Wednesday, so covers!

The art is uncredited but I think it’s based on an episode of The Addams Family.Next a neat cover by Robert Gibson Jones.This uncredited 1949 cover is a good example of how paperbacks used to sell with sex (it’s not the primary thing I think of when I think of Gladiator)And finally a cover I like by Alex Schomberg#SFWApro. All rights to covers remain with current holder.

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The Claws of the Cat, the Tail of the Tigra

Marvel’s TIGRA: The Complete Collection is an awkward book to review as it has so many different series bundled together, going in so many different directions.

It starts with The Claws of the Cat #1, a 1972 attempt at a feminist superhero. Greer Grant was a bright young college student who fell in love with cop Bill Nelson, married him and put her education and any career plans on hold to be Mrs. Bill Nelson; that’s what her husband wanted, after all (this was a familiar scenario for women in those days). When Bill died of a gunshot, Greer had no skills to support herself but eventually wound up working with Dr. Tumulo, a scientist researching on ways to enhance human ability. Despite the interference from her financial backer, Donalbain — he wanted his bimbo mistress to undergo the treatment — Tumulo put Greer through it as well, endowing her with greater speed, strength, intellect and an empathic ability. When it turned out Donalbain had some very bad ideas for the treatment, Greer donned the costume he’d designed for his mistress (she died due to her lack of training) and ended his plans as (drumroll) the Cat!

It was a good story followed by three much less engaging issues with C-lister foes (Commander Kraken and Man-Bull, for instance) and one team-up with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up. That might have been it but Tony Isabella began writing for Marvel a couple of years later and wanted to add more women to the lineup. He hit on the idea of transforming Greer into a literal cat — Tigra the Were-Woman (“were” in “werewolf” actually means man so this name meant “Tigra the Manwoman.” Oopos)! It turns out Dr. Tumulo was part of an ancient race of Cat People. When Greer is fatally injured by Hydra agents hunting the doctor, the Cat People put Greer through a mystic ritual transforming her into one of their own, whom they named Tigra after a legendary warrior of their people (Steve Englehart would later retcon a lot of this. It got confusing).

After defeating Hydra, Tigra had a brief run in Marvel Chillers and popped up in several guest-star bits. The Chillers run by Isabella was good, pitting her against a team of Scavengers called the Rat Pack, Spidey’s old foe Kraven and pairing her up with Marvel’s Native American hero, Red Wolf. The team-ups are variable in quality.

I was puzzled why Marvel included a 2002 Tigra miniseries with all the Bronze Age stuff, but it turns out the four issues go back to the Were-Woman’s roots. She discovers Bill may have been murdered by vigilante cops, members of a secret society that’s into gunning down crooks without inconveniences like a trial. Going undercover as a rookie (at this point she could shift back and forth from her Tigra identity) she tries to root out the truth. If the plot is unclear in spots, it’s overall good, though the assurances the vigilantes are totally not like most cops rings a little hollow in the days of Black Lives Matter.

Overall this volume was nothing I needed to have, but I’m happy that I do have it.

#SFWApro. Covers by Marie Severin (top) and Ed Hannigan, all rights remain with current holders.

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I didn’t know we were under martial law!

But according to false prophet Jeff Jansen, “the military is in charge of our nation right now.” So his prophecies Trump would win are true, because the military will remove Biden from the White House and install God’s favorite soon.

Republicans still claim that the Sedition Day attackers weren’t really Republicans. One right-winger who was in  the mob that day is adamant Trump conservatives get credit. Another texted his ex, sent her photos and videos of the assault and told her she was a moron for doubting Biden stole the election. She turned him in.

Unfortunately, Republicans’ belief that “their” country has been stolen by Jews/gays/blacks/Democrats/liberals/feminists/trans/Muslims — is widespread at the state and local level. Much as they say they love American, Republicans hate the real America where they’re forced to share with other people. Tucker Carlson does his bit, claiming there’s no proof the insurrectionists were white supremacists while Black Lives Matter is full of black supremacists.

