Monday, 3 August 2015

I love Emma Frost but the reigning image of the former White Queen of the Hellfire Club continues to disappoint me. I am not alone in this train of thought. Writes Julie Kahn at Comics Alliance:
"Look, I can dig Emma Frost as an overtly sexual woman. Butt floss and pasties are too often justified as ‘liberated female sexuality!’  by creators who seem to draw breasts by tracing nickels, but y’know what? When it comes to Emma, I’ll accept it. Women who enjoy expressing their power and sexuality through fashion exist. It’s just that, y’know, these women typically understand when and where overtly sexual clothing is appropriate. And are at all in touch with notions of style and class. And understand that channeling one’s sexuality is not equivalent to wearing literal lingerie as daywear as often as possible."
I consider Emma Frost to be one of my childhood idols. I met her through Classic X-Men when I was a pre-teen and I loved her. Those scenes in Classic X-Men #34 were my first introduction to concepts of feminism and sexism at a time when I had no idea what those things were.
Classic X-Men #34
I loved her. I loved her confidence and her arrogance. She was a big counter to my other idols, Storm and Jean, who were righteous and good and innocent. She spoke to my Scorpio leanings and set me on my path to secret naughty things that are not readily acceptable to society and my overly religious mother. But I also understood that Emma was the bad guy. That automatically meant her views were flawed and that she was meant to be defeated. The girl Emma admonishes in those scenes sums her up at the end clearly: “She thinks she’s risen above something, she feels so superior to me. Yet she is a slave to games. I may be more vulnerable, but the true victim here is that White Queen.”

I have grown up since then, but Emma, apparently, has not. Or rather, she did at one point under the right pens, but her current iteration seems to exist only on the basis of showing skin and overtly oozing sexuality with no real purpose other than, well, being sexy. She's become a one note joke.

Writes Claire Napier at Women Write About Comics (from which many of my thoughts here stem):
"Emma is one of the few Marvel characters with any kind of consistent aesthetic, and it’s not surprising to see it go unchallenged, or spring back to this form, for this long. It’s eye-catching, continuity has its own agreeable charm, and Marvel comics approves of sexual drawings of women. What it’s not is good storytelling. What once was explained, and coherent, now is not."
Emma has defined herself by the power games she plays. Sex, or rather, the teasing promise of sex, is one of her many weapons but it is not necessarily her primary one--and despite what writers and artists try to tell you, it is not dependent on her attire.
Emma works Namor in AvX.  She could have achieved the same result wearing track pants. Stylish, expensive Lulu Lemon track pants, of course.
In fact, I imagine the act of sex itself is distasteful to her if not with someone she wants as well, but she loves the power and control it gives her. That thrill of wearing clothing that makes people want her or envy her. From personal experience, I know it to be intoxicating. I love her relationship with Scott (initially, not now), because I think that was first about defeating Jean. It just turned out that Emma actually fell for Scott, but she is constantly aware of the fact that she’s second fiddle to a (dead/younger) redhead. The chess game she plays against Sebastian Shaw in Classic #34 is not about sex. It is about her bringing Shaw into a realm where she is more powerful than his physical strength. Where she can be his equal. But it is very telling that she is defeated even as she defeats him.

This is one of the many reasons why I hated her appearance in X-Men: First Class. She was not Shaw’s equal. He sent her to get ice. Her disgust at having to seduce that one guy is about the only thing they got right. Oh and the jumpsuit. The rest of her attire was atrocious. And that is now how the image of Emma Frost has been solidified for people who do not know what the character used to be. Not only is she depicted in a cheap bra and ill-fitting skirt, none of her power as a business woman and Shaw’s equal is present. She’s sex candy. Poorly dressed sex candy.
Ugh.
I don’t know the actual rationale behind her secondary diamond mutation. As a telepath, she is vulnerable on the battlefield, so the diamond form gives her protection in a similar manner to the purple armour Psylocke wore in Australia. But it seems to me that it really just gives artists an excuse to keep her in skimpy outfits that she continues to wear off the field.

