Reclaiming their country

So a friend of mine had one of those long rants on FB about how liberals are forcing her to vote for Trump by all the terrible things they’re doing. In the discussion that followed, someone pulled the “bless your heart” card on me and recommended I seek professional help — I’m going to feel so miserable after Trump voters take their country back and fix everything we liberals have been doing.

My response was to point out that it isn’t “their” country any more than it is mine. It’s our country — all of us. Christian, Jewish or atheist. Black, white, Latino or Asian. Straight or gay. Descended from the founding fathers or a fresh-off-the-boat newly minted citizens. But that, of course, is what drives them crazy. They don’t want to share equally with people who aren’t straight WASP men; they don’t believe other people have the same right to America as they do. Even if it doesn’t affect their lives at all, it spoils their lives to know they’re not the alphas any more.

It’s not just status. As a quote at Lawyers, Guns and Money puts it,  “White Christian folks really did think they were the country,” he says. “So if you take that really seriously, [as] something they believed to the core of their being, then what’s becoming abundantly clear is that that is not true. But that is a foundational piece of their self-understanding. To fight tooth and nail for something that is going to actually undermine your basic identity is not too surprising. It runs just that deep.”

And that’s why, as I pointed out to the other commenter, they’ll be miserable even if they do win in November (or December, or January …). The past four years have been a triumph for Republicans (obligatory note, not all Republicans): two justices on the Supreme Court, one of them an accused rapist (the feminazis tried to take him down but they failed! Praise Jesus!), tax cuts for the rich, environmental laws gutted, Muslim immigration and travel bans, ACA badly damaged, cops emboldened to shoot black Americans, racism and misogyny openly aired without having to hide behind dog whistles.

Guess what? They’re still miserable. The FB post that started the discussion dripped with misery: they’re sick and tired of being criticized (as the LGM post puts it, they have a “set of views that has gone largely unchallenged for most of their lives, and upon which they honestly believe this country is based” and now people are saying they’re wrong!). They’re sick and tired of Trump being criticized! They hate being told America has a history of racism and that people of color and women suffer from discrimination! Even if nobody’s ever criticized them personally, someone out there thinks it about them!

Short of a total fascist shut down on free speech, we’re going to continue criticziing them. Gay people will keep on being openly gay. Women will keep on not being 1950s housewives submitting to their man (unless they want to). Black people, Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc. will still keep asserting their right to equality. The government will still pass laws Republicans don’t like, or fail to pass policies they embrace. They’ll have a rush of joy when Trump wins, but then they’ll notice the swamp — meaning us — isn’t drained — and they’ll go back to sulking about having to share “their” country with the Others, who are now a majority.

“This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly – done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated – we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas’ new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us” — Abraham Lincoln

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From Rome to Skull Island: books

THE EDGE OF THE EMPIRE: A Journey to Britannia From the Heart of Rome to Hadrian’s Wall by Bronwen Riley dramatizes life in the Roman Empire (circa AD 130) by taking us on a journey from the imperial city itself all the way to the ultimate thulei of the isle of Britain, where Hadrian’s wall at the northern border literally marked the edge of the empire, This was a very good premise, allowing Riley to talk about Roman food (fish paste and olive oil!), travel, ships, military structure, life in colonial towns and weather without feeling info-dumpy. Among other things it makes me see just how much travel was going on in that era, and how risky a great deal of it was. Very good.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP: It’s Scooby Time! wraps up the Sholly Fisch and (mostly Dario Brizuela) series in the same cheerfully silly, fun vein as the previous volumes. Scooby and his human friends team with Mr. Miracle, Metamorpho, Black Lightning, Flash’s Rogues (haunted by the ghost of the Top) and in the final issue have to deal with pranks by both Batmite and Scooby-Mite. The issue is a tribute to all the Scoobies who’ve gone before, bringing back multiple sidekicks (Scrappy Doo, Vincent Van Ghoul, Red Herring) and multiple versions of the core characters (including DC’s rival series Scooby Apocalypse). Goodbye guys, you’ll be missed.