Ted Cruz fled Texas for Mexico. AG Ken Paxton escaped the cold in Utah. Pundit Adam Serwer says one reason Republicans prioritize culture-war issues is that it helps them get away with running Texas as a failed state — sure, they’ve known for a decade this could happen, but they’re punching down at gays, isn’t that enough?

A couple of foreign policy wonks suggest the U.S. chill rather than try to compete with Moscow and Beijing around the globe.

Sure, Rush Limbaugh was a misogynist, bigot and homophobe, but the NYT’s Frank Bruni still says journalists shouldn’t say so.

Lovely. The CPAC right-wing conference had a scheduled speaker who believes Judaism is a fake religion, Hebrew is a fake language … He’s been disinvited by a lot of vile people haven’t.

Even one dose of Trump virus vaccine helps protect us, according to a British study. As Paul Campos said, we should be celebrating.

Max Boot says those who supported incompetent former president Trump have no grounds for criticizing Biden. A-OC and others say if Dem Senator Joe Manchin can support Trump’s cabinet picks, it’s disturbing he draws the line when Biden nominates women of color.

My state’s lieutenant governor, Mark Roinson, likes saying anti-Semitic crap.

Clarence Thomas thinks we should restrict voting by mail regardless of whether there’s any fraud.

A federal judge greenlights California’s proposal to impose net neutrality. Illinois has eliminated cash bail, which often left poor defendants in jail for months because they couldn’t put up the money.

The destruction QAnon wreaks on families.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo accused of sexual harassment.

Madison Cawthorn, seditionist, harasser and liar.



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Graphic novels about golems and more

THE GOLEM’S VOICE by David G. Klein is set in 1943 Prague, as pre-teen Yakob becomes separated from his family as they’re deported to a concentration camp. Wandering into the synagogue of Rabbi Judah ben Loew, Yakob reanimates the Golem and uses him to protect a small band of refugees in the nearby woods. Meanwhile, a German commander seeks to capture the Golem, learn its secrets and exploit its power for the Reich. This is okay, but suffers from having too many deus ex machina moments (ben Loew’s spirit intervening to move the plot along).

THE SCENT OF MAY RAIN (done as a Kickstarter) by Mark O. Stack and Ray Epstein with Kaylee Rowena on art worked a great deal better; it’s also unusual in having a new golem rather than resurrecting the Golem of Prague. In 1920, a Jewish professor brings a female golem to life because his little girl needs a mother. She’s bound to serve and obey, but at the same time she has her own independent spirit, which leads to her becoming the superhero Amazon in WW II (an obvious hat tip to Wonder Woman being born from clay). But what does she truly want for herself? A lesbian golem freedom fighter/mother stands out from the pack, and it’s actually good as well as unusual.

THE TERRIFICS: Meet the Terrifics by Jeff Lemire and various artists was DC’s attempt to riff on the Fantastic Four (I believe this came out when Disney didn’t have film rights to the FF so like the X-Men the comics pushed them aside). Mr. Terrific, Phantom Girl, Metamorpho and Plastic Man are bound together as a team when energy from the Dark Multiverse makes it impossible for them to stay far apart. Can they work together? Can they find a solution? Who is this Tom Strong sending them warnings (I must admit I feel sorry for Alan Moore at seeing yet another of his creations brought into the DCU)? I wasn’t blown away, but I’ll buy V2 eventually.

SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen? by Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber is a frustrating book. The premise is that Jimmy — largely the same goofball as the Silver Age, though with a wealthier family — has become the Daily Planet’s financial lifeline due to the insane online traffic generated by his nutty adventures. Then someone kills him, but why? Is it the wife he acquired during a drunken party in Gorilla City? Luthor? Can he survive long enough to find out?

It’s a great premise and the plot is fun, but the execution suffers. Fraction’s writing is way too cute and this bounces around in time to the point Pulp Fiction looks linear. AQUAMAN: Deadly Waters by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo collects the final run of Aquaman’s Silver Age serie. Aquaman gets trapped in a subatomic universe, meets Deadman, fights off aliens, thwarts a deranged millionaire and battles a reckless superhero in Detroit, all with some wild art by Aparo, who seems to be channeling Ditko in some of the subatomic scenes. I really dislike that Mera gets to do nothing but wring her hands and worry (as I’ve mentioned before, Dick Giordano sidelined her as soon as he became editor) but overall this was a good volume (courtesy of my bro, as a Christmas gift). Steve Skeates subsequently adapted an unused Aquaman script for another comics company and gave the last Aquaman issue a sequel at Marvel to boot.

