Catalyst: Prime cuts from Marvel Entertainment.

Catalyst Prime: The EventAfter years of lamenting the loss of Wildstorm and Milestone I am blessed to have both back.

When Valiant spearheaded the 1990s resurgence in 2012 I jokingly said that they were going to “do DC comics better than DC Comics.” The joke was a truthful one. DC was faltering by the time Valiant had geared up for its major creative push and the young upstart had amassed an amazing selection of talent with a familiar approach cribbed from DC’s classic style of storytelling.

With Catalyst Prime—a Milestone in spirit though not name—history is poised to repeat itself. I predict the imprint may just do Marvel comics better than Marvel. For Marvel Entertainment, though blessed with beloved brands and solid creative teams, seems to be floundering. The company is besieged by lackluster events such as Civil War II and Monsters Unleashed and its new directions (ex: Captain America’s current stint as a brainwashed Hydra agent) seemingly irritate long-term fans. While the company is equipped to turn things around, charting a new course for an industry behemoth takes time. And in that time fans can easily be wooed away by the competition.

While DC has claimed a few of those wayward Marvel fans (and will likely capture even more with The Wild Storm), the company cannot easily ape Marvel’s approach. Marvel capitalized on its universe being “the world outside your window.” If your apartment is in New York City, that is. The Marvel universe is akin to the world we live in—messy, diverse, flawed, and fragile—with a generous dollop of fantasy. DC, however, provides its readers with idealized Americana—a true melting pot where the bad guys are supervillains, not the intuitions that guide us.

Enter Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime (as well as Wildstorm, but that is a topic for another post).

Catalyst Prime is poised to give us the world outside our window—and started on said path by hiring the people we could see through that window. The project is helmed by senior editor Joseph Illidge, a man who earned his stripes at DC and Milestone. He in turn has brought on another notable Milestone alum in Christopher Priest and a diverse selection of talent from Marvel, Image, and DC. Surely taking note of the inroads Marvel has made in regards to diversity from the Blaxploitation era on, the project is also peppered with a multi-cultural and visually interesting band of characters. The premise, however, while intriguing, is reminiscent of the launch of the original Wildstorm universe in which a mysterious asteroid hastened the proliferation of super-powered beings. Hopefully Catalyst Prime will discover its own unique direction from that common starting point. If the industry can handle a dozen Superman pastiches it can certainly weather two asteroids!

Yet how will Marvel weather two new imprints infiltrating the arenas it once dominated? The answer likely lies within the Secret Empire.


Twitter Rundown: Nice to tweet you.

I’ve been spending far too much time tweeting and not nearly enough time focused on long-form writing. Or perhaps I should say I’ve been cutting up said writing into 140 characters. I use Twitter in two ways—to hold conversations and to dispense essays. Really, Twitter should be used for self-promotion, but I started off using Twitter as a glorified chat room and old habits die hard. My account is private—and while the digital padlock blissfully cuts interactions with strangers to almost nil it makes it difficult to share one’s work.

My tweets have increased as Trump has usurped the presidency and fascism has taken root in the mainstream. My social circle is comprised largely of folks from marginalized groups (or those who love them) and we are all concerned to say the least. To tweet is to stay in touch, to make sure we are all getting up every morning, and that we know that our getting up is helping someone else get through.

What follows are my tweets regarding the events of the last few days—Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, and how Nazi leader Richard Spencer became an international joke in the span of a few seconds with a mere punch from an Antifa rebel.

On Nazis and not-so-Nazis:

“I know calling regular ol’ American racists Nazis makes white people feel better but if y’all refuse to acknowledge this ish is homegrown and was around long before Nazis ever existed you aren’t going to be able to properly combat it. Right now there’s some dude who voted for Trump and doesn’t think he’s a problem. I mean he’s not a Nazi. He just doesn’t want black people living in his neighborhood. He just doesn’t want a mosque in town. He buys comics at your local shop. He dated your oldest cousin. No Nazis here. He just goes to his job at the school, or the bank, or the plant and pours his poison out unawares while deciding folks’ futures. ‘Russia’ couldn’t have gotten in, ‘Nazis’ couldn’t have gotten in if American bigots (majority of racists here) hadn’t left the door open. And you guys still refuse to shut and lock it. Or even admit there is an opening. Y’all are screwed, because this is a huge weakness—one you broadcast internationally to the world on the regular. And this obsession with Nazis and Russia is like hunting down a fly that got into a house infested with roaches. I don’t like flies either, but at least spray some Raid with the hand that’s not holding the flyswatter.”

Regarding Donald Trump’s comment on “peaceful” protests and the Women’s March:

“Please note the ‘peaceful.’ He is trying to bring as many white women back over to his side as he can with that. ‘Peaceful’ will be used as a wedge to separate the issues that affect white women from those which specifically affect women of color. The former will be addressed—after all the white women were ‘peaceful’ and asked so nicely—the latter will not. He is hoping you will turn your backs on us. That when you see black and brown women being brutalized for pleading for their children’s lives you will smugly assume that we did something to deserve it. That we weren’t ‘peaceful.’ Please don’t fall for this. Don’t gather up the birth control and equal pay he might give you and step over our broken bodies to leave.”

On the presence of young anarchists at political protests:

“You want to fight fascism? Whoo, man! That’s great. I’m excited with how down you are. But I just want to make something clear to you before you run out in the street to bash Nazis. This is not Nazi Fucking Germany. This is America—land of Klansmen and black scapegoats. Every brick, every punch, every fire? You own that shit with your skin. Don’t you dare hide behind peaceful black people. Don’t you come to our well-organized protests and throw wrenches into our shit. Nobody sent for you. It’s hard—especially when you are young and especially when you have privilege—to see this as a game or a saga. To put yourself in the role of savior or freedom fighter. Marginalized people aren’t your sidekicks though. Not your princesses. Your passion is appreciated. But these are folks who have been putting in work in arenas you know little about. Let them lead. And speak. And, of course, speak for yourself (no need for translators) in the places those groups can’t access. And that is the work that is hardest to convince the privileged to do. To speak at the dinner table instead of the street. Nobody hands out awards for that. No retweets or photos. Just the quiet work of making your circle better. It’s worth it though.”

On Trump versus the American news media:

“Trump’s whole appeal is making white people feel like winners through his successes. Can’t do that without the platform they are huddled around. And without actual success. Right now the people who wanted confirmation via Trump that whiteness made them inherently good see Trump being humiliated. Trump is a loser and if cable news starts being honest about that those folks will pick a new white person to live vicariously through. Dear God, hopefully Evan McMullin or someone similar. The ‘alt-right’ media (and Trump) pushed a lie to white people that they were inherently better but also unwanted, unappreciated, and enlisted in a culture war. One they could win by voting for Trump. And cable news refused to push back on those lies. The truth is there’s no war and they have a seat at the table. We’d just prefer they’d stop breaking glasses and stabbing folks with shards. We just spent two days marching and laughing about punching Nazis together. If the news media keeps stressing that? The empire falters.”

