skip to content or skip to search form


Identity Crisis: Wrap-Up

Somehow I thought I’d write something meaningful before now, but somehow sleep and work and Christmas shopping and Christmas knitting and Christmasy giving got in the way. Odd. I do still have things to say about labelling and ratings, but for now go read about how the creators of Hotel Rwanda successfully fought for a PG-13 rating (New York Time subscription required, and the article may not be free by the time I get back, which is why I’m giving it now) and watch the director’s commentary to Saved and watch Whale Rider and think about its rating, and then you’ll be able to write that post for me and I won’t have to bother. Instead I can go out into almost-record snow to drive to Buffalo, New York, home of snow and winter weather, yet warmer than Kentucky last I checked. At least I hope I can, because it would be really depressing to be stuck in some motel in the middle of Ohio because the highways are closed or something like that.

Anyway, a week after reading Identity Crisis #7, I get to come back to it and remind everyone that I was Cassandra and that I’m unsurprised. Mostly for my own purposes, I’m going to just gather things I said leading up to the last issue here, just in case you really want to know what I thought.

After reading issue 4, I think the last I read before this final episode, I made threats about how angry I would be if Spectre was using singular “they” to avoid giving away the fact that the killer was one woman. And lo, this is a trick every bit as good as having Jean give herself away by knowing something she couldn’t have known. What a writer that guy is! Wow!

Here’s Steven’s post on misogyny where I talked a whole lot about reading and also about how the story could turn out to be good and subversive and probably wouldn’t. It didn’t. And I was right that the pregnancy subplot was a dead herring, but wrong that I would stick with the series.

And how did the sexual assault tie into this, since its inclusion is the reason I felt morally obligated to read the story at all? Not a lot, and I briefly touch on my thoughts about that in this comments thread. And by the way, it’s really driving me crazy to have see people implying they themselves are sensitive and pro-woman while constantly saying “assrape”, and I pick on ADD only because I’ve seen him use the term several times, but he’s not alone. (As an aside, why do so many men make rape jokes so much? Or do I just not hang out with the right women who are doing this too? There seems to be a gender divide and I know a lot of the theories, especially about the prevalence of prison rape jokes and homophobia in its most etymologically literalistic sense, but it still seems to me that they ought to be self-aware enough to be troubled by this. I’m troubled by it, but I don’t think that matters in a larger sense.) (As a second aside, I should probably check whether the text in Identity Crisis uses the term “rape,” because if this is the case there’s a good chance it could invalidate all the readers who want to argue this was a depiction of anal sex, but I can’t do it decisively because I don’t know the DC Universe legal code’s stance on defining sex crimes.)

Anyway, there’s probably more of it than that, but I feel sufficiently vindicated, or something. I thought it was poorly written and not well-drawn throughout and the story was ridiculously bad. And maybe I’ll find the missing issues and write about the ethics of mindwiping (which I learned last night also happened in the Marvel Mangaverse, although I accidentally dropped the book in the bathtub before learning the full consequences, and the pages seem amazingly porous) and bad portrayals of sexual assault, or maybe I’ll never write about Identity Crisis again, which would also be fun.

And speaking of fun, if your idea of it is digging out a car and then setting out on a car trip that could take twice the time it ought to and maybe involve closed interstates, you’re going to be awfully jealous of me for the next many hours! Steven has burned some cds and there’s good conversation to be had, and if it comes right down to it I’m willing to make the sacrifice of eating the cookies I’ve made to pass the time. So we’ll be back after the weekend, cold and exhausted and probably still happy, and maybe even blogging. Enjoy the break.

“your pictures will protect me”

I always enjoy seeing what other internetty folks look like, so I’m finally going to return the favor (?) by posting a few of our wedding pictures. Actually part of the reason we’ve never shown up here before is that it’s been almost impossible for both Steven and me to look sane and human in any given photo, but the sheer prevalence of cameras managed to break that streak a bit. This isn’t something I want showing up on Fanboy Rampage but is just something our readers can look at for educational/entertainment purposes. Results may vary, or something like that.