I love sexy. I believe Emma loves sexy because there is a thrill in it. I believe she should be dressed for sex appeal because she drinks that power and because she loves clothing and fashion. It's certainly not because she wants to impress others. Emma is not lacking when it comes to self esteem and getting what she wants.
Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis
But what comic book artists tend not to understand is that skimpy does not automatically mean sexy. Emma is a high class woman who I expect to see dressed in high class fashion. If artists can find porn magazines to reference for poses, they most certainly can find a fashion magazine or two to reference for attire. That's not to say her clothing can't be revealing from time to time as she deems appropriate, but lets work on some elegance and class instead of the constant excuse to slut shame. I am so tired of her being the butt of this "joke."
Slut Shaming 101 in Astonishing X-Men
Emma Frost has carefully cultivated her image — fake body, fake accent — of sexuality, high class, and power. She still craves and clings to the (shallow) victory of her rise to the top of the food chain at the Hellfire Club. She wears the white to remind you of who she was but has also come to revel in the society she has conquered. She wraps the world around her perfectly manicured fingers and alters it to suit her desires--or alters it to mess with yours. Because she can.
High tea in Astonishing X-Men
Emma is off to check her karats in New X-Men
Even with the façade she maintains, there is so much more to Emma Frost and as an X-Man, she’s been forced to face the truth of what she really is. Yet still, she oozes so much self esteem that the opinions of others clearly rolls off her back. I imagine a future where she stays in diamond form just to avoid being defeated by her only true enemy: wrinkles.

The moment when I finally gave up on Marvel’s writing of Emma was when they had her leave Scott in Schism, but then go back to him just a few panels later. For that brief moment, I had hopes of a woman who no longer defined herself by Scott as Jean had and who would return to her love of teaching. She could have been a great headmistress — just like she had been in Generation X — and run the Jean Grey Academy (oh she would have hated that name, though it is fitting penance for her role in turning Jean into the Black Queen) and handle Cerebro. She should be as much a foil for Scott as she is for Xavier and truly rise above Jean's shadow. I don’t see her as someone who wants or needs to be in the field. She’s a business woman. I want to see her running her business and handling the business of the X-Men.
"On paper, she sounds great. Powerful, wealthy woman, likes being in charge, she’s got super powers, and I assume she is into fashion. I can’t find any evidence of her loving fashion, but I’ve read several issues of X-Men where she insists they all go shopping in New York. Let’s face it. She likes clothes. So you’d think that for someone who likes clothes she would not wear the same thing all the time. I don’t even care about her showing so much skin." Terry Blas, The Emma Frost Fashion Redesign Project
Terry Blas, The Emma Frost Fashion Redesign Project
She could be and should be wearing sexy and classy pant suits or pencil skirts with spike heels like Gina Torres in Suits. She should be finding a new way to dominate and exude the confidence that I loved so much when I first saw her. She could still cling to her White Queen image and maintain her arrogance, even as she reveals her kinder, gentler side. She could come to define herself as something more that her compatriots respect and maybe still fear just a little.

I want an Emma that gives no fucks and is not afraid to grow older because she knows that power is so much more than a corset (even though she can totally still wear corsets because corsets are awesome.)
Friday, 31 July 2015
When Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri and all those X-Men artists I loved packed up and started Image Comics and its various subsidiaries, I followed, mesmerized by the shiny covers and promises of badass babes. This was the age of the Bad Girl: empowered women in spine-violating, perky-nippled poses. Somewhere deep inside me, my inner feminist screamed in confusion. The rest of me just enjoyed the grittier, shinier, boobier versions of the X-Men that Image Comics called WildC.A.T.S. and Cyberforce. Soon enough I was adding other titles like Gen13 and Wetworks and Codename: Strykeforce to my pull list.

Then came Top Cow Comics’ Witchblade.

