A Place Both Wonderful and Strange… and a Little Bit Queer.

22 10 2014

“Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black coffee.”

Aficionados of the groundbreaking and short-lived television series, Twin Peaks, have undoubtedly found resonance in that indelible quote from the charismatic Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). However, in this instance, the month of October saw series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost bestow said presents onto their loyal fan base. Not only was a third season set to debut in 2016, but an accompanying novel (penned by Mr. Frost) would reveal the fates of the town’s memorable denizens since we last saw them… twenty-five years ago.

To say that the characters and situations introduced in the brief, original run of Twin Peaks were peculiar would be an understatement. Referring to them as “queer” might be a bit more on point. This is not to say that the mysterious little haven in the Pacific Northwest was teeming with homosexual activity. It merely suggests that the basic definition of “queer” ( adj: differing in some odd way from what is deemed usual or normal) is arguably more appropriate.

However, amid the murders, dancing dwarves, and cryptic giants, the series still managed to serve up some LGBT-centric queer moments… and some damned good cherry pie.

Catherine Martell: From head-bitch-in-charge to scheming Asian businessman.

Catherine Martell: From head-bitch-in-charge to scheming Asian businessman.

The character of Catherine Martell (flawlessly portrayed by Piper Laurie) is remembered for many things… blackmail, attempted arson, accounting fraud, enslaving her sister-in-law, faking her own death, dressing up in full Asian businessman drag in order to swindle a plot of land out from under her ex-lover’s feet. Yes, Catherine “Tojamura” Martell… crossplaying before it was cool. So dedicated was she to her cause that Catherine altered not only her gender, she managed to tweak her stature, mannerisms, and voice. Her transformation so well-done that most newbie viewers were completely unaware of Tojamura’s true identity until the big reveal.

During the second season, the cast of Twin Peaks added to its ranks an actor who would eventually go on to portray one of the most famous FBI agents in sci-fi television… David Duchovny. It is perhaps this reason that he is best known for the role of Fox Mulder on The X-Files instead of a DEA agent on Twin Peaks.

What was so special about David Duchovny portraying a DEA agent on a television series that regularly featured characters from federal law enforcement agencies? His character was one of few (only?) openly trans characters on television at the time.

Denise Bryson arrives in Twin Peaks.

Denise Bryson arrives in Twin Peaks.

It is never made explicitly clear as to whether or not Denise Bryson self-identifies as transgender. However, it should be noted, that the character presents herself as a woman in both her professional and personal life. In fact, the only time that viewers see Denise revert back to Dennis is during a sting operation when the agent had to disguise herself.

The casting of a transgender character on a network television series during the 90s was pretty groundbreaking and it was both surprising and refreshing to see the character used in a way that was not just a punchline for a joke. In fact, she had some pretty heroic moments. Dale Cooper’s future could have turned out quite bleak without his old friend’s intervention.

Sexual activity was pretty fluid in the tiny hamlet of Twin Peaks. Physical affairs were sparked left, right, and sideways. None of this is more evident than with the character of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)… the emotionally tortured homecoming queen whose death in the pilot episode ignited one of the most memorable murder mysteries in television history.

Laura Palmer with Ronette Pulaski and Teresa Banks at the Blue Diamond Motel.

Laura Palmer with Ronette Pulaski and Teresa Banks at the Blue Diamond Motel.

It is probably unfair to label Laura Palmer as bisexual. However, it was strongly implied during the events of Fire Walk With Me that she had a physical relationship with both Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine) and Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley). Jennifer Lynch’s companion piece, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, also alluded to the fact that she was carrying on a tryst with Josie Packard (Joan Chen) during their English tutoring sessions.

Flash-forward to twenty-five years later. Fans are on the cusp of revisiting the town of Twin Peaks. Much has changed in the country with regards to LGBT rights and representation. It is pretty safe to assume that these advancements, in some way, will be reflected in the third season of Twin Peaks as David Lynch has never been one to shy away from LGBT themes in his work (Mulholland Drive).

 





Credence: A Family at the End of the World.

17 07 2014

20140624060626-Screen_Shot_2014-06-24_at_12_42_58On July 13th, an IndieGogo was launched to assist in the funding of Credence, “the first sci-fi to challenge LGBT portrayal in film”. As of today, five days later, the project has amassed 133% of its goal… with donations still being accepted through August 12th. To say this was an incredible feat would be an understatement.

