This week, AP2HYC spoke to Gary Bloom, writer of the comic Olympus Union, who is currently running a Kickstarer for his project Red Lance. Red Lance is planned to be a superhero comic with an eye towards gender equality as well as action and excitement. AP2HYC spoke to Mr. Bloom about female characters in comics and Red Lance.
AP2HYC: Please elaborate on how your daughter inspired you to make this.
Bloom: Absolutely. It really started with walking out of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and my wife and I had watched Captain America: Winter Soldier (on demand) a few nights earlier… being unhappy with the way they used Black Widow. Then I got into the #wheresnatasha campaign on Twitter… and saw what Mark Ruffalo had posted… and thought the same: yeah, where’s the stuff for my daughter? My wife and I love comics… but we want to make sure our daughter has good role models. Even the super powerful Wonder Woman fights crime in a bustier and bikini bottom. I started developing Cinderhawk that night… wanting someone my daughter could emulate in all accounts. That’s the real basics of it.
AP2HYC: What bothered you most about Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Bloom: It was the “big reveal” that was… just so wrong, in my eyes. The dialogue had her saying that she was a monster… but it wasn’t because she had to murder a friend or family… it’s because they sterilized her. How does not being able to have children make you a monster?
AP2HYC: It’s an odd scene for sure.
GB: More than odd. More offensive. I thought about what would happen if my wife hadn’t been able to have children… would that erase the good things she’d done? We just would have adopted – which, honestly, is a bit heroic in its own right – and she’d keep doing the good things she does. The spin, after the entire build up of that character… it was a horrible let down. I feel bad for Scarlett that she had to deliver those lines. It’s like James Earl Jones having to deliver Hayden Christensen styled lines in the prequels… so sad.
AP2HYC: Standing in contrast to that, what do you think makes a strong, well written female character?
Bloom: Well, part of that answer relates to my support system. As I’m writing the characters, and the free ebook short that I’ll put out, and the script for the comic book itself (you know, assuming we get our Kickstarter funded), I’m running things past my wife, and a handful of other female friends who are rather strong in their own lives. I’ve actually retooled part of my synopsis because it was deemed “still favoring the men a little too much; even it up” What I’m hoping to do is just be more “real” if possible.
Don’t take a woman from a man’s perspective as much, don’t stereotype, and treat both genders like heroes – people – not male and female heroes. The women and men are both doing things that they need to do, and following their own credos. Stonefish is dangling from the underside of a huge staircase so she can get the proper jump on a gunman; Raceway is trying out new moves he hasn’t attempted to provide the appropriate distraction, despite the chance he might get shot. I think what makes a strong *female* character is what makes a strong *any* character. That, and I refuse to put the heroines in skimpy costumes, with oversized busts.
AP2HYC: You mention in your kickstarter avoiding a “porny” feel. Do you think that’s an integral part of your comic? Also, do you feel that “skimpy costumes with oversized busts” is a widespread problem with female characters in comics.
Bloom: While I could answer that by saying Black Canary, Spiderwoman, She-Hulk, Psylocke… and keep the list going… let me remind you (or first tell you) about something interesting that happened a year or so ago. As I mentioned, Wonder Woman is spectacularly powerful… but is drawn with an enormous set of breasts, and a very revealing costume. DC tried to move away from that at one point with a new costume and the backlash was incredible! How could you do that? How could you change her costume? You get that with Superman a bit too (seriously, jeans?) but the fact that her skimpy costume is just ingrained… what does that tell you? Why does Supergirl have a belly shirt?
Cinderhawk, you’ll notice, is pretty covered up because she needs to be – she casts fire. Stonefish is a warrior, for crying out loud – I can’t put her in anything less than what Nightwing or Batman might go out in, right? The only real skin reveal is on Bricker… and honestly, that just fit into the fact that I wanted his arms to be more freed up within his power base. Oh, and the major villain Vycia, because my friend that she’s based on asked if Vycia could wear a leather vest. But that’s it, too: all of the characters are based on friends of mine. We took photos of them and submitted them to my artist. No 46DDDD cup sizes.
