Click for larger
DC Introduces First Transgender Character in Mainstream Comics:
Comic books keep making the mainstream news lately. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but we’re going to take a look at the latest development.
In the final pages of Batgirl #19 Barbara Gordon confesses a lot of things to her roommate Alysia Yeoh. For some time Alysia has been concerned about Barbara’s erratic behavior. Barbara tells her about being shot and paralyzed by The Joker but stops short of telling Alysia that she’s Batgirl. Alysia then confesses to Barbara that she’s transgender.
The one thing that I like about this is DC Comics did not hype this prior to the release of the issue. If they did I didn’t see it so I was generally surprised by this outcome which comics need a lot more of. What I didn’t like is that felt forced. It reminded me of the episode of Law & Order where Elisabeth Rohm’s character, Serena Southerlyn, is fired by the D.A. and she replies was it because she’s lesbian and it had never been mentioned in the show prior to that. It feels like that DC Comics did it just for the sake of doing it.
For the most part I have no problem with the Alysia Yeoh character and her sexuality. What I would like to see is Alysia just be portrayed as a normal person that happens to be transgender. What I hope they don’t do is make her a caricature or have her be the victim of some uber-violent hate crime. That would cheapen the character and even a lot of main characters in comic books feel cheap already. You know, with the temporary deaths and all that.
However I have a bone to pick. A lot of people are saying that Alysia Yeoh is the first transgender in a mainstream superhero comic book and I beg to disagree. 20 years ago in the pages of Sandman, Neil Gaiman introduced the character of Wanda, a pre-op transgender woman who plays an integral part in the Game of You storyline.
Wanda from A Game of You.
You can’t argue that Sandman wasn’t a mainstream comic considering its impact on the comic community at that time. And while it may not be a superhero comic per se it did take place in the DC Universe proper and Dream did interact with the likes of Batman, Superman and Martian Manhunter. Wow, I sound like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
Anyway all in all I feel like it was just there. Just not any reason to pick up or drop the title.
So another comic has made it into mainstream news again and once again it is involving the death of an iconic character. This time it’s Batman’s ever-present sidekick, Robin. But before we get into that here’s a little comic history lesson for those of you who either don’t follow comics or haven’t followed in a while.
The original Robin that we all know and love as portrayed by Burt Ward on the 1960s Batman TV show was Dick Grayson. In the late 1970s he grew up and became his own hero Nightwing.
He prefers to be called Richard now.
His replacement was Jason Todd who was infamously killed by the Joker and DC comics readers. He came back to life as the gun-toting Red Hood.
He was none too happy to find out that the Joker was still alive.
Jason Todd’s replacement was Tim Drake who relinquished the mantle of Robin to his successor and became Red Robin, at least in pre-New 52 continuity.
Unfortunately his New 52 costume isn’t as cool as the one with the cowl.
Which leads us to the current Robin, Damian Wayne. Damian is the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul.
And he’s pretty badass for a 10-year-old.
Damian is the focus of my post here today.
***BEYOND HERE LAY SPOILERS***
You can catch up on our faceless hero by reading my last post on The Question.
So now The Question has made a more fleshed out appearance so to speak in the pages of Phantom Stranger #5.
While The Phantom Stranger battles The Spectre over the disappearance of Stranger’s adopted family. The Question appears mysteriously in the lab of Dr. Terrence Thirteen. Thirteen actually calls him The Question and says that the only thing he knows about him is that Question was part of The Trinity of Sin along with Stranger and Pandora. Meanwhile Dr. Thirteen has amassed dossiers on the other two. Thirteen contacts Stranger and implies that he has information about his family. He says he doesn’t have an answer but more like a question. Heh.
This version of The Question maintains his 1930s detective like trappings along with his lack of a face. Whether or not this is a mask or his face has been permanently made this way by the Council of Wizards remains to be seen as. Also unknown at this point if he will be going by the name of Vic Sage or not. However he does speak all in questions which is kind of neat in an Etrigan sort of way.
As I’ve mentioned before this is a big departure from The Question’s roots. In the 1960s he was intended as an objectivist by his creator Steve Ditko. In the 1980s he was reimagined as a zen detective always looking for knowledge as written by Denny O’Neil. So a 2010s New 52 Question based more than likely in magic may not be a bad thing. I say that with trepidation because other things that have appeared in the New 52 era have looked promising and turned out to be a let down. Red Hood, I’m looking at you.