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Rowena, Curt Swan and Nicholas Cardy. All rights remain with current holders.

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Weirdness, crime and ETs: movies viewed

SCHIZOPOLIS (1997) is a bizarre film from Stephen Soderbergh wherein the director himself plays a compulsively masturbating cubicle drone, an L. Ron Hubbard-type guru and winds up cheating on himself with his own wife. At times reminiscent of Monty Python, frequently absurdist, the end result is incomprehensible, but engaging (as opposed to incomprehensible and uninteresting like Donnie Darko). “There was a time I brushed my teeth every fifteen minutes.”

DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD (1954) stars Mickey Rooney — I frequently forget what a good actor he can be — as a mechanic and amateur race-card driver who dreams of someday competing in a major race like the Indy or Le Mans, both far beyond his means. Heck, he’d be happy if he could find a woman who doesn’t dismiss him as too short to date. Enter Dianne Foster, a seductive woman who takes an interest in him, but only to set him up so Kevin McCarthy can recruit him as wheelman for a bank robbery. Film Noir cites this as a textbook example of 1950s trends in the genre: more naturalistic, less shadowy, but still concerned with the femme fatale (though Foster is more guilt-ridden than most), corruption and how one error in judgment can bring you to doom. Well done.“If this works out, maybe we can room together next semester.”

I didn’t get much new stuff watched for Alien Visitors because I spent four hours last weekend watching the commentary tracks and special features on the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers BluRay I bought (well worth the cost, too). One I did catch was Disney’s STEPSISTER FROM THE PLANET WEIRD (2000), in which a teenage girl discovers to her horror that mom Khrystine Haje is dating again, then getting married again, despite her new boyfriend and his daughter being serious weirdos. What the girl doesn’t know is that they’re actually aliens (living-gas bubbles by nature) fleeing their world’s tyrant — and oops, here come the bad guys to catch up with them. As I’ve noticed before, Reuniting The Family is a running motif in Kids And Aliens movies — then again, the protagonist and her mom were pretty tight before the dating started. In its own right, uninteresting (at least at my age) though I did like the idea of the ET stepsister’s sheer strangeness convincing the girls’ classmates that she’s the apex of cool. “I’ve never used this word before, diary, but this was a debacle.”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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That is DEFINITELY more like it!

So as usual for the end of the month, Leaf articles dried up (it has something to do with their billing cycle with clients) and I had the whole week to work on my own projects. I don’t always make good use of the time, but this week? Totally.

I made final edits on Chapters One and Two of Undead Sexist Cliches. Chapter Two was slower than I thought, but I think I’ll make up the time on the two rape-cliche chapters — they’re the most tightly organized.

I wrote another chapter of Alien Visitors and watched some more films.

I did some more research reading.

I worked a little on drafting my golem article.

Despite having Wisp in most mornings, I managed to keep up my exercise schedule. And believe me it’s hard when a cat curls up next to you on the couch and wants petting.

And I submitted Southern Discomfort to a new publisher. I feel pessimistic, but it’s not doing any good just sitting here, is it? The pessimism isn’t that I think the first three chapters are poor — I reread them and other than a couple of spelling errors, they look good. But it’s kind of an odd book, with multiple POVs and I wonder if the publisher (or any publisher) will just look and say it’s not strong enough or we need more time with Maria’s POV or something. But hey, self-publishing is always an option if nothing else works. And I’m not giving up on trad publishing yet.

Huh, that’s actually a shorter summation of the week than when I’m writing about how wrong everything went. But I’m cool with that.