NIGHT RAVEN by multiple writers and artists collects the complete run of the Marvel UK series concerning a mysterious vigilante (“Night Raven” is one of the birds of abomination in the King James Bible, though the specific inspiration for the name was a John Milton poem) waging a one-man war on crime in 1930s New York, and leaving his brand on the faces of his victims. Much to my annoyance, this turns from comic strips to text pages — never as interesting — about a third of the way through; the early strips are decent, then they get really good under Alan Moore, who traces the battle between Night Raven and the immortal Asian crimelord Yi Yang across the decades. Unfortunately the last 40 percent of the book is text pages by Jamie Delano who is no Alan Moore (I’ve never particularly liked his comics work) so I wound up skimming a lot of them. I’ve been curious about the character but my curiosity is now satisfied. Still, the Moore stuff is really good.

As I said last week, I couldn’t resist reading Will Murray’s DOC SAVAGE: Skull Island, which opens with Renny applying his engineering savvy to figure out how to remove King Kong’s corpse from outside the Empire State Building. We then flash back to the post-Great War years, when Doc and his father went searching for Doc’s missing grandfather “Stormalong” Savage and found him on Skull Island, where Doc meets Kong. This confirms my opinion that Murray is no Lester Dent (not that he’s ever claimed to be) — he does great with the Kong scenes but Doc’s encounters with dinosaurs are nowhere nears as good as, say, The Other World, nor does the book capture how much Doc thrives on excitement — I think he’d have much more of a blast here. There’s also a lot of time spent battling uninteresting headhunters (and they’re a little too stereotypical savage brutes for my taste).

What does work, at least for me as a fan, is the spotlight on Doc’s prickly relationship with his father, and details such as how Doc acquired his nickname (working as a medic in WW I), a little about his mom (named Kendra Robeson, an obvious in-joke), Clark Sr. grumbling about his son reading puerile popular fiction such as Burroughs or Doyle and constant speculation about why Dad trained Doc the way he did. Regrettably it’s canon that Doc never learns so we can’t get an answer (I love Murray’s passing suggestion that it might have been Doc’s late mother’s idea, but that doesn’t work with what little we do know). So this one did have its charms.

Oh, and over on Atomic Junkshop I’ve posted an expanded version of an article from this site a few years back, about DC’s Beowulf.beowulf4

#SFWApro. Cover by Scott Jeraids, bottom by Ricardo Villamonte, all rights remain with current holder.

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A queen, time travel and absurdity: movies and TV

So after reading The Wives of Henry VIII I rewatched 1969’s ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS (I saw it back when I was a kid) with Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn and Richard Burton as Henry. Anne’s stubborn refusal to become a disposable mistress like her sister Mary eventually impresses Henry enough to make her queen, even at the cost of breaking England from the Catholic Church; what follows of course is heartbreak when Anne fails to deliver the promised son, then accusations of adultery that send her to the headsman (to sweeten the bitter ending the film has Anne improbably realize her daughter Elizabeth will be the greatest monarch England has ever known). Overlong, and I don’t see the point of blaming Anne for Henry’s worst excesses (the most brutal part of his crackdown on the church is meant to suppress opposition to Elizabeth becoming heir) but the lead performances make up for a lot. With John Colicos as the conniving Thomas Cromwell (Colicos’ face was made to play opportunistic weasels) and Antony Quayle as Cardinal Wolsey. “I will marry Anne if it breaks the Earth in two and flings the pieces into the void!”I gave up on AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. a couple of years ago, but their final season this year sounded interesting enough I decided to catch it. The early episodes have them bouncing through time battling against the Chronacoms, an alien android race plotting to destroy SHIELD before it even exists. This leads to a 1930s ganster-movie type episode, a 1950s hardboiled yarn and adventures in the 1970s and 1980s, all fun if occasionally the details gnawed at me (stories where nobody in the past smokes — FDR doesn’t even have his cigarette holder — are as ridiculous as those old SF stories where everyone in 3,000 or whenever is still puffing on tobacco). It got a little less interesting as the time jumping stopped, but ultimately I’m glad I came back in time to see them go. “It doesn’t matter — whatever the percentages, these people always beat the odds.”

MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS hit me and pretty much everyone I knew like a mind-bomb when it started showing up on PBS in the early 1970s. I’ve no idea if a millennial audience would have the same reaction, but rewatching the first season on Netflix I was blown away as much as ever by the batshit absurdity of everything. Alexander the Great is exposed as an Attila the Hun impersonator, blancmanges from space conspire to win Wimbledon, a bicycle repairman saves Superman and a dead parrot pines for the fiords. The shots of British streets and buildings sometimes fill me with an odd nostalgia too, but the hysterical laughter remains a bigger draw. “Quite frankly, I’m against people who give vent to their loquacity by extraneous bombastic circumlocation.”

