Women who fly and men who wander: books and graphic novels

SUPERGIRL: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki and Joelle Jones is an out-of-continuity retelling of Supergirl’s origin because we so need more retellings of origins. That said, I’d be down for a good retelling (Supergirl’s isn’t as overdone as Wonder Woman’s) but this is what I think of as spectacularly okay: not actually bad, but a completely unremarkable execution. Kara Danvers hides from everyone but her parents that she has superpowers, even her two best friends; however it turns out someone knows about her and is plotting Evil Experiments for the greater good. Admittedly, as I’ve mentioned before, teenage life isn’t much of a hook for me, but even allowing for that this wasn’t terribly interesting — Kara’s just a generically broody, insecure teen.

I was much more engaged by THE JET SEX: Airline Stewardesses and the Making of an American Icon by Victoria Vantoch. When airlines began making passenger travel a thing (initially it was mostly cargo) they started with airline stewards, then switched over to stewardesses in the belief they’d be less likely to unionize (incorrect, as it turned out). Stewardesses soon proved to be a potent marketing image, variously presented over the decades as the typical girl next door (in reality they were mostly college students which for the 1930s and 1940s meant they weren’t typical at all), then as glamorous, globe-trotting career woman, followed by the sexist, sexpot “I’m Cheryl — fly me.” ads of the 1970s. Alongside this we got the Cold War as Americans held up their stewardesses as sexy modern women compared to the soulless unattractive Soviet flight attendants; Russia, by contrast, held up their women as liberated working women in contrast to the er, flighty Americans.

And the women’s view?  Despite the airlines ruthless and restrictive rules for the women (to keep their jobs they had to meet weight requirements, age requirements, beauty requirements and stay single), the flight attendants themselves loved the work: travel all over the world and a chance to fly back when flying was thrilling as hell (while the airline played them as just marking time until they started a family, a lot of the woman wanted their gig to be a lifetime career). Most interesting.

I’m not much of a Rick Remender fan and BLACK SCIENCE: How to Fall Forever by Remender and Matteo Scalera doesn’t change that. This amounts to Sliders fanfic as a scientist’s attempt at piercing the multiverse leaves him and his team jumping from unpleasant world to unpleasant world searching for a way home. Only with more backstabbing because this is the kind of Serious Work where everyone’s scheming and rotten. I picked up two volumes of this at the library, but I’m putting V2 back.

John Claude Bemis’ story of wandering adventuring battling the soulless forces of the will-destroying Gog and Magog wraps up in THE WHITE CITY: Clockwork Dark #3: Ray and his fellow Ramblers must cross the country to recover his father from the twilight realm of the Gloaming, then reach the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair where Gog’s Machine will begin reducing humans to soulless drones in its service. While this kind of conflict is hardly new (the Machine is just Kirby’s Anti-Life Equation) it still works here (though Kirby’s take is more effective, as below).

#SFWApro. Cover by John Hubbard, illustration from Airliners International; splash page by Jack Kirby. All rights to both remain with current holder.

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Filed under Comics, Reading

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