#SFWApro. Cover by Ernie Chan, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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So I’m doing a con of sorts on March 6

One of my fellow McFarland authors suggested recently that as we can’t safely arrange any events to sell our books, we do one online (unofficially — this is not a McFarland promotion, just a bunch of writers). We all liked the idea, so we’re doing various presentations the afternoon of March 6 via Zoom. Link is on the poster.Here’s the start of the schedule (you can find the whole thing if you go to the Virtual Voices page on FB). I’ll be speaking about political paranoia on film and TV, the same topic I covered in my third book for McFarland. I think I’ll have to condense the topic quite a bit to cover it in under 10 minutes.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Stoicism, forgiveness and other links

Some years back I posted about pundits who insist death and suffering are good for us. That thinking is still around: faced with last week’s snowpocalypse, Mayor Tim Boyd of Colorado City TX brushed off constituents asking for help: “only the strong survive” so stop asking for handouts! A few years earlier, Trump-worshipping Rush Limbaugh took the same tack in response to the Trump Virus: why can’t people be stoic like the Donner Party?

So it’s no surprise Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has apparently been prioritizing vaccine delivery to well-connected communities. When called on it, he said critics should shut up or he’d just yank that county’s entire supply.

Next, forgiveness. In a post from a few years back, Fred Clark discusses Matthew 18, which says if a fellow Christian sins against you, you should confront them quietly and privately. Clark points out this is used as a get-out-of-jail-free card: You can’t report my assault to the cops/the papers, you have to keep it between us! Or in the case of the authors of Selling Satan, that they shouldn’t publish an investigative report on fake Satanist and Christian con-man Mike Warnke because Matthew 18! Clark: “One important thing about both of these teachings of Jesus is that they’re about conflicts between two, and only two, people. Both of them get quite a bit more complicated when there’s a third party involved. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek,” Jesus said, “turn the other also.” But what if they strike someone else? “If another member of the church sins against you,” Jesus said, “go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” But what if the other member of the church sins against someone else? You can’t turn someone else’s other cheek. Nor can you require someone else to do so.”

In other news:

Biden revoked Trump’s Muslim travel ban, but there’s more Trump immigration policy to undo.

Fred Clark explains QAnon is old antisemitic wine in new bottles.

Lindsey Graham continues toadying to Trump.

Trump attorney Lin Wood, meanwhile, is facing disciplinary action for his lawyering in Trump’s defense. His solution: dox the State Bar.

Some members of the Southern Baptist Conference are pushing against its rigid conservative doctrine. Conservatives are pushing back.

Biden’s Interior Department nominee, Deb Hyland, isn’t a fan of mining and oil drilling on public lands. Conservatives are pushing back against her, too. And several states want to make protesting fossil fuels a criminal act; in Michigan even if they’re merely arrested on a construction site it could be ten years in prison.

Last week I said that not speaking ill of the dead meant Rush Limbaugh’s admirers would get to paint him for history. Case in point, Gov. DeSantis (yes, again) lowering state flags to half-mast to honor a man he says “connect with his listeners across the fruited plain — the hard-working, God-fearing and patriotic Americans who were and are the subject of derision and ridicule by the legacy media.” Apparently he’s fine when the media spread derision and ridicule for gays, women and people of color because that was Limbaugh’s stock in trade.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger came out against Trump. Some of his family are shocked that he would judge a great Christian man — doesn’t Kinzinger know we are all sinners? And don’t accuse them of hypocrisy because “we are not judging you. This is just our opinion!”

Right-wing shitbags are still claiming persecution is coming. One troll I argued with recently insisted that Biden keeping the National Guard in Washington was clear sign Biden was ready to become a tyrant. There are good reasons they’re still there — the threat isn’t over. And they’re still downplaying the Sedition Day assault.