Sunday, 19 July 2015
For many of us, the first princess we ever knew was the rebel leading, blaster shooting, badass Princess Leia from Star Wars. This is a legacy we strive to pass on to the next generation. But it’s hard to associate the face-down-a-Grand-Moff-and-a-Sith Lord, survive-torture, speeder-bike-racing, watch-her-planet-be-destroyed, rebel-commanding, Millenium-Falcon-fixing-and-flying, and boyfriend-rescuing Leia, with the image of Leia in a metal bikini with a collar around her neck that seems to forever permeate the media.

Monday, 13 July 2015

During my recent visit to Stage Select, Toronto’s new gaming convention, I caught the tail end of the keynote address from  Tanya X. Short, Creative Director of Kitfox Games. Along with Tanya, Xin Ran Liu, Mike Ditchburn, Jongwoo Kim, and Ryan Roth have combined their years of gaming industry expertise to create Shattered Planet, a survival adventure game where players can “punch aliens… for science,” and the “myth-weaving RPG” Moon Hunters (above).

Sunday, 12 July 2015
For me, the best kind of young adult novel is the young adult novel that doesn’t feel like a young adult novel. That is, it doesn’t have all the tropes of whiny, obnoxious teenagers whining obnoxiously about how their life sucks or pining obnoxiously over one or more romance options. Not that I’m totally against the use of tropes. They exist for a reason and, if used well, can advance a story and character development. But by “used well,” I mean writers need to not just toss in stereotypes and typical actions without any forethought or consequence, or consideration for alternative options.

Bibliosanctum: Y I H8 YA

Posted by Wendy B
Thursday, 2 July 2015
If you’re not as much of a fan of the Terminator saga as I am (read: I’m a lil bit obsessed), then this movie is not going to tell you much more than the trailers already have. Time has been altered, Kyle no longer returns to save a helpless Sarah as he believes, and John Connor has had a significant upgrade to his mechanics. The plot goes pretty much exactly where you ought to expect it to go from there, with maybe a few less explosions and a few less challenges in the way of the whole stopping Judgment Day thing (NOTE: Judgment Day is now set for October 2017. Please update your calendars.)

I can suggest you wait for this movie to hit a television near you, because, if I’m honest with myself, it’s not the greatest. But for me, the revelations in the trailers were like a love letter that went something like this:

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


If I catch you reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I am going to politely remove it from your grasp and hand you a copy of Sunstone instead. And if you’re into great characters and wonderful, sweet, funny romance stories that explore sexuality, then I am also going to hand you a copy of Sunstone.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Dejah Thoris in London

Posted by Wendy B
Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Too often when I see pregnant women in entertainment, the pregnant belly is anything but beautiful and powerful. It is, instead, baggage. Excess baggage. Even though it may contain precious cargo. And so too is the woman attached to it. Together, the woman and her belly become a plot device with any number of tropes used to show just how inconvenient—but oh so dramatic—that pregnant belly can be.

Read more at WWAC
Monday, 22 June 2015
Alice in Wonderland has a special place on my bookshelf. The faux leather bindings of the copy that I used to read with my mother are loosely repaired with tape that has lost much of its stickiness. It is part of the same collection of classics that contained Gone With The Wind, the second book, turned movie, that shaped me. But Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are the big girl stories my mom let me read first. Apparently, according to some, in 1865 when Lewis Carroll (born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) wrote this book full of anthropomorphized animals, he was alluding to various political and personal issues of his time.

Read more at WWAC
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Thursday, 11 June 2015

I’ve been meaning to play Life is Strange for a long time, but reality keeps getting in the way of my virtual commitments. A recent comment by my friend Dave prompted me to move the game higher up on my schedule. Why? Well, because Dave, who frequently posts commentary on his various gaming adventures, expressed some particular concerns that piqued my interest. Specifically, he spoke about the “creepiness” of many of the male characters that Max encounters.

