Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wonder Woman Wednesday

Although this took place in the middle of Jiminez's run, he didn't do the art and so it was awful, ruining an otherwise inspired story.  But, this cover is good and images of Wondy fighting mythical beasts deserves a place in Wonder Woman Wednesday.

Wonder Woman Wednesday

From the end of Phil Jiminez's run.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

RIP Anne McCaffrey

She died last night, from a stroke, aged 85.  I am really sad about this.  I adore the Pern books.  I first picked them up as a teenager just when I was starting to read again.  For a few years the only books I really read, with iinsatiable joy, were the Discworld ones.  That's what being depressed does for you.  I must have read other books too, but I don't recall getting enthralled and diving into any ones other than the Discworld ones.

Coming out of my fug, I picked up the first pern book, was delighted, and then raced as fast as I could throught he rest of the series.  I was borrowing them from the library, several at a time, and I remember going talking to the assistant, trying to work out with her which one was next in the series and glowing about the stories.  My face was lit up.  That almost never happened to me.

I never wanted a dragon, I wanted a fire lizard.  I wanted to be there when they found AIVAS, I wanted to learn with them, I wanted to see threadfall and I wanted to go to a school where they taught crafts, and real skills, not just academic knowledge.

As I've got more life experience my understanding of the gender politics of Pern has changed and I've got more out of the stories with each re-read.  Every time I read the Masterharper's death scene I'm at risk of crying (I don't cry).

Anne McCaffrey and her worlds will be missed.  I realise she hasn't taken full authorship of the recent books, that's been done by her son Todd, but her influence will be missed.  I am ever so grateful (and lucky) to have been giving the opportunity to discover and read her worlds.

Wonder Woman Wednesday

From Jodi Picoult's run

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Accessible site maps on a nature reserve!

 I recently went to France and was lucky enough to visit the Marquenterre nature reserve in the Baie de Somme.  I saw a kingfisher there!!  My first.  It was brilliant and I'm still excited about it.

I also noticed that they'd made their site maps accesible to blind and visually impaired people.  How you ask?  By placing braille over the written text and by using different types of material as the key for the site map.  See here:

Isn't that just fabulous?  So simple yet so effective.  I've never seen that kind of thing in England.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Definitely not a Wonderful Wonder Woman Wednesday

Dear artists.
Pants like you've drawn on Wondy here won't stay like that. The gusset will shift about and expose her labia.  The only way it won't is if it's pulled really really tightly and then you'll probably see her labia anyway, and quite possibly it will cause a serious chafing injury.
Please, draw underwear sensibly, even if it's outerwear.

Thank you.
Also, those poses are candidates for Escher Girls.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Abortion Support Network update - November

Here is their November e-bulletin:

Welcome to your ASN eBulletin. ASN’s 2nd Anniversary Party was a rousing success; and ASN’s founder would like to say a few words about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Miss the party and want an annual report? Women we’ve helped in October. And Carnival Rights Belfast highlights the absurdity of the 150th birthday of the Offences Against the Persons Act. Read on!

2nd Anniversary Celebrations
Want an annual report?
And now, a word from our founder
Women we’ve helped
Carnival Rights Belfast
Gift Aid now on website
2nd Anniversary Celebrations
Thanks ever so much to those of you who donated, sent support and/or attended our event on the 26th of October to kick off ASN’s third year. For those of you who were unable to attend, you can view photos from the night taken by the fabulous Emma Campbell.

We were thrilled to see so many new faces at the event, and to have the chance to say hello to old friends. Cake was eaten (thanks, Louise!), copies of ASN’s 2011 Annual Report were snapped up and over £200 was raised between donation buckets and our 50/50 raffle.

ASN is exceptionally grateful to the women who motivated us with their speeches at the event. Alison Peters from Marie Stopes International spoke of the hardships faced by women who come to her clinic in Bristol. Our special guest Diane Abbott (Shadow Health Minister and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington) inspired us with a speech about the importance of providing practical support for women in Ireland and N Ireland while she and others are fighting for law reform. We also received a message of support from Dawn Purvis, who spent years being the only member of the Northern Ireland Assembly to speak out in favour of a woman’s right to choose abortion. You can find out about the great work that Ms Abbott and Ms Purvis are doing by following them on Twitter at!/hackneyabbott and!/dawnpurvis respectively.

