I’m a huge fan of Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (and for a long time, the Oracle). She’s been a favourite for a good long while and when I started reading the comics written by Gail Simone last year, I found myself a new outlet to appreciate the character even more. Far more. Those comics are a mainstay of my DC reading right now, and the series is one of my top titles each month (at least, whenever Gail Simone is the writer). A few days ago I decided to read some different Batgirl comics, since during Barbara’s tenure as the Oracle, other characters have taken on that mantle, most notably Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, both of whom are absent in the New 52.
The first of the comics featuring these characters I read was Batgirl: Redemption, which marked the second run of the title and was only for three issues, tangentially leading into the entire Death of Batman arc. Featuring Cassandra Cain, written by Andrew Beechen and drawn by excellent artists like Jim Calafiore and Jonathan Glapion, this wasn’t the best introductory comics to read, but I liked it well enough. There are lots of things going on in here and I was lost a few times, but I still enjoyed the characters thoroughly.
For this new seasonal list of the best SFF characters I’ve read this year, my fourth pick consists of some more DC leading ladies, the Birds of Prey from Gail Simone’s first run on the title, with art by Ed Benes. At the time the team consisted of Barbara Gordon aka Oracle and Dinah Lance aka Black Canary. Helena Bertinelli aka the Huntress joined them with Gail Simone coming on to the title.
Hit the break to see why I picked this character.
Looks like its going to be the month of busy weeks. The last two weeks I’ve read two graphic novels each along with all my regular monthlies and this past week proved to be no different. Both Detective Comics Volume 4 and The Flash Volume 4 proved to be exceedingly good and now I have two more series that I need to catch up on for the New 52. Tall order, but doable. And as regards the usual monthlies, there were comics across the board, in all sorts of ways: genres, publishers, characters, etc, etc. The year has slowly transformed over the months into a really solid year for comics overall.
I still haven’t made any dent in the pile of graphic novels I have to read, but I’m not too worried about any of it, to be honest. Already used to that phenomenon from my novel reading.
Yesterday evening, I read an article on the geek news site The Mary Sue, which touched on an interview that ToonZone had with James Tucker recently (link to article). In this interview, he was asked by Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s recent comments that the studio really needs to get on with making a Wonder Woman movie because it is too big a thing to miss out on, essentially. Tucker is a supervising producer of the studio’s DC Animated division and as such, what he says should carry some weight in the discussion that has surrounded this topic of late: Wonder Woman getting her own live action movie, or at least the failed television show being given the go ahead.
I’ve been quite frustrated with all the non-news about the topic, particularly since DC and WB seem to be dragging their heels on the subject. What little comments that have filtered down to the masses, other than Tsujihara’s somewhat positive take, have all been about gender inequality and this notion that Wonder Woman can only work if she has THE perfect script going for her because she is, in a nutshell, too difficult a character to bring to the mainstream cinema audiences. Tucker’s comments fueled that fire further with his own brand of such silliness.
So, in a fit of frustration, I took to Twitter to talk about it and had a very interesting discussion with a few people about what is happening. This post is an offshoot of that entire discussion.
I’ve blogged about diversity in comics before. I’ve even talked about it extensively on Twitter and Facebook as well. As an Indian comics reader, comics diversity is something that I think about a lot, and being a reviewer has helped me to think about it in several different ways that I didn’t quite consider before. Diversity doesn’t just stop with gender, or race. It is much more. It is about religion, geography, physical attributes, mental state, health disorders, etc. One point I’ve iterated on again and again is that today, comics readers aren’t just white males in their teens and twenties and living in UK/US. They are much. Comics readership crosses all sorts of boundaries today. All sorts of people, from all walks of life and with all kinds of backgrounds read comics in this day and age.
Hell, comics aren’t just print anymore. They went digital and they have only been growing despite the ridiculous scaremongering from those who dislike the medium or are hopelessly wedded to their print collections to the exclusion of all else.
In a world like this, diversity is an important topic to discuss. And there are no better agents to discuss this topic than the Big 2, Marvel and DC. They are the giants of the industry who together make up about 67-75% (give or take a couple percentage points) of the market in terms of unit sells and market shares in any given month. They have the longest legacies, and thus the most material to contribute to such a discussion.
I mentioned in my review of X-Men #1 by Brian Wood, that I was struggling to find an X-Men book that I could enjoy. That was a rather specific case and the thing is that uutside of Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder, I’ve had a really tough time getting into Marvel comics. With DC, the fact that they rebooted their universe in Fall 2011 and that I’m already super familiar with a lot of their characters helped me in figuring out what to read and what not to. Not so with Marvel. And that’s despite the fact that Marvel too rebooted their universe in mid-Fall 2012. Although, they didn’t do a hard reset like DC, merely started renumbering their titles and putting out new books while (presumably) cancelling the ones that weren’t bringing in anything. Still, given my lack of familiarity with many of their characters, I just can’t figure out what to read.
I gambled on Aaron’s book because I’d enjoyed the Chris Hemsworth movie, but that’s about it. I tried reading Bendis’ All New X-Men but gave up after the first issue since I couldn’t understand any of what was happening. The same applied to Simon Spurrier’s X-Men: Legacy. Recently, I’ve started reading more, gambling with the titles, but still, Aaron’s Thor and Brian Wood’s X-Men are the only books that actually get me excited. One of my main draws to Wood’s book is that is has an all-female team and features some of my favourite X-Men characters. And, the first issue was right darn excellent, and the three issues since, including this week’s #4, have been just as great at least.
I did two “Best of the…” lists last year, one for the half-year from January to June, and the other for the half-year from July to December. The lists proved to be quite popular, and I was recently asked if I was going to be doing any more. To which I said yes. I like putting together lists like this. It gives me a chance to reflect a bit on all the good stuff I’ve been reading in novels and comics, or listening to in terms of audiobooks, audio dramas and so on.
You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!