share your own ‘click’ moments, if you have them, below.

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Batgirl #1: Play by Play

August 20th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Before I open this comic and spoil it for anyone reading this review, let me begin with the prayer of the comics fan:

Oh Lord, who doth give a shit about comics,

Probably more so than most people realize,

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Schumacher,

But as I was saying,

Oh Master of Divine Sequential Art,

Give us this day a non-sucky comic,

And forgive me my continuity cherry-picking,

As I have forgiven – never mind that part.

Lead my very favorite character in the DCU not into comics ignominy,

But deliver her from cancellation.

And seriously, if she could have fun, kick some ass, and be a character I can sympathize with?

I would appreciate it for ever and ever.


All right.  Let’s do this thing.

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February 28th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

There were two things I learned at the DC Universe panel.

There is going to be a Batgirl book after Battle for the Cowl is over.

Cassandra Cain is not going to be ‘part of the batfamily’ after Battle for the Cowl is over.

I asked who was going to fill the cowl and was denied an answer, so I’ve compiled a list.

1.  Barbara Gordon:  Her upcoming series is titled ‘The Cure.’  Dan Didio has gone from flatly denying the idea that Babs would ever walk again to giving cagey answers like, “There’s a lot to be said for a Barbara Gordon Batgirl.”  I think I’ve made it no secret that I would love to see Barbara Gordon as Batgirl again.  But then, isn’t she just a bit old for the ‘girl’ title?  And since the position of Batwoman is filled at least up until the end of the JH Williams Batwoman book, there might not be a place for an adult Batgirl.

2.  Stephanie Brown:  What can I say?  I don’t give up hope. 

3.  Charlie Gage-Radcliffe:  After all, she adopted the title for a while, and Barbara took her under her wing.  But what’s more – It’s been a long time coming.  And let me say, there were times when I truly believed I would never see this day.  But at last, at long last, there might possibly be a heroine with a hyphenated last name in the Batbooks.  Stay strong, sister!  Make us proud!

4.  Cassandra Cain:  Because sometimes a DC editor can be the father of all liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeees.

5.  Deathstroke:  He shows up in every book.  It was just a matter of time, really.

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Robin: Ending High

February 18th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Robin ends on a note of triumph.  Or rather, its character does.  Kind of.  Tim Drake has established himself as someone so righteous he can dictate The Rules Of All Superheroes to Spoiler, so cunning he can set it up so he beats Shiva in a fight, so self-sacrificing that he can break up with the girlfriend that I am flat-out shocked he still has, since he hasn’t seen her in the last six or so issues, and so fair-minded that he can pacify Jason Todd, who comes by to view Batman’s last will and testament, which has been set up to be recorded in a big black obelisk in the Batcave.

Truly, Tim is the badassiest of all badass heroes, and that newfound badassery is worth the several dozen pints of personality he lost.  What the world needs is another grim n’ gritty superhero with a tortured past, and what the Batverse needs is another adult hero in the shadow of the bat, and if I were a lesser blogger, I’d sneak in a little jab about how Detective Harper, Zoanne, Stephanie Brown, and Lady Shiva all got nudged aside so the male character could commune with their dead daddy figure in a big, erect phallus but I’m far too – oh did that slip out? 

Well, it’s not like I’ve made a secret of my feelings toward this character’s trajectory.  I will sum it all up with this – when anyone told him that something sucked, my old physics teacher used to say, “There is no ‘suck’ or ‘blow.’  There are only differences in pressure.”  I can now prove him wrong, since this new grim, infallible, omnipotent Robin somehow manages to both suck and blow at the same time.

The character is on top of the world, but I’m feeling pretty cold about him.  Of course it’s natural for characters to progress as their comics go on, but this one grew out of any interest I had in him.  Oh, well.  With comics, every Wednesday has the possibility of  a fresh start.  So, out with the old, in with the Battle For The Cowl, and on to next Wednesday.

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Fan Tantrums: Have Them Below. (I know I will.)

January 21st, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I was reading a scans_daily post about a Wonder Woman story quite some time ago.  In the story a deranged Green Lantern was attempting to destroy a race which had slaughtered his people.  The discussion threads were pretty standard; lewd comments, art critique, Simone-worship, and snarking about the story.  In other words, all the reasons why people read scans_daily.

But one comment stood out.  A poster went off, just went off, about how this comic was another horrible smear on the name of the Green Lanterns, and how there seemed to be a sort of conspiracy dedicated to refusing to let the Green Lanterns be the noble, scrupulous guardians of the galaxy they used to be.

From what I remember, the comment was not received well.  The responses ranged from telling the commenter to relax because that wasn’t the intention of the story, to outright mockery of the fan’s rage.  Still, I think that that comment struck a chord, because is there a fan in the world who is sure that they won’t be next?  Who among us doesn’t have a few characters that, if they’re not handled in a way we approve of, will have us do the forum-post equivalent of biting the head off of a live chicken painting our faces with its blood?

What I’m saying is; batten down the hatches and don’t read any more if you don’t want to be spoiled for Robin #182.

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