“Women from Ireland North and South experience the added anxiety of having to travel across the sea in order to exercise their right of choice.  Your organisation, team of volunteers and donors have helped make that journey a more supportive one.  All credit to you as you celebrate your 2nd Anniversary.” – Dawn Purvis

You’ve got Mail
Did you miss the festivities but want an annual report? You can download a copy here or email us your address and we will post you one. Donations toward postage appreciated but not required.

Looking forward, looking back – A few words from our founder
I had the opportunity to address people directly at the anniversary party and wanted to do the same for those of you unable to make it.

The first glimmer of ASN was seen at the bottom of a glass of red wine a few years back – the idea that an American-style abortion fund could work in England. I spoke to the widest range of people I could get to take my calls – the ifpa, nifpa, Marie Stopes International, bpas, the Calthorpe Clinic, Alliance for Choice, Ann Rossiter of IWASG and many more – to see if any group was providing this sort of support and whether or not women from Ireland and N Ireland still needed it. And then I started interviewing volunteers, and ASN became “we”.

It’s hard to believe that in just over 2 years we’ve grown from an idea in my head into an organisation with that has heard from hundreds of women, has had more than 30 volunteers, and is now a charity that MPs even consider speaking to. We tripled in size last year in terms of women helped and grants given, became a charity, and added on a Board of Trustees.

That’s a lot of change in a very short period of time, especially when you consider that every single one of us is juggling our work for ASN with our other responsibilities – families, partners, and in most cases, full time work. We are doing our best to continue as we began: as an organisation big enough to reach women in need and appeal to potential funders, and small enough to both enable us to be extremely flexible in helping the women who approach us; to be an organisation that can be run by volunteers who often have to make and take calls and emails between meetings or instead of lunch.

With the help of you – our wonderful supporters and volunteers – we can still say that we’ve never had to turn down a woman who could not access an abortion without our help. I want to thank each one of you for your support, for your trust in our organisation, for your compassion for women in need, and for your understanding as we navigate our rapid growth.

Here’s to another great year!

Mara Clarke, Founder

Women we’ve helped
In October, ASN heard from 24 women. We are immensely grateful to all of you who enable us to help women, the phone coordinators (Katie, Maddie, Sarah, Jane and Mara) who help these women navigate their way to a safe and legal abortion, to Women on Web for the amazing services they provide, and to the clinics and other groups involved for making it all possible.

Women we helped this month included:

A single mother who, not knowing she was pregnant, had several x-rays and was on a number of medications.

A woman who called us the morning of her teenage daughter’s appointment from the airport. The loan they were expecting had fallen through the night before and they were terrified they’d be turned away if they turned up short of money.

A student on limited budget and unable to cope or afford a child. When she went to the student financial aid centre, she was told that this was a “foreseeable expense” rather than an emergency, so they couldn’t help. As a result, she’s decided that when she gets back to Cork, she will be putting all her efforts into campaigning for a change in the law.

A woman who was early enough in pregnancy to be referred to Women on Web who was extremely pleased not to have to travel to obtain an abortion.

A lone parent who was seriously distressed about not being able to raise enough money to fund her abortion, who said that until she spoke to ASN, “This whole experience has made me feel like I’m being burned at the stake”. In the end, we awarded a smaller grant than we’d agreed to because she rang us the day before the procedure to say she’d raised an extra £50.

A couple who found out late in pregnancy that their child had catastrophic abnormalities. In addition, they could not believe that they would have to pay for the procedure themselves, especially as she had previously lived in England. They were only able to afford the procedure with a combination of a grant from us and a generous reduction in fees from the clinic.

A woman who had an abortion before and became pregnant again despite taking hormonal birth control. She has no money as she’s only just paid off the loan she took to pay for her first abortion. Upon hearing that we could help her, she had this to say:  “I’d like to get on a stage in front of people who are anti abortion. Even though it breaks my heart to do this it has to be a woman’s choice. It would be selfish for me to have another baby – I can barely afford the kids I have. The stories on the side of your website make me feel like I’m not alone. If I could jump through the phone and hug you, I would.”

