Beautiful, Brainy and Bold: Part 1 – Pop Culture and The Rise of the Super Woman

Wonder Woman New York Comic Con 2015

A life size model of Wonder Woman on display at New York Comic Con 2015 for the upcoming Batman v. Superman movie. Photo credit to Peter Parrella at SkeletonPete.com.

“If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” – Junot Diaz

Human beings have an unconscious need to identify with those around us, to draw cues from our environment and to connect with the faces we see. We’re inspired by the characters we grow up with in the books we read, or see in our favorite films or tv shows.

Literature and graphic novels/comics have taken the lead in creating complex, multidimensional characters (both male and female) of substance. But tv/film has a greater reach to broader audiences and mass appeal. Seeing an image can reinforce something we already know – see that same image over and over again, and how much more powerfully ingrained does it become in our subconscious? This is why it is critical to have live action, visual representations of ourselves, as not only independent and capable, but also powerful.

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The elegant, but deadly Mrs. Emma Peel as portrayed by Diana Rigg in the 1960s British spy series The Avengers (also starring Patrick Macnee).

Dreaming What Can Be
When we’re children, we believe anything and everything is possible. But girls quickly learn that’s not true, at least, not for them. Boys believe they can be Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man. When I was a little girl, I let my imagination soar with Wonder Woman, Batgirl, the Bionic Woman, Uhura, and Mrs. Peel – even Barbara Wright and Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who. 
But what about girls after me? Who did they grow up with? Who were their role models? 

We need to see the world as we wish it would be. We look for people who look like us to tell us it’s OK to BE us. If we are constantly seen as background decoration, sexualized, victimized and powerless (or powerful, but only if we’re sexualized or bitchy/angry/bad girls/mean girls), then what message does that send? Women as subservient, hollow or embittered beings? To gain any ground at all, you must sacrifice your body, your honor and ethics. Because you can’t possibly be good, moral, intelligent, have healthy relationships (with men and women) or have high-powered careers and still be yourself, can you?

Girls learn to accept their fates as second class citizens and the “weaker sex” early on. They dream of a White Knight, as they languish in their tower, imprisoned by their inferiority. Their value is less about the person they are and it becomes about being an object of desire or worthy “love interest”. The message – be pretty and patient and you might get your Prince Charming in the end. I wonder how many Rapunzels died of old age waiting in that tower… but I digress…

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The beautiful Nichelle Nichols as Uhura in the classic 1960s sci-fi Series Star Trek.

Pop Culture Representations of Women
In recent years, comic book inspired films and TV shows have hit an all-time high. The Super Friends I grew up with are back in many forms. While overjoyed, I was also dismayed that Batgirl, Supergirl and especially Wonder Woman, have been largely absent from the vast landscape for many years (at least in live action form since the 1970s – not counting a failed attempt at a Wonder Woman pilot or the CW’s Birds of Prey series)… even though Wonder Woman comics have been around since the 1940s.

Many of us got tired of hearing studio exec excuses, “Superhero Girls don’t sell”. Previous superpowered females (featuring leading ladies Supergirl, Catwoman, Elektra) failed to impress, and have been cited over and over again as examples as to why it is now 2015 and we still don’t have a Wonder Woman movie (one is finally due out in 2017).

Market forces determine what we see. Really? I’m female. I have money to spend and I want to see more of my gender as powerful leading ladies. More importantly, I want my friends’ children to see it too – especially their young daughters. One friend, a schoolteacher, reported to me that most of her students did not even know what feminism or the suffragist movements were. That’s telling and disconcerting. As I’d feared, we’ve taken a step backwards in gender equality since the 1970s. Apparently, we’d come a long way and then promptly had forgotten what it meant.

Girls are discouraged from taking risks, from entering into scientific fields, or entering into law enforcement and the military. It’s not lady-like. I’d been similarly discouraged when I was younger, but I’d seen my heroes excel at math/science/martial arts/law enforcement, so I believed it was possible. At one point I wanted to be a detective, a lawyer and a forensic scientist. I didn’t become any of those things, but I toyed with them all as career options because I felt it was possible. The Bionic Woman and Mrs. Peel were secret agents for heaven’s sake! Beautiful, brainy and bold! That what’s I wanted to be too!