On the recent debate about engaging Nazi leader Richard Spencer—physically or verbally:

“We should also stress that it is okay and morally right to shun a Nazi. Nazis do not get a spot on the debate team. You do not have to hear them out. Groups who in between murdering print up little garbage booklets advocating genocide do not get airtime. This man was being interviewed by ABC. That is shameful. How many marginalized groups will never have the privilege of that platform? America was about to give a Klansman a reality show. When is the last time you saw a Native American dude on one? Not everybody is built for punching and I’d like all y’all not to go to jail over these losers, but the next time some message board schmuck is like ‘Even Nazis should be heard’ and that ish is not immediately shut down that is a moral failure that needs addressing. There is a thin line between fedoras and swastikas and the right thing to do is build a giant wall there. Shun early. Block often.”

And again as writer Nick Spencer entered the debate:

“The thing about Nick Spencer is while everyone is all ‘Dude, how can you write Cap?’—they don’t understand it’s Falcon that’s the issue. Comics is literally chock full of these white moderates speaking for and over black people through black characters to the point where I feel like I can’t breathe. And every week a new lead is announced with some white person grinning ear-to-ear about it like it helps. This is ruining black characters for me because white moderates are the ones allowed to bring you a simulation of African American culture. It’s not black people. It’s never black people. We get the pretend African country as if it’s not safe for one of us to show you black American thought, love, families, culture. As if these things have to be filtered through white hands like guards handle convict mail. And it makes for terrible books. It makes for a terrible universe the way you silence us—but softly through a lack of opportunity and a refusal to network with us instead of a punch or a law. No wonder you get so bent out of shape with people actually calling out violence with violence. If we go ‘eye for an eye’ we might turn our backs on your work as you’ve turned your backs on us.”


The year-end critique (non-fiction edition)!

I’ve been delving into non-fiction and documentaries as 2016 draws to a close—completely surprising myself. And I’ve stumbled across quite a few pleasurable finds. I want to list what I’ve read and seen just in case the works strike the fancy of anyone else. I’m not one for critiques and am often frustrated by those who confuse what is enjoyable to them in particular for some universal indication of “goodness.”  However, samples can be downloaded at Google Play or Amazon. See for yourself! After all, you’re the best critic around when the topic is what you like.

Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White. Whew! Detailed, illuminating, and most unbearably heartbreaking. I don’t know if I would have been able to make it through this work had I not known in advance that White’s streak of involuntary solitude had been happily broken by the time she had completed her study on loneliness. Her findings—particularly the studies on how loneliness is physically harmful—were unnerving to read. Yet as a single freelancer the information was vital for me to receive. I plan to adjust my work habits at the start of 2017 in order to avoid a similar fate.

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. As someone who was completely transformed by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was surprised to find that I did not connect at all with this work. The book is primarily an in-depth examination of work already covered—something I honestly did not need. While I believe that Kondo’s large-scale approach to organizing is universally applicable, when she deals with minutiae she loses me as a reader. I don’t believe it is necessary or helpful for everyone to fold their clothes in the manner that Kondo dictates. Organization on a smaller scale really depends upon the individual and his or her particular needs.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Fan-tas-tic! What an incredible work! I initially picked the book up to learn how to cultivate better work habits and avoid relapses in regards to junk food and social media. What I did not expect to find was a detailed exposé on modern marketing and large-scale industrial productivity. I wish every editor and sales rep who worked for a publishing firm could read the chapter on Target and targeted marketing.

Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things. It’s on Netflix right now, so feel free to add it to your queue. I enjoyed the documentary fully and I’m a huge proponent of the new minimalism crusade, but I think the work absolutely highlights and reinforces the critiques so many have about the concept. It is very easily to be a minimalist when you are rich, white, and straight. Because people who are rich, white, and straight have a much easier time depending upon the kindness of strangers (or their bank cards) to provide what they currently lack. Minimalism relies on faith in an unseen and untapped communal abundance that many quite honestly do not have access to due to their circumstances. And I wish “minimalism gurus” would address that. That said, any middle-class or wealthy adult who was once a child of a chaotic working-class environment would absolutely embrace this documentary or the concept of minimalism itself. The physical sparseness is undeniably soothing—as soothing as a massive demonstration of excess would be to one who endured a life of barren poverty and physical restriction.

Sugar Coated. By the end of this documentary I was furious—and felt wholly impotent. The sugar industry is most certainly on par with the tobacco industry in regards to duplicitous behavior—and yet unlike the tobacco industry, it seems to have suffered absolutely no consequences for said actions. I have been affected far too personally by the scourge of cancer and diabetes. To think that the pain and suffering of those I love was preventable and only occurred due to the avarice of handful of empty suits purporting to “do no harm” is devastating. That I am powerless to do anything about it? Even more so.


Take Two: Interactions with IDW Publishing.

I love Rockstar Games.

But I’ve said that before. I admire the marketing savvy of its sales teams, the satirical slant of its writers, and the beauty of its game design. Rockstar Games is an industry titan and its accolades are well deserved.

Max Payne 3 cover artSo when its parent company, Take Two Interactive, announced its foray into the comic book industry I was ecstatic. I envisioned a series of Grand Theft Auto graphic novels that bridged the gap between Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto IV. I anticipated the release of a Max Payne miniseries in the same vein as The Punisher sans the justified censorship of the Disney corporation. I imagined a satirical look at internet bullies and red pillers with a comedic action series based off Bully.

And I believed the successes would extend far past the realm of Rockstar Games to other intellectual properties under the Take Two banner such as Bioshock and Mafia—two 2K Games darlings.

That, however, did not happen.

What did happen was the launch of Double Take, a small company focused on a slate of comics set in the Night of the Living Dead universe helmed by former Marvel publisher Bill Jemas. That company has now gone under for a host of reasons I shall not go into here. Others, however, have provided an interesting post-mortem.

What I am focused on is how best to get the future I envisioned onto the printed page. I do not believe that Take Two Interactive should launch yet another comic company; I do believe it should partner with an existing one—IDW Publishing. In a short amount of time IDW has become the king of licensed publishing, challenged only by perennial purchaser DC Comics. It has the skills to successfully push favored brands in the comic book marketplace while adhering closely to themes and designs established in other media.