A recently separated woman with several children, including one with serious health issues. We were able to provide funding and accommodation for the two nights she had stayed here. She had never left her children before.  “If I am not able to do this before I am 18 weeks and 6 days the cost doubles to over €1500, at the moment it is €700 which seems impossible.  I just cannot see any way to do this. I had no idea that women in Ireland had to go through this.”

Email from a woman:
i live in rep. Ireland I just found out im pregnant and at the worst possible time, i am only 18 and have no means to be able to have a baby, i Have just started a course. I feel so cheated me and my boyfriend made  a drunken mistake but i went and got the moring after pill immeditely. I duno what im going to do, I cannot afford nor provide for a child yet i cannot even afford an abortion. I feel sick thinking about it all feel like i have no choices due to a lack of money. I do not feel ready to be a parent and nor does he.

ASN thanks these women and men for sharing their stories with us, and for permitting us to share them with you.

Carnival Rights Belfast
Free to Choose (F2C) is a collaboration of activists who have come together to highlight the absurdity of the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act being on the Statutes for 150 years. Their series of events is entitled the ‘Carnival for Sexual Rights and Freedom; Pro-Choice, Pro-Sexuality’. The group consists of representatives from Alliance for Choice, Belfast Feminist Network, the Rainbow Project, and Irish Congress of Trade Unions Youth Committee. Several events are happening around Belfast and Derry beginning 12 November.  Check out their Facebook page for more info.

Thank you thank you thank you!
ASN is funded almost entirely by the generous donations of individual supporters – like you! Without ASN, the many women we help wouldn’t be able to access vital financial and practical support towards covering the costs of their procedures and their journeys. Donations to ASN are vitally important to the lives of women faced with unplanned pregnancies. We are entirely volunteer-run, and our small overhead costs are covered by a regular donation. This means that any money you donate goes directly towards the cost of a woman’s abortion or transport to England. Thank you again for all your support. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to provide accommodation, financial assistance, and confidential, non-judgemental information to the women in difficult circumstances who have contacted us.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Women's introduction in the new DCU - the conclusions! part 3

Phew.  Nearly there.

As a reminder, you can read the introductory post setting out what this mini project is about here.
You can read the findings, i.e. the nerdy numbers, here.

My first reaction upon looking at the numbers was one of pleasant surprise.  45% of women were introduced without reference to their sexiness and without establishing them as a love interest.  This is pretty good.  This means that the women  are introduced as just another character, and their gender/sexuality are not relevant to the story (at that point).  It would be nice if the percentage was higher, but actually it's not too shabby.

It's important to remember that these numbers don't tell you anything about the quality of the book, and certainly don't tell you anything about whether the depiction of the characters is sexist.  For example, the Wonder Woman book featured Hera in a cloak, clearly naked underneath, and also 3 party girls who served as Apollo's Oracles.  The Flash introduced Iris leaning over a hole and the image is all boobs.
The depiction of these are not sexist at all, but when you contract them with Catwoman or Starfire in Red Hood, you can see that those books are clearly sexist.  Yet each book gets a yes for drawing the woman sexually.

Having a woman introduced as a love woman is also not necessarily sexist, given that stories about human relationships are pretty important in the grand scheme of stories.  The problem (in my mind) would be if all storied about women put them as love interests.  But clearly that is not the case here.

The data also doesn't tell us about the ratio  of male characters to female characters (something I regret not asking about actually).

The data also doesn't tell us if the women were introduced with other roles as well as love interest.  Also something I regret not asking about.

Right now it feel that my conclusions are mostly about what the data doesn't tell us.  Hmm.

What do you all think?  What conclusions can you drawn from the data?  Is there any other way you'd like to see the data analysed?  Do you think I've missed something?

Let me know!  Let the discussion roll!

Women's introduction in the new DCU - the findings! part 2

You can read about my goals with this mini project here.  I recommend you do read that post as it will explain exactly what we were analysing, and without reading it, this data won't make sense.

