Last week brought us lots of Geeky Outsidery awesome. So, we decided to consolidate it all into one giant post of awesome to get your geek on and week started off right. Happy Sunday!
Gotta headline with this week’s best news! Amandla Stenberg, that dope actress who played Rue in the Hunger Games, will be joining the cast of SleepyHollow! After a less-than-awesome (read, horribly racist) experience after her Hunger Games debut, it puts a huge smile on the geek gods faces to see this great tiny actress join a diverse cast on a fun show with an awesome dynamic Black female lead. Win.
Speaking of winning, Marvel gave us the gift of a new badass superhero. The teenage shapeshifter from Jersey will be debuting in her own title series as the new Ms. Marvel in February 2014! Real name Kamala Khan, this young new superhero grew up in Jersey but has Pakistani roots and joins the ranks of the few Muslim superheroes in mainstream comics! Written by G. Willow Wilson, Khan made her first appearance in last week’s Captain Marvel #17(yep. Go get it!). (via CBR)
Awesome freelance artists (and video game industry professionals!) Audran Guerard and Daniel Roy had the beautiful idea to put together a graphic novel adaptation of the life of Frederick Douglass. Based on his two biographies The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Novelwill be published as two 50-page volumes featuring some beautiful watercolor art. Support ’em (and dibs a copy!) on Kickstarter.
Marvel is bringing Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones to the small screen! Specifically, they signed a deal with Netflix for four separate new live-action TV series, one for each of the characters. And here’s the dope – these four shows will lead to a team-up in a miniseries for TheDefenders! (via IGN)
It’s not news that women tend to be mis- and under- represented in comics. They’re too naked, they’re drawn according to the impossible proportions of adolescent male fantasy, they’re rarely lead characters… The list goes on.
The ways that women are portrayed in comics has been historically problematic and the documentary Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines addresses these issues through the story of comics’ most iconic female superhero — Wonder Woman. But more than a slap on the wrist of the comics industry, the film looks at Wonder Woman’s impact on generations of women and comics fans, making the case for why we need more female superheroes… empowered ones… in lead roles.
Moving stories from fans about how this flag-sporting superheroine inspired them are paired with intriguing commentary on how Wonder Woman has evolved alongside the changing roles of women in the U.S., from the 50’s housewives, to the working women during World War II’s, to the women’s liberation movement of the 70’s, to the near-oblivion the character today.
In just an hour, the film covers a good deal of Wonder Woman’s history, from her revolutionary debut on the comics scene to the post-WWII years when she lost her powers and began working at a boutique shop. In addition to everyday fans and scholars, an impressive cast of famous Wonder Woman admirers spoke about their experiences with the character, including Lynda Carter, the actress who played Wonder Woman in the original television series in the 70’s (fun fact: she’s also voiced several female characters in The Elder Scrolls games…), and famous feminist Gloria Steinem, who recounts how the decision to use Wonder Woman as a icon for the then new feminist magazine Ms.became a campaign to restore Wonder Woman’s powers and return her to her former superhero glory.
Steinem’s campaign was successful. DC Comics scrapped the remaining scripts in the powerless Wonder Woman story arc, restored her powers and costume, and, Steinem adds, they even gave her a Black sister.
The re-empowerment of Wonder Woman came at the same time that women, Black and white, around the U.S. were fighting for their own empowerment. And through the story of one young woman Katie Pineda, the film indicates that Wonder Woman is still a relevant and important role model for the empowerment of young women today. This is the core of the film’s message — Wonder Woman isn’t just a comic book character, she’s an icon for women’s empowerment.
Steinem’s campaign and the re-powering of Wonder Woman is one of the most fascinating stories in the film. In fact, the film doesn’t get into the whole story, which is even more interesting….
At the time of Steinem’s campaign science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany, known for his work’s commentary on race, sexuality and social issues, had been slated to write a new Wonder Woman arc. He had plans to write a story about Wonder Woman, who even in her de-powered state was still fighting crime, where she would be defending an abortion clinic against a group of radical pro-lifers. Delany had plans for several other stories addressing feminist issues. However, these stories were never published, as the publisher pulled Delany from comic in order to pursue the re-powered story line that Steinem and company were demanding. So, ironically, Steinem’s campaign was used to cancel a radical feminist story arc by one of the best geeky writers. Womp.
And the interview with Steinem is still more interesting, as she made a brief mention of Wonder Woman’s Black sister…Nubia (later Nu’Bia), who is quickly glossed over in the documentary. And rightly so since Nubia is more of a quirky fact in Wonder Woman history than an actual substantial character, not to mention her plot-lines were often stereotyped, ridiculous, or absurdly limited.