For Take Two Interactive a partnership with IDW is outsourced research, marketing, and development. The comics produced at IDW would provide frames for new games to be built upon. The books would also bolster brand allegiance during the space between game releases. For example, characters introduced in the comics could pop up as new options during multiplayer games. And most importantly, Take Two Interactive would have the opportunity to use IDW as a talent scout and poach artists and writers accordingly.

IDW PublishingBut what would IDW get out of the deal? Well, increased exposure is nice, but I’d argue that increased revenue would be much nicer. Were I an IDW representative I would push for a fiscally conservative licensing package given all that I would be bringing to the table. But in the back of my mind I would also acknowledge that, if successful, a Take Two imprint would increase the size of my company allowing me to overtake BOOM and nip at Image’s heels. I would also be certain to act as a liaison for the individuals at my company working on creator-owned projects who might have an interest in pushing their works into additional entertainment realms.

I would advise the two companies to start small—but not too small. Start with one major intellectual property such as Bioshock or Grand Theft Auto. Should that partnership conclude successfully? Continue to build.


The critic and the comics industry.

The comics industry is amazing and awful at once. Because of glaring issues with bigotry and harassment—issues found in every entertainment industry—we tend to focus on the infamous and incorrigible. And the quality work of the meeker amongst us goes unappreciated.

My own journal leans heavily on work from the mainstream. Comics from Marvel and DC provide a common thread I share with my peers. I also focus on Marvel and DC because they are the largest platforms in the industry. The inequality found there has a much larger negative impact on various social groups than an independent publisher running with the assistance of a skeleton crew. And while there is importance and value in the “make your own” argument, it is also vital that our major institutions—including mainstream entertainment companies—are held responsible for the current state of the industry. We cannot root out institutionalized bigotry without critiquing our oldest and most powerful institutions.

Yet we must not simply focus on the negative. Positive reinforcement works—for animals, for humans, and for corporations! So I want to use this journal to spotlight works that move me. And not just works of art, but marketing strategies as well.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, so what I find pleasing will not please everyone. But it is just as important to share what is good with the world as it is to warn folks away from what is bad.


Spider-Woman: Frank Cho, Milo Manara, and marketing.

“Milo Manara, master artist and storyteller, came in at the last ten minutes of my Art and Women panel and handed me a special gift in appreciation for fighting censorship—an original watercolor painting of Spider-Woman. The packed auditorium went wild.”Frank Cho

Frank Cho and Milo ManaraIllustrating cheesecake is not a fight against censorship. No one has censored Frank Cho—not DC, not Marvel, not even the American government. To state otherwise is a lie. It is a lie put forward to market to men who feel that their rights have been taken from them because the companies they adore have begun to market select products to focus groups that do not include them.

Frank Cho and Milo Manara are well within their rights to create cheesecake featuring Marvel and DC superheroines. Selling said images at conventions is a gray area, but I’d argue that Marvel and DC should look the other way in regards to the practice in order to maintain a friendly relationship with freelancers. Marvel and DC are also well within their rights to decide that employing controversial good-girl artists for books that will be heavily marketed to feminist readers seeking empowering stories is no longer profitable for them.

Crying censorship simply because you are unhappy with the consequences of your actions is dishonest. Carly Rae Jepsen isn’t being censored because she didn’t receive an invitation to perform at the Hip Hop Honors. She makes delightful pop music. As a result, her work isn’t considered for certain venues and is prioritized at others. Cho is a talented good-girl artist. He should be considered for jobs where pin-up art is required. However, his continued needling of feminist consumers may have rightfully made companies wary of taking him on as a freelancer much in the same way that Twitter has struggled to find buyers given its problems with harassment. We have reached an age where subpar social skills can override immense talent. It is much easier to hire a freelancer who is an asset both behind the desk and on a panel.

I have a collection filled with the work of Warren, Conner, Linsner, and Barbucci—all highly recommended—so I am certainly no stranger to cheesecake. However, the actions of Cho and Manara have consequences. Their work and behavior have made a Marvel character an embarrassment. Unlike Wonder Woman, a character with decades as a feminist icon under her belt, Spider-Woman is in no way a strong enough character to bounce back from this. No matter how many female creators attempt to salvage the mess these two men have created, this character is now best known as a mean-spirited industry in-joke made at the expense of women and girls seeking an aspirational heroine to believe in.

Perhaps the best bet for Marvel would be to simply acknowledge the joke Cho and Manara have made of Spider-Woman (at Marvel’s expense and their own profit) and sell the character accordingly. What other options does the company have left? Of course, Cho and Manara have proved absolutely incapable of launching the charm offensive needed to sell a sex-kitten anti-heroine that doesn’t belittle or infuriate feminist readers while simultaneously refraining from shaming straight male fans of pin-up art. And it can be done—with the right creative team.

It is absolutely fascinating how Frank Cho has fed off Marvel characters given that he is not a Marvel employee and has actively interfered with Marvel’s marketing strategy in regards to wooing female readers! And for all his cries of censorship he has surprisingly suffered absolutely no consequences for it. I wonder how many other freelancers plan to follow in his footsteps. How easy it would be for a famous artist to loudly claim that Marvel wishes to rid itself of all cheesecake (it doesn’t) and rake in the cash of frenzied collectors by pumping out pornographic images to buy at conventions. Then leave Marvel to put out the PR fires ignited by the images being spread all over social media.

Of course the real money is in helming a Harley Quinn—a character that draws dollars from feminists and misogynists alike, a character that allows one to draw cheesecake at conventions and draw checks from a mainstream comic company, a character that allows for a much wider range of material that is deemed appropriate by all. But the quick money is in outrage. As Frank Cho is only too aware.


Wildstorm world-building.

The early Image universes were often accused of cribbing from Marvel and DC lore. However, while one could compare characters such as the Coda to DC’s Amazons, Wildstorm truly had a unique voice—even in its infancy. With the announcement of the revival of the Wildstorm universe, I’d like to rummage through previous incarnations to discuss what I believe to be not only salvageable, but vital to the success of the upcoming imprint.

International Operations. Don’t let the name fool you, this organization dealt exclusively with protecting American interests. It was also a cornerstone of the Wildstorm universe. While not entirely villainous, the hats worn here were a very dark gray. Perhaps that I in IO should now stand for intelligence, no? For IO dabbled in everything—reconnaissance, robotics, genetic testing, and more. What would I like to see from a new Wildstorm imprint?

  • Team 7—a highly-skilled IO death squad that went AWOL in ‘98 after being subjected to genetic experiments its members didn’t sign up for.
  • Gen 13/DV8—the gifted children Team 7 sired.
  • Black Razors—IO’s mech-assisted military squad.
  • TAO—an IO experiment gone horribly awry, TAO is a tactical genius and has manipulated his way to the head of a major criminal organization called the Syndicate.