Read more at WWAC
Monday, 1 June 2015
But, unlike the WWAC staff, my girls had very little interest in designing their own superhero Barbie. My eldest blames the company’s marketing campaign, which, during their favourite cartoons, spammed the obnoxious advertisement once, and sometimes twice, during every single commercial break. Finally, they understood how I felt about having to listen to Barbie mess with my favourite tunes from the ’80s and ’90s in movies like Barbie and the Three Musketeers or The Princess and the Popstar.

Littlest Pet Shop is still the ruling toy in the house, but when it comes to dolls, thankfully, Barbie has been replaced.

Enter the ghouls of Monster High.

Read more at WWAC
Thursday, 21 May 2015
When I saw my mom on Mother's Day, part of me knew. My dad knew too. He'd been talking over the past while with a woman whose husband shared the same illness. Mom's symptoms had followed his path and he had died shortly after. My mom was in pain. More pain than she had already suffered. I'd slept over the night before and helped her with her myriad if medications throughout the night, but nothing was working anymore. These were only bandaids on a wound that wouldn't close. The week before she had been at church, feeling good. But she knew then what we wouldn't have accepted (partially because my mom was the epitome of a drama queen and, while we never doubted the severity of her illness, we're sure there was some embellishment from time to time). Apparently, she told some of her many church friends that she was going home soon to see her own mother. God gave her that day to say good bye. The subsequent degradation of her body after that day was rapid. There could be no doubt, but how do you let yourself believe that?

My sister called on Monday. The doctor gave his verdict. He didn't sugar coat it, though I could have sworn I heard "weeks," not "days." 

I made plans to go see her on Thursday. I live two hours away. Not far, but mom had weeks, right? I would let my brother, father, and sister sort out the details to grant mom's wish die at home (or in this case, my brother's house, since my parents were in the middle of moving out if our family home of three decades). I would give them time to do this and not get in the way.

On Tuesday, my sister called again. We went to say good bye the next day. 

My husband and I told our daughters before hand. Their tears were hard to bear, as is to be expected, but the little one's sobs were like nothing I'd heard from her before. She is very intuitive and empathetic; so much older than her seven years. I feared how she would deal with this, but both of them have been incredible. They express their sadness, but they also make it clear that they want to be positive. Just  like grandma would have wanted. They are free with their hugs and come to check on me when I am too quiet. They are my little rocks.

My sister warned us that mom had gotten even worse since I'd seen her just days before. I worried how this would affect my husband, but he had no qualms about standing by her side and making her laugh. There was so much laughter in the house. Several friends were already there, along with the nurses and family. I am glad my mom could hear that laughter, even as we cried. The girls and I gave my mom fake tattoos, and then my eldest read to her from Robert Munsch's Love You Forever while I cried and held and kissed her hand.

Then the ambulance arrived to take her to the hospital where she had finally agreed to go after much deliberation and convincing from family in Jamaica. She had feared being in a hospital and dying alone. Many years gone, I had been in the hospital to see the dying mother of a friend. Across from her was another woman who looked very much like death had already taken her, though her chest still rose faintly beneath the sheets. There were all sorts of photos and newspaper clippings on the wall. But no one was with her. I went over and held her hand for a while and talked to her. When I left, I could only hope that her friends and family would be there in her final moments. My mom had no such issue and she needn't have feared. So many people rushed to her side that day and the next. I think, the hardest part of the day had been watching the ambulance drive away and wrestling with the unrealistic belief that maybe, at the hospital, she would be able to recover, and the fear that she would not be able to hold on long enough to see my other brother, flying in from New Jersey. "I don't have much time," she said, as I held her and thanked her for everything she'd done for me. If my brother did not have that opportunity, it would have broken him.

But my mother knows us. She knows what her children need. She waited for my brother that evening, just as she had waited for him to get a job after two years of searching. She waited for my issues to be resolved, and for her grandkids to be okay. And when she was certain we'd all be fine, she let go.

Daddy called me on Friday morning, May 15, 2015, 6:13AM.