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Rethinking the scope

Despite Plushie’s problems this week and the related exhaustion, it was productive. Got my Leafs done. Got almost to the end of Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches (I’m pleased I didn’t try to force a finish and took breaks when I needed to). Added several extra examples to the earlier chapters, such as Gregg Easterbrook arguing the woman saying no doesn’t make it rape — she has to say something like “This is rape!” which will make guys stop (I am … skeptical) and is completely unambiguous. As noted at the link, if people refuse to accept an unambiguous no, why wouldn’t they think a woman says “rape!” when she means yes?

I got two rejections Wednesday but at least one of them was a nice “We liked it but we don’t have room.” That’s encouraging. But sigh, not a sale.

And I watched multiple movies for Alien Visitors, which has forced me to reconsider just how much work I need to put in. My initial thought was that with one movie/TV show/movie series to watch per chapter, this would be relatively low-intensity. But this week, for the ET pregnancy chapter, I watched Village of the Damned, Children of the Damned, the 1995 Village remake and started on 2019’s School of the Damned (I’ll get to the reviews in the next week or two). Plus writing the chapter. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I may need to do more and watch more than I’d initially thought. It’s true, The Astronaut’s Wife will be noted in the appendix rather than the heart of the chapter, but will seeing it help me understand the subgenre better? What about the excellent TV movie The Stranger Within? I don’t have the time to watch everything in every chapter but how much do I need to place a movie in context?

I’m confident I’ll figure it out, though this may be more demanding than I thought. But fortunately, even with an October deadline next year I should be able to get the work done without blowing off any of my other projects. Fingers crossed.

#SFWApro. All rights to image from 1960 Village of the Damned remain with current holder.

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The agony and the ecstasy!

The agony this week was from Plushie. As I mentioned last Friday, he was having trouble with his back legs so we took him in to the vet. Turns out his left back patella has popped out, which is what happened to Trixie earlier this year. The vet sent him home with painkillers and orders to keep him resting, which had TYG wondering why they weren’t bringing up surgery.

It wasn’t good. Plushie has zero pain tolerance so he was whimpering like crazy, chewing on the injured leg as if that would get out the pain and waking us up in the middle of the night. And leaving blood from his chewed foot in his crate or on our bedsheets. Monday I took him in again for his foot; the vet said he seems to be having some kind of allergic skin reaction (it’s happened before) so she shot him up with antibiotics and anti-itch and sent us home with some other meds.While he is still a little too keen to chew — we’re keeping him in the cone of shame for now — he’s much better, and sleeping through the night. His leg is improving fast; even given he’s on painkillers, it surprised us after Trixie that he’s able to take a few steps around the yard. It’s almost like the vet knew what they were doing when they said surgery wasn’t their recommendation. So things improved steadily during the weak. And let’s face it, he looks adorable in his fabric cone. Which has the fringe benefit that he’s less likely to jump off the bed with his range of vision limited.Now the ecstasy: Saturday, despite Plushie’s problems, we agreed to dog-sit for Lily — a Habanese we’ve cared for before — and her younger “brother” Tito the toy poodle. Lily’s a sweet, gentle dog; Tito is a bundle of energy.

Having them over was an absolute blast: Trixie hasn’t played with them in a while and they had much fun being able to romp and chase off-leash. Some photos:I got crap done Saturday, but I consider that acceptable.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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It’s not about feelings

