Magical Mondays: Sovereign‘s Superheroes Inadvertently Uphold a Superhero Meritocracy

When I reviewed Dreadnought earlier last week, I wasn’t aware that it had a sequel — the book came out early this year, and sequels usually take a least a year to put together. But against all odds, Dreadnought‘s sequel Sovereign was published a mere six months after Dreadnought, and so I went on down to the library to pick it up. What I found was that while Dreadnought had a fairly clear-cut narrative as a coming-of-age story for its trans protagonist, Sovereign tried to tackle many different issues at once and had the very typical sequel problem of not getting deep enough into any of them. Still, amongst the issues with gender, race, the media, a TERF villain, and a quickly developing romantic relationship, Sovereign did succeed in raising some thought-provoking questions about superheroism as meritocracy.

Spoilers for Sovereign below the jump.

(via Tor)

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“Those Are Our Superpowers”: Dreadnought and the Importance of Queer Stories By Queer People

This weekend was the Emmys, and usually, nothing much interesting happens at the Emmys aside from the opening monologue. However, I was ecstatic to hear that one of my very favorite TV shows from this year, Master of None, won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The episode nominated, “Thanksgiving,” was about the story of protagonist Dev’s queer Black friend, Denise, coming out to her family through the years and was co-written by Lena Waithe, herself a queer Black woman. In Waithe’s acceptance speech, she said:

I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different – those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.

Waithe’s words are both true and a rarity in today’s world, which generally pays lip service to LGBTQ+ solidarity but hardly ever celebrates the stories of actual (non-white and non-male) queer people. The idea of LGBTQ+ people being superheroes in their own right, not in spite of but because of the parts of themselves that mainstream society often doesn’t accept, is something that many queer youth need to hear and which many superhero stories need to understand.

Many superhero stories will rely on faulty allegories for the LGBTQ+ experience, like the X-Men hiding their abilities from their parents, despite the fact that queer people are not inherently dangerous. These stories often have little to no actual representation, and they almost never show the LGBTQ+ experience in an authentic, realistic light. Fortunately, the world of publishing is slowly pushing itself towards diversity, and one of the fruits of this labor is the 2017 novel Dreadnought by April Daniels. As a superhero story about a transgender protagonist written by a transgender author, it’s every bit as real as Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” and is a beautifully written novel that shows how a superhero story can be more than just another coming-of-age tale.

Minor spoilers for Dreadnought and trigger warning for transphobia/internalized transphobia after the jump.

(via goodreads)

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Strong Female Protagonist

sfp logoI’m mostly between fandoms right now; my summer shows are over, my fall shows haven’t started, and I’m trying very hard not to spend my entire life reading post-finale Hannibal fanfiction. In the interests of digging into something new, I clicked on a bookmark I’ve had for a while—a link to the first page of a webcomic called Strong Female Protagonist. I’m not sure who first recced it to me—if I had to guess, my money would be on former LGG&F writer SquidInkSamurai—but it’s sat in my favorites for… probably years without my ever having read a panel. When I saw that I was up to write a Web Crush this week, though, I knew its time had come. I clicked the bookmark. The SFP fandom gained a member.

Trigger warning for mention of rape after the jump.

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The Big Bad: Superheroes without Supervillains

drevilSupervillains are historically inseparable from their superhero counterparts. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, Joe Biden has Nixon’s Ghost. However, as comic movies keep getting bigger, and as the MCU sucks up the world’s supply of white dudes named Chris, the villains are increasingly left behind. These guys fall into a few tidy categories, and alive or dead, find themselves forgotten when the credits roll.

Somehow, the greater realism applied to superheroes, the less room there is for supervillainy. Instead, we’re left with a handful of tropes, with only a few bad guys able to break out of the box. This dynamic is crucial to the ways our current crop of superhero blockbusters reflects our wider psychology. We ache for something bigger than ourselves to believe in, and assemble the Avengers. We question that ache, and begin the Civil War. But when it comes to evildoers, we haven’t figured out what we want. Sometimes it’s just exaggerated versions of the bad people in the world, sometimes it’s faceless alien hordes, sometimes it’s pure evil, given the nasty explanation of “mental illness.” In contrast to the depth we’ve given our heroes, our villains keep falling short.

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Ethnic Superhero Season, or What Michelle Rodriguez Can Teach Us About Believability

Virtually any time that something happens at the intersection of Black people and comics, I get a message on Facebook. That’s because my friends love me, I’m sure, but it occasionally leads me to be inundated with eight or nine messages about the same thing. Take, for example, this video of Michelle Rodriguez, which was sent to me by about twelve people a month ago:

In the video, Michelle offers a few choice words on diversity in casting: “Stop stealing white superheroes.” It caused a bit of an uproar in some circles, and Michelle made a video clarifying her statements. But first, let’s address the premise itself. Are all of these superheroes, “originally” white, whose races are being changed, being stolen? First, a superhero is functionally a mythological entity (yes, they are—I will fight you), and cannot be stolen. They can, however, be appropriated, and this may be closer to what Rodriguez meant. My initial reaction was confusion, both personal and academic. As an individual, I was confused at why another person of color objects to the practice of diversifying white characters, especially Green Lantern who has already seen a Latino character—Kyle Rayner—in a print run.

Academically, I was confused because the notion that white characters can be “stolen” or “appropriated” when they are primarily what’s made available to young people of all races, while even our fantasies are “regulated by white believability” is troubling. Even more than that, myths are shaped, stolen, borrowed, passed around, and stripped for parts regularly. That’s their nature and cannot be separated from their purpose. It’s what they do. If you don’t believe me, on the left is a picture of Chinese Jesus.

There’s no universe in which I’m sad that Thor is a woman in the newest print run, and I don’t feel that men have lost anything; Thor was a man for all comic print runs beforehand (except for that time he was a frog). A little turnabout is fair play. Similarly, I’m not upset that Heimdall was played by Idris Elba or that Johnny Storm is being played Michael B. Jordan. I’m not even upset that Donald Glover keeps teasing us with this Spider-Man thing, or that Tyrese Gibson keeps telling us how ready he is to play Green Lantern (although I wish they’d stop teasing us, I’m getting chafed over here).

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Throwback Thursdays: Sky High

Sky High is a Disney television movie that came out all the way back in 2005, and it’s one of the few live-action direct to DVD movies by Disney that I actually like. The story is about Will Stronghold and his exploits at Sky High, an airborne high school for the children of superheroes. Unlike his parents, who are both famous superheroes, Will doesn’t have any powers and can never be a hero until he develops them.

Sky High floating schoolAs a superhero family comedy movie, Sky High is amazing. It’s also one of those movies that very easily could have launched its own TV show—because let’s face it, a teen drama superhero television series would be all kinds of awesome—and it’s a shame that that never happened. Sky High is fun to watch, and despite its lighthearted tone and obvious self-awareness, it still manages to impart some important lessons to its audience.

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Fanfiction Fridays: A Flag That Bears the Name by Chash

A while back, I wrote a couple posts on a sadly-underrated movie called Attack the Block. Now, Attack the Block is a cracking good alien invasion movie, but it’s also about racism, social inequality, police brutality, and society’s standards of masculinity, all wrapped up in some delightfully well-written characters. Basically all I want is for more people to watch this movie and talk about it with me. Fortunately, Yuletide is a fandom event meant just for small fandoms, and luckily for me, this year, someone wrote this great fic for Attack the Block.

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