Click here to visit Geeks OUT for the full article.





Days of Future Past: Mystique Without a Destiny.

23 05 2014

imageFor as long as they have been in print, the plight of Marvel’s mutants has stood as a metaphor for oppressed minorities dealing with prejudice, bigotry, and hatred. The Civil Rights Movement, the Stonewall riots, the current fight for LGBT rights. Parallels to these real-life events can be found sprinkled throughout the 50+ years of X-Men history.

The X-Men, themselves, are not without their own LGBT representation. A minority within a minority, if you will. Jean-Paul Beaubier (Northstar), Xi’an Coy Manh (Karma), Victor Borkowski (Anole), Roxy Washington (Bling!), Shatterstar, Cessily Kincaid (Mercury), and David Alleyne (Prodigy) are just a few.

Perhaps the most notable bisexual character on Marvel’s LGBT roster, Raven Darkholme (Mystique) made her debut within the pages of Ms. Marvel in the 1970s. From there, she would eventually go on to lead an incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and become one of the X-Men’s most infamous adversaries. Ever morally ambiguous, the shapeshifter would also rear an adopted daughter (the future X-Man, Rogue) with her lover, the blind precognitive, Irene Adler (Destiny).

Created by Chris Claremont in 1981 and first appearing in Uncanny X-Men #141, Destiny was intended, from the beginning, to be an intimate companion for Mystique. At that time, however, probibitions against gay/lesbian depictions in comic books were in place by the Comics Code Authority and the villains’ relationship had to be presented in a very subtle manner, often labeled only as “friends”. The original plans to have Nightcrawler be a biological child to both women (with Mystique shapeshifting into a man for the conception) had to be scrapped.

tumblr_lo2r5zFj1K1qj1ajtIt wasn’t until long after Irene’s death on Muir Island, at the hands of Legion, that the true nature of her relationship with Mystique was fleshed out and fully awknowledged. At Northstar’s wedding, Rogue would even make it a point to wonder if her childhood would’ve been different had her mothers been allowed to marry.

To date, Mystique has appeared in five of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men films, portrayed by both Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence. While her questionable allegiances and motives are fairly true to her comic book counterpart, her sexuality has barely been touched upon (it was implied that she and Magneto had been schtupping).

X-Men: Days of Future Past is Bryan Singer’s return to mutant cinematic universe. Loosely based on the two-part Uncanny X-Men story of the same name, the basic premise sees Wolverine time-traveling back to the 1970s to prevent the birth of the Sentinel program by stopping the assassination of Bolivar Trask at the hands of Mystique. A glaring difference between the two depictions is that, while Mystique works alone in her attempts to murder Trask in the film, her entire Brotherhood, including Destiny, aims for the target (Sen. Robert Kelly) in the original storyline. In fact, Irene is the last member of the team to make an attempt on the Senator’s life.

While this may not seem like an enormous deal to most viewers, some fans could be left questioning whether or not Fox just fumbled a perfect opportunity to include LGBT representation into the X-Men cinematic universe.

Mystique scatters Destiny's ashes at sea. Destiny still gets the last word.

Mystique scatters Destiny’s ashes at sea. Destiny still gets the last word.

With the size of the cast already busting at the seams, it was quite clear that adding an entire Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was highly improbable from the start. Focusing on Mystique as an antagonist is not necessarily a bad idea. It helps establish a distinct development that was necessary to show how the character evolved, following the events of First Class, to become the woman we remember from X2.

With that in mind, including Irene Adler could still have easily worked in a different capacity and, with the amount of time that passed between First Class and Days of Future Past, the organic development of a relationship between Raven and Irene is not beyond the realm of plausibility. Not only would this have humanized the character of Mystique and allowed the audience to view her as more than just a mutant terrorist, it would have also added an extra layer to the motives behind her contentious actions throughout the series.

In essence, Days of Future Past, is a film about the “butterfly effect”. The slightest interactions by Wolverine and co. with the past can drastically and continuously alter the events of the future. The character of Destiny would have been an interesting liaison, of sorts, to the changes befalling the future timeline, randomly updating the characters as to their actions’ repercussions on the time stream.

