We Can Do It! Mystique

“We Can Do It!: Women in Comics, Television and Beyond” is Hush Comics’ answer to what women in comics mean to the world and to us  Visit our page every Monday to learn about a new super lady!

Who:

Mystique

Nicknames/Aliases:

Raven Darkhölme, Foxx, Raven Wagner, and everyone she has shapeshifted into.

Skills:

Shapeshifting, Super Healing, Agelessness, speaks over fourteen languages, and can fight, like, really well.

Origin Story:

This is probably the trickiest “Origin Story” section I have had to write.  The thing about Mystique, one of the most infamous mutants in Marvel’s X-Men history, she is Mystique.  That wasn’t a typo, either.  The Oxford English Dictionary (yeah, I went there) defines “mystique” as, “A fascinating aura of mystery, awe, and power surrounding someone or something.”  So that being said, her origins are a little… mysterious.  It is unknown exactly when she was born, but we do know she is well over 100 years old.  Mystique, or Raven Darkhölme, ran around with (ok, they had a full blown lesbian relationship) fellow mutant Destiny aka Irene Adler, a precognitive from Austria.  Destiny sought out Mystique’s help around 1900 after witnessing many horrific events yet to pass and going blind in the process.  Their goal was to change the future together.  However, both women found that trying to change events was near impossible, and instead decided to achieve individual success.  Together, they formed the second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  It is Mystique’s Brotherhood that Kitty Pryde stops in the comic version of “Days of Future Past.”   Contrary to popular belief (which is no doubt because of all the other media versions of Mystique), she is not a disciple of Magneto.  Mystique is a super villain in and of herself.  Notably, Mystique is the mother of many pivotal characters in X-Men.  With Sabretooth, while posing as German spy Leni Zauber, she birthed a boy named Graydon Creed.  When she found out he was not a mutant, she abondoned him. He grew up to be a politician, one who ran on an anti-mutant campaign.  Before his election, Mystique killed him.  Mystique also gave birth to Nightcrawler with Azazel.  Nightcrawler is an important member of the X-Men.  After giving birth to him, Mystique and Nightcrawler were ran out of town because of his demon-like appearance.  She abandoned him, too.  Later, Mystique and Destiny found a young girl who was scared and alone in the woods.  This girl was a mutant named Rogue.  Mystique and Destiny raised her for years.  Rogue was a member of the Brotherhood before switching allegiances to Professor X.  Eventually, Mystique joined the Freedom Force and worked with the government to detain mutants.  She then became an X-Man, promising to help Charles Xavier in exchange for protection.  However, she reneged on the deal, posing as Foxx to seduce Gambit, her daughter Rogue’s boyfriend.  It all goes to prove that no matter what group Mystique is with, she will always be on her own, working on her next conniving plot.

Why is she important?:

Mystique is pretty much THE female villain in the X-Men universe and beyond.  Mystique is the reason the newest X-Men: Days of Future Past plot even happened.  While often using her powers for evil rather than good, she has always believed in her fellow mutants.  She has taken many in and showed them how to deal with their abilities, particularly her lover, Destiny, and her adopted daughter, Rogue.  Her mission to assassinate Senator Robert Kelly, a popular anti-mutant politician, proves her loyalty to those who share her likeness.  While Mystique acts on her own safety much of the time, she is still one of the fore figures fighting for the rights of all mutant-kind.

all photos belong to Marvel.

written by Adrian Puryear

“Respect My Craft” – Fiona Staples

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Fiona Staples

Profession: Artist (penciler, inker and colorist)

Notable Work: SagaDV8: Gods and Monsters

“When I DO see kids, I don’t want to say I intently observe them because that’s very creepy, but I have noticed they have different mannerisms than adults. They exist in a world where nothing is really sized to their proportions, so they have funny ways of sitting and fitting themselves into spaces.” – Fiona Staples

Denver Comic-Con 2013 had a who’s who of comic-book elite.  Neal Adams, Chris Ware, Jim Steranko are literal magazine-stand juggernauts. They have stories about every character and book they ever illustrated. These men have created worlds the rest of us rely on for entertainment, and sanity. I stood in line to get into The Con for four hours, but not for them. I stood in line for Fiona Staples. If you haven’t heard of her, or read Saga, or read my review of Saga: Volume One, or have been kidnapped by Skrulls and off-world for the past 3 years, let me take this time to say, “You have no idea what you’ve been missing.”

