Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

Maybe “heal” is too soon to call, but I’m confident that when we look back on the reactions of people, nationally and internationally, to the horrific shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, we’ll point to the broadcast of the 70th Annual Tony Awards as an important cultural milestone not only in its celebration of diversity but in its unabashed and sincere display of empathy towards the LGBTQIA community. From host James Cordon’s opening statement to Hamilton‘s win for Best Musical, the ceremony and its participants let their emotions drive their performances and their words. The victims of Orlando were truly in the hearts and minds of those performing in New York as Broadway paid tribute to the community that built it.

So let’s take a look at all of the moments that made this year’s Tonys so significant.

And as a side note, you should check out Carolyn Cox’s article about the Tonys over at The Mary Sue.

 

The Cold Open

Before the ceremony even began, host James Cordon opened the show with little fanfare. Just the camera on him, positioned from the back curtain, so those watching could see the full capacity of the theater; a theater full of the LGBTQIA community and their allies, a theater full of love and support, a theater full of voices crying “you are NOT alone!”

 

The Tonys have always made a priority out of giving it their all as a showcase of performance and passion. For many across the country and around the world the chance to see a Broadway production is slim whether because of geography or for financial reasons. And yet the lifeblood of the theater is made up of young people seeking an outlet for their creativity or a refuge from the world around them, so the broadcast takes on extra special meaning and importance for the theater community as it reaches out to the next generation.

The Hamilton Love Was Non-Stop

With a record setting 16 nominations, it was merely a question of how many awards Hamilton was going to take home at the end of the night. One shy of matching The Producers‘ record-setting 12 wins, Hamilton made an impressive haul, winning in several categories including Best Director (Tommy Kail), Best Lead Actor in a Musical (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Daveed Diggs), Best Orchestration (Alex Lacamoire), and Best Book of a Musical (Lin-Manuel Miranda).

The hip-hop musical chronicling the “ten dollar Founding Father without a father” was all over the Tonys. Not only did Lin-Manuel Miranda’s company provide an opening parody of Hamilton‘s first song for James Cordon they also closed out the show with “The Schuyler Sisters,” a love letter to New York City with Angelica, Eliza…and Peggy proclaiming it as “the greatest city in the world.”

It’s not all that surprising how much of a presence Hamilton had; James Cordon is unapologetically Hamilton trash and he used the award ceremony to indulge in that love as well as pay tribute to the efforts of Miranda to provide entertainment for those unable to attend the show during the Ham4Ham lottery outside the Richard Rogers Theater. At each commercial break, the upcoming performers took the stage outside the Beacon Theater, surrounded by fans unable to attend the show, to sing a well-known show tune or a classic Broadway standard. Cordon even aired an edited version of his Carpool Karaoke featuring Miranda, Audra McDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Jane Krakowski.

But there were two Hamilton related moments that prominently stood out. First, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance sonnet after winning for Best Original Score. A man of compassion and intelligence, Miranda made “love” the word of the night as he paid tribute to his wife and the LGBTQIA community.

After his win for Best Book, Miranda told reporters, “Theater doesn’t exist without the LGBT Community. It’s the cornerstone of our industry and it’s heavy in my heart tonight.”

Secondly, the performance of “History Has It’s Eyes on You” and “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” showed exactly why Hamilton has become such a significant piece of art. Getting three separate introductions from James Cordon, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and Common respectively, the words and intent of the songs, not unlike the actual words of the Founding Fathers, took on new meaning. Out of respect for the victims in Orlando, Miranda and company performed without the prop muskets that would normally be featured, but I can say that their presence was barely noted as somber lyrics like “the world turned upside down” and “history has its eyes on you” reverberated through the Beacon Theater. It was a poignant moment as if the songs were chosen for a reason, sending a message to all those watching. Even the victorious shouts of “We won!” held back barely contained pride, joy, and rage. Hamilton secured its spot as the voice of a generation in that moment.

Frank Langella Pays Tribute to Orlando

After winning the award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in The Father, veteran actor Frank Langella forfeited the typical list of thank yous and instead commented on the Orlando shooting.

People of Color Sweep Major Awards

As mentioned before, Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom, Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renée Elise Goldsberry took home awards for acting in a musical. Add to that list The Color Purple‘s Cynthia Erivo’s win for Best Lead Actress in a Musical and all four categories for acting in a musical were won by people of color. It’s a bittersweet moment of triumph since it’s the first time in the history of the Tonys that this has happened, but given the plethora of people of color nominated for Tonys this year, Broadway’s biggest night showed far more effort in promoting and encouraging diversity than the Oscars.