But Trench, didn’t you bemoan the fact that The Question gained new magical powers in the 2005 miniseries, asked no one. Yes I did, but that was different. That was still in the pre-New 52 universe where The Question did not have magical powers, was never explained how he got them and was never spoken of again. In this incarnation The Question starts out in the realm of magic.
So I’m still hoping that The Question will be a decent character this time around much like he was in the 52 series.
***NO QUESTION ABOUT IT, THERE ARE SPOILERS***
I know. I haven’t been blogging about comics in a while. There’s a couple of reasons for that. The first is that my regular crime readers aren’t that interested in comics. That’s cool. No worries there. The other is that because of my real world responsibilities I no longer have the time. While I do some comics stuff over at my G+ page for the most part I’ve been reduced to a weekend blogger and comics were the first subject to get cut.
However, something happened this week that filled my geek heart with glee but then a sense of dread and it happened in Justice League #0. Not only did this issue finally have Billy Batson finally get the powers of Shazam but it marked the return of my favorite comic book character of all time. It’s the character that inspired my original internet pseudonym of TheTrenchcoat. I am of course referring to the fedora and trench coat wearing and no face having, The Question.
While I’m happy to see his return the lack of elaboration in the issue has me worried a little bit. In the New 52 The Question was one of the Trinity of Sin along with the Phantom Stranger and Pandora. It hasn’t been made clear what his sin was but he was punished by the Council of Wizards to be always questioning his identity and they removed his face. Yes, you read that right, wizards. Our intrepid faceless crime fighter may have magical powers although I hope he doesn’t. I was really hoping for a return to his original objectivist ways as was intended by his creator Steve Ditko. I would have even been happy with his 1980s zen outlook from the Denny O’Neil run on his comic. There is a glimmer of hope though. In this incarnation it was briefly alluded to that he may be written as his Justice League Unlimited animated counterpart. The conspiracy minded detective who can see commonalities that even the great Batman can’t.
Will his character be a New 52 success or will it be just another failed reboot? That my friends is the question.
Hey guys, did you know Batwoman is a lesbian? Seriously DC, do you need to beat us over the head with the blunt end of Kate Kane’s sexual preference every single issue?
Now again don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with Batwoman being gay. I thought the character was great in 52 even having a previous relationship with Renee Montoya, the lesser and 2nd Question.
This is all being done now solely for the purpose of titillating readers and adds very little to nothing to the storyline. I mean you don’t see Bunker of the Teen Titans kissing every guy he meets. As a matter of fact you don’t see him kissing anyone at all, ever.
And why wasn’t Batwoman included in Night of the Owls? I mean I do hate the Owls storyline but this is supposed to be a Bat-title isn’t it?
Speaking of which so far the only decent Night of The Owls issue was published this week in Red Hood and The Outlaws. I never thought I’d say this about Red Hood but the story was pretty good. Jason Todd needs to be in Gotham more and less flying off to exotic locations fighting supernatural and alien menaces.
The only good title in my opinion this week was Green Lantern Corps. John Stewart just can’t catch a break can he?
Yes, I know Cap is a Marvel Comics character but this picture is probably the most iconic drawing from the much maligned Rob Liefeld. And again I forget what week it is. I think it’s week 35. I’m not sure.
Anyway this week I want to talk about Mr. Liefeld. He’s gotten a bad rap for his artwork as noted above. This week I believe he started writing for two titles in The New 52.
Normally I don’t pay attention to who is writing a comic title. The only two writers that stick out in my head are Denny O’Neill for his work on the 80s and 90s run of The Question and Mark Waid for his current run on Daredevil. However when reading my DC titles for this week Mr. Liefeld’s name jumped out at me for some reason. He is currently writing Grifter and Deathstroke and you know what? He’s not a bad writer.
For the first time since the reboot Grifter isn’t massive headache to read, issue 9 was an easy read and made sense in a comic book way, which is the way it’s supposed to make sense. Deathstroke on the other hand was written and drawn by Liefeld. When I saw his name on the cover I thought “Oh crap, Slade is going to have more pouches than he knows what to do with.” However I was surprisingly pleased. Deathstroke had no overabundance of pouches and I didn’t find the artwork to be distracting at all. Plus we have The New 52 introduction of Lobo.
On to other matters I enjoyed the brief crossover between Suicide Squad and Resurrection Man. RM still stands out to be one of my favorite titles of The New 52. On the other Night of the Owls continues to disappoint. It’s too predictable. Some random member of the Bat-Family has to find a way to overcome their assigned Talon…every issue so far. For Batman being a flagship title I have not been impressed at all since September.