“This is how an idea becomes real.” Fiona Staples was born in Alberta, Calgary. Like most comic artists, she began drawing at a very young age. Her work was goth and anime inspired. She created from satire and chaos. She found her calling at Sir Winston Churchill High School, and at 19, got her first work in comics shelving at her local comic book store in Calgary. She later attended Alberta College of Art and Design and majored in Digital Communication.

“But ideas are fragile things.” She self-described her earlier work as black comedy, and that attracted her to WildStorm Comics. She was soon approached by Superman Returns and X2 screenwriter, Michael Dougherty, to produce a comic adaptation of his cult classic, Trick ‘r Treat. She remained with WildStorm to illustrate for North 40.  Staples also worked with 30 Days of Night author, Steve Niles on Mystery Society published by IDW in 2010. He was so impressed with her work that he introduced her to his friend, Brian K Vaughn. Lucky us.

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“Two minds can sometimes improve the odds of an idea’s survival.” Brian Vaughn is arguably the best cross-media writer in the business.  He has written for ABC’s acclaimed series Lost, and worked with Steven Spielberg on Showtime’s Under the Dome. He also wrote Vertigo comic’s, Y: The Last Man. This pairing must have been conceived in Odin’s loins. The two began to work on a sci-fi book simply titled, Saga. The book was intentionally created so that it could not be easily adapted into a film. The duo just wanted to create a really good comic book with no gimmick or over-hyped pop culture fodder. Hopefully the rights will never be sold to a studio and we won’t be subjected to unnecessary seasons of bad TV. Both of these artists used a very non-conventional approach to story-telling, so a certain level of integrity had to be assumed. Vaughn and Staples didn’t even officially meet until their panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2011. Regardless, their finished product was astounding.

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“But there are no guarantees.” Saga is that rare work in an art form that comes around once in a lifetime. Staples is deliciously satirical. Flipping through her pages must be a little like reading Chuck Palahniuk’s mind.  It’s a wonderful blend of taboo and the absurd. Her construction is almost as interesting as her end result. Click here to visit her official website. Staples draws her panels in thumbnail format, scans them into Manga Studio where she inks them, takes selfies for reference, then colors them in Photoshop. She also hand writes text in her panels. This technique enhances the story by giving the reader a narrator’s voice through penmanship. It’s absolutely brilliant. From an artist’s perspective her technique may seem like overkill, but without it, we may not have such a polished result. So what do you get? Besides one of the most popular comics on the shelves, an Eisner Award winner for best new series, and the praise of industry peers…you get fans for life. Fans like me, who only want to be inspired again. Fans who want to visit far off lands and meet interesting characters. Staples is also co-owner of Saga and a large chunk of its universe is from her imagination.

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“Sorry, getting ahead of myself.” Much of Fiona Staples personal life is a mystery. Her age is unknown, her Facebook page is filled with riddles and playful myth, but one thing is certain, her work is a breath of fresh air. She conveys emotion through the stroke of a pen, the reader is drawn into her world through color and shape first, and then writing. I won’t spoil Saga for you, if you are interested in a synopsis of the first trade, go back in the Hush Archives. Truly, I suggest picking up or downloading her entire catalog. She has some impressive cover art and variants including the Art of Archie, Ultimate Spider-Man, Superman/Batman and The Walking Dead. 

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 Art taken from http://fionastaples.tumblr.com

 After four hours in line I was able to give her a smile, thank her for renewing my love of comics and awkwardly asked for her autograph. I feel like she is one of those fanboy favorites we love to insult others lack of knowledge of. She is definitely the end to the exhausted gasp of disbelief, “You don’t know….!?” In all honesty, writing this article reminded me why I respect her craft so much. She is an artist’s artist, and the darkest corners of her mind brighten our existence.