Speaking of which…

Diversity Steals the Showerivo

With so many people of color nominated, the plays and musicals nominated were just as diverse in their subject matter and significance to our current culture. Hamilton showed the parallels between modern and Revolutionary America through the lens of postmodern storytelling. Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed brought context to the Jazz Age play; the first to star an entirely black cast and a desegregated orchestra. The Tony performance also featured the incomparable Audra McDonald doing a tap routine while very pregnant! The Color Purple celebrated the hard work, struggle, and drive of black women finding strength in themselves and in the people they love. Worth noting was Cynthia Erivo’s powerhouse performance as Celie during the show. She brought the house down and showed why the Tony was hers to win. Even the revival of Fiddler on the Roof found significance as a celebration of faith through the struggle of the Jewish community in turn of the century Russia.

The most intriguing performance, however, was the revival of Spring Awakening with a cast made up of deaf and hearing as well as differently abled actors. Marlee Matlin, who made her Broadway debut in the Deaf West production, introduced the performance, noting that the themes of the play are universal but the deafness of some of the principal actors gives greater meaning to a musical about the failure of adults to listen to their children.

Of course one night of music and awards can’t erase the tragedy this country, specifically the LGBTQIA community, experienced, but in their own way the Tonys gave us a brief distraction. It was a generous gift and I thank them for that with all of my heart.

If you’d like to help the victims of the Orlando shooting, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund

Kate Leth also posted a roundup of pertinent links for various donations and trauma counseling. You can go here: http://kateordie.tumblr.com/post/145813044112/anyone-in-orlando-or-has-followers-from-the-area

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It’s been a hell of a time for the Rat Queens, internally and externally, but despite some hiccups along the way Kurtis Wiebe’s sophomore arc, The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth, went above and beyond in its storytelling as the Rat Queens and friends fought to save Palisade from the mind-altering squid demons of another dimension. Like ya do. But like everything Wiebe does there’s a greater story being told while the Queens punch, curse, and bring destruction to their enemies with 3964263-07righteous fury. If the first volume, Sass and Sorcery, was our introduction to the world of Rat Queens, then N’Rygoth is our introduction to the people within that world. Now that we have a handle on the personalities and the dynamic between Hannah, Betty, Dee, and Violet, it’s time we got a better idea of who they are and what brought them together.

If we’re going to boil the story down to its nitty-gritty elements, then these are the essentials: Gerrig Lake, the merchant who Old Lady Bernadette hired to “take care” of the quest group problem in Palisade, has been secretly plotting to release demonic beings worshiped by Dee’s religious order to get revenge on Sawyer for the death of his wife. As the demons attack Palisade and its residents, the Rat Queens fight their way to Gerrig’s stronghold, with help from the Four Daves and the Peaches, while trying to stave off the time-altering mind fuckery of the tentacled creatures from beyond. Of course there’s more to the story than just that, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Just know that this is the minimal amount of information you need without being ridiculously spoiled.

That being said…spoilers ahead (unintentional rhyme!).

After the events of the previous volume, the Rat Queens find themselves revisiting their pasts on an epic scale that still manages to feel surprisingly intimate. The arrival of Dee’s husband, Kiah, Hannah’s on-again-off-again relationship with Sawyer, and Violet’s inspirational meeting with the clean-shaven Morgan Meldhammer all speak to the underlying themes of the book: outcasts, acceptance, and misfit families. The need for acceptance and the feeling of belonging has been present from the get-go, but it’s really in N’Rygoth that we see exactly why the world of Rat Queens is so important and why fucktraditionso many people within the comic book community have become ravenous fans. Wiebe stated it very clearly when I interviewed him about the Braga one-shot. Rat Queens is about home and how people from disparate backgrounds come together and create their own families.

This is especially relevant when one looks at the geek community. We’ve often felt isolated because of our interests, but within the communities of fandoms and internet groups, and the rallying point of conventions, we find acceptance and a place where we can be ourselves. Yes, there are times when the creation of like-minded groups causes a great deal of harm, but there are just as many, if not more, cases of groups producing beautiful displays of love, friendship, and family through their bond over something they love. It’s the inclusive nature of Rat Queens that makes us all want to be a part of this world where modern sensibilities meet high fantasy. There’s a reason the book won a GLAAD award. Just sayin’.

From the beginning of the book, Rat Queens has felt fleshed out in a way that many sword and sorcery comics suffer to Broogaccomplish. Wiebe’s grasp of the characters, of the people of Palisade, contains just enough of the man himself and his own experiences that one can’t help feeling his sincerity. While Dee is the character Wiebe identifies with the most, he still manages to weave in similarities between most of the Rat Queens. Dee’s religious community, Violet’s tradition-mired clan, Braga’s stagnate horde of orcs, and the subtle jabs directed at Hannah for being a “demon baby” all drive the point home that narrow-mindedness is poison and isolation breeds intolerance. The saving grace for all of them was finding each other in a place where diversity is the norm. Although we still don’t know much about Betty…for now.

