House of Seven Gables + DC Festival of Asian Heroes

Given how much of Julian Hawthorne I’ve been reading lately, I thought it behooved me to read a bit more of his father’s work, and I just happened to have a fairly nice illustrated copy of The House of Seven Gables lying around waiting to be read.

I get why kids who had to read this in high school hated it, I really do. Though it is a tale of mystery, murder, madness, mesmerism and a wizard’s curse, so very little happens and Hawthorne takes his sweet time in the telling to get there.

Yet, despite how tedious and absolutely turgid House of Seven Gables is, I feel like it could be easily adapted into Children’s Puppet Theatre, probably boil the whole bloody gist of it down to about 20 minutes.

I have to admit that I felt a bit smug that Henry James’ afterword for House of Seven Gables seemed to entirely support and justify this belief.

He notes that the characters, while lavishly and intricately detailed, are mere “pictures” and grotesques, acting out their tropes, than truly fleshed out ‘real’ characters. The book focuses almost entirely on tableau and scene, painting the picture of these characters.

So, while the “story” is, imo, great–fantastic, really–it is such a small portion of the work itself–buried, really, like the old sorcerer himself, underneath the endless description of the house and its accursed inhabitants.

I think that it could be distilled easily into 20-30 minutes:

  • Narration of the Pyncheon vs. Maule saga culminating in the bloody death
  • A brief parade of the characters and their foibles, culminating in Phoebe’s awkward introduction to Jaffrey
  • Tableau of the dinner, Phoebe and Clifford’s relationship, maybe the bit with the weird chickens, done in a couple minutes’ description and puppet pantomime
  • Phoebe and Holgrave + Holgrave narrates the story of Alice, Phoebe departs.
  • Jaffrey’s attempt to confront Clifford
  • Clifford and Hepzibah’s flight + a very condensed version of Clifford’s rant about impending modernity
  • The return to Seven Gables, Phoebe & Holgrave’s union, and the discovery of the lost “treasure” could be condensed to a single scene with a narrated happily ever after.

I’d probably cut Uncle Venner, since, while he may be thematically important, I think he can be removed wholly from the narrative and the story remain unaffected. He’s there only as commentary and to comment on the other characters who are engaged in the plot.

Anyway, whether or not I’ll have time to come up with a puppet operetta, we’ll have to see…

So, I recently picked up Festival of Asian Heroes as an excuse to introduce myself at a new shop. I don’t know what I was expecting, but somehow this book was much worse and much more cringe than I imagined. Practically no one knows how to write cape stories anymore… practically every story just doing the “here is the character monologuing about their life and their feels while things happen in the panels.” Plus the awful strawman villains in the Katana story were oof.

Literally the only short I liked was Tamaki’s Cassie, and even tho it was mostly monologuing, at least it pulled off being cute. It sucks that they chose to showcase Asian capes [somehow Damian Wayne qualifies as this?] in such a lousy book with such lousy stories. I’d say these characters deserve better, but I’m not really caring that much anymore.

Foreword: “There just weren’t any Asian heroes in comic books when I was a kid.” will_smith_wildly_gesticulating_at_the_glut_of_now-forgotten_asian_led_titles_in_the_70s_and_80s.jpg

Dice Latte - DC Festival of Heroes The Asian Superhero Celebration #1 (One  Shot) Cover B Stanley Artgerm Lau Variant
Pretty much the only reason I bought this.

The ArtGerm variant was gorgeous, I was curious to see what Gene Luen Yang was gonna do [was kinda disappointed] and it was an excuse to meet the new store without having to add it to a pull [so at least DC doesn’t get to boast about order numbers from picking up an extra that the new place had.]