1678700-brotherhood_of_evil_mutants_02Fox and the X-Men film franchise are not alone when it comes to lacking in LGBT representation. Despite a handful of gay/lesbian characters in its ranks, the Avengers have yet to really venture into that territory within their cinematic universe. Lesbian H.A.M.M.E.R./S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Victoria Hand, who was featured during Brian Michael Bendis’ tenure on Dark Avengers, appeared briefly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series before being killed off after four episodes. Little development of the character was done before her subsequent demise and viewers would have no knowledge of her sexuality if they were unfamiliar with her comic book appearances.

With the number of LGBT comic book characters increasing, it seems, by the year, one can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the respective cinematic universes begin to follow suit. Including gay/lesbian diversity in these films is not a recipe for box office disaster and the throngs of queer fans at any number of comic book conventions can attest to that.

 





The Gays vs. The Grammys.

27 01 2014

A friend from New York City posted the following status update this morning, “If only people would have as much courage to stand up to their enemies as vigorously as they try to rip apart their allies.” My feelings toward the social media commentary (from a particular segment of the population), regarding last night’s Grammy Awards, had been perfectly captured.

Ah, award shows. A time-honored tradition that I had pretty much written off once the music industry segued from recognizing the innovative in favor of the commercial (that’s an article for another day). With that said, I had very little interest in any aspect of the 2014 Grammy Awards until I came across a blurb about a scheduled performance of Macklemore’s marriage equality anthem, “Same Love.” The rendition was also set to feature the track’s collaborators, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert, as well as Madonna and Queen Latifah (the latter would be the officiant during a mass wedding ceremony to take place during the performance).

Color me intrigued. The social and political ramifications following a live broadcast of over 30 couples (both heterosexual and homosexual) exchanging vows during a performance of an immensely successful and mainstream pop single were too tempting to ignore. I elected to rely on various social media feeds to recap the show and then tune in once the performance in question was about to begin.

Lorde

Lorde

My Facebook news feed is mainly comprised of the opinions and rantings of gay men that I’ve met over the years. Some I have known for over a decade. Others I have met in passing, once or twice. The one thing that we all have in common is that we are part of a community that has, unquestionably, been subjected to harassment, insults, inequality, and disparaging comments for as long as memory serves.

We are also more than just casually aware of the rising epidemic of teenage suicide due to an increase in both the brutality involved with bullying and new methods with which to do it… namely, social media.

After having my visual senses assaulted by a flood of vicious commentary aimed at various performers at last night’s ceremony, I am suggesting that some of these acquaintances in the gay community look up the word “hypocrisy” in the dictionary.

A large segment of last night’s cyber-vitriol was hurled towards the physical appearance of 17-year-old, Lorde. The New Zealand native is one of the indie-pop scene’s newest darlings and has even earned the praise of David Bowie (note to haters: all of her talent aside, just garnering the approval of Ziggy Stardust makes her better than you). I would like to reiterate the fact that she is a 17-year-old girl. A 17-year-old girl with a penchant for the arts. I would actually be critical if she was NOT taking the liberty of being creative with her wardrobe and makeup to express herself. What I found interesting about the abuse directed at Lorde was that it made me question how much, if any, of that would be aimed at the likes of Lady Gaga if she walked out onstage in a similar look.

Further insults flew in the direction of older musical legends like Willie Nelson, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, and Carole King. Again, all based on physical appearances. I suppose this can be chalked up to the ignorance that many 20-something-year-old gays have when it comes to, not only the artistic merits of these accomplished individuals, but also their contributions to gay rights over the years. A simple Google search would reveal the very outspoken support for gay rights by both Nelson and Ono. Apparently, when an older generation of heterosexual music icons lend their voices against bigotry, they are thanked by being referred to as looking like a “redneck crackhead” or an “Oriental woman dancing like she’s having a seizure.”

"Same Love"

“Same Love”

I was especially surprised at some of the nasty references to both Madonna and Mary Lambert, two of the co-performers during “Same Love.” You would never guess that the gay community held these two women in any sort of esteem with gratitude for their support of marriage equality. Mary Lambert’s weight was an easy target for some as was Madonna’s cosmetic surgery and use of a cane due to a recent foot injury.

By the time “Same Love” came and went, any excitement I had for the performance had waned due to the sheer ugliness floating through cyberspace towards many folks who have had the community’s back when very few others did. Some of these individuals have done more for gay rights and AIDS awareness than most of us could ever attempt to do in our lifetime.