Whoopi Goldberg often relays a story from her youth. She was inspired by the beautiful Nichelle Nichols. Seeing a woman of color in a prominent role in the hit sci-fi series Star Trek gave her hope. She credits Nichelle’s portrayal as Uhura for inspiring her to become an actress herself, and one with with a message… diversity and gender equality matter. Representation matters. For those who don’t feel this is necessary, I would argue you are already at the top of the food chain. Congratulations. This isn’t aimed at you. It’s for others who feel they don’t matter, because they’ve been getting the wrong message.

 

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Natasha Romanoff (or Romanova), aka Black Widow, in The Avengers as portrayed by Scarlett Johansson.


NYCC 2015: Diversity and Gender Equality Matter
Largely ignored when it comes to representation in media, let alone in badass, kickass roles where women are the protagonists, we want to stand up and be counted. We want inclusion. We want to be more than just the girlfriends or sidekicks, or the hot vixen of the week. And while film execs say market forces and “box office trends” determine what we see, we want to BE the power – the heroes and the leaders – a driving force in film in television. Women make up more than 50% of the population, but you wouldn’t know it based on what we see in the media. In Marvel’s Avengers, Black Widow was featured prominently, but many took issue with her role being marginalized in general, as she wasn’t given a standalone film, like her male teammates (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and The Hulk).

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DC SuperHero Girls by Mattel on display at New York Comic Con 2015 at the Javits Center. Photo credit to Peter Parrella at SkeletonPete.com.

From Marvel’s Jessica Jones to IAmElemental, New York Comic Con 2015 (NYCC 2015) proved one thing, women are a force to be reckoned with. Geek Girls took to the internet and the results are evident. On the NYCC floor, newly minted IAmElemental action figures and Mattel’s DC Superhero Girls were proudly on display. No longer in the shadows, they took their rightful place next to Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine (some of MY favorite male superheroes).

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IAmElemental action figures were on display at New York Comic Con 2015 and at Sweet Suite15 this year. Photo credit to Peter Parrella at SkeletonPete.com.

This year, many of NYCC 2015’s panels featured themes on female empowerment, gender equality and diversity. Panels aimed at media professionals, creators and consumers included provocative and thought provoking topics on gender and diversity such as:

  • A (Wo)Man’s World: Closing the Gender Gap in Pop Culture – including speakers from the UN for Women’s “He for She” campaign.
  • Marry, Do or Kill? What Will it Take to Shatter Female Stereotypes in Comics?
  • Geeks of Color, Third Generation Edition: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
  • Secret Identities: Creating Transgender Characters in Comic Books
  • Crip Culture and the Media: Perceptions of Disability in Film and Television
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Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl on the new CBS Series Supergirl debuting tonight, Monday, October 26, 2015.

Kara from Krypton Lives
Tonight, CBS airs the highly anticipated pilot for Supergirl. It’s been a while since we’ve seen her live – not since Laura Vandervoort played her on Smallville, or Helen Slater starred in the poorly received theatrical release in 1984.

Highly anticipated, but also being viewed critically, some early reviews of Supergirl have been mixed. Some are worried it might be too “fluffy” or saccharin – too (dare I say it?) girly!

Can Kara become the hero our little girls need? Will she be an inspiration to a new generation and become what Wonder Woman, Uhura, Mrs. Peel and Sarah Jane Smith were for me? Time will tell.

In the coming weeks/months, I’ll attempt to take a look at the rising trend in The Super Woman, and female-centric role models for empowerment in pop culture, to see if these women are the heroes our little girls (and boys) need and deserve. Stay tuned.

Supergirl airs tonight, Monday, October 26, 2015 on CBS at 8:30pm EST.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #17 Review

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #17 Cover by Steve Morris

They say two’s company and three’s a crowd. This is especially true when you have the Mr. and the Ex tagging along. Complicated further by unresolved feelings, sexual tensions, and old rivalries, and you’ve got yourself a classic lover’s triangle. But like anything else in the Buffyverse, amp that up by ten. Let’s not forget, Buffy is no ordinary gal, and her suitors are both supernatural creatures of the night.