AP2HYC: Are there any female characters in the current comic world that you think are done well? That have good costumes, and good writing? etc?
Bloom: You know, I used to *really* dig the New Warriors back in the day. Firestar was written decently – she was determined and intelligent, and didn’t tend to fall into stereotypes that often. Her costume was, sure, kind of form fitting, but her proportions weren’t too nutty, and she fit in decently with Vance Astro, Big Barda was also always kind of fun. She was tough as nails, but she also was human (funny, since she’s not really human).
AP2HYC: I really like Firestar. She kinda disappeared I think. I haven’t seen her in a comic in years. Do you feel that Marvel’s recent crop of comics, like Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel and A-Force are a step in the right direction? They’ve publicly made a strong commitment to diversity.
Bloom: Look, I’m not going to say that they aren’t trying, okay? I give them credit. Thor as a woman – not Lady Thor or Ms Thor, just Thor – was one heck of a great leap! If you look at the A-Force cover, you can see Firestar allll the way at the top!
AP2HYC: That’s neat! I’ll have to check that out.
Bloom: I suppose one of the things that gets me, though, is this: why did it take so long? You couldn’t have made Storm a *much* bigger deal from the 90s onward? And, why do you still have so many women in bathing suits? A Force has She Hulk in that trademark bathing suit on the cover. Remember the fiasco with Spiderwoman?
AP2HYC: I do. The Manara cover?
Bloom: Again, it’s just that, they’re doing well… I just wish it’d happened before, because now you’re stuck with people kicking back on changes because “that’s just not the way it is”.
AP2HYC: Why do you suppose there’s been no progress over the years?
Bloom: If I had to guess, it would be for the same reason that they’re knee-jerking now: there wasn’t money in it then… there is now (or at least a risk of lost money)
AP2HYC: Do you think comic fans are finally demanding more from companies, in terms of female characters?
Bloom: Some are, but others aren’t. When (Ben) Affleck was cast, the complaint was that he didn’t have the presence for Batman. When (Gal) Gadot was cast, they said her chest was too small for Wonder Woman. As much as there was the #wheresnatasha campaign, I think so people still do like the big busts and revealing, skimpy costumes. I saw a few horrible pictures posted on Twitter today of female characters being… slightly abused sexually. I’m not sure where to go with that, you know? It was just shocking… so I figured, “okay, I guess some people LIKE the porn in comics”.
AP2HYC: There’s been a big backlash by some disgruntled fans against Female Thor, too.
Bloom: I have no doubt… again, it comes back to what we’re used to for sooooo very long. When I saw Superman in jeans, I was annoyed. I can admit it – I was annoyed because “that’s not Superman.” Even when they put the underwear back inside his pants, I was annoyed. So let me ask you this: why couldn’t they introduce more heroes?
Why do they have to knee-jerk and change other heroes? And why couldn’t they have introduced heroes YEARS ago? Granted, I likely answered it before: money. Still, my friends and I had a great conversation this weekend: where is the Black Widow movie? The character is now established – and established as a bad ass – plus the actress is an A-Lister. Why are we waiting so long for a female… and then it’s Captain Marvel? I haven’t seen the timeline, but I sure hope that the Wonder Woman movie doesn’t come out after they’ve done Superman, Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern… holy cow, that’s going to happen isn’t it? Shazam, too, right? She’s part of the “Trinity” for crying out loud! But, no, even though they’re trying, they still don’t take the leap
AP2HYC: I think Wonder Woman is scheduled for 2017 and Captain Marvel for 2018. Are you optimistic about these films?