Now, what did we find out?
We've got 52 titles..
In which there are 97 female characters (including one kid)...
Looking at the titles -
27 of the titles feature female characters that look sexual, either by their clothes or because of the way they are drawn.  That's 51% of titles.
29 titles introduce female characters as a love interest.  That's 55% of all titles.
Combine these, and there are 33 titles that feature female characters that are either drawn sexually, or are a love interest.  That's 63%.  Some characters are drawn sexually and are love interests, some are love interests but not drawn sexually, and vice versa.

Of the female characters themselves...
41 are drawn sexually, that's 42%.
41 are love interests, again, 42%.
53 characters are drawn sexually and/or are a love interest.  That's 55%.

4 titles had no major female characters in them (Batman and Robin, Detective Comics, Justice League and Men of War)
No women were introduced as the love interest of other women.

I looked at the ratio of titles per subgroup and female characters per subgroup.  You'd hope that if there was an even spread of female characters the ratios would be roughly similar.  They aren't.  Instead we have:
Subgroups: Batman:Green Lantern:Justice League:Superman: The Dark: The Edge: Young Justice
Titles per subgroup: 11:4:11:4:7:9:6
Female characters per subgroup: 14:5:20:6:15:15:19

So, no correlation between female characters and subgroups.

Justice League Dark, Suicide Squad and Legion of Superheroes all have 3 female characters that are drawn sexually.  No other comics had a higher number of sexually drawn characters.
Justice League Dark had 4 female characters as love interests, this is more than any other title.

As for subgroups:
The Justice League books had the most number of female characters (20).
The Green Lantern books had the least number of female characters (5).

As for which books has female characters drawn sexually and/or as a love interest.. here is the list:
Subgroup         Title                                   Sexual?     Love interest?
Batman             Batman: The Dark Knight    Yes           Yes
Batman             Birds of Prey                      Yes           Yes
Batman             Catwoman                          Yes           Yes
Batman             Nightwing                           Yes           Yes
Batman             Red Hood                           Yes           Yes
Green Lantern   Green Lantern Corps          Yes            Yes
Green Lantern   GL: New Guardians            Yes           Yes
Green Lantern   Red Lanterns                      Yes           Yes
Justice League   Aquaman                           No            Yes
Justice League   DCU Presents                    Yes           Yes
Justice league    Green Arrow                     Yes            Yes
Justice League   JLI                                    No             Yes
Justice League   Mr Terrific                        No             Yes
Justice League   The Flash                          Yes            Yes
Justice League   Wonder Woman                Yes            Yes
Superman          Superboy                          Yes            Yes
Superman          Supergirl                           Yes             No
The Dark           Animal Man                       No              Yes
The Dark           Frankenstein                      Yes            Yes
The Dark           Justice League Dark           Yes            Yes
The Dark           Resurrection Man              Yes            Yes
The Dark            I, Vampire                         Yes            Yes
The Edge           All Star Western                 Yes            Yes
The Edge           Blackhawks                       No                 Yes
The Edge           Stormwatch                       Yes                Yes
The Edge           Suicide Squad                    Yes                Yes
The Edge           Voodoo                             Yes                 Yes
Young Justice    Blue Beetle                          Yes                 Yes
Young Justice    Legion Lost                         Yes                 Yes
Young Justice    Legion of Superheroes         Yes                 Yes
Young Justice    Teen Titans                          No                   Yes

Titles with no female characters drawn sexually or as a love interest:
Subgroup          Titles
Batman               Batgirl, Batman, Batwing, Batwoman
Green Lantern     Green Lantern
Justice League    Captain Atom, The Fury of Firestorm, The Savage
Superman          Action Comics, Superman
The Dark           Demon Knights, Swamp Thing,
The Edge           Deathstroke, Grifter, OMAC, Stormwatch
Young Justice    Hawk and Dove, Static Shock

Next post will feature my thoughts and musings on what this all means.  Or as otherwise known, the conclusions.