So now I grieve, though I don't exactly know what that means. There are stages of this, apparently? Is there a handbook? I keep trying to go to work, but they keep kicking me out. I went to work on the Friday and organized everything I had to for the camp I'd been working on for months. Then I finally consented to letting my co-workers practically escort me out of the building. They get it though. I don't like leaving my work for others to do and there's nothing I could do for my mom at that moment and I knew my dad was in good hands with my brother and sister. We went down that evening to be with the family and stayed the following day. I vacillate between tears and laughter, I sing this song, sniffing her clothes, and I find distraction in my usual haunts. Sometimes, when I'm not crying, I get that numb feeling and wonder if I'm really the cold and uncaring human being I sometimes think I am.

My siblings are all dealing with it in their own way. My sister is even less emotional than I am. Or rather, where I can be intermittently passionate about certain things and will express my emotions when they choose to make their presence known, she is more reserved. But this has been an emotional drain on her because she's had to bear the emotions of others, especially my dad. My brother in the U.S., the one I worried most about, is doing well. He cries, of course, but he's happy that mom is no longer suffering and that it didn't take long for her to go--and of course, that he got to say good bye. Each of us has a bit of my mom in us, and my other brother has the lion's share. He's got the belligerence and the control, and has funneled himself into the task of organizing the funeral, sometimes without the consent or courtesy of discussing it with us. For the most part, we're allowing it. It's his way of coping. But this past Tuesday's trip to the funeral home could have gone sour. If there's one thing my family is good at, it's drama. We get that from my mom. Which is why, even through the sadness and frustration, we are confident that she's looking down on us and laughing at her legacy.

I'm home today. Every now and then, friends check in on me. At the office yesterday, and on my brief trip out to pick up some stuff, co-workers expressed their condolences. I tell everyone that I'm okay and sometimes I believe it, until I realize how many times I keep saying "I'm okay," and that I'm trying to convince myself, not them. Then they offer me their kind words and hugs, or I visit the guestbook of mom's memorial page, and the tears well and my throat tightens.

Tonight is the viewing and tomorrow the funeral. I've picked out my dresses. Dresses my mom bought for me. She never wanted black at her funeral. She was too vibrant for that. I suspect tomorrow will be my true breaking point, though there are others who will take it far harder. But tomorrow will also be the final moment of closure, though the wound will never truly heal.

I will be okay though. Mom made sure of that. We all grieve in our own way. Our own time. I guess this is mine.

Oh, and I'm totally gonna get a "mom" tattoo on her birthday.

ETA: Mom wanted a celebration of her life and that is exactly what we gave her. I thought that the day of the funeral would break me -- and it did, but it also lifted the weight from all of our shoulders. We miss her dearly--it's so quiet now--but we are so proud of the send off we gave her. It is just what she wanted.

Adventures in Bereavement

Posted by Wendy B
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Saturday, 16 May 2015
August 12, 1940 - May 15, 2015

Miss You

Posted by Wendy B
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Monday, 11 May 2015
My mother is a pain in the ass. She's a loud, boisterous, belligerent Leo woman who takes the phrase "all the world's a stage" to heart. Sometimes it's hard to tell when she's not acting in some way. It's what she was born to do. There was a time when I was headed down her path. When I could steal any show I wanted to when I stepped on stage. But that was just one of the many talents I got from my mother. There's a lot of my mother in all of my siblings and me. For better or for worse.

This newspaper clipping was one of the many remnants of her past I found this weekend as I sorted through the junk under her bed, prepping my parents for the move out of our family home of 30 years. I've seen all of the old pictures before. My mom was a stunning woman.

The contrast between the photos I was looking through and the woman who could barely walk up two flights of steps this weekend was....

Mother's Day. The day I realized my mom was dying.

It's not surprising, really. She's suffered from a chronic, not-quite-cancer, blood disease for almost two decades. It's slowly been whittling at her from within, but, despite the constant pain and fatigue, she always rallies. Even as the medicines fail or the prognosis gets slightly worse. She rallies. We joke that mom is going to out live us all. This disease is a very real torment, but admit it, mom, you love the attention you get. ha ha ha.