I believe I’ve blogged before about the right-wing meme that tells “those who hate Trump” that Trump supporters felt exactly the same about Obama when “he went overseas and apologized for America,” when he said “America was no longer a Christian nation” (actually what he said was we’re not just a Christian nation) and told them all bathrooms would be genderless (no, not accurate). But they “bore him as much as we could. We waited and prayed for a president who would take a stand for America.”
The point of the meme, of course, is that Trump is Obama’s mirror image; he upsets liberals the way Obama upset conservatives. But that’s bullshit. You’ll notice they don’t cite Obama policies (except the alleged genderless bathrooms), only how he made them feel. He hurt their fee-fees by saying America had done bad things (which we have) and that America isn’t a Christian nation, which is correct. We’ve never been a Christian nation, just a nation with a Christian majority, which is not the same thing (and for most of our history it was conceived as a Protestant nation rather than Christian), and was a historical interpretation largely made up in the 1930s. The meme doesn’t suggest that Obama’s policies discriminated against Christians because he didn’t (except in the sense some conservatives think not getting what they want is anti-Christian). In short Obama saying that other countries can be as exceptional as ours and that other faiths are as American as theirs was seen as an attack.
Which may be the point of the meme. Living for years in a Bible Belt community, I’ve seen how many people think not embracing their worldview is anti-God. A world where they see black people shopping in “their” stores or women being independent and unsubmissive and gay people walking around openly is an attack. So if Trump creates a world we don’t like, that’s payback.
Then again, maybe it’s to suggest that all our objections to Trump policy — locking children in cages, separating them from their families, discriminating against Muslims, failing to be even minimally effective against the pandemic — are less about policy and about our own feelings being hurt, just like they were. We’re haters. We’re victims of “Trump derangement syndrome.” We’re the real crybabies so nobody needs to listen to us!
Or it could be both. Either way it’s a comforting lie to tell themselves so they can disregard the evidence they’re on the wrong side of history.

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Farewell, Dame Diana

So as you’ve probably heard, Dame Diana Rigg passed away last week. Which got me reflecting how much I insanely, madly crushed on Emma Peel in The Avengers as a kid.

Emma Peel was awesome. Intelligent (one episode established she had a higher IQ than Steed). Fearless. Able to take down the toughest foe with her bare hands. And gorgeous — even before I met TYG, I liked dark-haired beautiful women. I’m quite sure my crush was based mostly on her looks, but I don’t think it would have been so intense — certainly not as long-lasting — if she’d been a bimbo or simply Steed’s girlfriend. She was also an excellent actor, playing a chillingly ruthless Regan to Laurence Olivier’s Lear in a 1983 TV-movie. She’s delightful (and yes, beautiful) as a female reporter and early 20th century reporter in The Assassination Bureau and Vincent Price’s deadly daughter in Theatre of Blood. She was funny in an early 1970s sitcom, Diana — British professional working in the U.S. — though the series didn’t last.

She was also a big influence on X-Men, via an episode A Touch of Brimstone slugged in the UK’s TV Times as “Steed joins the Hellfire Club and Emma becomes a queen of sin.” I was too sick to stay up and watch when it originally aired but even at eight years old I knew “queen of sin” sounded awfully er, interesting. And yes, it was.Still is (I did see it eventually). And this episode had a huge influence on the Hellfire Club arc in the Chris Claremont/John Byrne era of X-Men, particularly how Byrne drew Jean Grey during her brief time as the Club’s Black Queen:Jason Wyngarde whom you see in that scene was modeled on Peter Wyngarde, the Hellfire Club’s leader in the Avengers episode.

#SFWApro. Comics art by John Byrne; all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Another ‘Other Doc Savage’ — Will Murray tries fiction

With the end of the Doc Savage canon approaching (about two more months and I’ll be done) I thought I’d take a break and check a couple of Will Murray’s “Kenneth Robeson” books from the 1990s. I own several, and would probably have more if money hadn’t been so tight in that decade, so presumably I enjoyed them back then. Rereading them with the original books fresh in my mind, not so much. Murray’s an amazing Doc Savage scholar but the two I read this month remind me of Lancer Books’ Conan series — bland imitations of the real thing.

PYTHON ISLE is based on an early 1930s outline by Lester Dent that his editor rejected. Snake stories, the editor believed, didn’t sell, though he also turned it down when Dent proposed making it Lion Island . We open with Doc in his first Fortress of Solitude (before he built the blue dome of Fortress of Solitude) then cut to a gang of South African smugglers led by Blackbird Hinton and King Hancock (“He hadn’t an evil bone in his body. Nor a good one either.”) who shoot down a plane coming too close to their boat. Then they realize the plane is a patchwork held together by gold plates and patches and decide to take a good look. The plane carries Tom Franklin, a pilot who vanished several years earlier, and the beautiful Lha of Ophir (an obvious Tarzan joke by Dent). Franklin escapes and gets a message to Renny, who’s working on a dam project nearby.

Renny gets word to Doc before he’s captured. Hinton gets word to Bull Pizano, a hulking brute (with a soft spot for animals) who can slap Monk around and more than hold his own fighting Doc. There’s the usual assortment of danger and escapes before Doc and his crew wind up on the eponymous island, currently in the grip of  evil high priest, Taxus, whose “invisible wrath” reduces his enemies to zombies (villains used similar gimmicks in Hex and The Czar of Fear but it’s unimpressive here). Eventually Taxus and the smugglers go down; Pizano winds up being eaten by sharks without a final battle with Doc or Monk (Murray says he didn’t think he could do justice to that showdown).