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Fiona Staples shows some love to John Soweto

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (NY Times, Spike TV, Broadway Books). Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with Zombie Survival expert, Max Brooks.

Written by John Soweto

We Can Do It! Gwen Stacy

“We Can Do It!: Women in Comics, Television and Beyond” is Hush Comics’ answer to what women in comics mean to the world and to us  Visit our page every week to learn about a new super lady! 

*Note: I wanted to write this piece because of the latest release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  There will be spoilers for Gwen Stacy’s story.  However, this piece focuses on the comic book character rather than the movie character.

Who:

Gwendolyne Stacy

Nicknames/Aliases:

Gwen Stacy

Skills:

Advanced knowledge in science, being cute and sassy.

Origin Story:

There are two things to know about Gwen Stacy:  she is the quintessential college girlfriend and (SPOILER!) she dies.  Yup, I broke that news to you quick.  As soon as you fell in love with her, she was gone.  The quick history of Gwen is that she is Peter Parkers girlfriend.  But of course, when you are involved with a man who is also superhero, in this case Spider-Man, things aren’t always that simple. Gwen and Peter met at Empire State University when she was a student of Biology, and their encounter wasn’t on the best of terms.  Over time, they developed a friendship that became a relationship.  They were then on-again and off-again for years.  Contrary to most of the story telling, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson knew each other, and even ran in the same circles.  Also, she was a model.  Peter Parker is a lucky guy.  But their love wasn’t so lucky for so many reasons.  Because Peter never revealed his alter-ego to Gwen, she often felt abandoned by him when he “disappeared.”  During a battle with Doctor Octopus, Gwen’s dad, Captain George Stacy, is accidentally killed by falling rubble.  Gwen leaves the country only after trying to get Peter to propose marriage.  Peter, of course, is guilt ridden, not only because he felt responsible for George’s death, but because George knew the truth about Peter, so he does not ask Gwen to marry him.  After being gone for some time, Gwen returns to New York.  Only 22 issues later, Gwen’s life ends.  Even worse, it is by Spider-Man’s hands.  After being kidnapped by Norman Osborn as Green Goblin, Gwen is thrown off of a bridge. When Spidey tries to save her by casting a web, he accidentally snaps her neck.

Why is she important?:

The thing about Gwen Stacy is that her life and her death don’t exist without the other.  There are many compelling arguments that Gwen was just a plot point.  Gwen is referenced in Gail Simone’Women in Refrigerators.  However, a large part of me has to disagree with this.  Gwen and Mary Jane have been compared for decades.  It has been debated in and out who is Peter’s true love.  And in references even up to modern day (Gwen died in 1973), Peter still loves Gwen.  Girl has been dead for 41 years.  He still puts flowers on the bridge she died on every year.  Yes, Gwen’s death was an easy way to give Peter an emotional break-down and to make Mary Jane grow up a bit.  And killing her off prevented a teenaged Peter from getting married.  But Peter’s background as Spider-Man has always been a dark tale.  And I don’t believe Gwen was a one-time boo-hoo for him.  She represents a lot of things for not only Peter, but fans of books.  Gwen is what could have been and what we all believe our lives will be when we are young.  Gwen was more than a looker, too.  She had a strong mental connection with Peter.  Sure, she didn’t know his secret identity, but she had a high level of intelligence, matching Peter’s.  Peter considered her an equal and possibly the only person to understand him.

Gwen Stacy sparks a lot of debate.  Did her neck snap or was she dead before the fall?  Is she hotter than Mary Jane?  Is she a better match for Peter than Mary Jane?  Is Gwen’s death the end of the Silver Age?  Is Gwen’s death the epitome of the female trope in a genre that is male-centered?  I think the fact that you can find countless, and I mean countless, articles on all these questions proves why Gwen Stacy is important.  She may not have super powers.  In the comics, she may not have known about Peter’s identity.  She may be just a very smart and pretty girl who had to die.  But that doesn’t make her any less.  Gwen Stacy is what makes comic books dynamic and important not only to the comic culture, but to our society because we can take a girl who seemingly is very normal and create a very large dialogue about what it all means.

