Porcelain: What Is The Secret?

3 12 2014

From the bisexual Catman to the lady-loving bruisers, Scandal Savage and Knockout. Readers familiar with Gail Simone and/or her previous run on the villain-centric DC title, Secret Six, know that she is not one to shy away from diversity in her titles. Today’s long-awaited release of the New 52 iteration of the book looks to be as inclusive as its predecessor.

(L to R) Black Alice, Strix, and Porcelain

(L to R) Black Alice, Strix, and Porcelain

To sum up the first issue, we see a group of kidnapped villains waking up together in a windowless cell as part of some social/psychological experiment. None have any idea how they arrived in their present location or who brought them there. Among the deviants are familiar faces, Catman and Black Alice, as well as Batgirl’s deranged nemesis, Shauna Belzer (a.k.a. The Ventriloquist) and the Court of Owls assassin, Strix.

One of the new faces in this group is Kani (a.k.a. Porcelain) a metahuman whose power manifestation causes physical matter turn brittle. Physically speaking and in comparison to the gothic bombshell, Black Alice, Porcelain comes across as androgynous. This is further perpetuated by the fact that, on the cover of the first issue, Kani bears a striking resemblance to the legendary Miss Grace Jones.

Catman meets Porcelain

Catman meets Porcelain

In addition to the character’s striking physical appearance, readers are given quite an interesting exchange of dialog between Catman, Porcelain, and Big Shot (another captive). Catman addresses Porcelain as “mister” but this “error” is immediately corrected by Big Shot. Instead of confirming gender, Kani merely says, “Let’s not say things we can’t take back.”

Given what we know of Gail Simone, her consistent championing of LGBT inclusiveness, and the inclusion of Alysia Yeoh, a transgender character, in the pages of Batgirl, it is not beyond reason to wonder if Porcelain could be another transgender character or, perhaps more likely, a genderqueer character.

Whatever secrets and development unfold with regards to Porcelain, Secret Six will surely be chock full of character variety and fantastic storytelling.

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Batwoman: Happily Never After.

15 07 2014

September 2013: The longtime Batwoman creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman part ways with the title due to “editorial decisions [that] came at the last minute, and always after a year or more of planning and plotting.” Fans of the book and those familiar with the ensuing drama are more than aware that these “editorial decisions” mainly surrounded the now-scrapped plans to have Kate Kane marry her longtime partner, Maggie Sawyer.

Sorry, Kate. It's a life of misery and solitude for you.

Sorry, Kate. It’s a life of misery and solitude for you.

As the backlash and outcry began to spiral into a public relations nightmare for DC, Dan DiDio took the opportunity, during a panel at the Baltimore Comic-Con, to address the situation.

“Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives,” he said. “They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests.” He then went on to point out members of the Bat family specifically. “People in the Bat family, their personal lives basically suck. Dick Grayson, rest in peace—oops shouldn’t have said that,—Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.”

In addition to not knowing the current Batwoman’s name (Kathy?), DiDio essentially issued a blanket statement that forbade the cowled heroes from indulging in anything that might bring them happiness. Their personal lives were doomed to forever reflect the depressing and crumbling facade of the city they have sworn to protect.

Since then, everything has been going according to plan. Current scribe, Marc Andreyko, is in the midst of squaring Batwoman off against the vampiric Nocturna and Maggie is battling her ex-husband for custody of their child. The relationship between Kate and Mags? Shaky, at best.

Barbara Gordon's nemesis, The Ventrilquist, is the stuff of nightmares.

Barbara Gordon’s nemesis, The Ventriloquist, is the stuff of nightmares.

Gail Simone has certainly had her hands full bringing forth the “doom and gloom” edict in the pages of Batgirl. Not only has the titular character faced the likes of demented villains like Ragdoll and the Ventriloquist, she’s also had to deal with the return of the Joker and her mother’s disfigurement at the hands of the madman. To top things off, a wealthy socialite, who moonlights as a morally ambiguous villainess, seems hellbent on destroying Gotham in order to prevent its further corruption.

July 2014: Roughly ten months have passed since DiDio spoke at the Baltimore convention and Batgirl is about to receive a drastic shift in tone. With Simone leaving the title and Cameron Stewart set to take the helm, Barbara Gordon will be relocating to the hipsterish Gotham borough of Burnside in order to tackle grad school.

In a recent interview with MTV, Stewart said, with regards to Barbara, “Just prior to the start of our story she’s pushed to the breaking point and decides that she’s had it with misery and darkness and wants a change. She wants the opportunity to have some fun and live the life of a young, single girl in the city, so she packs up and moves to Burnside.” Artist, Babs Tarr, added, “I am excited to bring some flirt, fun, and fashion to the title!”

