If you’re going to release shoes celebrating an iconic female character, you’re probably not even going to stop and wonder if they’ll be available to women. Because that’s a no-brainer, right? Obviously they’ll be marketed to everyone.
Supergirl is a delightful, frothy sorbet mingling the sweetness of a family drama (both in the sense of being about family, and suitable for families with older children), the stronger flavours of an action series, and just a dash of Feminism 101. Its special effects are on the ropey side, some of the acting is a bit rough, and it wears its heart and subtexts on its sleeve.
I love it.
I especially love Cat Grant, self-made media mogul, employer of Kara Danvers and creator of Supergirl’s media persona. Cat’s storylines deal with the complexities of being a woman in a masculine business, being an older woman in an ageist society, and more. She is a wonderful character who says true things about the challenges facing women in the workforce. She calls out mansplainers and takes no crap from people who look down on her because she’s a single mother who started out as a gossip columnist. She is, in many ways, a feminist role model.
She’s just not mine.
“Tell the truth, we all thought it was another silly rumour. Bad enough the Yanks sit out the first three years of war, but then, right when it’s getting hairy, they go out and spend money on a super soldier project? Well, we knew they were [CENSORED], but who’d have believed it?”
– Bruce Leonards, Private, 7th Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force, WWII
“Just bloody typical, isn’t it?”
– Police Inspector Charles Price
“It seemed rather silly to spend all that money when our boys were dying in Burma and New Guinea. But that’s Americans for you. Well, he was rather handsome, I’ll give them that. Didn’t he die?”
– Beryl Montgomery, Australian Army Nursing Service
“Bad enough that Brisbane was practically an armed camp — girls falling over themselves to go to nightclubs with American soldiers, couldn’t say no to a bit of chocolate and a pair of nylons — then the Yanks went and put a silly costume on a male model. Bet the girls will be going silly for him, next, too.”
– Leading Aircraftman Keith Avard, Royal Australian Air Force
[No Award notes that the legendary appeal of American soldiers to Australian women had as much to do with their coming from a culture where women were, you know, considered worth talking to, as their material advantages.]
[Also, what’s up with this thing where YouTube doesn’t let us get the old embed code anymore? DOES THE NEW ONE WORK FOR ANYONE AT ALL?]
Using no less than three primary documents, discuss the effect of the Captain America mythos on the Australian experience of World War II.
– year twelve Modern History exam question, Bongoola State High School, Queensland, 1997
“Of course they needed to build a super soldier. Everyone knows the US Armed Forces were [CENSORED].”
– Private Clyde Cotterill
“What a [censored]. Those seppos need us more than we need them. We don’t need a super soldier when we have true blue Aussies.”
– Billy Sampson, farmer (father of Private William Sampson)
Angered by the slurs cast towards Captain America and the Howling Commandos, American soldiers Harold Hicks, William Edward Arford and Terje Brekka began an all out brawl that drew in all American naval staff, all New Zealand naval staff, and a number of Australian boys present in the National Hotel at the time. Although initially uninvolved, Stanley Reginald Hooper (26) and Ned Rako Kelly (21), Maori soldiers unwinding in the bar, were soon drawn into the brawl, and were the only fatalities. The Coroner at the time ruled these deaths as caused by self-defence, but later testimony by Australians and New Zealanders present reveals the ongoing antipathy towards the Americans over constant boasting of the role of the Howling Commandos, and the lack of stamina of the Antipodean boys…
– excerpt, Captain America and the Boys and Girls of Australia, David Tiller, Penguin Books, 1966
“We used to love the boys coming through, but they’ve all come up skiting since this all went down. Really, the Battle of Perth was inevitable.”
– Helena Cook, Pub Owner, Fremantle
“MacArthur was already neglecting Australian and New Zealand troops. We knew, without a doubt, that once they started producing super soldiers, we were right out of it. No chance of a look in after that.”
– Captain Charles Hardy, 9th Division, 2nd Australian Imperial Force
Australian Prime Minister John Howard again refused to apologise for experiments conducted on young Aboriginal men in the 1950s in an attempt to reproduce America’s super-soldier serum.
“These terrible experiments are in the past,” said the Prime Minister. “It’s time for Australia to move on.”
Until 1995, the Australian and British governments denied that Project Albion existed. Four men died and eight suffered permanent disability as a result of the experiments.
Transcript, ABC News, 12 April 2000
“Saw him on a newsreel. Big bloke, eh? Reckon he’d go in for Aussie rules? Melbourne could use a player like him. Provided we ever get the MCG back from the Marines.”
– Betty Fraser, nurse, Melbourne, 1944 (as remembered by her daughter, Adele Brunton, in 2012)
[Historical note: for part of WWII, the US Marines were housed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.]