So awkward doesn’t begin to describe the encounter when Angel (Buffy’s former love) arrives to aid The Scoobies and face the news that Buffy’s current flame is none other than frenemy Spike (aka William the Bloody when Angel and he used to pal around, committing heinous acts and leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake). Throw in some fangs and sharp implements of death and destruction and you’ve got a perfect recipe for disaster – never mind a lively “ex-boyfriend barbecue”.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #17 Panel

TEAM SLAYERS…

Still, the team must put their differences aside, along with that time Angel killed Giles (good times), among other fond memories, to band together, bringing their collective mojo to defeat the evil Archaeus, a demon which has been attempting to control soulful vamps, and rivals for Buffy’s affections, Angel and Spike.

Of course, evil-doers must be fought, minions dispatched, and quips exchanged, in good ole’ Buffy fashion. What is actually more terrifying and surprising, is the fact that Andrew imparts some seriously thought-provoking words of wisdom, which had me waxing all philosophical. But I digress… as I often do…

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #17 Variant Cover by Rebekah Isaacs

HANGING OFF A CLIFF…

What happens next will leave you on the edge of your seats, as any good crossover event should do, with a cliffhanger that will have you crying “Noooooo!!!!” to rival Shatner’s “Khaaaaaaan!” in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. Ok, maybe that’s a little bit over-dramatic, but I got your attention, didn’t I?

Once again, the team of Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs (love her variant cover for this issue, btw) deliver, along with Steve Morris’ cover art, suitable for framing. I really need to collect these as prints. (Steve, help a nerd gal out, will ya?)

If you’ve been staying with Season 10 of Buffy, don’t turn back now, pick up Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10: Issue 17, out today, at a comic book store near you!

For more on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 and Angel & Faith Season 10 from Dark Horse Comics, check out my reviews at Skeletonpete.com.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #16 Review

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #16 Cover by Steve Morris


A Bridge Between Worlds…

I’ve always loved a good crossover. That’s just something the nerd in me can’t resist. I would become super excited as a kid whenever The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman would have a crossover event. An episode would start on one show and end on the other. It’s still true now, I geek out whenever The Flash makes an appearance on Arrow (and vice versa).  And it always worked for Buffy and Angel, even when they were on different networks, just like it did for that other super-couple Jamie Sommers and Steve Austin.

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Bionic duo and former lovers Steve Austin aka the Six Million Dollar (Lee Majors) and Jamie Sommers aka the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner).

When Angel (repentant vamp and Buffy’s former love) left Sunnydale all those years ago, we knew he’d be back, and likewise, Buffy wouldn’t (couldn’t) stay away from him either. With dark slayer Faith (portrayed in the series by Eliza Dushku) traveling back and forth between both shows, there was always a bridge, and always a chance for a crossover event. Angel even shows up briefly during the Buffy finale.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #16 Panel


When Worlds Collide…

Is it any wonder then that the writers of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel & Faith comics have teamed up to create a season that allows each series its’ own arc, while still letting one be part of the other’s story as well.

We all know that whenever Angel turns up in Buffy’s world, it means angst and complications. Having your first love show up while you’re involved with your current love is hardly a simple matter (read messy and awkward). I call this the “ex-boyfriend barbecue”… and I’ve been there myself… but I digress, as I often do…

Ever since the “Love Dares You” arc, starting with this season’s eleventh issue, Buffy and Spike have reconnected romantically, and after many long years of waiting, fans let out a sigh of relief (myself included). Of course,  hi-jinx must ensue when Angel is called, by none other than Spike (Buffy’s other on again/off again/currently on again beau) to aid in their latest fight against Archaeus, an ancient demon who has been tormenting both Angel and Spike. There is way too much history between these three, going back to when Spike was sired (turned into a vampire for the newbie) by Drusilla (who was sired by none other than Angel). There was a whole lot of siring going on back then. Oh, those wacky vamps!

