Exciting news from the heartland! My script, The Magnificent Masked Hearing, about which you can read more here, has been awarded an honorable mention slot in the 2013 American Blues Theater's Blue Ink Playwriting Contest. The American Blues Theater is a great company dedicated to fostering exciting work while partnering with social service organizations, and I am happy my work has found a place there. Likewise, I am honored to be part of a group of stellar writers, whose work was chosen out of 180 submissions for inclusion in the award's finalist and honorable mention categories. Congrats to all involved!
So much has grabbed my attention the last few months. The holidays! Producing February's Chicago Madness (the theme -- write a scene with your own M. Night Shymalan twist)! Working on curriculum and teaching for Silk Road Rising! Watching DC's disastrous choices involving Clark Kent and Wonder Woman's romance, the company's firing and rehiring of Gail Simone, as well as its weird blunder of hiring a homophobic writer while one of their top books pushes forward with the engagement of an awesome lesbian couple! Looking on as Marvel launched a new world of books that take artistic risks and build up a solid stable of writers!
But I haven't written about a lick of it. I wish I had a good excuse, or some particular bit of something stuck in my craw at the moment. Mostly I've been working, attempting to launch my next big writing project, and enjoying comics, along with an amazing read in Andrew Solomon's Far From The Tree. I haven't really mellowed out on discussing comics' reflection of our society, but I found I needed a bit of break from being up in arms about things, especially after the Christmas miracle that was Gail Simone's rehiring.
However, I have wanted for a while to share some books I think everyone might enjoy in the year of good old 2013. I haven't got anything ranked in a particular order, but if you want to start getting into comics this spring, here are some amazing reads that I am having boatloads of fun with, starting over at Marvel Comics, and continuing over the next few days, with other companies:
HAWKEYE, Aka, The Best Book I Had No Idea I'd Ever Fall In Love With, Ever!
Clint Barton, his dog named Pizza Dog, and most importantly, his brash and brave partner-in-superhero-fighting crime, Kate Bishop ... they all bowled me over when they rolled onto shelves last summer. Weird to use a bowling metaphor for a comic about archers, but I have no other way to explain how this book stunned me stupid when it arrived in my life. It hit me in the head like a bowling ball. A fun, cocky, mayhem-filled bowling ball -- all right, I need to stop this.
The point is, I have never cared about Clint Barton. Even when he was blasted deaf due to an explosion (of course, he was cured), I didn't care about him. But writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja have brought a clarity and amusement to Hawkeye's adventures, highlighted by Clint's translations of foreign languages into Pigdin French, and Aja's breaking down a bow movement or falling out of a skyscraper across several panels. It's impossible not to love the lug! Not when his book is this stylish, bouncy, and action-driven.
But the real heart of this enterprise comes in the form of Young Avenger Kate Bishop. Another Hawkeye, she outperforms "Hawkguy" at almost every turn, even as she forges a strong emotional bond with her mentor and predecessor. Kate is truly one of the great female comic characters out there, and even though her hero's journey starts in a sadly typical place for women in comics, she has since outshone that origin and become the second lead on a book that has done nothing but surprise me since it debuted back in August. Check it out for a fun ride.
DAREDEVIL, Or, My Favorite Story About Disability & Its Ties to Personal Power!
I already wrote about how amazing I think Daredevil is, and it's no secret that I absolutely adore Mark Waid's sharp, insightful writing. However, it doesn't yet go without saying that you should be reading Old Horn Head's stories at the moment. In fact, this week's issue, number 23, is a great jumping-on point! And if you know what's good for you, you'll backtrack and read the entire series to date.
Because this book will impress you with its thoughtful depiction of disability (or lack thereof), as much as it induces smiles with that catchy swashbuckler aesthetic. Each rotating artist has been given a lot to tackle by Waid, who challenges them to depict blindness in a visual way. Of course, Matt Murdock is only partly blind, and crackerjack pencillers, inkers, and colorists have taken every opportunity to put you behind the eyes of a man who "sees" with sonar.