  • Sounds: Liked it, favorite of the bunch. I think I’m forgiving of internal monologuing when it’s Cassie because she has a speech impediment.
  • Dress Code: eh… So, asian green lantern wears an asian dress tunic. plz do not make fun of him.
  • Hawke and Kong: okay, I guess. Two Asian expys of other heroes who don’t get along fight a villain and become friends. Whatever…
  • Special Delivery: didn’t like it, also I guess Damian Wayne is Asian?
  • Masks: okay, but mainly I guess it was the sort of story I would’ve liked to have seen after the new Cheshire had been brought into Catwoman [I don’t know that they’ve done anything at all with her since she was introduced, and I had just about forgotten about her.]
  • What’s in the Box: I don’t even know who the other character who is not Cassie is
  • Family Dinner: Cringe and tired ‘meeting the parents’ story. Seriously, can we stop doing “gay superheroes meet dad/mom over dinner and it’s awkward” comics?
  • Kawaii Kalamity: cute but didn’t really do anything for me
  • Festival of Heroes: Ultra cringe with a stupid strawman villain [a bunch of white supremacists show up to harass people at an Asian food festival]; sad that this was what they had for the Katana story.
  • Perseptible: dull, didn’t like it, but I’ve never really liked Captain Atom.
  • The Monkey Prince: torn between okay and cringe; kinda wanted to like it cuz I love what Yang has done w/other books, but I rolled my eyes a lot. May still give it a chance. On one hand, a Son Goku vs. capes comic could be a lot of fun, but this gave off really bad “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibes that are really disappointing considering that Yang writes/wrote two of my favorite DC titles [Terrifics and Batman/Superman]

Really, DC missed out on a great opportunity to introduce a new anti-Asian villain, The Fixer–an obese enby who goes around “fixing” Asian people’s artwork.

Speaking of comics, be sure to check out the next installment of Badaxe in the Summer issue!

Re: Kim Yale

So, some people have taken offense to or at least got the wrong take-away from my earlier post.

Let’s get one thing straight: I was NOT shitting on Kim Yale.

What I was trying to address was the fact that Barbara Gordon is constantly pointed to as a victim of sexism in comics, SPECIFICALLY with the constant references you see comparing the origins of Oracle to the Knightfall arc, all while ignoring the fact that the reason we have Oracle as a character is because Kim Yale, a woman, decided to do something drastically different and original with the character.  And Chuck Dixon, one of the best Bat-writers of the 90s, thought Kim’s idea for Barbara was awesome, and ran with it through a lot of his titles.

I was hoping to point out that by constantly bringing up the Knightfall comparison, people are actually shitting on the woman who gave comics one of its most unique and interesting characters.

Joker Didn’t Cripple Barbara Gordon, Kim Yale Did

A lot of people go on about how Batman came back after he was crippled. And the truth is, Batgirl could’ve come back, too. Heck, at the time, there was a decent chance that Killing Joke happened out of continuity.* John Ostrander is quoted as saying “There were no plans for her in the continuity at that time”, which meant that Killing Joke could’ve been ignored and written off as that sicko Alan Moore doing his sick thing in Alan Moore land. But Kim Yale decided that Babs should be resurrected as a differently-abled character. She didn’t stay crippled because sexism, she stayed crippled because diversity**[read that with a long rolling R, veemonro-style].

Holy problematic smokes, Batman!

3385_2_48

Kim Yale was disgusted by what was done to Barbara (and it was pretty disgusting!) but rather than bring her back good-as-new in typical superhero fashion, give her a story where she steps on Joker’s nuts or something, she and her husband John Ostrander eased her back into the continuity as a wheelchair-bound agent working in conjunction with Suicide Squad.

For all of the shit I see people give Alan Moore for the Killing Joke (a book which he’s pretty much disowned and whose most problematic elements he’s blamed on the flippancy of the DC editorial staff at the time), I never hear anyone complain about Kim Yale, the woman who actually crippled Batgirl.***

*:The DCAU continuity, for example, ignores the Killing Joke entirely, so at the same time while Oracle was hacking for Batman in the 90s, Barbara was still swinging from ziplines and taking down bad guys on TV (though more-so in the NBA season, which included the rest of the Bat Family more regularly).

**:Sarcasm.  Seriously, though, how many other wheelchair-bound badasses in comics can you name?

***:Also, this is not actually me complaining about Kim Yale and I think Oracle is a pretty awesome character; I nearly lost my shit playing Arkham City for the first few hours all “Where the hell is Oracle?!”

