Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Requiem For Jennifer Walters

I picked up this old issue of She-Hulk yesterday. First series, from the 1970s. There's a scene where her boyfriend -- this white guy with an afro and big mutton-chop facial hair -- asks her to change back to Jennifer Walters before she meets his parents. So she'd be "presentable." Apparently, this was not the first request he made of this nature.

And she grits her teeth and does it, but thinks, basically: "This is the last fucking time I'm doing this. This is bullshit."

And I was taken aback by how adult and mature that little sequence was -- how it went past issues of superheroics and comic book mayhem and cut to the heart of something very real and human.

You know: throwaway 1970s comix, bubblegum junk, kinda gimmicky blah blah.

But it had something of value in it, something that survived past the decades and still touched me.

*** *** ***

I realize some of the posts I did over the last week or so really struck a cord, and I'm really fucking glad they did.

That's all. I'm going to continue to write as I've been writing, and that's it.

And this isn't that famous National Lampoon cover where they're going to shoot the dog if you don't read the blog. There are no dogs to be shot -- no kittens, orphans, Ewoks, or any other adorable creature has been put in danger due to my excessive ego.

Just don't read the blog if you do not like it. Poof! Magic.

*** *** ***

Yes, sometimes I write about things like porn. Maybe unbecoming of a woman.

Women's romance novels are full of porn. Haven't picked any up recently, but as of the 1980s, they were full of porn. Written porn, but porn nonetheless.

My first introduction to the concept of bestiality was from a romance novel. I still remember the dog's name. Jurgen.

"Oh Jurgen," she sighed, arching her back even further, "you are my best friend!"

Seriously. The book even taught me that you needed lube to have sex with your pet. And this was a mainstream romance novel that my friend took out from the library. We were maybe eleven.

Now obviously, with the advent of Family Guy, the edge has been taken off extra-species intimacy. Brian the Dog is sort of an iconoclast in that respect.

*** *** ***

I think women have been taught to be be ashamed for any desires they might have for porn. To the point where if it's referred to at all in that context, it's called the far more "pretty" name of "erotica." I think it's the patriarchy's fault (I mean, what isn't?), but it's also sorta feminism as well. And I've sorta bought into it too, but it's me cutting off my nose to spite my own face. So leave me be in the valleys of my own psychodrama, one day I'll figure it all out.

*** *** ***

There won't be any randy dogs named "Jurgen" in my comic book writing. Though if Avatar Press is still around in a few years, maybe we can talk about it.

But I really feel that the reason we haven't had a "Grant Morrison" of female writers yet -- a question I am asked all the fucking time -- relates back to that scene I described in She-Hulk. We don't need more Jen Walters.

It won't be enough anymore to simply write a decent superhero comic and have the public coo patronizingly at the wonder of it all. I think the next breakthrough female comic book writer needs to stir shit up. I mean: seriously.

Easier said than done. I know several really good female comic writers with edgy styles that don't get a hell of a lot of work, and I think it's sort of criminal. I think, despite some flaws, Devin Grayson at least wrote some outrageous stuff and broke taboos. In many of these cases, said edginess is cited by them as the reason they *don't* get work.

I really don't know if my writing is really that good to ever get to a place where it might change things and make an impact.

*** *** ***

Fuck it, my writing really is that good.


  1. Crap, the one issue I don't have in my semi-complete run... Now I'm all curious to read it!

    Glad to hear you ain't letting the bitchers keep you down. Write what you wanna write how you wanna write it. Only by doing that will you ever stumble across that idea that will change things and make that impact.

  2. It's CHORD, not cord, but other than that, go for it.


    Be you!

  3. A lot really depends on what you want to accomplish with your writing. Do you just want to write average superhero stories or write cutting edge stories? If you really want to do the latter, trying the former isn't going to make you happy.

    Be true to your muse and your inner writer. Write what you want the way you want it. Marvel or DC may not want to publish it but I doubt you'd have much trouble finding a publisher willing to take a chance.

    Because your writing is that damn good.