Read the rest of this entry »

… has gone before

I know I said I’d be writing something substantive soon, but indulge me for another post (or maybe a few). Steven and I watched Trekkies last night, and it got me thinking about community and connectedness. And yes, this has a lot to do with seeing things through my currrent lens, but I understood the interviewees talking about how they’d met each other through Star Trek and the kinship they share in being fans and all that stuff. Right now I’m getting over being totally impressed by the kind, supportive comments off all sorts of people I’ve never talked to away from this screen as well as all the live people who’ve been part of my life or Steven’s and who wanted to be with us as kind, supportive witnesses to our public commitment, which is really the only thing making it different from the private relationship we’d had previously (and, I suppose, still).

Anyway, that was me apologizing for getting a bit misty-eyed about Trekkies and about the comics blogosphere. It’s really an exciting feeling to belong in just about any situation. In college, I ran a support group for survivors of sexual assault, and I think for most of us involved the most helpful, important thing we got from group discussions was the real understanding that we had shared emotional experiences, that I could talk about something that made me feel alienated and have someone say, “Oh, yeah, I understand and for me it’s like this…” I don’t think comics bloggers are a support group, but they serve that particular function of creating a kind of connectedness or re-norming.

Part of the reason I’m thinking about this, though, is that connectedness isn’t absolute, and it has its limits. In watching, I said to Steven of one Trekkie, “The cross-dressing doesn’t bother me at all, but I can’t handle the filk,” and I was being entirely honest. Some things are just beyond the pale, and while I can appreciate that people I like enjoy them, they seem laughably bad to me. I know others think the same of me, and I still appreciate not being lynched for being unimpressed and annoyed by Eightball #23. I’ve always been interested in metablogging issues, and so it’s really fascinating to me to follow the different styles and approaches of the various comics bloggers, sometimes more than the blogs themselves. While it’s definitely fun that there are other bloggers writing analytically about mostly superhero comics — and more of them than when we began blogging here — I also read and enjoy reading writers whose aesthetic preferences have almost no overlap with mine. So while I feel a certain kind of kinship with other like-type bloggers and don’t always feel I quite fit in within the larger blogosphere (whatever that means) I get something out of all of it. And while I think I have more overlap with Steven than with anyone else probably ever, both of us appreciate having ppeople other than each other to talk to about these things we find intriguing.

But what I was really trying to get at in all that inanity is that I appreciate both the largely supportive culture and the lack of Geek Pride, which is way above filk in the list of things I dislike most. While plenty of the Trekkies seemed extreme in their dedication, they were all honest and at least a bit self-aware about their placement on the outskirts of the larger culture, whether they thought this was acceptable or not, versus their acceptance among other fans. What they largely avoided was the strange martyr complex I’ve found elsewhere, and which I haven’t noticed in comics blogging. There are geeks, and in my experience they’ve all been white men who publicly claim to be straight, and they make a lot of claims about being oppressed minorities. They say that geeks are the last acceptable stereotype (and “x is the last taboo” is also high on my hate list) and that they’re outcasts in society and that they need to reclaim the power that is rightfully theirs by somehow overturning the jocks, who will somehow recognize the error of their cruel ways. Or something like that. Since I’m a woman, I also get to hear the corollary that geek-friendly women have some kind of moral obligation to have sex with these men, since part of the curse of being a geek is that it’s hard to get a date by more standard routes. And all of this manifests itself in a whole lot of whining, not to mention complaining about other groups who supposedly benefit from affirmative action or feminism (or, uh, laws banning them from marrying their chosen partners, which is probably not the sort of thing that gets facttored in) and how it’s ok to be different in those ways, but that being a geek is both a choice and a calling and thus somehow nobler than more standard, intrinsic disenfranchisement. Yes, I’m whining about whiners, but I’m getting it out of my system so you won’t have to hear about it again.