The United Nations. In the Wildstorm universe this organization had teeth. Most nations were eager to comply with the UN publicly, sending military personnel and funds; how nations behaved privately was another matter. With the new Wildstorm imprint the UN should possess one heroic crew assigned to deal with global threats and international disputes:

  • Stormwatch—an international selection of genetically gifted peacekeepers.

The Authority. I’d argue that the most powerful group in the new Wildstorm universe should be virtually unknown. IO’s interests? National. The UN’s interests? Global. The Authority? They should ensure not only the health of the universe, but the multiverse. In fact, it would be beneficial to allow these characters to exist simultaneously in the DC and Wildstorm universes.

Kaizen Gamorra. This character was one of the leading antagonists of the previous Wildstorm universe, so it is my hope that he returns sans stereotypical “yellow peril” references. Kaizen should be a paranoid despot driven to distraction by the machinations of the UN and IO. And yet, the best villains do not know that they are villains. After all, what could be more righteous than a desire to protect the sovereignty of one’s country from global interference? Gamorra should be responsible for:

Aliens. Earth should be home to quite a few galactic expats who use the glittering blue sphere as a luxury resort and trading post.

  • Wildcats—a group of multi-racial soldiers who abandoned the war the Kherubim launched against the Daemonites to become a dysfunctional family of jet-setters and rabble-rousers.
  • Coda—a small band of Kherubim warriors aided by a mercenary organization of women altered by Kheran blood.
  • The Cabal—a loose federation of stranded Daemonite warlords resigned to ruling Earth if they cannot escape it.

Vigilantes. The Wildstorm universe did not have “houses” as Marvel does; it had institutions. Where Marvel can be neatly divided into five realms (superheroic, cosmic, mutated, magical, vigilante), the Wildstorm universe unapologetically stressed science over magic to its benefit and focused on the corruption of military, political, and economic systems. However, while corruption flowers in the upper echelons, its roots are in the streets. In the past, Wildstorm ignored that region. It did not have the equivalent of a Punisher or Luke Cage. Given that a new Wildstorm would not be hamstrung by decades of continuity or tethered to IP devoted to children, it could now provide vigilantes who not only defend the streets, but are actually from them. The idea of inventing a “Wildstorm street” from whole cloth? Delicious.

Comics is obviously a marriage of words and pictures, so concept art is equally as important as a story bible when world-building. I’ve listed what I would like to see in the Wildstorm universe, but it is just as important to note who I would like to see design it.

Sophie Campbell. Her concept art for Voodoo and Zealot is absolutely stunning. Campbell’s ability to both think outside of the box and incorporate a wide range of physical forms are skills that are imperative when designing teams comprised of a variety of species and races such as the Wildcats and victims of Kaizen Gamorra’s experiments such as the Hunter-Killers and Cybernary.

Jamie McKelvie. McKelvie’s work on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine provide proof of his knack for designing youthful characters who are an accurate reflection of the young men and women in our world today. His concept art for a 2017 Gen 13 and DV8 would be magical. Plus, he’s already down to play.

Oskar Vega. Vega is yet another wonder who should be assigned the task of redesigning Gen 13 and DV8. His concept art for the Teen Titans is a clear indication of that.

Adam Warren. Warren is best known for his “good girl” art, but longtime fans of the Dirty Pair are well aware of his talent when it comes to designing military hardware. I would love to see concept art from Warren for the Black Razors and the Engineer.

Jon Davis-Hunt. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Davis-Hunt has already been tapped by DC to work on the new Wildstorm imprint and his clean, simple designs would lend themselves well to a crop of no-nonsense vigilantes more concerned with performance over flashy displays.


Wildstorm rebirth.

Wildstorm is my Marvel.

It’s the only way to explain it. I’m a casual fan of a handful of Marvel characters, but that obsession with minutiae? The nostalgic reverence? It only rises to the surface when I see that Wildstorm logo. When I write about Marvel I write to connect with my peers—men and women who grew up playing X-Men vs. Street Fighter and listening to Iron Man references in rap albums. When I write about DC and Image my goal is to connect with comics professionals in order to examine industry trends. But when I write about Wildstorm? I write for me.

Warren Ellis, the comics industry’s fairy godmother, has been tapped to shepherd the rebirth of the Wildstorm universe. I am cautiously excited. Ellis is renowned for slipping in to bolster a flagging brand. He revitalizes a character, writes a stellar arc, and vanishes—leaving a capable protégé in his place along with an extra 10,000 or more readers. Ellis has a great eye for underlings and a keen sense of how to set a moody and ethereal scene or carefully craft layers for a tangled conspiracy.

Concept art for Wildstorm characters

However, I do have concerns—mainly due to the accompanying art. Where Stormwatch, Team 7, and the Authority are a fit for the darker and desaturated looks shown (given past subject matter), to align sleek and colorful projects like Wildcats and Gen 13 with these designs would be a mistake.

“After long reflection, I couldn’t turn down the invitation to renovate the house that Jim Lee built, and refit its unique combination of cosmic paranoia and paramilitary conspiracy for the post-political space madness of the twenty-teens.”Warren Ellis

Again, cautiously excited. For Ellis perfectly describes a good 65 percent of the Wildstorm universe with the above quote. But 65 percent is not all. Eddie Chang, a teen whose entire persona would likely be casually constructed from Gareth Evans movies, 4chan memes, and a Lil Yachty mixtape, would wither in the bleak weaponized world in which Michael Cray exists. Stormwatch, essentially hired guns for the United Nations, would not operate in the same manner as the Wildcats, a dysfunctional “found family” of jet set superheroes.

It is my hope that the diversity found in the different “houses” of the DC universe carries over to Wildstorm. And it is also my hope that those constructing the new Wildstorm universe do not base it on canon established when the imprint struggled to stay afloat. Few people remember those final incarnations and even fewer people have a fondness for them. It would be best to weave a new tapestry from threads pulled from the imprint’s glory days.

Next up: The major organizations of the Wildstorm universe and who I’d like to see make the cut for the new and improved world.


Power fantasies.

I’ve been thinking of power fantasies a great deal lately—about how they are shaped and formed along different lines. Race. Gender. Socioeconomic status.

Superman is of course the prototype. The first hero. Created in a society that was—is—deeply racist and patriarchal, he is a visual representation of those who are in power. He is male. He is white. And vitally, he is an immigrant. An alien. And that status was aspirational to the first- and second-generation white Americans for whom assimilation and acceptance were a key part of becoming American. A real American. The ones for whom status is not conditional upon subservient performances for white and Christian countrymen.