  4. Well for one thing, it's been about 10 years now since comics collectively recognized that Grant Morrison was something special and the male gender has not produced the next Grant Morrison either. (Using Morrison kind of as a focal point of how things were different around the 90's 00's turnover. You could throw in Ellis and Ennis as well.) I was looking at some copies of The Invisibles yesterday and realized that they were 10 years old and realized that exactly 0% positive progress has been made in the past ten years of mainstream comics. I mean there was a moment in time when there were new issues of The Invisibles and Morrison's JLA at the same time. (And Transmet and Preacher...) It's not often we find that level of quailty co-exisitng today.
    As to where the female Morrison will come from and what she will be like? I wish I knew. I remember when Devin Grayson first started getting good gigs. I liked her books a lot. They were some of the first comics I could easily recommend to non-comic reading friends. I thought it was the beginning of something. Some sort of change but... it never seemed to manifest. I believe the change will happen. It's overdue. If you want to make it happen you can.

  5. The problem with porn isn't the NATURE of porn, it is the REALITY of porn. Sex is interesting, whether visual or written or whatever. People are wired that way. The problem is that the actual porn industry is full of "18 year old slaves!" & "Tricked & dominated!" stuff-- not in the "here is some S&M kink for you!" but in the "these women are our fuck objects!"

    I keep thinking that one of these porn revolutionaries will turn it around-- you know, feminist porn or couples porn or something-- but to the best of my knowledge, no dice.

  6. Oh man, I just made a comment about porn but deleted it. Oh well.

  7. The other day I sat down with some trades to get caught up with X-Men. I began reading some of the Mike Carey and Ed Brubaker stuff. And when I finished reading them, I thought to myself: "Yeah, they were good. But they were just comics."

    Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe you're partly to blame, but I'm at the point where unless it's New Frontier or Starman quality, it's a waste of my time. I've overcome my addiction to buying the floppies--now I only want to read the best.

    I understand there's this fellow named Mr. Kirby that comes highly recommended?

  8. No comment about porn, particularly not from the female viewpoint, but it was great to see the Michael Golden cover again. I liked David Anthony Kraft's writing at that time and was a big fan of the Defenders, which also had a short but superb run by Golden. I must dig the Defenders out and reread them but the She Hulks were given away years ago.

  9. I think the next time a celebrity is busted for something they should have to film a PSA about the need to use lube when having sex with a pet.

  10. First of all WELCOME BACK, VAL!!!

    I KNEW you wouldn't hold your "snark strike" for long.

    You, like everyone, have been through periods like this, when you question everything you have been doing.
    And you ALWAYS come back

    This is just how it is... FOR EVERYONE
    that works in a creative activity.

    It is just part of the process. And I am glad you are through.

    Now I can getz me my daily dose of snark.


  11. You mentioned the prettying up of "porn" into "erotica"...

    Doesn't that feel a bit reminiscent of people's labeling of "comics" as "graphic novels"?

    I've talked to several people that say they "don't read comic books, only graphic novels", as if a comic book is relegated to something for children.

  12. porn to me is like a caste system - people watch these women (and men) fuck but few would ever seriously date them or have a good regard from them.

    from my understanding, often these relationships begin as fantasy (i'm fucking a porno actress!) to dismay (i married a slut!) and anger.

    porn is, as i think everyone knows at this point, filled with abused women and i suspect abused men. runaways, victims of molestation, etc.

    one of the saddest interviews was the Daily Show interviewing Mary Carey - she sounds like a cute 5-yr-old as she explains why she doesn't do anal...

  13. off topic, but whatever happened to Devin Grayson? her Nightwing run is definitely on my top ten and her writing is on par with Winick (his good books, 'cuz he can throw out some stinkers), Simone, and Morrison. i went back and checked some of her other books and they were pretty fun, too. seriously, is this why she stopped writing?

  14. I’m surprised at the tenacity of the “unbecoming” porn myth…pro-porn feminists like Nina Hartley, Tristan Taormino, Susie Bright, and Violet Blue debunk that idea pretty soundly, I think.

  15. The problem with porn is the LIES that it spreads! Things like, Women like cum in their eyes, you never need to ask for anal sex, and of course, pizza deliveries ALWAYS end in sex.


  16. Anonymous12:54 PM

    To you keeping the blog interesting, I say


  17. Anonymous12:59 PM

    I'd make a guess and say that when you say, "stir shit up" you're talking Morrison on Animal Man stirring. Or John Byrne on She-Hulk stirring. Or Alan Moore on Swamp Thing. I mean, that was some crazy shit.