And the point, as I keep claiming I’ll tell you, is that I really, really appreciate not having to hear that much if at all anymore. I like this current life in which I’m not supposed to be a judge at a Losers Contest. I’m glad to watch a show about people who idolize a show I’ve never seen, and it makes me think of me and of you poor readers, and all of us who are making tenuous connections and finding ways to make them stick and managing to build places for ourselves. I didn’t start blogging looking for affirmation, but because I’d been so depressed and troubled that I was almost physically unable to write, and so it waas painful practice, and also because Steven and I were far apart and wanted to be together and talking. And while it’s still really about us and what we find interesting and the ways our conversations with each other can be translated onto a bigger scale, I’m now very much in conversation with other bloggers and with non-bloggers who comment and even with a few brave friends of mine who don’t even read comics and yet have probably read every word of the post to this point because they care about me. And while in some sense I don’t care who cares about me, I care that I care and that there are these connections being forged and that in a year or so of blogging I’ve become someone who can write more easily, if not yet with total comfort, and can sometimes even be proud of what I’ve written. But I’m also proud that those who respond find meaning (or problems) in what I say, just as I’m proud of bloggers I read who are saying good, smart things even if they have no idea who I am or that I read their words. And I’m pretty sure this is my most self-indulgent post ever, so I appreciate that I expect to be forgiven my temporary lapse, which can be blamed in part on long-term lack of sleep I’m going to try to rectify a bit now. Thanksgiving seems to be coming to me late this year, but I assure you it’s entirely heartfelt. Now live long and prosper.

Peiratikos Gamos

As a quick update-cum-apology for my lack of recent content, I give you this:

wedding welcome sign

On Saturday at noon, Steven and I took care of his health insurance needs and made two families happy in a lovely wedding. We’ll try to post some pictures once they arrive, and hope to get back to much more regular blogging soon now that this is all out of the way at last. We are two very, very happy bloggers right now.

“I signed it, ‘from a disappointed X-Fan.’”

This was supposed to be the night I announced I was going on hiatus through the end of the month, but suddenly it seems that may not be the case. Today was full of all sorts of comics, Y: The Last Man and How Loathsome and The Nikopol Trilogy and Spider-Man India and The Originals and The Question and X-Statix. That last one is where this post comes in, although there are points I want to make about Y as well. And for some reason the “IBCD” joke in Spider-Man India made me giggle a lot.

But the most important thing on my mind is a question about who on earth writes the “Previously…” text at the beginning of X-Statix. Not only does this begin with the positively sick-making, “X-Statix has scaled the mountain of Professor Xavier’s dream to new heights,” but it then manages to drop to not-so-new grammatical depths.

Dear Peter Milligan, Axel Alonso, Jennifer Lee, Jeff Youngquist, Jennifer Grünwald, Joe Quesada:

Is it terribly, terribly difficult to differentiate between transitive and intransitive verbs? I’ll give you a hint, even — NO. That is why it made me scream to read about “Lacuna, who now lays recovering in intensive care.” You know who’s really sick? The person who made that ridiculous error and all the people who didn’t scream upon seeing it as it went off to the printer. And now me, too.

Disappointedly yours,

Admittedly I was sick to begin with, which is why I’m heading off to bed now and one of the reasons you probably won’t see much of me for the next few weeks (not that this differentiates them much from the last few). After some more time lying down, I will recover, but luckily I had so little faith in the technical writing skills of most comics folks that I won’t let that keep me down.

Scott Pilgrim Contest Countdown: A Matter of Hours!

This is your last reminder, and I’m beginning to feel like I’m doing advertisements for a carpet warehouse or something. Do you want to read Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life? Then you’d better take this opportunity to email us at to let us know what makes you think you’d like it. Read full details about the fabulous prizes, including a watercolor by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley for more information.

There’s been a very minor family emergency and I’m taking care of my littlest brother tonight, so all entries received by the time I get up tomorrow morning will be considered for prizes. Check back tomorrow for the winners!

Regular programming will return later this weekend.