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #16 Variant by Rebekah Isaacs

Suck Up and Deal…

Of course, there’s no time to wallow in hurt feelings and awkward silences when there are demons to slay, and the old team bands together to do just that, in their own unique fashion. Equipped with banter aplenty and sharp and pointy implements of death and destruction – not to mention a whole lot of hacking and slashing – they get to the task at hand. However, it’s just the beginning for our Scoobies, and the big bad for this season has yet to be dispatched.  After all, what would a crossover event be without a cliffhanger?

As always, the team of Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs aim to please and do not disappoint, and Steve Morris’ cover art always impresses.

While each series can stand on its own, do yourself a favor and pick up both Buffy and Angel & Faith Season 10 books. They’re even more fun together.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10: Issue 16 is due out tomorrow, June 17, 2015! Get it at a comic book store near you!

For more on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 and Angel & Faith Season 10 from Dark Horse Comics, check out my reviews at Skeletonpete.com.

Midnight Society: The Black Lake #1 from Dark Horse Comics – Review

Ok, folks, apologies for the radio silence.  My muse decided to take a little vacation without me, as she often does… but we’re back… I think… Thanks for coming back. As always, it’s much appreciated. 

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Secret societies, mythical creatures and a strong female protagonist with a dark, mysterious past. Sign me up, please! Drew Johnson (Wonder Woman) brings his first creator-owned series to Dark Horse with Midnight Society: The Black Lake!

Something immediately drew me to the title. Midnight Society conjured up images of the monsters, witches and other things that go bump in the night, and the cover art, featuring secret agent Matilda Finn, made me think instantly “this woman is our hero”. I was intrigued. I had to learn more. I wasn’t disappointed.

The artwork, also by Drew Johnson (and colorist Lizzy John), is dark and foreboding, but very well rendered, the characters well-drawn.

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While reading it, I could definitely see this playing out as a film or TV series. Something creepy and fantastical… that’s kinda my bag. In fact, I found myself thinking of the BBC Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood, and kept hoping some version of Captain Jack Harkness might pop up somewhere. Who knows, he still might. After all, all roads lead back…

Midnight Society: The Black Lake #1 is not a origin story, as we’re already plunged right into the action, but we are definitely left wondering more about Matilda. This description gets your head spinning – who or what is Matilda Finn?

“They transformed her into a monster killer, but she was already something else!

Forty years ago, England’s greatest adventurers cast aside their friendship, making a choice that would come to haunt humanity. Now, secret agent Matilda Finn will face the consequences of that choice as she aids in a frantic rescue operation at Scotland’s Loch Ness, where something terrible is waiting to draw her into the fight of her life!”

 

What kind of monster is she? 40 years ago? She looks like she can’t be more than in her 30s. Is Matilda a mythical creature herself? I ran through quite an exhaustive list of possibilities. We don’t get an answer just yet. We’ll just have to stay tuned.

So visit Loch Ness, and follow Matilda Finn and The Midnight Society’s exploits starting tomorrow, June 10th. Pick up Midnight Society: The Black Lake #1 from Dark Horse Comics, at a comic book store near you.

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REVIEW: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 10 #11 PART 1: DARE TO LOVE

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Buffy Season 10 Issue #11 Cover by Steve Morris

A THORNY PATH…

They say the path of true love never doth run smooth and roses have their thorns… Cliche, but true, and quite the understatement for Buffy and her friends. Relationships are complicated at best, and romantic relationships are probably the hardest thing to get right, for anyone… For vampire slayers and demon hunters, this is doubly true.

Complications abound and hi-jinx ensue when Buffy and the Scoobies find a little down time to examine their feelings and their broken relationships. With the rules of magic being re-written (with Willow’s help) and the world more aware of its presence, you’d think it’d make life a little easier, right? Of course, no episode (or issue) of Buffy can be completely angst-free, and at some point, this issue’s big bads have to surface. For once, I’d say they’re almost welcome.