Superman’s physical and mental might are off the charts, for where does one set limits for a group of children who were well aware that they would inherit the power structures that lead the world? That subjugate others? You must set those limits in the stars.

Luke Cage’s are set in the streets. That is not an insult. It is a statement to show the changes that are made to our heroes in order to tailor them to the group that is being targeted. In Luke Cage’s case? It is African-American men. In a country where blackness is demonized and hunted by officers and representatives of the very same systems that purport to protect all Americans, to be unbreakable is a fantasy that provides blissful relief. Impenetrability is merely one of multiple assets in Superman’s arsenal. For Luke Cage, it is the lynchpin of his existence. Kal-El’s parents gave their lives to send their son to a new world that welcomed him with open arms once it discovered the wonders of which he was capable—a classic tale of immigrant success. Luke went from Harlem to the hell of “the system” and back again. Hardened by his struggles, he was not only able to rebuild, but thrive. That is not an immigrant’s success story. It is the journey of the persecuted innocent. It is the story of the slave—families extinguished due to treachery and avarice, members shipped down river and tortured, rebuilding as best one can once the worst of the horror is over. Knowing that there are more troubles to come, but that one is stronger now. United with others. Invincible.

But race is not all that shapes us, moves us—or hinders our movement.

I think often of Wonder Woman and of another power fantasy more clearly marked for white women in our modern era—the Whedon-helmed Kitty Pryde. Where Superman and Luke Cage are impenetrable, Wonder Woman and Kitty are untouchable save for when they—and only they—desire to be touched. Diana achieves this by retreating to a utopia where there are no men. Kitty remains within a patriarchal society, but her intangibility prevents others from physically dominating her. She is able to come and go as she pleases, to observe violence as a disaffected bystander or conscientious objector depending on mood. Both Kitty and Diana are given respected positions within the power structures they have decided to be a part of (Justice League, X-Men)—Kitty’s position is the more notable one given her rise from a subordinate child to a leader that is often deferred to. Through hard work and studious behavior she is able to ascend. It is interesting to note that Kitty and Diana do not dismantle the patriarchal societies they move within, simply achieve positions of power within them due to their exceptional achievements. And both stress diplomacy over domination. After all, why take the building down if you can simply smash the glass ceiling instead? Those stairways are useful.

For Kitty, for Luke, for Diana (but not for Kal-El) the fantasy is to no longer be a victim of violence—violence that is enacted upon them solely because of who they are inherently as people. Black men. White women. Kitty has the option to retreat. Luke has the option to fight. Diana is afforded the opportunity to do both. I would argue that Diana’s duality stems from her status as an LGBT power fantasy in addition to being one for women, but I could be wrong. (I would love for someone with more knowledge than I possess to examine that possibility!)

As a dark-skinned black woman, I have searched for a character that embraces my triality—one whose fantastic powers are a vehicle to escape the unique agony enacted upon my mind and body according to the circumstances of my birth. I’m still looking. And what I’ve discovered is that I am not looking for power within a character, but instead I am searching for a character to be treated a particular way. And for my search to be so fruitless is demoralizing and, quite frankly, makes me want to abandon the medium of comics and the superheroic genre altogether.

“If you have a work and I see the same tired trope of the dark-skinned girl being the no-nonsense butch one, the aggressor in all things, the stoic one who doesn’t need a man, the romanceless den mother? I’m done. It’s insulting and weak.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

My power fantasy is to be loved and appreciated. And in fantasy worlds where walls are punched through like tissue paper and the skies are no limitation that must seem ludicrous. And it is. And yet black women who look like me are not easily afforded something so basic in the art we consume. Our love and acceptance are conditional—tied into shade and age and “grade” of hair. How many characters have I cherished only to wince when skin is lightened with increased popularity or lovers are written out of a character’s history (or must be doggedly pursued)? Too many. Love at first sight in art is rarely an option for women like me. Instead we are told that we must work for men to look past the sight of us. What must it be like to be loved without need for convincing and cajoling? To be someone’s first and only choice? As-is. Unconditionally. Lois Lane.

It must be nice.

I appreciate Storm’s leadership, Misty Knight’s determination, Vixen’s raw power, and Amanda Waller’s intelligence. But I see dark-skinned black women making amazing things out of nothing on a daily basis—in real life. And I see them do it tirelessly without appreciation and acknowledgement. Without kindness. I see their works and images outright stolen from them and cherished in presentations that aren’t theirs. So yes, while it is so important to find relief, even in a fleeting fantasy, from violence, showing me I can punch monsters from the sky doesn’t mean as much when (1) my community has already shown me what I am capable of and (2) I must beg someone to cheer for me when I touch back down to Earth.

I am known, often with much frustration and eye-rolling from those who aren’t black—to those in power—to stress the importance of having black women writing in the mainstream. And it is for selfish reasons. Not for my own advancement, but because I trust black women implicitly. I trust them to understand what should be so basic, but countless writers who are not black women have failed to grasp. Over and over and over—a haystack of unintentional insults. We know we are capable. We know we are strong. Loved? Well, the world could do a much better job of showing it.

This blog is ten years old. A decade. And I have been writing about society, various artistic mediums, and science fiction and fantasy for much longer than that. And I feel as though I have spent every minute of those ten long years shouting into the void only to see minimal changes and my own needs go unfulfilled. To encounter disdain and harassment. I am exhausted. I am…done. But not in anger. Frankly? My soul is just tired.


On pre-ordering comics.

I do not pre-order comic books and do not plan to. I only purchase trade paperbacks and digital comics. I have a mild fondness for Marvel and DC brands, but do not feel the need to purchase comics from either company in order to engage with said brands. I am a casual reader. I wasn’t always, but I have become one.

And I feel absolutely no guilt about it.

The comics industry will continue to be here. No matter how bad a company’s business practices might be, they cannot kill off a method of storytelling—a medium. Should Sony fail? Songs would still be sung. Should Rockstar Games go under? I would still make the safe bet that there would be compelling video games left to play.

That said? I am concerned. I am worried that perhaps the larger comic companies have painted themselves into a corner akin to the one that the conservative American news media currently finds itself within. And now the extraction process will be a messy and haphazard one.

Both have placed themselves within a cordoned-off area (cable television/specialty shops), narrowed their focus considerably (“alt-right” narratives/superheroes), and appeal to an aging and shrinking market. However, that market is a zealously devoted one willing to pay a higher price for material that could easily be found elsewhere at cheaper cost. So perhaps concerns should not be heeded until the last 40-year-old is no longer willing to pay $4.99 for a new issue of Deadpool and the last reactionary septuagenarian discovers he can read Breitbart for free rather than pay for cable.