    But there's also James Robinson on Starman kind of stirring, and I think that's happening more frequently than people want to talk about. It isn't as flashy or crazy, but it was a well-done, interesting take on the character. And I don't know if anyone's been able to pull that kind of stunt effectively--reweaving more than 50 years of history, including more recent events, while carving your own bit of history in there.

    This is the kind of thing that's been attempted by other writers, but hasn't been done to the level that Robinson was able to turn out, in my experience. It's also the kind of stirring up that I think is needed far more than characters having conversations with their own writers.

  18. "Women's romance novels are full of porn. Haven't picked any up recently, but as of the 1980s, they were full of porn. Written porn, but porn nonetheless."

    What a weak ass argument you make. You haven't read any romances in 20 years but they're still all porn?

    How very, very wrong you are, and how disappointing it is so see someone so otherwise interesting ride the old horse of romance=porn to argue about your creative freedom. Romance writers are all about creative strong and fierce heroines, much like you are, I imagine, and having those heroines win against and and all odds against them.

    Romances are not all about "all holes filled with hard cock" and you do yourself a fat disservice by dismissing them as merely pornography. You'd never hear me calling your art "meaningless scribbles."

    SB Sarah

  19. Seriously, fuck it! Your writing is that fucking good! Anytime someone threatens your life because of something you wrote, that's like a badge of honor. People are moved to insanity and awesomeness by your words alone. That's fucking powerful!

    The worst thing for you is an echo chamber. I know that sounds funny from a post that's basically praise, but I think the disagreements and flat out hate posts against your blog mean you're writing about things that truly matter to people. Few bloggers can say the same.

    So fuck the haters and just do what you do best! Arm sawing forever!

  20. I love that scene. I bought the Essential She-Hulk trade just because I really loved the writing. She-Hulk was being bashed (still is) at the time, and I remember reading the book and thinking that it wasn't bad. It was like a soap opera in some parts, but so were most of the early Marvels.

    I *hated* Zapper, though. Oh man was that character annoying. Afro and all.

  21. On Savage She-Hulk: I loved the series and got into it because my grandma bought every issue. Of course, she and I also loved US-1 (one of my favorite geek moments was when Byrne brought the two together in Sensational She-Hulk), so our judgement may be suspect. :)

    On porn: I enjoy some of it and dislike a lot of it. I don't think, however, that the industry has any responsibility to weed out women who have been abused/mistreated. In fact, I tend to think that these women may be taking power back for themselves - they get to choose whether or not to be in a porn movie, they get to choose whether or not to perform with a particular person, and they get paid a very nice wage to do so (they must, or they wouldn't choose to do it).

    There may be issues with particular porn producers, but I just won't accept (without evidence) that the industry is generally acting in an immoral/illegal fashion. the industry is subject to too much scrutiny these days (porn IS mainstream in our current culture, even if individuals still hide their own consumption of the product) for blatantly illegal/immoral practices to go unnoticed/unprosecuted.

    On Val's writing: It does rock and I'm glad you're feeling a little better about it today. :)

  22. Yay, I'm so glad you've decided to carry on making brilliant, intelligent post to your fantastic blog. And I'm doubly glad the savage, sensational one helped you to come to that decision.

    I've never read the issue you mention, but I have noticed that this is a recurring theme with Jen. Not only is she vastly physically more powerful as She-Hulk, but Jen is also more confident, (debatably) sexier, and more sexually outgoing, and likes being that way -and yet people, mostly men are forever telling her she should spent more time as the less dominant Jen Walters - usually 'nice guys' telling her it's 'for her own good' to be the less powerful, less confedent version of herself. So hugely relevent.

    I'm not terrible clever, so I don't think I could have put how that connects to feminist thought, and the subtle anti feminism of the men conserned into words myself, but not that I read your post I certainly get it.

    So bottom line - it rocks that your back, and it doubly rocks that you declared your return with just the sort of post that shows what a loss it would be if you weren't going to be making good posts anymore.

    Oh and I absolutely agree with Mordicai, there's no reason porn needs to be bad or sexist or horrible, and if one happened to know where to look one can probably find some that isn't, but it's a lot harder to find that the nasty stuff.