"TOTES gonna go fight some crime, but first..." (you know the rest)

“TOTES gonna go fight some crime, but first…” (you know the rest)

Hold the presses! What happened to the destitute and lonely lives that the caped crusaders were being forced to endure for the sake of the mission? It couldn’t have just been a feeble attempt at damage control following fan rage over what appeared to be a blatant slap in the face to the LGBT community and a character that they’ve come to care about! That’s just unspeakable and would never happen in this day and age. </end sarcasm>

Does this mean that fans can expect a light at the end of a very dark tunnel to shine on Kate and Maggie? If solicits for future issues of Batwoman are to be believed, it might not be advisable to hold ones breath.

While it’s true that this doesn’t necessarily prove that there was any underlying homophobia with relation to the 86ed wedding of Kate and Maggie, it also doesn’t help add credence to DiDio’s insistence that there wasn’t.

At the same Baltimore convention, he emphasized the company’s support for their gay characters, “Name one other publisher out there who stands behind their gay characters the way we do.” Mr. DiDio, let’s get you introduced to Marvel Comics. Have the two of you met? Marjorie Liu’s Astonishing X-Men #51 might be a great place to start getting acquainted.





A 2013 Retrospective: Diversity Assemble!

9 01 2014
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Monet St. Croix

2013 shaped up to be quite an interesting year for diversity in mainstream comic books.  In a medium once ruled by stereotypical alpha male characters of a caucasian and heterosexual persuasion, it’s getting more difficult to shoot an optic blast without hitting at least one female, LGBT, or character of color.

Evidence of the progression that the comic book genre has made is all around. One only has to attend a comic book convention. Not only is a large percentage of visitors comprised of female geeks and LGBT readers, but any number of panels/screenings/talks are centered on numerous diversity issues that more and more fans are finding increasingly important.

Even 2013’s editorial “facepalms”  (re: DC’s Batwoman marriage scandal and the eyebrow raising “Harley Quinn Commits Suicide” art contest) could not stop the rising tide of progress that character diversity made throughout the year.

One of the most blatant examples of said progress is, inarguably, within the pages of Brian Wood’s X-Men.  The idea of an all-female team of X-Men is something that fans have been clamoring for for as long as I can remember. Not only does the current lineup of this squad boast all xx chromosomes, each member (save for Rachel Grey) is also a woman of color. Pre-Battle of the Atom teammates included Storm, Jubilee, and Psylocke… each representing Kenyan, Chinese, and Japanese ethnicities, respectively. They have since been joined by Karima Shapandar, a native of India formerly known as Omega Sentinel. Monet St. Croix, a Muslim of Algerian/Monegasque descent, first introduced in Generation X and most recently featured in Peter David’s run of X-Factor, has also been added to the roster . Each of these ladies on this team is a distinct voice and a powerhouse in her own right. Could any one of them go toe-to-toe with the likes of Captain American or Iron Man? Absolutely!

That’s not all when it comes to Mr. Wood’s book. The current villain in play is the Japanese cyborg, Lady Deathstrike. Yuriko has become a melting pot of her very own with her consciousness being uploaded into the body of Colombian heiress, Ana Cortes.

Bling! puts the moves on Jubilee.

Bling! puts the moves on Jubilee.

Let’s not forget about LGBT representation in X-Men. A secondary story is currently woven into the main plot involving the African-American/bisexual mutant, Bling!, and some Sapphic drama with fellow Jean Grey School classmate, Mercury. This recently culminated in Bling! planting a lip-lock on Jubilee in an attempt to make Mercury jealous.

While the X-books have always served as a metaphor for any number of oppressed minorities, Brian Wood should be given major credit for the fantastic work he has done on this title, thus far.

Female characters scored another success in the twelve issue (thirteen if you count the Age of Ultron tie-in… and you SHOULD) run of Cullen Bunn’s Fearless Defenders. The series was as fun and straightforward as an episode of GLOW (and, let’s face it, that’s pretty damn fun)… the good girls vs. the mean girls. The Defenders included Cheyenne Native American, Danielle Moonstar and African-American bionic badass, Misty Knight. As for the heroines who just happen to be lesbians, Annabelle Riggs and Ren Kimura had that area covered.

Shamrock tells the men where to go.

Shamrock tells the men where to go.