“Listening to a panel of thinky conservatives talking about the imagined ideology behind cancel culture and you’d think that racism and sexism were ideas invented by millennial progressives to punish people with true ideas for speaking.” — Will Wilkinson

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Liking stuff made by horrible people

The question of how we deal with discovering art we love — music, plays, film, books — has been created by someone awful is not an easy one. I can generally separate the art from the person, but other people simply can’t. Unless it’s a gut decision — e.g. I don’t want to read Orson Scott Card’s fiction since his rants about Obama enlisting black street gangs as his secret police (I still value his  writing how-to books though) — it requires some sort of moral calculus: is anyone racist/sexist/homophobic objectionable (obviously I’m focusing on liberal issues here, though I realize conservatives face this issue too)? Is one tasteless homophobic joke a decade ago a deal breaker (I have no specific case in mind)? What if they committed sexual assault and served their prison time? Now that Baen Books has been caught out allowing lots of far-right rhetoric in their online forum, Baen’s Bar (some details here and here) is anyone who publishes with them tacitly supporting extremism?

My views haven’t changed since I posted about this a few years back: it’s a personal decision (ditto if the writing itself is problematic in some way). If A doesn’t want to read J. K. Rowling because she’s so anti-trans that’s perfectly reasonable, but I  don’t think reading her means someone’s endorsing her views. Not everyone agrees though. Right-winger Michael Medved once admitted he didn’t want to give a good review to a film because he’d heard the screenwriter donated to Democrats; his review was actually favorable, but he did see No Review as a valid option.

Conversely, Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money thinks judging art based on the creator’s personal life is bullshit: “The problem with just saying “I’m not going to listen to this” or “I’m never watching a Woody Allen or Roman Polanski film” is that it not only rapidly turns into judging art based on the personal behavior of who made it, which is an artistic black hole, but it also ignores the fact that most art is a collaborative process and you are also erasing a lot of great people in the process.” Refuse to watch Woody Allen and you miss great actors; refuse to listen to Phil Spector-produced music and you penalize Darlene Love and other talented singers.

Loomis quotes Amanda Marcotte dismissing Judging The Creator as “narcissistic self-involvement” and “self-purity as a substitute for activism” — besides, even if the director and the actors are good people, how do you know the cinematographer wasn’t an abuser, huh? So what’s the point?

I think they’re full of it. While it’s certainly true that piously refusing to listen can be a demonstration of self-purity, it can also be sincere; I have an automatic hackles-rising reaction to this kind “oh, you’re just virtue-signaling” dismissal of other people’s positions. And the argument that shunning bigots or rapists is pointless because there are other bigots and rapists you don’t know to shun is dumbass. A personal decision not to buy books written by known child molesters is not invalid because other authors you like may be molesting in secret. Sure, if Marcotte and Loomis want to separate art and artist, that’s cool — like I said, I do — but holding that out as the solution? Not so much.

It’s true that if you don’t watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer because Joss Whedon is a creepy person (Michelle Trachtenberg, who was 15 on the show, says it was policy he would never be left alone with her) you miss out on some awesome performances by the cast. And Darlene Love’s singing is indeed awesome. But guess what? If you never saw a single episode of Buffy you’d still be able to fill your life with amazing performances by amazing actors. While Spector has had a huge impact on pop, I’m guessing one could live a full musical life stuffed with talented singers even if you never heard anything he’d had his hands on (I “guess” because I don’t have the musical expertise to be certain). There’s a lot of great stuff in the world, so much we’ll never listen to/watch all of it. Using the creator’s morals as a sorting system isn’t inherently a bad solution.

Liberal evangelical Fred Clark writes that in some cases, separating creator and creation can be toxic: if we’ve taken inspiration from Buffy, did we absorb some of Whedon’s negative attitudes along with the good stuff? Clark derived much insight from books by theologian John Howard Yoder “and I don’t know what to do with that, because while I had no idea at the time I was reading and underlining and wrestling with the profound ideas expressed in that book, it turns out that John Howard Yoder was a serial rapist and a deeply twisted spiritual abuser.” He quotes from Christian author Tanya Marlow: “What does it say to survivors of abuse everywhere when the church quotes from sexual predators as authorities on human life or the things of God?”

Like I said, I have no clear answer to any of this. But you’re stuck with my thoughts anyway.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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More “you think YOU’RE having a bad day?” covers

First by Mort Meskin—Then by Bob Brown —And Dick Dillin—And Dillin again —George Roussos—And Gene Colan —#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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