What she means to me:

Really and truly what Gwen means to me is the first love we all lost.  Gwen was meant for Peter.  She just was.  She was smart and witty.  And then she was gone.  We have all experienced the loss of our first love.  And many of our favorite characters from other stories have, too.  We all feel a strong connection to them.  FIrst loves stay with us forever.  Gwen was beautiful and it was readily accepted that she was a Science Major.  Of course in the movies, she is a high school student, on her way to Oxford, and very knowledgable in science, even working for OsCorp.  Gwen doesn’t try to be anything she’s not.  Therefore, she accepts Peter for what he is.  Because of that, they connected so well.  But first loves rarely work out.  In this case, their love ended tragically.  However, I believe the Peter Parker and Spider-Man wouldn’t be the well-known creations they are now with out Gwen Stacy’s life or her death.

photos belong to Marvel Comics

written by Adrian Puryear

We Can Do It! Witchblade

“We Can Do It!: Women in Comics, Television and Beyond” is Hush Comics’ answer to what women in comics mean to the world and to us  Visit our page every week to learn about a new super lady! 

Who:

Sara Pezzini

Nicknames/Aliases:

Witchblade

Skills:

Sara herself is an esteemed homicide detective.  With the Witchblade, she can heal quickly, have armor, and can create any weapon needed to protect herself.

Origin Story:

Debuting in 1995,  Witchblade is a comic book that tells the story of Sara Pezzini, New York City homicide detective.  When Sara and her partner, Michael Yee, are investigating a party thrown by villain Kenneth Irons, they are both mortally shot.  Sara tried to save her partner, and because of her heroic actions, was deemed worthy of the Witchblade, which then saved her from certain death.  What is the Witchblade you ask?  It is a gauntlet, or fancy magical glove, owned by baddy Kenneth Irons.  The Witchblade can only bond with a female host, and for our heroine, it bonds with Sara because she risked her life for her partner.  For the last 19 years, Witchblade has been apart of Sara Pezzini’s life, helping her in her career and her personal life.  She has fought against Irons and his bodyguard Ian Nottingham and many others.  In recent years, the Witchblade has been shared with another woman, Danielle Baptiste.  In 2001, Witchblade was made into an awesome TV series on TNT.  Unfortunately, it was short lived, but did a really great job of breathing life into the story.

Why is she important?:

Witchblade is important because she put a face, ahem, and a body, on the little guys.  No, not actual little people, but the independent comic companies.  Published by Top Cow, Witchblade is one of the most recognizable characters, particularly female characters, of the modern comic book age.  She just happens to be published independently.  Yes, Witchblade is so highly recognized because of her armor, or rather lack there of.  It would be obvious to say that Sara wears next to nothing.  There are plenty of comic covers, figures and statues to prove this.  However, she is much more than her sex appeal.  Sara Pezzini and her relic mean a lot to femininity in general.  The Witchblade only attaches to a woman.  While the Witchblade protects its host by providing unlimited weapons, armor and the ability to control elements, the woman who wears it must keep the balance between good and evil in the world.  How amazing is it that it is a woman who does this?

What she means to me:

I found out about Witchblade by watching the TV series with Yancy Butler back in the early 2000’s.  It was a pretty darn cool show.  It probably helped me wish that in my alternate life, I was a detective (this is in fact what my other job would be if I wasn’t such a wuss).  Sara is a tough cop.  She is good at her job, yet has a big heart.  In the series, she can still see the ghost of her deceased partner who helps guide her through her missions.  I also love that she doesn’t take any crap from anybody.  She was strong way before the Witchblade chose her, but it only enhanced her hard-hitting demeanor.  Any woman who is strong with or without her “power” is a woman worth looking up to.

photos belong to TopCow Comics

written by Adrian Puryear

We Can Do It! Harley Quinn

“We Can Do It!: Women in Comics, Television and Beyond” is Hush Comics’ answer to what women in comics mean to the world and to us  Visit our page every week to learn about a new super lady! 