Dent wanted to do a series of stories spotlighting Doc’s aides, starting with Death In Silver but the rejection put paid to that (only The Sea Magician saw print). He did reuse several elements of Python Isle in later stories, for example turning the opening with Lha into the first appearance of the much more impressive Z in The Mental Wizard.  Murray follows Dent’s outline more faithfully than Dent might have (he often made changes when he got to the writing); Murray’s desire to make this just like a 1934 Dent novel is a weakness, reproducing the long detailed descriptions of Doc and his crew that Dent wrote into the early books. It wouldn’t have hurt to leave that out. Though the continuity references to earlier books are good.

THE FRIGHTENED FISH is based on a Dent plot synopsis rather than a detailed outline. Set after The Red Spider (unpublished until Murray dusted it off and got Bantam Books to reprint it in the 1970s) starts off effectively, as three hoods terrify a man with images of fish. The bad guys escape Doc but then the obnoxious, arrogant Celia Adams “of the Massachusetts Adams” shows up, demanding Doc find her missing boyfriend — why, yes, boyfriend Baker Eastland is unwittingly caught up in the same plot, how did you know? Investigating leads Doc & Co. to Massachusetts, where the fishing areas are mysteriously empty of fish; from there they eventually travel to occupied post-war Japan, where the same thing is happening. Doc points out that with Russia now having the a-bomb, the world is already unstable; Japan losing its primary food source would result in even more stability.

Enter Jonas Sown, the mastermind from The Screaming Man, to conform this is exactly his plan: just as his mind-control tech whipped the Axis leaders into war mode a couple of decades earlier, now he’ll do the same with the communist bloc. Japan will become communist and then WW III begins! This time Sown won’t fail!

Unfortunately Sown — added by Murray to Dent’s plot — remains underwhelming. Part of that is that like a lot of post-war Dent stories for the series, this is very talky: Sown spends much more time detailing his big and evil plans for the world than actually doing evil. Eliminating fish as a source of food is indeed a serious threat, but it’s not a very scary one. John Sunlight could have put this across, but Murray says that violates his What Would Lester Do? approach: Dent left Sunlight dead, so dead he must remain.

And then there’s the women of the book. Seryi, the Russian anticommunist from Red Spider, returns but only to break Doc’s heart by sacrificing herself to save him; Celia is written as a bitch with no redeeming features. Dent’s women were usually more capable and likable; even “she-male” Velma Crale in The South Pole Terror comes off better than Celia. She feels like a leftover from when Murray was ghostwriting The Destroyer, a series I found horribly sexist whenever I read it.

Despite my disappointment, I couldn’t resist picking up one of Murray’s later works, Doc Savage: Skull Island because a Doc/King Kong crossover set right after WW I seems irresistible. But that one will get a separate post after I finish it.

#SFWApro. Covers by Joe DeVito, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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According to Republicans, the Democrats are always bringing socialism to America.

My right-wing friends on FB have shifted from Oh No, Joe Biden to saying he’s fine but puppet-master Kamala Harris will bring socialism to America! But as the WaPo points out, stuff we now take for granted — Social Security, Medicare — was also going to bring socialism to America. The memes about how erasing college debt insults everyone who paid off their student loans would have been just as usable against the G.I. Bill decades ago (“My father fought in WW I then went to college on his own dime! Why are you dishonoring his hard work?”). But now, of course, this stuff is accepted as normal government services. Plus the older-skewing Republican base actually uses Social Security and Medicare and isn’t worried about paying off college debt.

While I didn’t shrug off all the comparisons between the Trump regime and dictatorships I’ve seen since 2017, I didn’t think we’d go as far toward tyranny as we have. At this point, I take articles like this one a lot more seriously. Ditto speculation about what happens if Trump refuses to admit he lost. The Prospect looks at how much damage he can do. And human pus-bag Roger Stone suggests Trump simply become dictator if he loses. I suspect this is mostly Stone pretending he’s a badass, but that’s not to say Trump wouldn’t try it. Yet we get arguments this is all the Democrats’ fault.

Oh, and Trump now wants to cut off federal funding from cities he doesn’t like.