To be honest I’ve lost track of what week it is. However this was the week where DC launched the titles they call The Second Wave. These are the titles they had in reserve in case any of the initial New 52 stunk the joint up. They say otherwise but we all know it’s true.
Actually I’ve been really impressed with the new titles that I’ve seen so far. See, I’m not always complaining.
Dial H is a reboot of Dial H for Hero. It is actually a fun and quirky title. I mean how can you go wrong with Captain Lachrymose?
Earth 2 was really good. Not only did they kill off the three main Earth 2 heroes in the first issue but they’re rebooting the golden age heroes. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this but then I thought they haven’t been updated in almost 70 years.
And my favorite title of the second wave was World’s Finest which retells the origins of Huntress and Power Girl. They were the Earth 2 versions of Robin and Supergirl but become trapped on Earth 1 during a fight with the forces of Apokilips. Power Girl’s costume has been updated and it kind of works for me. It will just take some time getting used to.
As far as the first wave comics go I enjoyed Grant Morrison’s story in Action Comics of the Superman of Earth 23. I’m sure some people will say it’s pro-Obama propaganda but those people can’t put their politics aside to enjoy a good story. I did think it was a little racist though they named Wonder Woman Nubia.
Night of the Owls started off strong I thought but then it fizzled out this week. Unless the payoff is Owlman I’ll be very disappointed in this storyline.
If it’s not week 28 feel free to correct me.
My only beef this week is with the Batman/Nightwing shared storyline.
So for the last half of NIghtwing and Batman #7 respectively they both have the same story, word for word. They couldn’t just do a “*See Nightwing #7 on sale now”? Especially since that readers of Nightwing are probabaly also readers of Batman. This felt like getting cheated out of a full comic.
As it turns out while Batman was fighting the Army of Owls, or whatever they called themselves, and Nightwing was fighting Saiko they were both fighting the same enemy. It turns out that the circus Nightwing’s family worked for was breeding generations of zombie Manchurian Candidate assassins and Dick was supposed to be one of them. I’m all for a little retconning when it’s needed but this is just stupid.
I mean like Superboy Prime punch stupid.
I haven’t been doing these posts in the past few weeks because there was really nothing to talk about.
This week’s comics didn’t fare much better although I did like JLI with the concept of most of the team being taken down by a terrorist attack.
However since this is week 26 that marks the halfway point in the year for The New 52 and I wanted to do sort of a brief state of the union kind of post on The New 52 so far. In a word disappointing.
The Superman and Batman titles have been a disheveled mess. It’s sad that the cursory Bat and Super titles (Nightwing, Batgirl, Supergirl, etc.) have been better than the flagship titles.
Justice League was another mess that basically wrote off Darkseid as a throw away character. They didn’t need 7 issues to tell that story.
There’s already continuity issues. Is the Red Robin version of the Teen Titan’s the first incarnation or was Nightwing’s?
I’ve gone over the gratuitous sex and violence before in titles like Deathstroke and Catwoman. Again, it doesn’t offend my sensibilities or anything like that. I just think that sex and violence for the sake of it is just pandering.
I despise Green Arrow’s new look.
And still no Ted Kord, Vic Sage or Captain Marvel. And from what I understand about Cap I’m not looking forward to his return.
There has been some good. The Green Lantern titles have been quite entertaining. Aquaman is interesting since the first time in forever. Stormwatch got off to a sloppy start but it just started getting much better and more coherent. And lastly Batwing has been an amazing title.
But the bottom line is was a reboot really necessary to update some of the characters? Did they really need updating to begin with? Could they have not done an ‘Ultimate’ line instead of alienating long time readers?
If you want new readers write good stories and don’t rely on gimmicks.
As you should probably know by now I am a huge fan of the DC Animated movies. To me Bruce Timm and company can do no wrong. However I was a little disappointed in Justice League: Doom.
First off it’s based on the comic JLA: Tower of Babel which I have not read so I can’t tell how faithful it was to the comic.
The voice acting was incredible since it had most of the voice actors that we know and love such as Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly. The animation was ok but it made Superman look really effeminate. Not as bad as he did in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse though. I also thought the action was lacking in this feature. Apocalypse, Crisis on Two Earths and Under the Red Hood really spoiled us with how much action they contained without sacrificing the story. In Doom the action was short-lived and not all that great. I also felt with the exception of Bane and Vandal Savage that the villains were B-list at best. Speaking of B-list Doom also includes Cyborg as one of the featured heroes. Cyborg has never been one of my favorite characters and Doom is no exception.
2 1/2 fedoras out of 5.