One of the most memorable moments from the series featured several of the Defenders’ significant others, gathering at a pub as a makeshift intervention to show the ladies the err of their ways. The world of masked heroics is just too dangerous for such fragile lasses. Having been involved in her fair share of superhero antics, the pub’s owner, eventually puts the whiny bags of testosterone in their place when it comes to sexism.

Marvel Comics has also proven, time and time again, that the books involving teenage characters both include and address diversity in a blasé manner. It is all very “matter of fact.” There’s no big “Yep, I’m gay.” speech at a news conference (sorry, Northstar). This could easily be chalked up to the fact that younger generations of people have been exposed to different cultures and ethnicities from the moment they are born. Avengers Arena and Young Avengers are two of these titles that ran through 2013 and featured a bevy of kids from all walks of life.

Cullen Bloodstone and Cammi share a moment in Murderworld.

Cullen Bloodstone and Cammi share a moment in Murderworld.

Dennis Hopeless’ Avengers Arena introduced us to Cullen Bloodstone (of the monster-hunting Bloodstones). He was one of the unlucky students from the Braddock Academy to find himself trapped in Arcade’s Murderworld. As if being pitted against fifteen other superpowered teenagers in a Battle Royale/kill-or-be-killed contest for Arcade’s sole entertainment, he also has to deal with his unrequited feelings for his (presumably) heterosexual classmate, Anachronism.

As the body count rises, there’s an interesting moment between Cullen and Cammi. She asks him about the secret feelings that he’s been harboring about one of the other gameplayers. Cammi doesn’t bat an eyelash at the revelation that Cullen has fallen for another man. Instead, she advises him against getting attached to anyone because the only way out of Murderworld is by being the sole survivor at the end of the game. The big “coming out” scene is treated casual as if it’s not a big deal. Honestly, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Superhero selfie (courtesy of the Young Avengers)

Superhero selfie (courtesy of the Young Avengers)

One really cannot speak of teenage superheroes and diversity without touching on Kieron Gillen’s SUPERB run on Young Avengers. First off, the series features one of Marvel’s longest-running gay couples, Hulkling and Wiccan. The wonderful thing about these characters is that their relationship feels organic. Readers have been able to follow its development since the days of Allen Hienberg’s run in 2005. They aren’t generic plot devices thrown into a story for the sake of having a token gay relationship.

Also joining the team is African-American depowered mutant, Prodigy. Gillen put an interesting spin on David’s previous powerset. Through the course of Young Avengers, we learn that David identifies as bisexual. He attributes this to his previous ability to mimic the knowledge from anyone’s mind that he came into contact with. This knowledge still remains within him despite being depowered on M-Day.

Team bruiser came in the shape of one Miss America Chavez. Introduced during Joe Casey’s Vengeance, the interdimensional Latina heroine proved herself to be an invaluable asset to the team… especially when it came time to putting the Norse trickster god, Loki, in his place. Speaking of Loki, the pansexual, occasionally female-bodied brother of Thor was the perfect thorn in the team’s side.

Batgirl's roommate, Alysia Yeoh

Batgirl’s roommate, Alysia Yeoh

Over on the DC Comics side of the room, champion of diversity, Gail Simone (seriously, she should list that as a “special skill” on her résumé), introduced what may be the first transgender character in mainstream comic books. Barbara Gordon’s (a.k.a. Batgirl) roommate came out as transgender to the titular character following the events of Death of the Family. The great thing about Alysia is that she is not transgender due to a latent superhero ability to shapeshift… it’s just a part of who she is as a person.

Reflecting back on the past year definitely gives one high hopes for the new year. Judging by early solicitations and news media outlets, it doesn’t appear that 2014 will disappoint.

Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel

Beginning in February, G. Willow Wilson will bring us the adventures of the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. The teenager from New Jersey styles herself as Carol Danvers’ number one fan and, after discovering her Inhuman heritage and shapeshifting abilities, takes on the classic mantle. Yes, Kamala is not the first Muslim to appear in a Marvel title. She is, however, the first Muslim to receive a solo title.

February will also see Cullen Bloodstone return as a main character in Dennis Hopeless’ Avengers Undercover while Loki receives own solo series, Loki: Agent of Asgard. Writer Al Ewing promises that the Loki’s book will address the god’s fluid sexuality and gender identity.

Comic books have always been a way to kick back and escape from reality. A way to suspend disbelief and connect with a character that does what needs to be done for the greater good of humanity. Thankfully, today, more people are able to do just that. People from different backrounds or ethnicities. People of different sexual orientations. People both male and female. The truth is, in the end, we all look the same behind a mask and cape.