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Buffy Season 10 Issue #11 Variant Cover by Rebekah Isaacs

Meanwhile, a Harry Potter-like, 12-year-old Rupert Giles continues to struggle with his second adolescence. Painful enough for any pre-teen, but never mind a pre-teen with a middle-aged man’s memories… Memories of a full life and lost loves. A second childhood might be welcome to some, but not for him. Poor Giles hasn’t had much luck in the romance department either, and when an old flame shows up, things go from bad to mortifying. How many ways can we spell awkward?

However, the script seems to flip for our resident uber-geek and reformed super-villain, Andrew Wells (portrayed in the series by Tom Lenk). When did he get a life? I must have blinked and missed something.

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Andrew Wells (Tom Lenk) during his “super-villain” phase (note the Death Star on the van).

LOVE AND MONSTERS…

Issue 11 is classic Buffy fun (Christos Gage masters the Whedon/Buffyverse voice), with more than a few moments that are reminiscent of some real life dating horror stories I’ve heard friends recount. Including the indignity of speed dating (which I can gladly say I’ve never had to endure). I’ve only ever heard it work out for one couple I know (ah bless). Of course, the ending, though not surprising, will be satisfying for most fans (including me), however, with Part 2 (and Valentine’s Day) on the horizon, I can’t allow myself to be lulled into a false sense of security. This is the Buffyverse, after all.

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Buffy Season 10 Issue #11 Birthday Variant by George Jeanty and Tariq Hassan

FINAL THOUGHTS…

I love Steve Morris’ cover art, as always, so much so, I’ve often considered them suitable for framing. But papering my walls with Buffy comics might seem a bit much, no? Maybe if I was 12 again (it would be the coolest room ever), but I digress, as I often do…

For this installment, artist Megan Levens replaces Rebekah Isaacs (who provides the Issue 11 variant cover), and Megan does a great job picking up where Rebekah left off.

For more on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 from Dark Horse Comics, check out my reviews at Skeletonpete.com.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10: Issue 11 is due out tomorrow, Jan 21, 2015! Get it at a comic book store near you!

Available Today: Buffy Birthday Mega Bundle from Dark Horse Comics!

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Hard to believe that it has been 18 years since our favorite blonde cheerleader-turned-supernatural-slayer, Buffy Summers, first burst onto the scene. That would make her 34-years-old today. To celebrate the occasion, Dark Horse Digital has a limited-time offer for die-hard Buffy fans.

Starting today, every single digital issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Season 9, and Season 10 is on sale for only $0.99 each.

But if you really want to impress the Buffy fan in your life, the Buffy Birthday Megabundle is the perfect gift to add to their collection of memorabilia.

With nearly 200 titles (worth over $500), the Buffy Birthday Megabundle includes digital copies of:

  • Season 8 (including one-shots), Season 9, and Season 10
  • Angel & Faith Season 9 and Season 10
  • Buffy classics
  • Angel
  • Spike
  • Willow

The Buffy Birthday Megabundle is on sale now through Monday, January 19, 2015 for only $150.00.

Check out the special $0.99 sale and the Buffy Birthday Megabundle on Dark Horse Digital, both available now!

Attention Buffy Fans: Actress-Turned-Author Amber Benson in NYC Tomorrow!

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Amber Benson, best known for her ground-breaking role as Willow Rosenberg’s lady love Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been quite busy since her departure from Sunnydale. The beloved actress and director, is also an author of fantasy novels, including the five-book Calliope Reaper-Jones urban fantasy series for Penguin and Among The Ghosts for Simon and Schuster.

Book Cover - Witches of Echo ParkHer latest book, The Witches of Echo Park (released earlier this week), tells the tale of a powerful group of witches using their magic to keep the world in balance. But they are being hunted… and eliminated… one by one.

Though I haven’t had the pleasure of reviewing Benson’s literary work, I am intrigued by this latest effort, and plan to add it to my reading list.

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Amber Benson
will be at a book signing tomorrow, Sunday, January 11, 2015, at 2pm at Midtown Comics in NYC. Stop by, pick up a copy of The Witches of Echo Park and say hi.