Though her inclusion in the film is brief, it is evident that the character of Nubia was created to reflect not only the racial equality changes of that decade, but also the women’s liberation movement’s efforts to be racially inclusive. The attempt with Nubia was pretty flawed. Nubia may not have made for the best material for this documentary, but the brief mention certainly sparks an interest and draws attention to the question of women of color in comics.
Storm and Uhura are noted in the film, but for the most part superheroines of color are somewhat underrepresented here. For one example, in the film’s discussion of strong female heroes in movies, the notable number of ass-kicking Black women characters in 70’s Blaxploitation films, like Coffyand Foxey Brown would have been an interesting inclusion.
In the end the film calls for a resurgence of the Wonder Woman character, and indeed it would be long-overdue great news to see a Wonder Woman movie or a new TV series. In fact, over the years fans have been teased with rumors of some writer or other supposedly working on a movie or TV show (there was even a pilot filmed at one point), but those hopes have been repeatedly disappointed.
It’s a shame that the most iconic female superhero does not enjoy the franchise that other classic superheroes like Iron Man or Thor do. However, there are many more leading and empowered superheroines in comics today than ever before (many of them even wear pants!), and many of them are busting up old problematic models of women in comics. In such a scene, one can’t help but wonder if Wonder Woman’s lower profile is because her lasso of truth and bullet proof cuffs are a bit dated and have a hard time competing with flying, energy blasters like Captain Marvel or tech titans like Batwoman.
The film discusses at least two of the other superheroines on the scene, Ms. Marvel and Bionic Woman, but primarily in their historical roles. These two characters are still around and thriving. Recently Ms. Marvel dropped her “Ms.” and her skimpy outfit and is now a pants-sporting lead of her own title as Captain Marvel. Bionic Woman has a smaller audience, but is currently leading two title comics Bionic Womanand Bionic Man vs. Bionic Woman.Even Wonder Woman herself got a stellar reboot by Brian Azzarello, which is still ongoing and has been both praised and criticized for it’s notable changes to Wonder Woman’s story and persona.
Other awesome superheroines, like Batwoman, Supergirl,Batgirl, Katana, Glory,She Hulk,Ghostand others are clothed and kicking butt in their own title comics today. Other superheroines are even fighting in all-female teams, like Fearless Defenders’Dani Moonstar, Valkyrie, and Misty Knight, and Brian Wood’s forthcoming X-men, an all-female team including Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pride, Pyslocke, and Jubilee (all wearing pants!).
Wonder Womenis at its most interesting when it points to how the development of Wonder Woman’s story over the decades reflects and comments on the evolution of women’s rights and roles throughout American history. The stories of those whose lives have been touched by this dynamic icon are truly moving. However, the film is short and jam-packed, such that there is little treatment of other leading women in comics (specifically comics, since there was a chunk of time given to strong women characters in film), which was a small disappointment as the title seemed to promise a larger, more diverse cast of comics’ wonder women, plural. Nonetheless, it is an incredibly interesting addition to the dialogue about women in comics, full of real-world wonder women and wonder geeks!
And the film’s crew isn’t done talking about it either. In addition to an active Twitter account, boasting all sorts of lady geekery, on May 1st they’ll be debuting a companion game called Wonder City todraw attention to mis- and under- representation of girls in games and the lack of games for girls that don’t center around stereotypically “girly” things like dating and cooking… Check it out: http://wonderwomendoc.com/game/
The Promiscuous “Captain Marvel” Title & It’s Legacy of “Cosmic Awareness”
Though her ties to the original Captain Marvel go back several decades, Carol Danvers only recently became the latest in a long legacy of superheros to take on the “Captain Marvel” moniker. She dumped her long out-dated name “Ms. Marvel” in order to fly under the banner of the respected “Captain Marvel” title in her own comic, which debuted just last year. Now in issue #11, Captain Marvel, under the creative direction of the much-admired comics writer Kelly Sue Deconnick, has taken this 70’s women’s liberation icon and given her pants, some kick-ass lady friends, and some menacing super headaches…
And these headaches literally grounded her when her doctor forbade the high-flying superheroine (and former pilot) to use her flight abilities. But this isn’t the first time that headaches have been the crime-fighter’s biggest foe.
Back in 1977, shortly after the super-strong flying wonder Ms. Marvel made her debut on the
superhero scene, the young Carol Danvers, unaware of her Ms. Marvel alter-ego, is a newbie editor at Womanmagazine. She only recently acquired the gig after losing her security position when she got caught in the crossfire of a fight between superhero Mar-Vell (aka Captain Marvel) and his foe Yon-Rogg. Since then, she’s had recurrent headaches that cause her to blackout.