Mr. Solid Citizen and Rose

Well, the election’s over and only 75 percent of Kentucky voters thought we needed an amendment saying that the only marriages in these parts will be between one man and one woman (and that’s already in the commonwealth constitution) and that domestic partnerships of any sort are unacceptable in that they’re in marriagelike situation. I hope the wording is bad and overexpansive enough that this will get overturned quickly, but the county breakdown shows that it’s pretty much only in populous, urban/suburban counties that more than 25 percent of the population is opposed to such a measure. We’re in Campbell County with 12,133 like-minded individuals. I’m trying not to say more about this, because it’s just saddening, but I assume only some of the majority are aware of all the implications and still support the amendment. For the rest, there’s still hope.

And while I’m complaining about politics, I had a minor problem with both the concession and acceptance speeches I wanted to mention. Kerry talked about the message he gave to “President Bush and Laura,” while Bush’s later parallel-structure speech expressed good wishes for “Senator Kerry and Teresa.” What is with the weird title imbalance? Did it not sound goofy to the speechwriters? Can we blame Kerry or his people for both and say that Bush was just following suit, or do they both just really respect their opponents and their little women? Or were the honorifics a subtle irony when they’d both have preferred to be more unkind? I don’t know, but it was awfully annoying no matter what.

Scott Contest Countdown: Tuesday!

Whether you did or could vote vote in today’s U.S. elections, you still have 3 days left to choose to cast your ballot for fun!

Scott Pilgrim introduces Wallace

Meet Scott Pilgrim and Wallace Wells. Do you want to get to know them better? Polls in the Scott Pilgrim contest close this Friday, 5 November at midnight(-ish). Just email us at and tell us why you think you’d like Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life for a chance to find out if you’re right. Winners receive copies of the book, with an additional tshirt for the grand prize winner and a watercolor by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley for one outstanding artist.

Fair Trade?

I’m not very good with promises, but I’m aiming for one blog update per weekend (and I hope one during the week, but we’ll see) just to keep me going, because this has been an unexpectedly taxing autumn. To prove I can keep promises after a fashion, though, I once told Jim Henley I’d write more about my thoughts on The Filth and gender. And while I’m on a roll, I asked Graeme McMillan whether he thought Rosie in the remake of The Manchurian Candidate was a good guy, a bad guy, or neither, but I never responded with my thoughts.

Rectifying two old birds with one stone, in quasi-realistic situations (and it’s not entirely clear to me why I put The Filth in this class) we expect the good guys to avoid trading sex for information. OK, it’s entirely possible that this is just me and that the rest of the world assumes that the FBI adheres to James Bond standards of sexual involvement and intrigue, but I think not. And so in The Manchurian Candidate it set off alarms for me that Rosie was willing to become (I assume sexually) intimate with Ben to be a part of his deepest secrets. We see her doing other things like being involved in evidence tampering that make it seems she’s not interested in preserving truth and encouraging justice, at least as those terms are generally used. And then at the end of the movie she’s still with Ben at the scene of the crime that thrust him into this whole mess, and he’s letting some memory-heavy artifacts wash out to sea. Is she at his side because she really came to love this broken man she met on the train, this man she spied on and comforted? Is this part of her job, to keep him whole enough that he can finish the job of putting this plot in the past? Or is something more sinister going on? Sure, her work helps bring down members of the Manchurian Corp. conspiracy, but in a movie where every conspiracy is linked to something deeper and more far-reaching, why should we believe that this pulls out a root? Could she be working for some even more shadowy group to defuse this conspiracy and take control of Ben? Her demeanor doesn’t change from when she’s pretending to love him so she can keep him under surveillance to the time when she tracks him down at the scene of the assassination to their farewell to the past at the seaside ruins. Something strange is going on here, and it’s not just that she seems to use sex or even (worse?) love as a weapon but that this is so mundane. Perhaps it is in the normal world, although I don’t think many people could pull it off as calmly as Rosie seems to, but I think we hold our national security folks to higher standards, or at least I do.