And yet Americans are not averse to pre-ordering. We pre-order games, sneakers, novels, graphic novels—why not comics?

I can only speak for myself. Convenience is of the utmost importance. I can buy a pair of shoes from Amazon and the site is kind enough to let me know that I’ve bought 6 Empowered trades from them and a new one is on its way. Would I like to buy it now and have it shipped to me upon its release? Why, yes! And look at that. No rifling through Previews. No pit stop in a specialty shop. Comics right to my door.

Celebrity and exclusivity will also push me to pre-order. Look, if Puma had given me the opportunity to pre-order a pair of Rihanna’s Fenty slides? Done and done. It’s Fenty. It’s Rih. I’d be willing to devote the extra time and effort involved in obtaining said product. Especially when said product is so rare. And lastly, reliability is also a factor. I would never blanche at pre-ordering an album from an artist I had followed for years because I could be fairly certain of the new album’s quality by examining older works.

As for Marvel and DC? I can be entertained by their brands for free or nearly free by turning on my television or computer. Leaning on exclusivity is not an option when your characters are everywhere in nearly every medium. Reliability is not a given considering the frequent changes in creative teams. And there is currently only one celebrity (Ta-Nehisi Coates) employed at either company who is notable enough to motivate me to pre-order. Luckily, I don’t have to pre-order Black Panther because I know that given Marvel’s printing habits scarcity will never be an issue. And I can buy my trade today from Amazon.

On sale.

All I ask of the comics industry are books I want to read in the format I most enjoy. And yes, I am willing to pay in advance for them as long as the company is a reputable one. I think the larger comic companies realize that. But I also think those companies also realize that the “Wednesday crowd” feels the exact same way—which is why the direct market currently exists! Blithely telling members of either market (direct/digital) to “get with the program” and change their purchasing habits is absurd. If you want someone to give you money for a product? You do the adjusting. DC and Marvel must find a way to appeal to multiple markets—which I hope both are trying to do behind the scenes—rather than blatantly ignoring one or forcing it to change.


Wisdom and earth.

A lot can happen in a month!

First and foremost is that I and artist Maria Frölich will have a short story appearing in an upcoming issue of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s and Val De Landro’s Bitch Planet. I’m honored to have been allowed to contribute to the amazing world that Kelly Sue and Val have created, to work with an artist of Maria’s caliber, and to learn from an editor as skilled as Lauren Sankovitch. All opportunities are a gift, but this one came at an exceptionally trying time in my life and gave me a bit of hope in a year where happy moments have been few and far between.

2016 has made the world of Bitch Planet more ominous than satirical—a world that could easily enter into our reality via the randomness of an election or a major catastrophe (or perhaps one in the same). I am a massive fan of fictional dystopian futures and equally a fan of making sure they never come to fruition!

With the publication of this story I find myself in a small, but powerful and growing league of black women writers in comics. And I could not be more pleased about it. Black women have always been here and have always been creating. What is new is the recognition—the realization that to have an organization where images of black female bodies are a source of income but black women are not invited to speak is parasitic and harmful. That realization, and the reaching back of a small handful of white women and black men who have secured a foothold in the industry, has finally resulted in a space for black women to write in the mainstream. However, it is important to note that black women created their own lucrative space outside of the mainstream long before we had become a consideration to those we championed as they pushed through glass ceilings. As I’ve said, we’ve been here.

And now we’re there. With the addition of powerful writers such as Roxane Gay, Vita Ayala, and Yona Harvey at DC and Marvel, black women are no longer voiceless in the mainstream. Flesh-and-blood black women are receiving compensation for their creativity. There is now reciprocity at these companies—black women are consumers, black female characters are profitable commodities, and black women are highly sought (and fairly paid) artistic laborers. I cannot support companies that take from black communities—black women—and give nothing in return. Thankfully, I no longer have to count Marvel and DC among said companies. And while it’s frustrating that we had to wait until 2009 and 2016 for that to come about, the fact that it has come about should be positively noted. And I hope we do not once again see a regression for nearly a decade should these women decide to return to their original creative mediums.

We are together, but unequal. While I am absolutely elated to have women such as Roxane Gay in this industry and in the mainstream it is very important to note that their presence is a clear example of “twice as good for half as much.” For only black writers must reach the pinnacle of fame in other creative industries in order to be deemed acceptable to pen a mid-list mainstream comic book. A white man or woman? Well, he or she would merely need to have written an independent comic that an editor took a liking to in order to receive an invitation to pitch. The doors are now open to everyone, but only black people have a very long and winding staircase they must climb in order to reach them. It’s okay though, we’re used to having to be twice as good to get in, only now we’re going to be damn sure to remind you of it once we get there.

As for me? I’m going to work on stepping my game up to reach that elusive 200 percent! Sadly, I can’t talk about my next step now—God, I’ve become one of those people—but poke me about it in a few months!


Diversity and Goliath redeux!

I’m thinking about this in conjunction with DC’s new talent programs and Ronald Wimberly’s comments on spec.

There are many creators of color and female creators who are at (and beyond) the talent level we see in the mainstream. And in the process of integrating the mainstream, they are being judged not by their work, but by their outward appearance. And it’s insulting. Would you ask a woman who has produced multiple books independently to join a training program? A black man with a résumé outside of the cape books that’s longer than a highway for unpaid spec work? C’mon now. We’re talking vast portfolios here.

Editors are stumbling upon the names of popular creators from marginalized groups—creators with followings and established brands—and treating them like college students who just rolled out of bed with a degree in art or English. It’s dismissive and stems from bigotry. It’s the same as the white A&R rep or label owner who rolled up to established musicians in black communities with garbage deals like they were doing an amateur a favor. Nah, son. You’re a visitor in a spot where people know what they are doing. If you have any respect and you’re serious about your company and diversity? You approach as an equal. Do the necessary research before you sit down.

Frankly, these numbers are abysmal because those in power don’t know where to look or how to act once they get there. Frat boy and good ol’ boy behavior is driving off and angering (or scaring) the very folks these companies need to be better.

So? So you step your game up and do some work. You can’t post up in a bar and wait for creators to buy you drinks at cons. Well, you can, but you’re only going to get talented white dudes that way and that’s only one element of the mosaic you need. You’ll have to go to different places and behave in new ways. And if you can’t do that? Get you some editors who can, b. Or a creator to be your ambassador. (Although since most of these creators bring up folks who look just like them—Morrisons beget Ways—you’ll need to vet those ambassadors.) And let me tell you, the last thing you want to do is go out and hire you a whole bunch of Timberlakes and Whedons and think you’ve done something in regards to diversity. You’ve done nothing but boost the voices of white men. And if you try to present it as anything else? I’m coming for your neck in the messiest of ways. (Do continue to hire them because their work is nice, but you best watch your marketing.)