A note:  This may well make you lose faith in the entire thing, but I figure I should confess - my maths isn't very good.  I've gone over and over the figures (done using excel - it's a godsend) and I think that mathematically speaking, they make sense.  But now my brain is a bit fried so if you notice a glaring error in the results please tell me!  Then I will redo them.

I can send the findings as put into an excel chart to anyone who wants them.

Analysing the role of women in the new DC Universe - part 1

All the furore about the treatment of Starfire and Catwoman in the  DC relaunch got me to thinking about about how female characters were presented in the new DC Universe.  If you only read the reviews of Red Hood and Catwoman you’d think that the DC books were a hotbed of misogyny.  I started pondering if this really was the case – certainly the books I read seemed to treat their female characters fine. 
Then the thoughts expanded and expanded and lo and behold, I came up with an idea of doing a bit of research onto how women were introduced in the new DC 52.

NB: I couldn’t have put this together without the help of Eyz, theyallfalldown and JimmyMcG.  Major major thanks to these guys who re-read a lot of comics for me and answered my questions about the women in the books.
So, onto the work.  I summarised the research project thus:
“Basically, what I am interested in finding is how the major female characters are portrayed in their first pages of the new comics (the number 1s), mostly centring around whether they are presented sexually or not”
I asked my co researchers to report on the following:
A description of how the major female characters are introduced in every new DC book.
I am looking for things like -
State of dress
Style of art (tits and ass aka Starfire vs normal proportions aka Power Girl or Wonder Woman)
How they are described by other characters (If applicable)
How they describe themselves (if applicable)
If they are introduced as being in relationship, flirting or something else romantic/sexual.
I wanted to know if the characters were drawn overtly sexual as I feel that could indicate a sexist treatment.  I also wanted to know if they were introduced with a reference to their physical looks, or as the partner of another character, because if they all were introduced like this, it would indicate that women in the new DCU exist to be primarily sexual beings and linked romantically with men (or women, I’d be interested in seeing if any women were introduced as lesbians too).  I term this phenomenon, the 'love interest'.
I requested that the reporters look at only how the character is presented on the first page they appear, not in the rest of the book – I believe this is important because the first impression we get of them generates an image of the character that is difficult to shake off in later times.  Considering that this takes place in a relaunch, it is entirely reasonable to suspect that DC wanted the readers’ first view of a character to be the thing that hooks you in, that scene that tells you all about them and who they are.  I think the way the character is represented in their first scene is indicative of how DC views them and their role in the new status quo.
I specified major characters and I explained that major should be taken to mean:
Female superheroes and supervillains
The women who have historically been partners of a hero/villain (e.g. Iris West)
Any notable female sidekicks (whether new characters or old)
Plus those women we know from the old DC who may only have cameo (like Power Girl in Mr T).  Basically this equates to every female character excluding those existing in the background with a non speaking role, such as being a face in the crowd.

I gave examples of the following:
Selina Kyle was introduced by her breasts on the first page of her comic (very sexual)
In Teen Titans, Cassandra Sandsmark was introduced by Tim describing her as gorgeous (not sexual, but definitely introduced with an emphasis on her looks).
In Mr Terrific, Power Girl was drawn normally, but wearing just a t-shirt in Mr Terrific's apartment, implying she's been intimate with him (i.e. introduced as being in relationship/fling)
In Wonder Woman, we first saw Diana in bed, naked (but I don't think this was done in a sexually ogle-y manner).

After some queries I sent all reporters the following:
As a reminder about what I want - I am not so much interested in the value judgement we put on the images, e.g. whether or not they are sexist, more about what they show, as I mentioned below.
Your reports don't have to be really long - a  few lines will do, but if you want to explain your reasoning that's also fine.  Basically I am looking to discover what the DCU says about women, not assume I know what it says and then try to prove my hypothesis.  So, we need to look at the books with an open mind.
What I want to do is look at how the women are presented and then extrapolate about what this means for representations of women in the new DCU.   i.e. are they introduced as sexual/romantic beings, is the emphasis on their looks and/or their sexual relationship to them men around them. I intend to make generalised commentary and possibly do some statistical work too. 