Who:

Harley Quinn

Nicknames/Aliases:

Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Technically her alias is Harley Quinn)

Skills:

Immunity to toxins, advanced agility, pretty good at kicking butt.

Origin Story:

Harley Quinn’s history is pretty interesting.  Unlike her other Batman counterparts, she was created specifically for the 90’s Batman: The Animated Series cartoon by the legendary Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.  She first appeared in the episode “Joker’s Favor” as The Joker’s female counterpart and sidekick, complete with a black and red jester outfit.  She went on to appear and star in a handful of episodes after her 1992 premiere.  Oh, and something kinda cool for the Hush Comics family, her original air date was September 11th, 1992; so Sherif is officially 5 years older than Harley!  Anyway, when Harley was just a wee little Harleen, her father went to jail for fraud, her brother was a low-life and her mother was a typical mom in Brooklyn—worrying about her kids.  Harleen grew up and went to work at the Arkham Asylum.  Chronicled in the book and episode of the same name, “Mad Love”, Harleen becomes the psychiatrist to The Joker himself.  She winds up doing the same thing all mad girls do and falls in love with the cook.  She then becomes Harley Quinn, murderess and adorable villain of Gotham.  Harley has since spent the last 21 years being in the most abusive relationship in DC with the jester.  She loves him very much and is by his side always, as long as he lets her.  The Joker doesn’t like it if she steals his thunder, though.  Currently, in Harley’s comic series, they a broken up.  She battles between loving Mr. J and hating Mr. J., and probably always will.

Why is she important?:

Why is Harley Quinn important?  It may sound really odd, considering she is known for being The Joker’s girlfriend, Poison Ivy’s tease, and let’s face it, she’s a villain.  BUT, she is important.   For starters, she was introduced in a 90’s Saturday morning cartoon and now she is one of the most recognizable women in the DC Universe.  She has her very own comic series now.  A comic series!  From a cartoon!  She is cosplayed by women at, like, every convention and it now almost seems odd if she isn’t featured in anything Batman related.  Since her creation she has also grown a lot.  Sure she still likes to murder.  Who doesn’t?  Ok, that part may not be true, but in recent years, Harley has gained a sense of justice.  She certainly can go off the handle, but she believes in the helpless getting their way.  She loves animals and the elderly and will literally kill for them.  I can’t talk about her without talking about her relationship.  Is it healthy?  No!  Do we all recognize that?  Uh, yes?  Here’s the thing, we all would like to think that we will always see straight when it comes to love. Harley proves that we all wear love goggles when we fall for someone, especially if they are the wrong person.  Even Harley knows The Joker is wrong for her.  Sometimes, she can’t help herself when it come to him, and sometimes, she takes care of herself.  Harley Quinn is relatable because most of us know what its like to love the wrong person.  Now, she is in recovery from that relationship.  She is living in Coney Island and trying to make her life work, without the attachment of her ex-flame.  It will really be the day when readers can think of Harley as a strong, independent, and slightly crazy murderess than just “The Joker’s girlfriend.”

What she means to me:

Harley Quinn has been one of those characters I have been always oddly attracted to.  Was I supposed to like Batgirl?  Well, yeah.  And I did.  But for some strange reason I really liked Harley.  She was cute.  And even though she was psychotic, I liked it when she was on the screen.  She may have been always trying to ruin Batman’s day, but there is something still in her that is good.  She tries.  She tries to please the ones she cares about.  In her weird little way she cares about both The Joker and The Batman.  I really liked seeing this bubbly and adorable little woman try to make her life work the best way she knew how.  As an adult, I see all the deep aspects to her.  Now, every month, I enjoy reading her story as a woman who is trying yet again, but this time trying for herself, and proving that Harley Quinn is just as important as any man she was trying to please in the past.

 

photos belong to DC Comics

written by Adrian Puryear

We Can Do It! Black Widow

“We Can Do It!: Women in Comics, Television and Beyond” is Hush Comics’ answer to what women in comics mean to the world and to us  Visit our page every Monday to learn about a new super lady!

*Note: Yes this article is late.  Yay for jet lag from ECCC and hey, I thought it would be cool to publish when Winter Soldier actually came out.  Oopsies.  

