The modern superhero was born with Superman and the release of Action Comics #1 in June of 1938 began the Golden Age of Comic Books. None of the superhero comics, movies, TV shows, or video games we have today would exist as we know them if not for Superman. He was the foundation on which everything else was built. This new series nicks it’s title from Frank Miller’s seminal 1987 work Batman: Year One, in which Miller reimagines the origins of the Dark Knight in a darker, grittier fashion. Retelling and reimagining superhero origins is something both DC and Marvel love to do. But in this series I’m examining the actual first year of a superhero’s comic to get a sense for who they were when they first captured our cultural attention. What feels familiar? What feels different? In the case of Superman in particular, it’s often observed that he’s “too powerful,” “too unrelatable,” “too morally pure to be interesting.” That seems…unlikely to me. How can any character with 85 years of stories across all pop culture mediums not resonate? But let’s do our due diligence and see what Superman’s year one reveals about the character who birthed a genre.
Like Joker Do! – Clown Prince of Crime or Loving Partner and Stepdad?
Years ago, out to lunch with one of my best friends, he made an observation, “You know, I think you’d be happy never getting married. You’re comfortable on your own. You don’t need someone else to enjoy life. But if you get married, I think you’ll marry a single mother. Lots of guys wouldn’t. Lots of people avoid dating single parents. But you don’t. You’re good with kids. You love kids and you’d love her kids, which would be great for everyone.” While this friend knew me better than most (at the time, we’ve lost touch a bit), he rarely weighed in on my personal life. So it was unexpected but I didn’t disagree. It felt authentic. Still, I’d’ve never guessed this would be a bridge to see a little of myself in the Joker :8. Gah! The Clown Prince of Crime. The Harlequin of Hate. The Jester of Genocide. The King of Arkham Asylum. This is the guy – thanks to HBO Max’s mind-bendingly brilliant and sensationally subversive Harley Quinn – I’m now empathizing with?? Color me surprised.
Harley Quinn and Chaos for Christmas! – A “What Christmas Means To Me” Reflection
It’s Christmastime again, so ‘tis the season for me to read and watch a buncha Christmas specials and use them to reflect on what Christmas means to me just like Stevie Wonder does in the very song which inspired this series. And, just like Stevie Wonder sings about, “All these things and more, darling (all these things and more) / That’s what Christmas means to me, my love,” Christmas means a lot of things to me, too. This time Harley Quinn, the Clown Princess of Coney Island, provides my avenue for reflection as I ponder what Christmas means to me (my love!) care of Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1! Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Mauricet (“Bad Toy”), Brandt Peters (“Get Yer Cheer Outta My Ear”), and Darwyn Cook (“K!llin’ T!me”), Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1 was originally published on 10 December 2014. I love Harley Quinn! I love Christmas! And I’d say, “I love them together even more than I expected” but I absolutely expected to love Harley Quinn at Christmas a lot so I was very correct in my assumption!
Harley & Ivy’s Lessons in Life, Love, and Unburdening c/o the “Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour”
I adore HBO Max’s Harley Quinn: The Animated Series. It fundamentally shifted my relationship with the character. Before I watched the show, I enjoyed Harley Quinn. After watching it, I began tracking down every Harley comic I could find! In the process, she became a very important character to me. Naturally, I was excited when I heard of Tee Franklin (writer) and Max Sarin (artist)’s Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour, billed as Season 2.5. The comic captures everything I love about the show and features serious character development for both Harley and Poison Ivy, something all too rare in stories set between films in a series or seasons of a TV show. This development, woven through a story with all the profanity, insanity, and hilarity you’d expect from Harley Quinn: The Animated Series, enriches the characters and serves as a beautiful model for readers. Any comic which can do all that while also including the line “Piss cakes of a dick” is a true gift :D.
Easily Empathizing with and Conflictedly Rooting for Poison Ivy
Bill McKibben’s introduction to his 2019 book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, begins by reflecting on his 1989 text, “As the title indicates, The End of Nature was not a cheerful book, and sadly its gloom has been vindicated. My basic point was that humans had so altered the planet that not an inch was beyond our reach, an idea that scientists underlined a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene. This volume is bleak as well – in some ways bleaker, because more time has passed and we are deeper in the hole…Put simply, between ecological destruction and technological hubris, the human experiment is now in question. The stakes feel very high, and the odds very long, and the trends very ominous.” This is why a part of me can’t help but root, however conflictedly, for Poison Ivy in G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marcio Takara (artist), Arif Prianto (colorist), and Hassan Otsman-Elhaou (letterer)’s new miniseries, Poison Ivy, despite her goal being, you know, the absolute end of the human race. Because maybe we kinda deserve it? At least maybe we don’t not deserve it.