We come to find out that Carol was saved by Captain Marvel when a Kree technology device blew up. He protected her from the explosion, but could not protect her from the energy radiation spewing from the device. The radiation put Carol in the hospital and transformed her into Ms. Marvel. Like Captain Marvel’s “cosmic awareness” trait (more on that below), Carol inherited a “seventh sense” that triggers the transformation into her Ms. Marvel superhero form whenever there is danger nearby. It’s this seventh sense that’s the cause of Ms. Danvers’ headaches.
This “seventh sense” sounds a lot like Spidey-sense, right? However, though Spider-man predated Ms. Marvel by a little more than a decade, this “seventh sense” is actually a inferior version of the “cosmic awareness” power that Mar-Vell himself was gifted with in his role as “protector of the universe”. He gained this ability and the role by defending the earth against a racist tyrannical empire. His “cosmic awareness” allowed him to detect any events in the universe that would affect him in any way.It’s this “cosmic awareness” that I’d argue connects the various superheroes who’ve carried the Captain Marvel banner (and the socially aware creative minds behind them) throughout Marvel history.
While Mar-Vell was able to act upon this “cosmic awareness” by will, this 1970’s version of Ms. Marvel is physically compelled to act. For her, it acts as a sort of call to duty that literally forcibly transforms Carol Danvers into Ms. Marvel and drives the superheroine to fight in the name of justice.
And that’s just what she does… er, did, before the comic was cancelled in 1979 after 23 issues. Between 1977 and 1979, Ms. Marvel fought aliens and super-powered criminals on the pages of her self-titled comic. And as one of few female-led self-titled comics, Ms.Marvelstruggled and grew with the strengthening women’s equality movement. Over the course of 23 issues, she got costume a makeover that covered up her conspicuously revealed mid-section, and then changed again, with a brand new color scheme, to liberate her from the association with Captain Marvel.
It was a fair enough association after all, since she became Ms. Marvel when her genetic makeup fused with that of Captain Marvel’s when, while he protected her from the explosion, both were exposed to Kree technology radiation, endowing her with Captain Marvel’s Kree powers. So, you know, he didn’t exactly give her a rib, but a DNA fuse is kinda a couple steps up from that. Kinda funny a feminist superhero was all but birthed by a man, a super man.
Nonetheless, it was obvious what the creators and Marvel were trying to do with this character. Hell, her first transformation occurred while she was cooking dinner, quite literally taking her out of the kitchen and into the fight… again, literally.
Discussions about the character’s role in the feminist movement peppered the letters section of the comic, Carol Danvers as editor of Woman magazine stood up to a misogynist J. Jonah Jameson (of The Daily Bugle), and she pounded on a number of bad guys who scoffed at her being woman.
In issue #3, Ms. Marvel visits the scene of her origin and is flooded with memories that help her realize that she is also Carol Danvers. The two personalities unify, realizing they have always been one and the same. This easily represents the 1970’s woman’s realization of her personal empowerment.
Carol Danvers blacks out in her kitchen
…and becomes Ms. Marvel!
After her comic was cancelled in 1979, Ms. Marvel continued to play an important role in other Marvel comics, mixin’ it up with the Avengers and the X-men, including a stint as S.H.I.E.L.D Director in the Ultimate universe, before she got a self-titled relaunch from 2006-2010.
And now, detecting the cosmic shifts in the universe that have led to the empowerment of a new generation of women and comics fans, Ms. Marvel has traded in her swimsuit costume for pants (and even a turtleneck at that!), ditched the “Ms.”, and has taken up the mantel as Captain Marvel, her third chance at a self-titled comic.
However… This isn’t the first time a woman has flown under the banner of Captain Marvel, nor the first time a female Captain Marvel has gotten her own comic. In fact, after the original Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell himself) passed away from cancer in 1982, and while Ms. Marvel was still sporting her black bathing suit, MonicaRambeau, formerly a lieutenant in the New Orleans harbor patrol, emerged on the scene kicking ass and taking names so hard that the media started calling her CaptainMarvel, before she even had time to come up with a name for herself.She reluctantly accepted the name with encouragement from fellow superheroes who felt that she was worthy of Mar-Vell’s legacy.
As Captain Marvel (only the second superhero at this point to take the name), Monica fought alongside the Avengers, and eventually she was elected the Chairwoman and leader of the Avengers. With the ability to transform herself into any form of energy and project that energy to inflict physical damage, Monica Rambeau is extremely powerful, but her powers are also physically taxing. Eventually she loses her powers and returns to New Orleans with her family.
And this is where we meet her when she debuts as the first Black superheroine to lead her own self-titled comic in Captain Marvel Vol. 2 #1, written by Dwayne McDuffie of
Milestone comics fame. Monica may not have had Captain Marvel’s cosmic awareness or even Ms. Marvel’s seventh sense, but Dwayne McDuffie saw an opportunity in writing her. This new Captain Marvelwas only supposed to be a one-shot issue, but actually got 2 issues, and McDuffie took full advantage of every single page, putting race and gender issues center-stage throughout the character’s stories, even including quotes by famous Black women, like Zora Neale Hurston and Audre Lorde. You’d have to be cosmically blind to miss it.