Most of the folks slinging these comments would, undoubtedly, claim they were just “joking around” and being “witty.” You know who else said they were “joking around”? The cretins who drove Jamey Rodemeyer and Tyler Clementi to suicide. Remind me how we are any better than them? And, no, the likelihood (or lack, thereof) of these celebrities committing suicide in the wake of cyber-bullying does not give people the proverbial “green light” to eviscerate them via the internet. That line of defense is so weak it would get you laughed off of a 9th grade debate team.

I would also like to point out that a key element in the definition of “witty” is “inventive.” None of the comments that I read last night were even remotely inventive. Instead, most were just cruel and shallow and did nothing but further perpetuate unfortunate stereotypes about the gay community.

The next time we are looking for support from the straight community against anti-gay politicians, bigots, or bullies, we should ask ourselves, “Why would they support us if this is how we show our appreciation?”





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.

 





Leaving Behind a Legacy.

22 10 2013

x_men_legacy__14_by_deadlymike-d6eyyooA funny thing happened in November of 2012. A quirky comic book title centering on an oft-overlooked mutant character was born. David Haller, otherwise known as Professor Xavier’s mentally unstable son, Legion, would be headlining Si Spurrier’s relaunch of X-Men Legacy. Oh, there were naysayers and readers who quizzically cocked their heads in confusion that such a book was being ushered out with Marvel’s first wave of “NOW!” titles. Unfortunately, I have to count myself among their ranks. How on 616’s earth would a character like Legion be able to sustain an ongoing title in such a capacity that readers would continue to pick up the latest issue each month?

What we weren’t prepared for was the odd and imaginative literary magic that Spurrier would weave into the pages of Legacy. A very devoted and vocal fan following developed and the book would become, consistently, one of the best written X-books each month.

To bring foolish non-readers up to speed, X-Men Legacy finds Legion dealing with the fallout of his father’s death during AvX and trying to figure out his own place in the grand scheme of the fledgling mutant race. With a “legion” of multiple personalities that inhabit his fractured psyche (each with their own mutant ability), David decides on a more direct approach to dealing with mutant threats… he intends to preemptively cut them off at the pass before any damage can be done. His machinations do not go unnoticed by mutant precog, Ruth Aldine (a.k.a. Blindfold). These two outcasts soon find themselves inexplicably drawn to eachother and are soon as inseparable as Sid and Nancy.

One of the interesting aspects of the book is that the story alternates between events happening on the physical plane and those occurring within Legion’s gray matter. By delving into the trappings of Legion’s mind, readers are not only treated to a first-hand account of David’s internal thought process, but we also have the opportunity to witness the chaos of having a near-infinite cavalry of sometimes very dangerous personalities running amuck in his head.

X-Men Legacy 13-01Fans of continuity references and tertiary characters have, arguably, made up a good portion of Legacy‘s fan base and with good reason. Past events like Inferno were referenced and obscure characters (Ruckus of the Nasty Boys, Lila Cheney, Pete Wisdom, Meggan, Liam Connaughton, and Alchemy) were dug out of Marvel’s bottomless bin of forgotten mutants. Spurrier also used the past year to tie up the loose end regarding Blindfold’s brother who was briefly but ominously mentioned by Destiny towards the end of Necrosha. In addition, we finally get closure (albeit, heartbreaking) between Legion and his estranged mother, Gabrielle.

The X-books, Legacy included, and mutant characters in general have always been seen as a metaphor for any persecuted minority in real life. Gay and lesbian fans of comic books have often gravitated to Marvel’s merry mutants for this very reason. From reparative therapy clinics and virulent anti-mutant protests, Legacy‘s references to some of the daily vitriol that many members of the LGBT community still face was crystal clear.

As we have learned from Marvel’s January 2014 solicitations, nothing this great lasts forever. The start of the new year will, unfortunately, see the series “race towards its conclusion.” I don’t doubt that the climax of this book will be as enjoyable as the story thus far. One of the few saving graces is that Si Spurrier and amazing cover artist, Mike Del Mundo, will be allocated to other Marvel titles.

If you have been a reader of any countless X-books in the past but have avoided this title due to a lack of “a-list” characters or immediate ties to the various mediocre crossover events that we’ve been subjected to in the last year, I suggest digging through your store’s long boxes, dropping a couple of bucks on the back issues, and settling in for quite a fantastic ride.