Black Canary/Birds of Prey – Fiction’s Fearless Females
By Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2
Welcome to the latest installment in our yearly Fiction’s Fearless Females series! Michael of My Comic Relief kicked us off with his post on Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy of the Harley Quinn animated and comic book series. Kalie of Just Dread-full followed with Ellie and Sandie from the film “Last Night in Soho.” Look out for Jeff of The Imperial Talker’s post in just a few days, and Nancy’s post next week!
In last year’s post, I teased the heroine I had in mind for this year’s post. Our friendship theme for this year fit perfectly for who I had in mind: Black Canary. This was a prime opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, if you’ll forgive the pun.
Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy – Fiction’s Fearless Females
It’s International Women’s Day and for the fourth year in a row I’ve teamed up with some fellow bloggers – Kalie of Just Dread-full, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, and Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2 – to celebrate some of our favorite female characters in all of fiction. This year I was having trouble deciding on who to write about. I wanted to rewatch Harley Quinn on HBO Max and read Tee Franklin’s Harley Quinn the Animated Series: The Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour but should I write about Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy? Then it hit me! The entire show (and comic which serves as Season 2.5) is anchored in their relationship. I would be hard pressed to write about one without writing about the other. Plus, for a series celebrating “fearlessness,” it’s within their friendship where Harley and Ivy find and demonstrate the most incredible courage. Standing beside each other, they (ultimately) own and face their greatest fears. So I’m writing about Harley and Ivy and the type of friendship we should all be so lucky to have.
Given the focus of this piece it’ll have major spoilers for S1&2 of Harley Quinn as well as light spoilers for Tee Franklin’s (as brilliant as it is beautiful) Harley Quinn the Animated Series: The Eat. BANG! Kill. Tour.
Lessons of Joy, Hope, and Love: The Gift of Wonder Woman 1984
This month marks the 80th Anniversary of Wonder Woman!!! I didn’t read her comics as a kid but Diana of Themyscria is a character who’s come to mean very much to me. As Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman (2017) was my gateway to Diana and her world, it felt apropos to mark this occasion by (finally) posting the piece I wrote after seeing Wonder Woman 1984. I LOVE the movies. Since I got my driver’s license, rarely more than a week went by in between trips to the theatre. However, after a 10:05 pm showing of Brahms: The Boy 2 on 7 March 2020, lockdown hit. So when I saw Wonder Woman 1984, it’d been over TEN MONTHS since I’d went to the movies. I wanted my return to be special and WW84 was the logical choice. I wasn’t disappointed! Wonder Woman 1984 was a worthy successor to the masterpiece that was Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot did it again! They captured lightning in a bottle twice…at least as far as I was concerned. I was stunned when I began talking to friends – close friends who often share my opinion of films – and learned not everyone felt the same. Some did, but some didn’t. Granting all art is subjective, I still became curious, wondering what they saw in this film. Many conversations followed and this piece was born of my side of those conversations. This is an exploration of all I see in WW84.
Is the DCEU’s Harley Quinn an Antihero or Superhero?
While Harley Quinn is often framed as an antihero in the comics, she most certainly isn’t. She is as much a superhero as anyone in the DC Universe and, being a survivor of abuse, she is stronger than just about any hero DC has, too. Since falling in love with her character (thanks Harley Quinn on HBO Max!) I’ve read every Harley comic from 2013 to the present and she’s not done anything remotely antihero-ish in any of them. Yes, Harley’s wild, a little chaotic, and has an impulse control problem (all of which she admits) but being a free spirit isn’t the same as being morally ambivalent. Her actions in the comics, again and again, are remarkably heroic. And I will die on this hill ;D. Since seeing The Suicide Squad I’ve been wondering if the same holds true in the movies. In the comics, Harley Quinn is a true superhero and the type of character we should all aspire to be like – as compassionate, loving, and open as she is brave. But what about the DCEU (DC Extended Universe)? Is Harley an antihero in the films or, like the comics, is she a superhero lacking the recognition she deserves?
Cleo Cazo / Ratcatcher 2 and the Power of a Story
This was not the piece I expected to write about The Suicide Squad. I had a completely different idea in mind as the film began but as I watched the movie I realized this was what I needed to talk about. I’ve always loved stories. Who doesn’t? Reading, watching, telling, and listening to them – I’m here for all of it! I will reread and rewatch the stories I love again and again and again. The right story takes a place in our heart like nothing else can. Years ago this blog was born, in part, as an outlet to write about the stories I love (so maybe I’d talk about them a little less in real life (but the exact opposite occurred XD)). I love thinking about stories, talking about stories, analyzing and deconstructing stories, teaching with and through stories – I love it all. So I needed to write about Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melchior and written/directed by James Gunn in The Suicide Squad, because never in my whole life has any character in any story ever moved what this character in this story moved within me. And that is certainly something worthy of exploration! This piece has a few minor spoilers for the film but you’ll be warned beforehand.