I appreciate this derring-do because I often feel lonely reading superhero comics. There's rarely anyone disabled populating them, somebody who reflects my world view (even as I have adopted secret identities and kryptonite as translations of my identity). Often the disabled aren't allowed to share their perception with the larger readership. Waid turns that on its head for Daredevil; he treats Matt as a man whose abilities are directly informed by his disability, and we're in on the secret with him. We know why he cares about what he smells and what he hears. We know what's important without sight, the same way he does. And like us being in on the joke with Clark Kent, knowing he's Superman, we know blindness is not a weakness for The Man Without Fear.
CAPTAIN MARVEL, As The One Book I Know Led By A Female Fighter Pilot!
Okay, usually I'm not nuts about copious time travel and callbacks to comics history I know nothing of, but man, is Captain Marvel a wild ride! Not only does Kelly Sue DeConnick have a wicked sense of humor, Captain Marvel has been helmed by a team of artists who want to leave their mark on Marvel with weird viewpoints and dark stylizations.
Captain Marvel has blipped on and off my radar the past couple of months, after debuting last July. Frankly, the opening saga went on for two issues too long, with its time-traveling beguilingness quickly shriveling all my goodwill. However, since hitting a couple of stand-alone stories, DeConnick has developed the supporting cast, including a former Ms. Marvel, and let her heroine smash robots and other things with her fists, giving the whole book an afternoon serial, popcorn-y sheen. A sheen with one unique selling point -- the popcorn fun revolves around a woman for once, not a man! It's sad that this should seem novel, but given the fact that Wonder Woman is suffering to carry her own book right now, it's refreshing to see Captain Marvel ditching the "Ms." in her original moniker, and lifting pretty much whatever she wants over her shoulders, and tossing it in jail for all to see.
YOUNG AVENGERS, From Top-Notch Creators To The Top Of My Pull List!
This book JUST debuted last month, but I'd been waiting for its arrival with bated breath for what seems like years. Kieron Gillen and Jame McKelvie are an amazing team; they brought us the simply wonderful music-as-magic book, Phonogram. And their collaboration only improves with Young Avengers, which features so many mind-blowing layouts, I demand you buy it to personally feel the sensation of your eyes popping out of their sockets
I've never read Young Avengers before. But that's just fine, because Gillen deftly tells you everything you need to know about the characters in the span of a couple of pages. And the opening three pages provides all you really need to know about why this book will be amazing: there's a Ronettes song, Kate Bishop flying a spaceship, and Marvel Boy (or whatever his name is now) explaining away years of confusing continuity by dancing in his underwear and shooting at alien invaders. Simply put, this book is batty, but the teenagers feel fresh and real, and I look forward to seeing where the super-team of Gillen and McKelvie takes these marvelous, relatable teens.
One weird final note -- I also appreciate how Gillen rehabilitates Kate Bishop's reputation by opening the issue with her waking up in a strange man's bedroom. No judgment is made about Kate's appearance or decisions, as would happen in many mainstream books; there's also no cheesecake shots. Her opinion about how she feels is given precedence over what one presumes is a widely male readership's opinion on the subject. It's a refreshing take, and further cements my love for the character, and for Gillen's overall incisive depiction of the female thought process.
So, To Sum Up ...
What have we learned about my recommendations from Marvel Comics? Well ...
Kate Bishop is amazing, and I want to be her best friend. Daredevil routinely makes me cry with its dedication to exploring differences in perception. And Captain Marvel and the Young Avengers are well worth the time and expense, since they are tons and tons of fun.
Stay tuned over the next couple days for posts on DC's readable books, and independent books everyone should be picking up. It's been fun compiling this list, and I only hope to get people turned on to some good reading!
Playwright News & Musings on Comic Book Culture
Check this page for updates on Sarah's writing and thoughts on a great many topics, including but not limited to superheroes and disability.