Who:

Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow

Nicknames/Aliases:

Black Widow, Natalia Romanova (ok that’s her given name for you aficionados), Czarina

Skills:

Advanced combat skills and training, acrobat, ballerina, slowed aging due to Soviet experimentation, and a great knowledge of how to use a gun.

Origin Story:

Like most Marvel heroes, Black Widow has been retconned.  Either way, her history is way sketchy.  I guess that is what happens when a girl is trained by Russia to be a spy and is genetically mutated.  Yup, so that is basically her history.  Her real name can either be Natasha Romanoff or Natalia Romanova.  This just adds to her mystery.  She was trained by Ivan Petrovich, and in her retcon, by the KGB.  She has been experimented on to make her age slower and make her more agile.  She has also had her memory altered so she doesn’t remember significant chunks of her life and is given the memory of being an esteemed ballerina.  Originally, Natasha was sent to kill Iron Man.  She wore an evening gown with a sweet cat-eye mask with a veil over her face.  She was also raven haired before she had her fiery red mane.  She met Hawkeye and convinced him to help her.  After a failed mission, she was kidnapped by the KGB and brainwashed to kill the Avengers, of which Hawkeye was a member.  Because she had fallen in love with him, she eventually found the light side and became good ole American.  She also became the 16th Avenger.  She has found herself in a romantic relationship with many Marvel characters, mainly being the main squeeze of Matt Murdock aka Daredevil, but she also has been with Iron Man, Captain America, and Bucky Barnes.  In her current issues, she is an independent spy who sometimes takes jobs with Nick Fury’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Notably, Black Widow saved Wolverine from the HYDRA and was a leader of The Champions which included Hercules and Ghost Rider.  She led them to battle with many baddies including The Stranger and The Crimson Dynamo.  Yeah, she pretty much has done everything.

Why is she important?:

Let me count the ways as to why Natasha Romanoff is important.  Ok, first, she currently is the female face of The Avengers.  I mean she is carrying the entire female population in all the current movies.  That’s a lot to handle.  And all this is just my opinion of course, but I really think she is the inspiration for two of my other favorite women: La Femme Nikita and Echo from Dollhouse.  As far as La Femme Nikita goes, she was also a Russian spy who was used as a tool for the government.  And Echo?  Well, Natasha was also brainwashed and supplied with false memories.  She was made to be super strong and acrobatic.  So were the Dolls.  Pretty cool, I think.  Not only that, but Natasha has kinda saved a lot of our favorite superheroes.  Like, their lives.  Oh, and she’s smart, witty and can kick a lot of ass.  I’d say she is really important not only for the Marvel Universe, but to women ad little girls who go to the movies and read comics.  Thank you, Miss Romanoff.

What she means to me:

Honestly, before The Avengers came out, I had limited knowledge of who Black Widow was.  But considering my celebrity doppelgänger, Scarlett Johansson, played her, I needed to find out as much as I could.   As a little girl, I used to play spy.  Didn’t every little girl?  Ok maybe about half of us.  Anyway, Black Widow is the woman I think of when I wish I had a different life, except in my head, it is a more glamourous world without all that experimentation.   Now that I know tons more about her, I think every girl should idolize her.  She is a woman who has been through hell and back, is smart as a whip and can kick some serious ass.  Yup, pretty much one tough as nails chick.  And that’s why I love her.

photos belong to Marvel

 

written by Adrian Puryear

Graphic Novel Review – Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds

Graphic Novel Review – Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds

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Collecting: Bids of Prey #56-61

Original Release Date: 2003

Publisher: DC Comics

Character: Black Canary, Oracle (formerly Batgirl), Huntress

Writer: Gail Simone

Art: Ed Benes

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 6
Art – 7
Captivity and Length – 8
Identity – 9
Use of Medium – 7
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 8
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 8

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Think about your favorite team of heroes: Justice League (and their dozens of iterations), Avengers (and their hundred different iterations), Green Lantern Corps, X-Men… Now think about the gender representation among the group. Aside from the X-Men, women have been heavily underrepresented among the best in the universe for each team, let alone left in a position of power. Those female characters that are represented are typically typecast with revealing outfits and often find themselves “In A Refrigerator.” Well, in the mid-1990’s, Jordan Gorfinkel and DC Comics decided that readers wanted a team that they could relate to. The Birds of Prey were formed in 1996, consisting of Black Canary and Oracle. Through the years, DC’s elite women (sans Wonder Woman) have joined the Birds of Prey at some time or another. Characters like Hawkgirl, Vixen and Katana came under the spotlight of the Charlie’s Angels-esque team of strong women.