Bloom: As with any of these, it’ll depend on the writers. We’re slated to see Ant-Man this weekend, but to this point, I haven’t had complaints about the Marvel movies (Iron Man 2 was a little weak, but still good)… Superman was kind of weak to me, so I’m curious. I’ve got higher hopes for Captain Marvel only because Marvel has the established track record at this point. Thing is, just as long as I don’t completely hate Batman V Superman, I’m in for Wonder Woman
I’ve been waiting for that since the Linda Carter days… and yeah, I’m 37, but still, I like Gadot… and I’m always a big fan of lesser known folks taking on hero roles
(another reason I’m upset about Mamoa and Afleck being cast). Incidentally, is it too late for me to put in my vote for Katee Sackhoff as Captain Marvel?
AP2HYC: She seems to be the fan favorite. I’m still rooting for Emily Blunt to get it. I thought she was hardcore in Edge of Tomorrow.
Bloom: See, she was really, really good in that, so I could be cool with Emily Blunt, indeed
AP2HYC: Yes! Another person convinced!
Bloom: I’m just a huge BSG and Longmire fan, so, sorry… Blunt is my 1a… Katee is my #1
AP2HYC: She is pretty cool. I’ll admit that.
Bloom: If we were in the 90s, I’d be begging for Linda Hamilton.
AP2HYC: A great actress. Do you hope to see a film version of Red Lance some day?
Bloom: I hope to see a first issue of Red Lance one day… I hope to see a spin off of Cinderhawk one day (actually, planned it out – best case scenario – I’d go Red Lance, Cinderhawk, Raceway, Stonefish). As for a movie… maybe animated. I sort of wish DC had just made their Animated movies more mainstream, and knocked off the Live Action stuff. You want me to cast Red Lance, don’t you?
AP2HYC: I do.
Bloom: If we get funded, and I ever get interviewed again, I need to ask for the questions up front, so I can prepare. So, hmm… who would I cast. The funny thing is that, when I built the characters, I based them on the appearance of these friends of mine, and then toyed with personalities. I either took their existing personalities and amplified one or two characteristics… or I flipped their personalities upside down for an opposite and I’m still avoiding your question, aren’t I?
AP2HYC: Just give me a few names.
Bloom: Keep typing, I’m on IMDB right now.
AP2HYC: That’s cheating, I think.
Bloom: Okay, so, Katee gets the nod for Cinderhawk okay, I’ll close that tab. You’re testing what I know of actors now… Oh! Liam Hemsworth for Bricker. Yeah, Liam and Katee could pass as the brother sister combo..
AP2HYC: I have no way of seeing if you are really on IMDB. Good point… let me go open it back up. It kind of messes with my MO though, to go and put lesser known people into hero roles…Raceway needs to be someone who can play a balance between being impatient, and growing his confidence… Maybe Tristan Wilds
Stonefish is the hardest of the heroes, I think… she needs to just have this confidence… but almost a smoldering sense to her. Let me think on that and jump over to see if I could cast the villains: Cataclysm and Vycia. Vycia has this cold detachment that needs to come across, and Cataclysm has to balance his fear of lonelines & social anxiety with a desperate need to “save the world” in his own mind. Oh, just had a thought: if we could make Ming-Na Wen around her late 20s, maybe 31… that’d be the casting. Like I said, would love to find someone new. Cobie Smolders – I’ll bet she could handle Vycia. She could do that cold detachment and offbeat humor
AP2HYC: Great choices! Thank you!
Bloom: Of course… and I owe you one more, so I could see Josh Hutcherson handling Cataclysm. He’s turned out to be a better actor than I initially gave him credit for.
Bloom: Just… not Michael Cera. Ever. Make me a promise: if we get funded, and get a handful of issues in, you’ll consider your own cast. I’d love to hear it.
AP2HYC: I absolutely will! Thank you so much for doing this interview! Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to speak about?
Bloom: I dunno… maybe that we’re 3 weeks and $3000 dollars away (as of our conversation)… Not sure if that’s relevant. You actually really let me jump into my world, and I loved it! Wouldn’t change a thing.
AP2HYC: Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed! Best of luck with Red Lance.