Colebatch argues that American unions were so inspired by Captain America that they refused to strike during the war. Australian dock workers, he suggests, lacking such a powerfully patriotic motivator, fell prey to the manipulation of Communists, fifth columnists and traitors. What we needed was not just a superhero, but a conservative superhero.
Colebatch writes of Steve Rogers as a sepia-toned historical figure. The fact that Captain America is alive and well, exposing SHIELD corruption and talking up universal health care, is as insignificant as any of the other facts he mangles.
– J. M. Caudwell, review of Australia’s Secret War: How Unions Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II in The New Left, October 2014.
– Private Jim White
You know how it’s much easier to talk about something you hated than something you really enjoyed? That’s why I have a lot to say about Pacific Rim, yet I’ve been trying to write this post about The Deep for a couple of months.
That’s fitting, though, because it took me a really long time to read it. I heard last year that an excellent Australian comic about a multi-racial family of aquanauts was being adapted into an animated TV series, and I thought, “Huh, I should read that.” And the first two volumes sat in my shopping cart for a really long time.
Finally I bit the bullet and bought them, but because I had procrastinated so long, I kind of … forgot that I had bought nearly $50 worth of comics? Which is fine, I do that a lot, and then I get parcels that I had completely forgotten about ordering! It’s just like Christmas, only I’m spending money on myself.
Only, this time the package never came. Several months passed until I went, “Hey, I should buy The Deep! Why didn’t I do that sooner?” A tickle in my memory prompted me to go through my emails and bank statements, where I discovered that I had bought it. And I would like to congratulate Gestalt Publishing for being incredibly on the ball when I asked about it on Twitter, sorting the problem out and sending my comics. No emails required, just Twitter. Problem solved in 140 characters.
And then I read it, and it was AMAZING, and made me very happy, and I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to figure out how to convey its brilliance. Without, you know, scanning the entire thing. Because that’s what I want to do: take my graphic novels out and push them in people’s faces, going, “See? SEE? MORE ENTERTAINMENT SHOULD BE LIKE THIS!”
The Nektons are explorers. Their terrain: the oceans. Father William, mother Kaiko, and their children, the brilliant Fontaine and the gifted and hyperactive Antaeus, explore the depths of the oceans, encountering unfamiliar sea creatures and oceanographic mysteries. Theirs is a scientific and ecological mission, set against the backdrop of William’s quest for … well, that would be a spoiler.
Okay, so it sounds a bit like seaQuest DSV crossed with Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it’s more like … no, that’s it exactly. Shut up, I loved seaQuest DSV. Well, I loved the first season. It was so great. When I was 13. Anyway…
I compare it with Avatar because Ant reminds me very strongly of Aang — he may be a genius, but he’s also very much a kid. Much to the dismay of Fontaine, who is the sensible, methodical member of the family.
Fontaine’s parents are also a source of much eyerolling, given that their mother likes to play shark, and their father just really loves old maps. This would make her completely unbearable, except that she actually has a sense of humour, and really loves her family and their mission.
The Deep is unpretentious but competent. It sets out to be a really good family comic, and that’s exactly what it is. It made me want to write and draw, and I have the dodgy sketchbook pages to prove it. (No, you can’t see them. It’s embarrassing.)
What makes it notable, obviously, is the diversity of the characters. We rarely get to see a black man being intellectual and eccentric, and western media rarely portrays Asian women as badass goofballs. Frankly, Kaiko is so great, it’s a mystery to me why there aren’t entire Tumblrs dedicated to her. (I searched the tags, and found The Deep has no presence on Tumblr whatsoever. Guys, this is exactly what you say you love. Get on it.)
FOR EXAMPLE, here is the result of an, uhhhhhh, encounter with a journalist determined to portray the Nektons as a menace to society:
Click on the image for the full-sized version.
I guess I don’t really advocate pushing journalists into the sea, even if they are hacks who demonise families and cause panics that result in shark-deaths. But Kaiko’s nonchalance, coupled with SUNGLASSES, coupled with her family surrounding her and being all, OUR WIFE/MOTHER IS GREAT, DEAL WITH IT, that’s pretty excellent.
For bonus stereotype-busting, the Nektons pick up an eccentric old white man with mysterious and possibly mystical knowledge that will aid them in their Spoilery Quest. And then, just when I was starting to find him slightly irritating, he departed at the end of volume 2.
But all the inclusivity and stereotype-defying in the world isn’t going to achieve anything unless it’s coupled with an entertaining story and good characters, and that’s why I think everyone should read the comics, and watch the TV series when it appears. I can’t maintain a one-woman fangirling forever, and all this hand-flapping is getting tiring.
You can read a sample of the first volume here, as well as ordering it in hardcopy, but it’s also available from ComiXology. Samples from the second volume are here. Now, I am off to re-read them, and to ponder what dark secrets lie in Jeffrey the Fish’s past.