  23. I like apple pie, I like Val and I like porn err I mean "erotica"...


  24. " It's also the kind of stirring up that I think is needed far more than characters having conversations with their own writers."

    Excellent point, Grayman. I think it's helpful to make a better distinction between writers who are more interested in the craft of telling a story and the writers who are simply there to "stir things up" with shocking and/or mindblowing concepts. To me, it's similar to the difference between a true musician and a a more flashy (yet nominally musical) stage act.

  25. VAL'S BACK!!


  26. i think its worth reading martin amis' guardian piece on the porn industry before you go any further,4273,4153718,00.html

  27. Speaking of the female Grant Morrison, whatever did happen to Ann Nocenti? Also, I think Gail Simone is already the first non-hyped, legitimate fan favorite female comic writer who puts asses in seats by her name alone. People like Devin Grayson and Louise Simonson had a certain cache in their day, but Simone is the first I can think of to truly clear the glass ceiling. Her only problem is she's still at DC, instead of jumping on Spider-Man.


    I worked at one of the largest sex shops in one of the nation's largest cities for three years. Very clean, safe, couples-oriented establishment.

    Women like porn. All kinds. If I had to generalize, "normal," "classics," lesbian and BDSM were the most popular videos, and the ladies preferred prose to pictures. Pretty men and good lighting never hurt. Anything story driven was good, even softcore like "Story of O" and the Zalman King stuff. Women were also more keen on fantasy incest than men.

    Not popular with women: Male-on-male, freak shows, and gonzo. Widespread resistance to interracial, though many women specifically requested it. I don't recall any women bringing up bestiality, but we didn't carry anything illegal like that, so I don't know if there's a "discrete" audience out there I'm unaware of.

    This has been a Pubic Service Announcement brought to you by the Christian Science Monitor, or somesuch.

  28. All I know about porn is, when I like something I see then I'm pro-porn but when I see something I don't like, then I'm anti-porn.

    It's not porn (at least not to me), but I also like that Michael Golden She-Hulk cover.

  29. Ann Nocenti was my favorite Daredevil writer.

    Sorry Miller and Bendis. Love ya but...

  30. Porn is all well and good. Some will think it's bad, some love it, some have no issue with it. Your view is your view and it is awesome the internetz provide us with a chance to voice that.

    Erotica and Erotic Romance does not equal porn. There is much more to it, starting with plot, character development, emotion....

    You could NOT take any porn movie and call it erotica. It is not a way for Jane General Public to make porn A'OK. If you watch a porn movie, you can't say a blanket statement that you have read erotica. My question would be have you done either? Because if you watch a porn and read an erotic or erotic romance novel it fairly jumps out at you that they are not the same thing.

    Tossing in the term romance (which as a hella lot of subgenre's all on its own) is beyond uninformed. Romance does not equal erotica does not equal porn does not.... you are completely comparing apples to oranges. It seems you are doing so while saying 'not that I have read it'. An informed opinion won't hurt you - promise.

    I know lil to nothing about comics but I am going to assume comics does not a graphic novel make... and that there are different audiences, skill and themes involved.

    Going by what you say Batman = Garfield = X-Man = Snoopy... they are all stories told with pretty pictures so they must all be alike and speak to the same audience. There are no genres or intelligence involved.


    Even knowing NOTHING about it, I would not make such an assumption. Or are you going for - stupid, blanket statements bring traffic and the 'haters' out? If this is an example of your writing, fuck it, it isn't that good. And if you want to create change or make an impact - start with being informed.

  31. Anonymous1:17 AM

    I know she's already been mentioned, but Ann Nocenti stirred shit up like crazy. She had an issue of Daredevil, mid-80's, where he goes to a bar and has a guy comment on how "tight" he is and asks if he's "pitching or catching".

    The context is EXACTLY what you think it is, and the guy wasn't portrayed as a deranged psychopath, just a normal dude. She said she received letters saying "Get the commie off the book". I'd say she stirred shit up.

  32. Adam has a good point about porn/erotica and comics/graphic novels.

    What I'd like to know is – why is everyone always asking why women do or do not watch porn, how they can get their girlfriend or wife to watch it, if they're a bad feminist for liking it, blah blah blah...

    How come no one's asking men why they don't like bodice rippers and slash fiction?