****:And guy who tweeted this out all “Ugh. Seriously? This isn’t humor”, yeah, it was.  Sorry you didn’t “get” it.

#ChangeTheCover: So, the Artist Withdrew the Batgirl Variant Cover

Some people are saying that DC pulled the cover, but based on what I’ve seen, the artist himself, after the campaign against the cover, asked DC to withdraw the art and DC complied. It’s hard to not look at this as his being bullied into pulling down his art. Because that’s pretty much what happened.

I’m a huge Batman fan. While I’ve had some problems with what’s been done in certain Batman comics either stylistically or storywise (I hate how Catwoman is drawn when she’s in costume and I kind of hate all of the non DCAU portrayals of Harley, and I hate that one artist whose name I forget who makes all of the Robins look like they’re 40 year old Dustin Hoffmans trying to take a rock-hard dump). I have a lot of mixed feelings about the Killing Joke. What the Joker does is disgusting and the story leaves one feeling disgusted. But isn’t such a visceral reaction a sign of a powerful story?

Anyway, this variant cover was supposed to be an homage to the Killing Joke.batgirl-41-cover

The biggest complaint was that it portrayed Batgirl in a state of fearful helplessness and victimhood. Which is interesting, because the usual complaint about comics is when some character is showing off ginormo-tits in an anatomically impossible pose. Or ass in the air (I don’t care what anyone says that Spider-Woman cover was ugly and weird looking for more reasons than just ‘too-much-sexy’).

One thing that a lot of people forget (or just don’t know, because the people complaining don’t read comics) is that Batman is (at least Post-Crisis) a horror comic*. A lot of the stories look into the character’s deepest darkest fears. Serious House on Serious Earth is high-octane nightmare fuel. And that’s the sort of feeling this cover is meant to invoke. The other thing that these people are overlooking is that it is fairly typical of Batman covers to show some scene prior to the heroes’ big table-turn where they are powerless, helpless, about to be killed (often in a gruesome manner) by whichever rogue is featured in that issue. Needless to say, when people threw out the “You don’t see Batman being depowered and violated on HIS covers!”, the response was a flood of classic covers depicting the Dark Knight in all manner of predicament. Talk about Batman being depowered, what about that iconic cover of Bane snapping Batman’s back against his knee?

Bats don't bend that way!

Bats don’t bend that way!

On one hand, when Barbara was paralyzed, she didn’t come back as Batgirl, while Bruce came back as Batman. On the other hand, when Barbara came back as Oracle, she had become a more interesting and dynamic character. When Bruce finally came back, he was still just Batman, just poorly drawn and with 2 foot long bat ears (seriously, Troika had some crap art and was a pretty big let down as far as a comeback arc, especially after how well written Prodigal was).

Anyway, here are just a few examples of Batman in peril at the hands of some rogue.

I don't know what's scarier: what's about to happen to Batman or those goddamn 2 foot ears!

I don’t know what’s scarier: what’s about to happen to Batman or those goddamn 2 foot ears!

batman_189

See? Even the cover says he’s gripped by fear!

Batman, helpless at the hands of the Joker!

Batman, helpless at the hands of the Joker!

I can't think of anything more disempowering than being flying-kicked by three dudes at the same time.  Except for maybe being flying kicked by more than three dudes at the same time.  Or in combination.

I can’t think of anything more disempowering than being flying-kicked by three dudes at the same time. Except for maybe being flying kicked by more than three dudes at the same time. Or in combination.

 

Batman is totally about to be cut in two in that one cover!

Batman is totally about to be cut in two in that one cover!

*:This tends to be played with a lot more in the one-off graphic novels and some of the side titles, such as Legends of the Dark Knight and Shadow of the Bat (especially Shadow of the Bat).

Minor Update:
If this guy is representative of the rest of the creative team on Batgirl, it’s probably a shit book that doesn’t deserve a good cover anyway.
Cameron Stewart