In the treatment of the character in the Avengers, gender was sometimes brought up, but rarely race. In the issue where Rambeau accepts leadership of the Avengers, we get a dose of gender discrimination is a flashback with her former boss. We get a dose of racial issues too, but not via. Rambeau, rather She-Hulk is turned down from leasing an apartment because she is green!
However, with McDuffie at the helm, race became front-and-center. The first issue was much much subtler than the second, which was published 5 years later, but issue #1 still had more Black and brown characters sharing the page than we ever saw in an Avengers comic in the 80’s & 90’s.
In issue #2, however… McDuffie really went to town. The cover itself is more radical, featuring in big bold type the title of the issue “Free Your Mind” and a No-Hate symbol is stashed under the Marvel icon. The story features Monica intervening when a white supremacist hate-group on a college campus starts violently assaulting students of color.
She is initially recruited to protect a young Black man who is organizing a multiracial group of students to set up a patrol and fight back to keep minority students safe. Things of course just aren’t that simple, since the hate group’s managed to nab some alien tech that puts the hurt on pretty hard. So Rambeau has to go all energy storm on them. She even gets the chance to make an inspired self-love speech and quote Audre Lorde.
After her two-issue spotlight, and now that she’s got her powers back, Rambeau continues fighting crime and super badguys as a reservist for the Avengers. She doesn’t get to keep the name, however.
It turns out Mar-Vell had a son, Genis-Vell, and now that he’s come of age and folk started calling him Captain Marvel in honor of his father, Monica concedes the name to him and goes by Photon instead.
Sadly that doesn’t last too long either, when Genis-Vell forgets that Monica is calling herself Photon and adopts the name himself. She confronts him, but concedes again and decides to go by Pulsar. How terribly ironic. Monica is intimately familiar with Audre Lorde’s work enough to quote her. I wonder if she’s ever read Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name… Just sayin’. These days the superheroine is mostly known as just Monica…
Genis-Vell‘s stint as Captain Marvel is marked by the intergalactic superheroics of his father’ s legacy. Until his cosmic awareness kicks in, drives him insane because it’s too much to handle, and he destroys the universe. Apparently awareness is just too much for some folk. He’s able to restore the universe, but there are some slight differences, including that he now has a sister that didn’t exist before, Phyla-Vell.
Phyla-Vell makes her claim on the Captain Marvel title and wears it well for awhile, really rather aggressively protecting the universe. Where Monica Rambeau’s stint as Captain Marvel granted some commentary on race issues, Phyla-Vell becomes the token lesbian to take the title. Her sexual orientation is hinted at for a while until she finally asks Moondragon out on date. Eventually she ditches the name and goes on to become first Qausar and eventually Martyr, fighting alongside the Gaurdians of the Galaxy.
After Phyla-Vell gives up the name, a Skrull create a sleeper agent Khn’nr is created using Mar-Vell’s DNA, in order to spy on the Kree. However, the Skrull kinda botch the job and Khn’nr’s personality is wiped out leaving only the valiant Mar-Vell’s personality. So Khn’nr actually genuinely believes he is Captain Marvel, and he’s already been genetically altered to look the part so… Confusion ensues; he has some serious identity crises. He does all the good guy save-the-world stuff that Captain Marvel would’ve done, and before he bites it, he passes the title on to Noh-Varr.
Aside from Monica Rambeau, Noh-Varris the only one who isn’t in some way genetically connected to the original Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell, so he lacks the “cosmic awareness” that the others had (or struggled with).
This is why he’s unable to sense that Norman Osborn isn’t the good guy, so he naively joins Osborn’s Dark Avengers team as the new Captain Marvel. Eventually he figures it all out and turns to the goodguys with a brand new name and costume, becoming Protector, and freeing up the Captain Marvel moniker for Ms. Marvel to finally, after all these years, take her turn at the name.
So far she’s done justice to the legacy. Her “seventh sense” doesn’t play a huge role in this new Captain Marvel series, but as one of the still few leading ladies with self-titled comic (where she gets to wear clothes!), Captain Marvel continues to keep an ear to the pulse of the world, and representing today’s more diverse comics readers, a good chunk of whom are women, of which at least most are badass, snarky, and, if they could, would totally punch a dinosaur in the face in typical superhero fashion…
Shazam punching a dinosaur!
Superman punches a dinosaur
Captain Marvel punches a dinosaur
Hawkeye arrows a dinosaur
Funny enough, real reason there have been so many Captain Marvels is so that Marvel can hold on to the trademark. Fair enough, but seriously could poor Monica could get a name for keepsies…?