Posts Tagged ‘comic book heroes’

We’re talking about She-Hulk, the Marvel Comics heroine whose show is streaming on Disney+. There’s been a lot of fan reaction, but I thought I’d add my own thoughts. To avoid spoilers, I won’t be addressing individual episodes so much as themes I’m picking up on.

One of the first fan reactions I heard was the usual tiresome shouting from angry men who can’t stand it when any female character gets a featured role. They said Jennifer was disloyal to Bruce and she disrespected his experience as the Hulk. I have to say, that was not my read on it at all. I felt that the first episode really deepened Bruce’s character. Instead of the miserable wanderer, we see him having a warm family relationship with his younger cousin. Jennifer is like Bruce’s kid sister. They are competitive in a healthy way. I can also imagine them sharing a bond as both being remarkably intelligent. Bruce the physicist and Jennifer the lawyer must have been the odd ones out among their more ordinary families.

Yes, Bruce gave the best advice he could, and no, Jennifer didn’t take it. Wanting to make your own decisions about your life doesn’t seem all that disrespectful to me.

Related to Bruce’s well-meaning advice, there’s a recurring theme of people telling Jennifer who she should be. She loses her job for revealing herself as She-Hulk. She gets a new job and shows up as Jennifer, only to be told she has to appear as She-Hulk when she’s at work. Later she goes to a friend’s wedding as She-Hulk and the friend tells her to be Jennifer again. But when she’s trying to get dates, nobody is interested in Jennifer, they only want to date She-Hulk.

There are a number of other pointed comments about women’s achievements being undercut in the workplace, but for me this is the most trenchant point in the episodes so far. No matter what Jennifer does, someone will pop up and tell her that she should be someone else.

If I have one dissatisfaction with the show, it’s the amount of drunkenness that gets played for laughs. There’s substance abuse in my family, and this touches a nerve. I just can’t laugh at people whose lives are that out of control. Like Jennifer’s identity constantly being challenged, this is something I hope will be fully addressed as the show plays out.

Is it a good show? Yes. Most women will find things that resonate from our own experiences. Most men will learn something (especially if they aren’t screaming while they watch).

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As long as I’m commenting on comic book TV, I might as well talk about She-Hulk. Since buying Marvel, Disney has been steadily adding characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and She-Hulk is just the latest.

She-Hulk is another character I remember from reading many of her original issues. Her first series was in the early ’80s and it was very… meh. In this era, Hulk had regressed to a very simple-minded, violent being whose clothes were always torn and his hair was a mess. The tone of his series was heavy and dramatic. In her initial appearances, She-Hulk was very derivative. Her clothes were torn, her hair was a mess, she could hardly talk, and the tone was heavy.

This series was not successful, and it only lasted a few issues. The thought among fans at the time was that Marvel wasn’t really invested in this character, so much as wanting to prevent any other companies from creating a “female Hulk.” For this purpose, a few “meh” issues were sufficient to establish the copyright.

Other creative teams picked up the character over the next years, but what really saved the character was the author/artist John Byrne. Byrne was a major talent, and Marvel would let him do anything if he stayed with their company. One of the things Byrne did was revamp She-Hulk.

Basically, he flipped everything. Hulk still couldn’t speak a sentence of more than three words. She-Hulk was articulate and attempted to maintain her legal career. Hulk’s clothes and hair were a mess. She-Hulk was sleek and glamorous. His series was even more angsty than before. Hers was funny, light and confident. In keeping with lots of TV at the time, She-Hulk broke the “third wall” and seemed aware of being a comic book character.

Byrne’s approach worked, and She-Hulk became a huge success. She joined the Fantastic Four and the Avengers (not at the same time, though). Even when her own series ended, she remained an enduring fan favorite. It’s a smart move for Disney/Marvel Cinematic Universe to bring her in. It’s even smarter to follow Byrne’s comedic approach, which is what the fans embraced.

That’s the history. Next time, I’ll talk about the series episodes and fan reaction. But first, if anyone has been watching (I know, there are so many streaming services that you have to choose which you get) I’d love to hear what you think of the show.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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The Sandman series, on Netflix, has been getting a lot of buzz recently. I’m here to tell you, the buzz is deserved.

I remember my husband picking up the Sandman title back in the ’90s, when DC Comics revived one of its oldest characters, the Sandman. Originally a pulp action hero from 1939, the Sandman used a gun that fired sleep gas, and wore a gas mask to avoid breathing the gas himself. The character had surprising longevity, making the transition from pulp to superhero and even helping found the Justice League, but by the ’90s he had been dormant for a long time.

DC aimed to change that, and the editors enlisted a young and hungry British writer named Neil Gaiman to do it. Gaiman’s approach was to blend the trappings of superhero with the supernatural trappings of pulp fiction, and spice it with the scandal and suspense of the old EC horror titles. The result was a strange and striking invention.

Sandman has often been referred to as a horror title, and it’s true the subject matter sometimes gets very dark. I think, though, that the title fits better as urban fantasy, which was becoming increasingly important in the ’90s. The main character, Dream, has been held prisoner by a cult for 100 years, and has to reclaim his place while re-learning a world that has changed during his absence. Gaiman created a whole cosmology of the Endless, beings who represent core human needs and traits. The Endless intersect with lots of other supernatural realms like Hell and with the standard DC Comics universe. Even in the earliest issues, you can see the great fantasist Gaiman would become and how he would change the landscape for both comics and the YA genre.

Is this a good adaptation of the comic? I think so, and not just because Gaiman has been personally involved. The characters and plots seem much the same to me. What’s been updated most is the inclusion of more diverse characters in the casting. The original comics were basically all white. That no longer works for contemporary audiences, and I was glad to see that some important roles were filled with actors of color.

I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers, but if you’ve been wondering whether Sandman is really as good as all that… Yes. You should watch it.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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After all those guest posts, it seems like time for me to write something new just for this blog. We went to see Avengers End Game over the weekend and enjoyed it a lot. There is one time paradox that wasn’t resolved, and I felt in many cases that they lingered too long on the emotional shots. The editors could have trimmed a good 15 minutes by controlling those better. Still, these quibbles weren’t enough to interfere with my pleasure in the story.

One thing I had heard in advance was that all the women characters were sacrificed to make the plot go. For a long time, activists have been pointing out that characters in movies/TV who represent an outsider — gays, women, minorities — very often are killed or suffer some other grievous harm, such as a rape. This spurs the hero — almost always a white guy — to seek revenge or whatever the plot entails.

Having seen the movie, I must partly disagree. Not ALL the women were sacrificed to push a man’s plot. Several were, but at least one of them completed her own arc rather than merely dying to propel her male comrade forward. Also, there was a gay character who was not killed off. It was a small part, but significant, I think.

And that, actually, is about all I can say without giving anything away. If you saw Avengers End Game, I’m interested in whether you spotted the same time paradox that I did, and what else stood out for you. Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

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