Tag Archives: comic books

Watching: Agent Carter

26th January 2015

agent-carter-768

I have a guy I pretty regularly refer to as “my comic book guy” – we’ve never met, but a good friend of mine introduced us online years ago. My comic book guy is my go-to for anything comics related. As a latecomer to comics, I’m continually overwhelmed by the different iterations of certain characters or the backstory the blockbuster films usually only provide glimpses of, and Ryan’s blog The Signal Watch provides the answers to many of my questions.

So when I read Comic Book Guy aka Ryan’s post about the new Agent Carter, I was super pumped. You see, after I watched the last Avengers film, I wouldn’t leave my boyfriend alone, complaining that the Black Widow should rate her own film – and I still think she should. I loved how Ryan talks about his wife’s reaction to the show:

But Jamie was sitting three feet from me, and she was beaming the same way I do when Cap throws his mighty shield, The Falcon zips around on his wings or Rocket Raccoon pretty much does anything.  And I understand why.  As much as I like Gamora or Black Widow or Pepper Potts and think they’re good characters, they’re in a supporting role for Star Lord, Iron Man, etc…   Tonight, Jamie got her own Marvel hero.

Not only did I get my own Marvel hero, but I got her in my favorite time period! If you haven’t seen the show, it follows Agent Peggy Carter after World War II, after the events of the first Captain America film. Already, women are losing jobs as vets are returning to the States. Agent Carter was in the middle of the action during the war, but now her superiors expect her to get coffee and answer the phone. However, Howard Stark is accused of being a traitor and asks Agent Carter for her help. Weapons he’s created were stolen and are being sold and used stateside, so Peggy, with the help of Jarvis, one of Stark’s men, must protect the people from these weapons while at the same time following the trail of the mastermind, which she does – always one step ahead of her male counterparts, and clearing Stark.

I have to tell you, even though we’re only a few weeks in, I adore this show. Haley Atwell’s performance as Agent Carter is great: she’s tough, glam, witty, and efficient. Carter uses the rampant sexism around her to her own advantage while still fighting it when and where she can. Unlike Willa Paskin’s review in Slate, I think thus far Agent Carter has done an excellent job of highlighting the trials of women in the post-war workplace while still making a fun, entertaining action TV show. I also disagree that the action is ham fisted. What Willa Paskin seems to want is a show about a comic book character without any other snares of the comic world, and that’s not fair. She complains that for a show about a female character, there are very few women in the show…except that the show is highlighting what a rarity it was for a female agent to be in her place at that time. As of the third episode, Peggy is moving into an all-female apartment at the urging of a waitress she’s befriended, so I think the argument about the lack of female characters is thin as well.

A radio show featuring Captain America and another character based on Agent Carter consistently pops up, reminding viewers of Carter’s loss but also of the ways in which America made palatable the role of women in war – the damsel in distress, the nurse in love, etc. However, though this may sound heavy handed, one particular scene shows a fight on the radio show (complete with the hysterical female) interspersed with Agent Carter fighting and winning against an opponent. The juxtaposition is funny and timely.

Though Agent Carter is slated only for a short season – eight episodes – I guarantee I will be watching every one.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

12th April 2011

Spring. I love it for so many reasons including the really great texts my students and I explore. This week, we are reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, but many of my students have never before read a graphic novel. In fact, last week one of them opened up the book, held it up, and asked: “Is it really supposed to be a comic book?” So, I thought it was essential to introduce them to the medium and made some copies of excerpts from Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud.

If you haven’t ventured far into comics/graphic novels and want a primer or even just a great, fun reference book, you could do much worse. McCloud uses the medium itself to define and explore the complex world of images and comics.

In an accessible manner, McCloud starts with the basics, using one of Magritte’s paintings and then explaining that the image you are viewing is not a pipe, or a painting of a pipe or a drawing of a pipe. Instead, it’s (in our case) a web page view of a printed page of a drawing of a painting of a pipe. Now that that’s clear as mud, take a look at the page (click to enlarge):

Why does any of that matter? Well, McCloud wants us to be able to break down images the way a cartoonist might, and he discusses icons and how icons and symbols are different from one another:

Thus, as a number or letter simply represents the corresponding number or letter (3=3; M=m), the icons above are indicative of an idea, though not the ideas themselves. McCloud argues that comics operate in icons and demand reader participation. Let me explain: he says photos only allow us to see what the photographer views. However, comics break down images to less complex levels, inviting the reader/viewer to better identify with the story.

This particular panel is an excellent experiment. From left to right, the images decrease in detail, leaving us with a simplistic drawing of a face. McCloud says we are more likely to see ourselves in the image on the right as opposed to the image on the left. In fact, McCloud says we are eager to see ourselves everywhere:

And it’s so true. Don’t you see faces in the images below? Fascinating. The rest of the book discusses panel choice, color, story, etcetera, and it’s really a great, fairly-quick read. If you’re at all interested in comic books and graphic novels, I think you’ll absolutely love this book.

If you’re interested, you can buy a copy here.

Well? Have you read Understanding Comics? Until I discovered graphic novels, I was always a fan of Archie. Are you a fan of comic books or graphic novels? What are some of your favorites?
jenn aka the picky girl