Fearless: A Requiem for the Defenders.

18 10 2013

tumblr_mteam7F0V11qzidaoo1_1280In February of 2013, if you were to tell me that my favorite book of this year would be mainly comprised of C and D-List superheroines and villainesses, would I have believed you? Yes. Yes, I would. If you’ve had the opportunity to speak with me about my love of comic books for at least five minutes, you would quickly find out that my unwavering love for underused and underutilized female characters knows no bounds.

For those of you not in the know (yes, I hold you all mostly responsible for the book’s cancellation), Fearless Defenders  spun out of the events of Fear Itself: The Fearless, arguably the only good tie-in associated with the Fear Itself crossover event. The first issue hit store shelves just prior to Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle which, coincidentally, would be the first time that I had the priviledge of meeting the book’s scribe, Cullen Bunn. His excitement about the new book was palpable. I remember discussing Misty Knight with him and stating that she doesn’t get the love she deserves even though she’s pretty much Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown with a robot arm!

battleThe book brought together a ragtag group of female superheroes to battle the love child of Doctor Doom and Morgan Le Fay as she and her army of Doom Maidens attempt to usher in world-wide destruction. The team leadership role was split between Brunnhilde (Valkyrie) and Misty Knight. As the story progressed, the team’s ranks would expand to include a bookish archaeologist (Annabelle Riggs), a resurrected Amazonian warrior (Hippolyta) a depowered mutant (Danielle Moonstar), a snarky British monster hunter (Elsa Bloodstone), an exiled sorceress (Clea), and a newly activated Inhuman (Ren Kimura). Even with such a large and diverse cast, Bunn had no problems adding to each character’s development within the story and giving each lady her own, distinct voice.

Caroline Le Fay’s team of Doom Maidens was also made up of a veritable who’s who of “where the hell have they been?” villainesses… Ruby Thursday. Quicksand. Sylvie Lushton (The Enchantress). Titania. Scorpia. Mindblast. Shriek. When a creator pulls characters like this out of “comic book limbo”, it’s pretty safe to say that it has more to do with his/her affinity for the character and less to do with editorial mandate.

titaniaWill Sliney handled the pencilling for the series (save for issue #7 in which Stephanie Hans took the helm for Clea’s return). To say that his work was consistently enjoyable would be an understatement. His characters’ facial expressions were crisp and clearly demonstrated the appropriate emotion required for the panel (the pseudo-condescending looks and side-eye that Elsa would throw Misty were some of the most memorable). During some of the epic smackdowns and battle scenes, characters were never lost due to murky artwork which is more than some other artists on the top-tier books can boast. Sliney’s pencils, coupled with both beautiful coloring from Veronica Gandini and Mark Brook’s absolutely stunning covers, made for some unforgettable visuals.

If we have learned anything from Marvel Comics over the years, it’s that nothing this good ever lasts forever (read: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s Alpha Flight reboot, Jeff Parker’s Agents of Atlas and Atlas) It’s easy for folks to say that books that lack an A-list character like Captain America or Iron Man will never make it. I don’t necessarily believe that to be true. Books featuring these characters are going to sell, regardless, and yet they are the titles that generally receive the most promotion and the heaviest push from Marvel. It’s well beyond time that publishers give the underdogs a bit more of a boost instead of leaving them to tread water until they’ve become exhausted around issue #12. The fans and creative teams of these books deserve better.

FDWhile the fanbase of Fearless Defenders may not be as large as that which reads any one of the sixty Wolverine-centric titles that Marvel pushes out on a monthly basis, I can safely say that we are a dedicated and vocal fanbase. Perhaps my memory deceives me, but I don’t recall seeing any Savage Wolverine readers organizing a cosplay photo shoot based on the book at this year’s NYCC.

Fearless Defenders was one of those rare gems that my eyeballs eagerly gobbled up each month on the day it was released. It represented both female and queer characters in not only a positive but also a powerful light. Saying it will be greatly missed just doesn’t seem appropriate enough of a sentiment.

My hat goes off to Cullen Bunn, Will Sliney, Ellie Pyle, Stephanie Hans, Veronica Gandini, Phil Jimenez, and the entire team involved in the title. I know I speak for many others when I say “thank you.”