I realise that the methodology isn’t completely robust, there’s a lot of human bias coming into play in everyone's reports.  This skews the results so without a really strict marking scheme and formal framework in which to work in, the reports from each person aren’t completely comparable.  However, if someone would like to take the findings and build on them to do a better study, please do!  Just let me know what you find OK?
The reason for asking other people to help was because I a) couldn’t afford each new DC title and b) didn’t have the time to report on all of them.
The type of reports submitted varied in style, some reports gave me a bullet point list, others gave me prose talking specifically about how the women were presented, others gave me mini reviews of each comic.  I tried to extract the relevant information from each report and put it all into an excel table where I then did some nifty sorting according to group of titles and the results of each question. 
N.B: Stating that the introduction of women has a sexual or romantic overtone, does not mean they are misogynistic or sexist.  It is perfectly possible to portray a female character in a relationship with someone else and not have it be sexist, and it is perfectly possible to portray a woman in sexual manner without it being misogynistic.  Determining whether or not the introduction of women was sexist or not wasn’t the point of this study.  What I wanted to discover was if there was an overarching similarity in the way the women were introduced in order to find out what the cultural discourse surrounding women new DCU is (and see if there is a set discourse).

So, onto the findings!  Or, see next post. Conclusions coming up in a third post. :)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dead Man's Run

I got sent a signed copy of Dead Man's Run #0, by Greg Pak, for review  (Ah, the power of twitter, it's fab!).  So, here comes the review.
First off, credits:
Writer: Greg Pak
Illustrations: Tony Parker
Colours: Peter Steigerwald
Letters: Josh Reed
Publisher: Aspen Comics.  After googling this company I see it was founded by Michael Turner, which explains all the Michael Turner linked ads in the comic.  Some of these ads feature art of truly Escher Girls propotions, but thankfully, Dead Man's Run doesn't.  Well, the boobs on the cover are a bit odd.  the lady in question isn't the lead role int hsi issue, although it looks like she will be a major player later on in the series.

As for the comic itself, well, I quite enjoyed it.  I knew I'd read some of Greg Pak's work before, but couldn't recall what.  A quick search on New readers... shows that I reviewed Magneto: Testament which is just brilliant.  With that in mind it's not surprising that I enjoyed this comic.

It starts off witha big beefy type of chap buying goods in an American grocery store, he's obviously not that rich as he ahs to be careful about what he buys.  The interaction between him and the store assistant on just this first page gives us a lot of information about the characters, the job of the protagonist and the world this comic is set in.  For example, there's a big explosion outside and neither beefy chappie nor store assistant look particularly worried or surprised.  I know it's a really simple thing to do, use all available space to feed us details about the world and it's background, but I marvel every time I see a writer/artist do this.  It makes the reading experience so much more pleasurable.

As the comic runs on we learn that beefy chap works for a prison and he's got a a dark past.  We don't know what yet, but he seems like a decent sort now.  He's not scared to criticise authority and he's doing something heroic now, as he describes his job as 'to defend the surface'.  There are lower levels to the prison called the City of Corruption, and actually, the lower levels turn out to be hell itself.  Literally.  Our hero descends, with his team of other prison guards, and one thing leads to another and he dies.   Now he's trapped in Hell and presumably he's going to want to get out.

There the comic ends.  I liked it.  Plot wise, it's very fast moving, a lot of ground is covered but it doesn't feel rushed.  It dealt with in a simple manner, not simplistic, but controlled and carefully.  The colours are bright and shiny - very Michael Turner in style (yes I know Turner pencilled, not coloured, but a lot of his work is coloured in a very similar fashion).

At the end is a page of prose from Greg Pak talking about the comic.  He describes it as 'jailbreak from hell'.  Pak talks about his research for the project and says that he believes hell is a place of injustice, where the innocent burn. Religious imagery and settings is a thing I'm very interested in, so I'm very tempted to add this to my pull list.  I think it could be a good contender for a New readers... review, once the trade is out.

Thanks for Mr Pak for sending me this review copy, I certainly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to people.  It's got a lot going for it and shows a lot of promise.  Click here to buy Dead Man's Run.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011