MonthNovember 2011

Cats and Birds

Meaningless, Stupid Things

So, when I’m writing about DC comics lately I’m trying to avoid spoilers. For the issue I’m talking about. Issues about previous weeks’ issues are pretty unavoidable, though. That said…

I was tempted to start with a complaint that the DC release schedule seems to be set up in such a way that week by week my favourite characters are forcing me to reassess which are my favourite books in the relaunch. Then, after a moment’s thought I realised… that’s not a bad thing, that’s a fantastic thing! I can’t remember, before the relaunch, the last time that my favourite books and favourite characters were jostling for position multiple times in a month. When I was this engaged with the stories and characters.
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Give Us Back Our Harley

“The thought was, let’s see her operate outside of the Joker, not being obsessed 24/7,”
Adam Glass, Writer of Suicide Squad 2011, TV Guide Interview

This is a fantastic idea. It was a fantastic idea in Gotham City Sirens, the recently ended serial telling the story of Harley, Selina and Pamela trying to rub along together as friends. It was a fantastic idea in Harley & Ivy, the serial that saw the eponymous duo getting into misadventures. It was a good idea in Harley Quinn when she worked with Harvey Dent, in Secret Six… a good idea but not an original one. Adam’s bold statement of the thought behind the Suicide Squad rendition of Harley Quinn just belies a woeful lack of understanding of who Harley is and her history in the DC universe.

“She’s still funny, she’s still sexy, she’s still a little crazy. This is Harley if she’s moved away from home, her chance to shine on her own.”
Adam Glass, Writer of Suicide Squad 2011, TV Guide Interview

To take your points in order, Adam.

1) No, she isn’t. Humour is a subjective thing, admittedly, but Harley is not what she was. She should be a jester, who fell for the Joker because he made everything funny. It was all for laughs. It put a smile on her face. Harley is a ray of sunshine. Psychotically deranged sunshine. I haven’t seen any evidence of this in the new 52.

2) Harley’s sexiness did not come from her wardrobe, ever. Even when she got out of her iconic costume in Gotham City Sirens and dressed casually the appeal didn’t come from her wardrobe. Harley’s outfit in the first two issues of Suicide Squad was not sexy. There was nothing alluring about it, it was just sexual which is a different thing entirely.

3) Maybe she is still a little crazy. Actually, if she’s calling anyone but Mistah J “puddin'” then she’s clearly lost her mind completely. What she isn’t, though, is skating on the edge of madness, laughing at the absurdity of it all as she goes.

In short, the character presented in Suicide Squad is unrecognisable. Not least because Harley Quinn isn’t clown white, she wears clown white. Whilst I have no problem at all with her pursuing other romantic interests, I do have an issue with her calling Deadshot “puddin'”. Mr J is puddin’. Ivy is ‘Red’. Selina is ‘Kitty’. Harley nicknames the people precious to her. Are we supposed to think she’s gone so far past the boundries of sanity that she thinks Deadshot IS Joker?

It would seem that the team behind the book know what’s up here, too. The sudden and inexplicable (not to mention unexplained and unremarked) costume change between books 2 and 3 is a clear sign of retreat and acknowledgement that mistakes were made. Keep acknowledging it, guys. One of the most unique, delightful and charming villains of the DC universe’s fate hangs in the balance. Give us Harley Quinn, the real Harley Quinn. Trust me, we’ll all be better off.

“Ha! And here you thought I was just another bubble-headed blonde bimbo. Well, the jokes on you! I’m not even a real blonde!”
– Harley Quinn, Harlequinade

No, Harles, sorry, you’re not… for some reason you’re a half-black haired, half-red haired caricature of yourself. But hang in there. Writers come and go but great characters are forever. I hope.

And Then I Fell In Love With Batwoman

Friends of mine, who know my personal history with this sort of thing, will probably get a chuckle out of my falling for the openly lesbian member of DC’s costumed hero lineup. To them and to the world I say, not that kind of love.

Until this week’s releases I had a very clear idea of my favourite books in the DCnU lineup.

  1. Batgirl
  2. Catwoman
  3. Batwoman

One thing that’s obvious right away is that these are all women. If I can bring you back from your stunned, shocked revelry I’ll hold my hands up and say that as far as I’m concerned that’s not a coincidence. You see for a man to deal with his problems with physical superiority and even violence is pretty much the defacto expectation. When a woman does it, it’s subverting the stereotypes. Subversion is always more fun than convention. Not to mention these characters all have little wrinkles that make their ‘so I put on a costume and fought back’ story a little more interesting. The recovering invalid, the anti-hero criminal and the openly gay. Oh and they’re also well written books. Let’s not forget that.

However, right now, the list has been reordered.

  1. Batwoman
  2. Batgirl
  3. Catwoman

Sorry, Selina.
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We Wouldn’t Want Them To Get The Wrong Idea

“St Paul’s is a very important site. What we’re looking at is an image of the UK.”
– Theresa May, BBC Question Time 3/11/2011

This is a true statement, though taken out of context I don’t think I mean it the way Theresa May meant it. You see, when she said it the quotation was joined by these words:

“Personally, yes, I would like to see them go.”
– Theresa May, BBC Question Time 3/11/2011

The message I got from watching Mrs May’s appearance was that she was concerned that by occupying land outside a tourist landmark in our capital the protestors were giving the ‘wrong’ impression to visitors to our country. Tarnishing the ‘image of the UK’ she referred to in their eyes. I can certainly understand why the government wouldn’t want tourists to see a large number of people so disaffected with their country and their government that they have literally taken to abandoning their homes to live in public, that way able to express their disappointment and desire for a change 24/7 to anyone who might pass them by. I can’t see how this, in any way, would give tourists the wrong impression.

It seems to me that Theresa May was more on the money than even she meant to be when she said this was an ‘image of the UK’. Indeed it is. What tourists see outside St Paul’s Cathedral is the evidence that Britain is not working. Not for everyone. That people are disaffected and marginalised to such an extent by the current economic systems in place that they are left with camping in public as their best of all possible options. Maybe if they pick up a paper they’ll read about St Pauls’ Cathedral itself suspending legal action against them. Then they might get the impression there is broad and growing support for these protests.

So yes, Theresa, what we’re looking at IS an image of the UK. It’s the UK that successive governments, I won’t go so far as to lay the blame on any particular party, has worked for and got and whilst I’m sure you and your colleagues would like to see them go I’m glad they’re there. I’m glad they’re camping outside the council offices here in Bristol as well. I’m glad it’s happening in cities all over this and other countries. I am glad that when people visit London they won’t just see a Cathedral but an ‘image of the UK’, something notable, something reflective of our country and our society. Let them see it, let them reflect on it and let the message and the debate rise up in all those who see it.

As a politician these people are the ones to whom you should be answering. Happy people who aren’t protesting don’t necessarily need special consideration from their governments. The Occupy LSX camp provides a concentration of those members of society who clearly most want and need engagement with and representation from their politicians. Go there. Talk to them. Become part of the discussion rather than wishing their voices would be silenced.

As Ed Balls said on the same show:

“Politics has got to rise to a better level and say ‘we’re going to make this system work’.”
– Ed Balls, BBC Question Time, 03/11/2011

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