Also, don’t Buzzfeed the very people you should be hiring. Biting cultures at best and actual specific marginalized creators at worst is going to bite you in the ass because those folks have a direct line to the people you want to sell to. And you’ll end up having to hire folks from those groups anyway to do immediate damage control and drown out the voices of those you originally stole from.

Don’t be afraid to roll up to someone and say you like what they do and want to build with them if you have building blocks on deck. “Let’s build” has become a massive joke amongst black creators, but because folks come to them with nothing. But if you have something? Shoot your shot.

ETA: This post was taken word for word from my Twitter account because I have got to stop bombarding my poor followers with tweet streams of this length! Journal entries over tweets!


Rebirth-ing pains.

Cover of Rebirth #1How can one not discuss DC’s Rebirth? It is the topic of conversation at multiple industry tables. At the moment, DC walks a threadbare tightrope from its current shaky status to that of a healthy role as an IP farm for multiple mediums. Perhaps I am optimistic, but I firmly believe DC can make this work. I also believe that this is their last chance to do so without the upheaval of a regime change to ensure the faith of retailers and readers.

However, should there be a regime change? Geoff Johns would not be ousted. Can you think of another creator who is as adept at strip-mining the works of Alan Moore for mass-market appeal? Is there another who could take a half-formed idea buried in the detritus of 30 years of continuity and polish it into a brass (power) ring for retailers to grasp? Morrison perhaps. Waid maybe. But none with the company loyalty and love that Johns has for DC. None so wholeheartedly drenched in Americana and the superheroic as Johns. He is the best man for the job.

Cover of Watchmen #1He has done what some consider the unthinkable, but what any individual who has followed the industry would know to be the inevitable—not only folding Moore’s Watchmen characters within the DC universe but possibly setting them up to be the literary scapegoats for the darker themes and changes that so many have been unhappy with during DC’s recent Flashpoint, New 52, and DC You upheavals. Indie darlings might gasp as DC handles Moore’s work as a music mogul would a dead rapper’s catalog, but company men know that Moore is going to be rightfully dissatisfied no matter what they do. And as my grandmother always said, I’d rather wipe my tears with a linen handkerchief than a wad of tissues. If one is to be lambasted by Moore in the press, it might as well be over something fantastically lucrative for all involved.

That said, the preceding move would be a gift to independent companies such as Image and a damaging blow to Vertigo should measures not be taken to counteract it. What creator would be insane enough to bring his characters to Vertigo given how DC has treated Moore? That is certainly the question I would ask loudly and repeatedly were I Eric Stephenson or Mike Richardson. And I would certainly want to control how that question is answered were I Dan Didio. DC needs an arena where non-superheroic IP can flourish and later be harvested by television and film. And that arena is Vertigo.

Unlike the oft-neglected imprint that is Marvel’s Icon, Vertigo can still be of value and its name carries fond memories and industry recognition. DC will need to put money and effort into Vertigo to keep Rebirth from being its death knell. I would target notable indie creators by offering solid, fair contracts and what Image cannot provide—cash in advance. There is no way a new wave at Vertigo armed with anchors such as Ennis and Morrison but also surprise acquisitions like Sophie Campbell or Nilah Magruder would not be successful. Bringing in independent editors (Karen Berger, Joseph Illidge, Jay Rachel Edidin) to make said creators feel more at home would be an even wiser move.

We simply cannot talk about a rebirth for DC without discussing the elephant in the room. There are still men working at DC who make women feel uncomfortable. Until those men have been removed from the company or have been quarantined in a dead-end department—one that does not affect the career trajectories of these women—the future of DC appears grim. Yes, DC can successfully woo back a decidedly white, male, and aging “Wednesday crowd” with the return of Wally and company. In fact, they should take great pains to do so because those readers are important (though small in number) and dependable. But to try to build a new world for the future without the input of women given female literacy rates and purchasing power? A world that includes female icons such as Wonder Woman and Catwoman? To try to revolutionize an American entertainment company that fields accusations of being dated without the input of African Americans—a group that American youth are almost frighteningly (and exhaustingly, to be honest) obsessed with? One is simply doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. How sad it would be to go to the well for the last time only to water a fresh crop of “Dad’s Comics” destined to drop to 20,000 a month in sales.

Rebirth will keep the home fires burning. From the gorgeous previews released the work appears to be the classic soapy serial longed for since the conclusion of Blackest Night. I like it. Others love it. DC needs to dig in and build on that good will immediately. But it also needs to impress upon new readers and potential audiences that it will keep and nurture the best of the New 52 and DC You as well. How can it accomplish this? Through digital initiatives and a careful reconstruction of its B-list with eyes focused on current and future demographics. Tradition and diversity are not mutually exclusive concepts. Though DC sadly did not cash in on the ‘70s Blaxploitation and Asian martial arts crazes that afforded Marvel the lion’s share of its multicultural mid-tier IPs, characters such as Ms. Marvel show that it is never too late to begin building. Luckily for DC, its animation department has provided it with a phenomenal foundation.

Perhaps it is due to my tendency to root for the underdog, but I hope that DC is able to arrive on the other side of Rebirth successful and stable. I hope it can rid itself of the problems that plague it during the journey. Only time—and a carefully calculated marketing strategy—will tell.


Vertigo, Verti-gone: Part 1.

Vertigo logoIt’s been a rough few days for DC to put it mildly! The removal of Shelly Bond from Vertigo has led to an unexpected discussion of DC’s continued employment of Eddie Berganza—who has been named as an individual tied to multiple incidents of sexual harassment. Of course, the question voiced by many is why would DC dismiss Bond only to keep Berganza employed? Sales of Superman comics have been lackluster and, as a longtime employee, Berganza’s salary is likely comparable to Bond’s. Considerable expenditures and negative PR do not seem to be worth the monthly production of a comic that sells roughly 36,000 copies. Especially when said comic stars the world’s most iconic superhero. Many have said that Berganza should not be dismissed for previous behavior that he has already been reprimanded for and adjusted accordingly. I would be inclined to agree. I would also be inclined to remove an individual who made popular female creators feel uncomfortable enough to avoid books such as Supergirl and Wonder Woman due to his involvement. I would be inclined to remove an individual who had been handed two of comics’ greatest characters and could not produce sales even remotely comparable to the third. I would be inclined to remove an individual who could be replaced by one equally efficient for a fraction of the price.