But I looked at the pictures this weekend and at my mom struggling to speak and knew that the joke was over.

It feels wrong to write this. Like I'm saying good bye before she's even gone. The doctors have given her a few weeks. A bed is being organized for my brother's house. She's signed the papers. But her mother was a fighter too. She was given a few weeks several times and defied them until she was 98 years old. My mom could damn well do the same. If nothing else, but to spite us. Like that little magnet on her fridge that says "A parent's greatest revenge is living long enough to be a problem to their children." That would totally be a mom thing to do.

 I left work early today. I have lots to do and the work would have been a useful distraction. But every moment since my sister called me has been peppered with tears. I didn't feel like having to explain that to anyone. But I did have to tell my daughters when I got home. I couldn't hide it from them. Their sobs wrenched my soul.

Still. I have to look at this as a blessing. They have a chance to say good bye. They've known her and she has been an important part of their life. Death is not new to them. They never met their paternal grandmother who passed away suddenly before my husband and I even met, though we visit her grave every year. This is hard for him too. When I met him, "mother" was an understandably difficult subject. Now he calls my mother "mum," as do many others not of her blood. That's just how big her heart is. Room for every child who needs to be loved unconditionally.

A few weeks ago, I was talking about Robert Munsch's creepy book, Love You Forever. That crazy mom who loves her kid so much that she sneaks into his house at night to cuddle him even after he's grown into an adult. But as much as it amused me to make fun of creepy stalker mom, I got what the book was saying. I'm 38 years old and tonight mom reminded me that I'm still her baby. As if I could ever forget.

We're going to go see her in a few days. And see my dad, whom I worry about far more. My mom, I know, is ready for this. Scared, but ready. I've never much cared for church, mainly because of my mom's preachiness, but I've never doubted her faith. She has her God and knows she is going to Him. I will not take that from her. And I'll do my best to keep my tears here so that she can have my laughter and in turn, make her laugh.
I'll love you forever.
I'll like you for always.
As long as I'm living
My Mommy you'll be.

Mother's Day

Posted by Wendy B
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Sunday, 3 May 2015
This was the pressing question from my daughters as we waited for Avengers: Age of Ultron to start last night. By the end of the film, we had determined that Ultron was about a week or so old, but more importantly, we all enjoyed the movie for its entertainment value. That doesn't mean the movie was without its problems though. Just relax and watch the movie you say? That would be all well and good if so much time wasn't spend in building up all these great big important themes and characters for me to think about. Spoiler filled thoughts ahoy.

So how old is Ultron?

Posted by Wendy B
Thursday, 30 April 2015

Spoiler Warning: These diaries will contain spoilers for The Witcher, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt by CD Projekt Red, possibly the books upon which they are based by Andrzej Sapkowski, and the comics from Dark Horse, depending on just how ambitious/obsessive I’m feeling.

WWAC: The Witcher Diaries

Posted by Wendy B

I am a huge fan of Modesty Blaise. The cheap description of the character is “the female James Bond,” but oh, Modesty is so much more than that. She was born in 1963, when writer Peter O’Donnell and illustrator Jim Holdaway brought to British newspaper strip comics—and later novels—her adventures in subterfuge and action and capers that took her all across the world. She is one of my favourite sex positive comic icons, and, in a discussion about female comic characters and sexuality, I cited Modesty as an example of someone who is inherently sexual, but whose sexuality is used sparingly, in context, and with far greater subtlety than we tend to see today.

Read more at WWAC
Wednesday, 29 April 2015
My fellow WWAC Warriors impress me to no end with their incredible feats. From to bodybuilding to Muay Thai to recovery workouts and diets, it seems like they can and will do it all. Their dedication and effort are inspiring—or at least they ought to be, but my problem is that I’m lazy. Also, I really love food.

Read more at WWAC
Tuesday, 28 April 2015
Saturday, 25 April 2015

Scarlett Couture

Posted by Wendy B
Friday, 17 April 2015

WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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