In Pasco County Florida, the sheriff relied on a computer program to identify potential future criminals, then harassed them (yes, the article does mention Minority Report). Surprisingly the program didn’t focus on minorities primarily, it’s just a really bad idea.

Our country is trapped in a pandemic spiral which keeps us from getting control of the Trump Virus. Among the problems: a desire to return to normal, even when we can’t; refusing to make systemic changes; reacting rather than being proactive.

After the Charlottesville protests of several years ago, Donald Trump declared there were very fine people on the white supremacist side (supposedly not white supremacists but some nonexistent other group protesting there). Now Republicans are trying to  deny he said it.

“The core of the problem is that conservatives have decisively lost a lot of empirical debates. There was a time when conservative ideas about gender, race, genetics, and geology might have been true — they were open questions. But for the last hundred and fifty years or so, the evidence has been piling up on the other side, and, in more and more areas, the questions are basically closed. ”

The supposedly vast anti-Trump conspiracy.

“For most of its history, white evangelicalism in America was not opposed to selling children to rapists. ”

Creationism as conspiracy theory.

Trump claims diversity training is anti-American propaganda. Of course if you fantasize real Americans are all white, I suppose it is.

Media Matters reports a Texas assistant AG is a racist QAnon supporter. In a pleasant surprise, Texas’ response was to fire that sucker.

There’s nothing surprising in Trump declaring Americans who died for their country were losers, but it’s worth mentioning.

A white college professor built her career on claiming she was black.

So the Green Party screwed up in Wisconsin and didn’t get on the ballot. Their solution: with the help of Republican lawyers, file a lawsuit that may screw up the entire vote-by-mail process.

When Trump called on North Carolina Republicans to vote twice to prove how easy it is to cheat the system, he committed a crime. But AG William Barr says he has no idea what the law is.

Trump is determined to rush a Trump Virus vaccine into circulation regardless of safety and testing.

The players in the various Trump scandals often overlap. And it’s amazing how many new scandals they’re embroiled in. But hey, it’s not like their crooked boss is going to care if they’re dirty — he probably thinks that’s smart.

A grim story about the plight of the almost homeless.

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Women and their men: books read

Tim Hanley acknowledges that the title of his BETTY AND VERONICA: The Leading Ladies of Riverdale isn’t always accurate: for a lot of their history the girls have been supporting characters in Archie’s life, either prizes for him to win or plot obstacles (can he take them both to the same dance without either girl catching on?); progress away from that was often two steps forward, three steps backward (as might be expected from books created by men in their fifties, the women’s liberation era was particularly painful). At the same time, the need to create lots of stories within a limited fromula led to increasing emphasis on them being capable, and to their friendship becoming more important than their rivalry over Archie.

Hanley looks at how the girls’ stories has adapted to the many trends of Archie’s long history: the spy and superhero era (Betty became Superteen), writer/artist Al Hartley putting lots of Christian themes in the books (the point at which Good Christian Girl Betty began stealing some of the spotlight from Veronica), the rise of specialty comics stores (surprisingly good for them as the effects on the comics market led to their books outselling Archie’s), 21st century variations such as Life With Archie and Afterlife With Archie and the various attempts to bring them to other media (including a radio show, lots of TV cartoons and most recently the hit Riverdale). I’ve never been an Archie fan, but I still found this one fascinating.

Listening to the soundtrack of Six: The Musical (What If Henry VIII’s Wives Were a Spice Girls-Like Pop Group?) and realizing how little I really know about the women prompted me to check out THE WIVES OF HENRY VIII by Antonia Fraser from the library. Fraser does a good job showing there’s more to the women than their stereotypes (Betrayed Wife, Sexy Temptress, Good Woman, etc.). Anne Boleyn, for example, was just as interested in religion as Catherine of Aragon, though less devout and considerably more Protestant (a view that often put her at odds with her husband); Catherine Parr wrote a couple of religious texts herself. Fraser does well detailing the tangled scheming and political maneuvering around not only Henry’s marriages but the proposed marriages for children Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as on some of the mundane details (no sooner did the royal decorator replace Catherine of Aragon’s symbols with Anne’s than he had to start over replacing Anne’s logo with Jane Seymour’s). She also makes clear that Henry was seen even at the time as an outlier, one monarch quipping he’d marry off his sister to Henry if only she had a second neck. Very good.

#SFWApro. Covers by Bill Vigoda (top) and Brittney Williams, all rights remain with current holders.

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