So, given that Vertigo’s sales figures have been disastrous, would I have let go of Bond as well? No. The decline of Vertigo is not the fault of poor editing or unskilled creators. It is the result of unappealing contracts, the inability to acknowledge Vertigo’s new role in the marketplace, and a nonsensical marketing strategy. Bond, a phenomenal editor bolstered by an equally talented team, was made captain of a sinking ship and later blamed for its taking on of more water.

What I cannot stress enough is that Vertigo is no longer seen as avant-garde. It is no longer seen as a place where the industry’s most notorious it-boys and ingénues produce critically acclaimed work that shocks the senses. That place would be Image. Image built its brand on Vertigo’s broken back, laying a solid foundation with fair contracts, rousing speeches, and fashionable fêtes. Vertigo cannot reclaim that status. Unlike many comic companies that have built brands around characters, Image has built its new brand around people. Robert Kirkman, Eric Stephenson, David Brothers, Brandon Graham, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Fiona Staples, etc. It would take an exorbitant sum to woo those people away. They are heavily invested in the health of Image. Vertigo could build a brand around the notable men and women of the smaller independent companies, but what can they offer a woman such as C. Spike Trotman that she doesn’t already enjoy? Nothing.

Vertigo can continue to struggle against the obvious and settle into a role as a lesser Image where interesting concepts are strangled by piss-poor contracts and a tarnished brand. Or it can fully embrace its role as an established imprint where the industry bad boys of the ’90s can relive glory days by returning to the concepts that made them famous. Vertigo could be the comics industry’s version of an exclusive Las Vegas casino—a place to drop considerable dollars on the legends of one’s youth. Headliners only. Some may blanch at the truth, that Vertigo is now a place where the middle-aged and Anglophilic can buy expensive Preacher omnibuses and Sandman OGNs, but guess what? I promise you that their money is just as crisp and fresh as the dollars spent by millennials on Sex Criminals trades. Vertigo should fully embrace its retro brand and tend to its evergreen IPs. And to do so you need an editor with years in the game, one with all the good ol’ boys in her Rolodex, one who can rifle through comics and spot the one project from ’96 that everyone forgot about that’s going to be the next Netflix hit. You need a Shelly Bond.

And right now? DC doesn’t have one.

Next up: Why Young Animal should have been Yung Animal (Swavey clearly isn’t keeping up with it), how the complete absence of young black employees is a massive oversight to any imprint interested in the establishment of an edgy alluring brand, and the importance of an A-Team to a company consumed with gunning for the industry king.


Earth to Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman: Earth OneSome quick thoughts on Wonder Woman: Earth One! Actual talented critics have examined the quality of this work elsewhere. What I want to do is talk about the greater impact this work will have in the marketplace.

I firmly believe releasing Grant Morrison’s and Yanick Paquette’s project as an Earth One book was a misstep on the part of DC Comics. Wonder Woman: Earth One reads like a finely crafted love letter to William Moulton Marston—honoring the writer’s fanciful views on women, matriarchies, and playful submission. But to use this project and this character to pen a love letter to a deceased man’s biased and simplistic (for our time) thoughts regarding women does a great disservice to actual women and girls for whom love letters to their empowerment and competence are few and far between. Works by men exploring and exalting their ideas regarding women are a weekly occurrence. At no point is a woman not presented with man’s thoughts on her body, her mind, and her performance. We are told via female characters written by men; we are told via critiques by men in articles and throughout social media.

In their efforts to create a work that honors William Moulton Marston, Morrison and Paquette have failed to create a work that honors women. And that? Is the last thing a project featuring Wonder Woman should do.

Were Wonder Woman: Earth One simply a one-off vanity project for Morrison and Paquette, a modern recreation of Marston’s work would be irksome but without negative consequence. However, what we currently have is a marketplace where the Wonder Woman brand has been diffused and misused—generally to please a direct market comprised of male readers. Batman can be distilled to one word. Justice. Superman to two. Truth. Mercy. Can the same be said for Wonder Woman? Who is she within the confines of the comics industry? A wide-eyed ingénue stumbling through man’s world? A hardened warrior with a distaste for men—often eliciting a sexual response in those for whom “strong female character” equates to dominatrix? Or is she a simple and pure power fantasy for women and girls?

I can tell you that the latter option is the most lucrative when seeking long-term gains given the rise in female readers. But the comics industry is not interested in the long term. Were that the case, DC Comics would have had a new continuity-free Earth One graphic novel featuring work that was written for and appealed to female audiences first and foremost. It would have also had an ongoing series featuring characterization that meshed neatly with depictions in other media such as film and television. It would have presented an aspirational Themyscira filled with Amazons who represent what women believe to be the best of women—not what men fantasize them to be.

“We updated that and made them all look like supermodels, because we thought that’s the kind of modern version of the Harry Peter glamor girl. They’re a lot more athletic looking. They’re very tall and slim, and because they’re much more powerful than humans, they don’t need to put on muscles to lift big weights, you know? Which is why Diana can lift up a tank without enormous muscles.

“We just decided to present them as this absolutely idealized body type, in the same way that Marston and Peter presented them.”Grant Morrison

Idealized to whom? To men. To our patriarchal society. The homogeneity found in Paquette’s depictions of the Amazons inadvertently tells women who do not fit that basic hourglass shape that they do not belong in a matriarchal utopia—that the power fantasy being presented is not for them. Instead of one idealized body deemed aesthetically appealing to heterosexual men, the work should have had a variety of female bodies honed to perfection by a multitude of activities. Long, lean swimmers. Stout wrestlers. Petite gymnasts. We live in a world where even Mattel has adjusted its product to appeal to a variety of body types. Surely the Amazons should be at least as malleable as Barbie—especially if DC wants its brand to remain as profitable as Mattel’s.

Wonder Woman: Earth OneBut Paquette’s renditions are not the only cracks in the utopia’s facade. I was amused by Hippolyta’s bitter and vindictive nature, bearing the mark of one who could not conceive of a formerly conquered people simply wanting to be left the hell alone. The queen does not want merely isolation, but revenge—what every individual bolstered by unearned privilege—e.g., man—irrationally fears. Diana’s language is also equally off-putting, though sparingly. She taunts the male soldiers, berating them by calling them…girls? What scion of a queen reigning over a land populated by women would use such an insult? Swapping girls for children and kiss for play would have made the line less dismissive to what should have been the work’s intended audience.

And how does DC woo said intended audience? With this work, I honestly am not sure. But the company can certainly improve upon the situation by hiring women to work on the sequel. Even if DC understandably wishes to rehire Morrison and Paquette to maintain narrative cohesion, replacing Eddie Berganza and Andrew Marino with female editors would allow for a feminine influence to shape the work. That influence is noticeably absent here.