Zack Snyder cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman for the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, thereby ending months of speculation about the possible portrayal of DC Comics’ oldest nod to feminist virtue and grrl power. Previously seen by American audiences in the recent Fast & Furious movies, Gal Gadot’s casting has been met with equal praise and derision. My initial response is hearty, heartfelt, and honest.
As a child, I did not collect comics weekly. At ten, I lacked the funds and access to a friendly neighborhood comic book shop. Travel to the closest store required leaving Black suburban safety, crossing highways and railroad tracks, and strolling through an alien White community three miles away to feed a Cable and Nightwing habit. No. Besides, graphic novels offered complete story arcs, so to read new comics I would cajole my mother into forking over twenty dollars American (not including sales tax) each time I wished to depart Waldenbooks in Chesapeake Square Mall with the Spider-Man Clone Saga, or Batman: Contagion.
The Walking Dead, AMC’s smash-hit zombie apocalypse action-drama, owes much of its success to the general interest in and support for gore-infested violence by American audiences. This season’s premiere raked in 16.1 million viewers, and devoured more 18-49 year old view attention than this season’s N.F.L. games. Thanks to Jenn Reappropriate’s conference commitments, I watched and live-tweeted “Infected!”, last-night’s episode , and my perspective and mild spoilers follow.
Robert Kirkman’s dystopia appealed as a comic because, during most of its run, the narrative focus highlighted human survivors. Rick’s post-traumatic insanity, Sophia’s alternate mental universe, Carl’s sociopathic nihilism, and even Michonne’s clumsy sexuality all fell within what reader would recognize as human responses to the unreasonable events presented by The Walking Dead. One of the most useful moments in the comic happens somewhere in the Prison, when Rick, in a frenzied monologue, explains the nature of the new world no meek can inherit.
I can scarcely imagine a worse waste of digital celluloid: flying spears thrown from thin, gangly limbs, a star-spangled miniskirt threatening wardrobe malfunctions for two and a quarter hours, unblemished ivory skin strained under gold and platinum body armor, practicality be damned. Wonder Woman the movie — fangirl nirvana, fanboy nightmare. Whenever people discuss the needless parade of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who populate superhero movies’ starring roles, part of me appreciates their boredom with the obnoxious identity politics at play; what was The Avengers but a classic fraternity bro-down with human growth hormone, outdated mythology and colorful titanium tossed in for kicks?
“The X-Men are hated, feared and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have here, intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry and prejudice.” —Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont, 1981
My parents attended different Baptist churches in my hometown, vibrant, bright places of worship where suburban Blacks developed a respectful, life-affirming, joyous relationship with a living God. Each Sunday meant uptempo gospel music, dedicated Bible study, and hour-long sermons on the spiritual uplift offered through Christian precepts. This was the Black church: fine clothing, expensive hats, smiling children, gaunt deacons, relaxed tresses, choir robes, public praise, Negro spirituals, religious supplication, spiritual uplift. For my neighbors, for my mother, church was the emotional recharge, the soul cleansing needed before Monday morning’s journey into corporate White villainy. I don’t pretend the same of my father; I always found his belief an extension of his duty to family and country. Still personal, but reserved, stately, imperial.
Sand without end. Sand that cakes upon people and things, children and toys, mothers and baby bottles. Sand on the productive and listless alike. Desert sand. Sand that obscures hope and defines poverty. The opening scenes of Elysium, director Neill Blomkamp’s recent sci-fi thriller, center the viewer in a ruined Los Angeles, circa 2154, populated by an undifferentiated brown stuff only George Orwell could appreciate. American Marrakech. Quickly, we learn that the only people who live in this God-awful Depression postscript are those without means; an undeveloped protagonist dreams of Elysium, where poverty, war, sickness, and even death have been vanquished by man. Heaven, not on Earth, but above. The nun who listens with ancient grace cautions the roguish boy. “That place is not for us.”
The beginning is the worst best time in a comic – either the material lives up to its promise, and offers something interesting and lively, or the collaboration between words and art wastes trees with hackneyed prose and sloppy pencils, and you feel cheated out of four bucks. Here’s hoping I don’t leave you feeling played.