And that brings me to a slight aside, which is that I don’t think it’s meaningless that I’m talking about female spies here. This is not Mata Hari-style seduction but is still a power play in a way that perhaps James Bond dalliances aren’t. After all, Rosie doesn’t have signature drinks or swank suits or anything obvious at all, but it’s the conspicuous lack of anything extraordinary, a seeming sweet absence of guile in a movie where everyone else churns with intrigue, that makes her suspicious. But sometimes it’s just the gender patterns that are suspicious. In gearing up for Neal Stephenson’s The Confusion, which I read this weekend, I reread his The Diamond Age last weekend. One of the strangest episodes, and one that has soured the book for me a bit each time I’ve read it, involves a cult called The Drummers who live in a sleeplike state under the sea while their dreaming minds interact to form a sort of metaphorical computer. They carry particles in their bloodstreams that enhance this process and they can exchange these particles through intercourse, basically sharing smart STDs. The way this is carried out is that periodically there will be all sorts of drumming and then a woman becomes the center of attention and men dance around her. Eventually, after much buildup, each of the men has sex with her in front of the whole group, during which time she gets hotter and hotter because each of these little viruses raises blood temperature, until eventually she explodes and releases the viruses like spores and the men have picked up her viruses and so it keeps on spreading. Now, the book never says that this is how it always works, but it also never shows us a man being this exploding vessel in the several times we see the scene played out. To me, that’s telling in the same way that it’s telling that Rosie’s mother/lover act seemed uncontroversial. If the genders in The Manchurian Candidate had been reversed and Ross had seduced Beth to be able to keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble, I don’t think I’m the only one who would have found it weird and problematic.

And that’s why I’m not sure what to make of this issue in The Filth. The way Greg/Ned changes from nobody to superspy is through psychedelic sex with agent Miami. But how does she change over, then? And is this in her job description? That’s what I kept thinking as I read, wondering whether she enjoyed this aspect of things, this being a virus that translates a man into part of a larger being/organization and I don’t think there’s any way to know. Jim wanted to know whether female characters were fully realized enough for female readers to make guesses about their motives and so on, and while right now I can’t look at the book because I’ve lent it to a friend who is probably reading this and feeling guilty, I can say that I wished I knew better what was going on in Miami’s mind, but that we never really knew what was going on in any of the character’s heads. If Jim’s theory that the women are all playing almost archetypal roles of what men expect from them, maybe that’s why the absence of Miami’s viewpoint seemed more poignant than that of the unnamed female Dreamers or Rosie, who at least seems to have a mind of her own in there somewhere. At the core of this, for me at least, is curiosity about to what extent sex like this is fully consensual for the (admittedly fictional) women involved. If it’s your job to have sex with guys to make them remember how cool they really are, do you hate your job? I realize I’m probably making too much of this, but it’s something that stuck out enough that I still think of it months later and I really don’t know what the answers are. I do know I’m probably having a nonstandard response to all of this, but I accept that too. I just think it’s interesting that sexual ethics don’t necessarily follow the same track as political ethics (or perhaps, in The Filth at least, they do) or professional ethics and yet this disconnect is commonplace enough that I haven’t seen people commenting on it. I suppose once this is posted, though, I will have, and that’s what counts.

31 October 2004 Update Just to be clear, since I’m pretty sure I didn’t say this outright, I have no problems whatsoever with people choosing to trade sex for whatever they like, although my general ideal is that everyone should be as close to fully aware and fully consenting as possible. I do think it’s problematic for employers to expect their employees to have sex as part of their work, especially if this is something expected only of female employees. And if, in the case of The Manchurian Candidate, we assume that this is Our Tax Dollars at work, I imagine that would ruffle some feathers too. But I’m not trying to be anti-sex or opposed to these texts in general, because I think their creators were trying to grapple with just these sorts of messy issues and I’m glad that they did as it gave me something to think about and post.

Contest Reminder!

I know all our readers already have their calendars clearly marked, but it seemed wise to issue a reminder that there’s only one week remaining in the Great Scott Pilgrim Contest. And in case you need any more reminding than that, it means you have until Friday, 5 November to send a quick email letting us know why you think you’d like Scott Pilgrim to us at You can even send art, in which case you’ll be in the running for a swank watercolor by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley in addition to the regular prizes, copies of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life.

Got that? If you are reading this, able to receive mail, and interested in Scott Pilgrim, you’ve got nothing to lose and potentially a rollicking good read to gain if all goes well for you. Consider yourselves duly warned.