Chuck Dixon laid the groundwork for what would eventually turn into a DC Comics fan favorite. When Gail Simone took the reigns in 2003, we were already fifty-six issues in. Fortunately for readers, this was an opportune place to jump on, as Simone crafts Of Like Minds not only as an introduction to her writing, but the series, as well. Jumping into a series over fifty issues in is never an easy transition, but the dynamics of Birds of Prey is well established from the first page in. After suffering a paralyzing gunshot wound at the hands of the Joker in The Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon has become Oracle – tech extraordinaire and human calculator. Although confined to a wheelchair, Babs is the clear leader of the group and, to be honest, the most integral member of the Birds of Prey. Meanwhile, Black Canary (Dinah Lance) and Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) make the moves. Like messenger birds sent out by Oracle, they complete missions while Oracle feeds them intel.

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Of Like Minds gives up a lot of ground in story-telling establish an identity. Simone does an excellent job of portraying three distinct personalities among the group. While Oracle has the notable Batman influence – prepared to do whatever is needed to get the job done – Dinah is inspired by Green Arrow’s more “Robin Hood” view of how to be a superhero. Add a fired up and borderline violent Huntress to the mix, and you get an amazing chemistry that could carry its own series whether they were fighting crime or playing Cranium. Where the arc seems to falter, though, in with the characters surrounding them. The antagonist in Of Like Minds, Savant, has just enough juice to pique my interest, but not enough to be worthy of commandeering the book. That being said, there were far worse ways to introduce a villain like Savant, and his purpose seems to be solely make the Birds of Prey look good.

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Something that really impressed me about Of Like Minds was the amount of research Simone must have done to show just how legit our crew is. Take Barbara Gordon, for example. She’s no longer Batman’s sidekick, but rather one of the best most vital tools in the DC Universe for intel (really the only one until Cyborg’s rise to mainstream popularity a few years later). In fact, during Batman: No Man’s Land, which begins soon after the continuity of this book, she is crucial in Batman’s plight to take back Gotham. Throughout the pages, Babs: speaks multiple languages, quotes Benjamin Franklin and multiplies numbers together really quickly. She may be confined to a wheelchair, but Barbara Gordon uses her mind to thwart crime when her partner’s brawny methods come back fruitless.

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Keeping an open mind that this book was published over a decade ago, the idea of strong, capable characters is completely cut down by the way the characters are constantly being objectified. Ranging from blatant (Black Canary being bound and cuffed while Savant makes sexual banter) to subtle (putting the characters’ sexy parts conveniently next to word bubbles, and the awkwardly positioned poses to show off just enough butt to make it annoying), there’s no denying that DC was using sex appeal to sell Birds of Prey. With new-age super heroine books in the mainstream now like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Captain Marvel, it’s hard to imagine just how skewed the industry’s opinion of women was at the turn of the century.

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While the first arc of a Simone-written Birds of Prey shows its age in terms of the portrayal of women, the identity that Gail Simone – a woman writing a comic book about women – creates is worth the sticker price (or download price, as Of Like Minds is out of print and hard to find at a reasonable price). The pages are filled with Simone’s unique take on the Birds of Prey (a woman writer portraying a female led book – crazy, I know) was unprecedented at the time, especially ones smarter and mightier than their male counterparts. I was unimpressed with the story overall, but this is a case where style over substance is more over an investment. Gail Simone shows signs of becoming a tremendously talented writer, which really shines through in her recent work on Batgirl, one of my favorite series of the New 52.

All media credited to DC Comics

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

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