Yeah, if I was going to lob any kind of criticism on a book I clearly love, it’d be that Betty, while present within the story, didn’t have much in the way of character development in this arc. Even in the last two issues she doesn’t have much to say or do except regroup with her friends. I can understand with the focus shifts in the story and the unintended hiatus of the book leading to a shorter narrative that something had to give. It’s not unlike the previous arc where Dee’s background was put aside so her outlook and background could have a more thorough explanation so I’m gonna give Rat Queens the benfit of the doubt and trust that Betty will get her due with the next story.

RatQueens10_Review-hannah-saywer-660x1015As far as the art goes, Rat Queens really can’t fail from a stylistic standpoint. Yes, the circumstances that brought Stjepan Šejić on as the book’s new artist were unfortunate, but the way he renders Roc Upchurch’s designs are fantastic. Šejić brings just as much energy and movement to the book, but it’s in his expressions where he really punches you in the gut. The scene between Hannah and Sawyer in which Hannah reveals that her rockabilly hairdo is actually hiding a pair of horns is pitch perfect. Šejić captures that fleeting moment where Hannah hopefully looks to Sawyer to say the right thing, which goes as well as you might expect, but the impact of that one panel gave me quite the visceral reaction. There was also Dave and Violet’s romance novel kiss, which made me squeal in delight. Of course, it must be mentioned that Tess Fowler’s work on the Braga one-shot was phenomenal! Like Šejić she makes her style work for telling Braga’s tale. There a hint of adorkability that makes the pages feel warmer, more inviting – that would also be the work of colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick – even when Braga is slaughtering other clans so the bards can sing her accolades.

Rat Queens is a book that plans to be around for a long time and I couldn’t be happier. And it looks like the Queens are headed to Mage University soon. I can’t wait!

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8007cef6b23ae281bb2242c0f39f9123If you’ve been listening closely on a few of the more recent podcasts of That Girl with the Curls, you might have noticed I’ve been talking a lot about Storm. She’s one of my favorite X-Men and, if you haven’t listened to the episodes linked, her trading card back in the early to mid-nineties was one of my most prized possession. Whenever my mom took me and my sister to the local game shop – we didn’t exactly have a comic book store close by to my recollection – I always asked (or begged) for another pack of X-Men cards. I was in love with the 1992 cartoon and I was infatuated with Storm. More accurately, I wanted to be Storm. Not only did she have what I believed to be the best mutant powers ever, but as the cartoon progressed I became wrapped up in her story. Like many of the X-Men, and villains, featured in the cartoon, Storm was fleshed out as a character, showing a wide range of emotions fueled by her past and her present position as one of the most powerful mutants on the X-Men roster.

Goddess, thief, mutant, queen, leader, friend, lover, and hero; Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, was introduced, along with Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird, and Banshee in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May, 1975) as part of a new diverse generation of mutants created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockram. When Chris Claremont took over writing for Uncanny X-Men from Wein, he established Storm’s backstory and continued to feature her as a prominent character for the next sixteen years. Since her first appearance, Storm has been in every iteration of the classic-x-men-inside-coverX-Men to date; cartoons/anime, movies, and video games have all utilized Storm not just as a powerful mutant but also as a valued team member and friend. However, in the nearly four decades she’s been part of the X-Men Universe, she’s never had a solo book until now and it’s already facing cancellation after only five issues.

Currently being written by Greg Pak with pencils by Victor Ibañez and colors by Ruth Redmond, Storm’s solo book has finally taken the Mistress of the Elements out from under the greater umbrella of the X-Men team to explore her as an individual on her own terms. Yes, she’s still as much involved with the team as ever but Pak uses her relationships, past and present, to key us into what makes Storm so significant and so different. In the five issues thus far, Pak has firmly established Storm as a defender of anyone in need who’s grown tired of working within systems (societal and political) that prevent her from helping others and doing what’s right. As she tells Wolverine, she doesn’t want to hold back anymore and Pak succeeds in making each issue function partially as a one-shot but tied together through the 1398611782000-Storm-1-Ibanez-Coveroverarching theme of Storm’s personal journey to make good on her statement. Much of that journey means going back to her roots in Africa, making her book significant on a cultural level. Africa is a hotbed of socio-economic and political conflicts, so putting Storm in the midst of these problems makes sense and gives her an added dimension of relevance.

But really it’s the diversity angle I want to stress here because it’s at the heart of the #SaveStorm campaign started not too long ago in an effort to keep the book afloat. In the wake of Marvel’s cancellation of Elektra and She-Hulk‘s solo books, the common denominator was low sales. As Brett White at Comic Book Resources pointed out:

According to the October sales charts, “She-Hulk” #9 sold 21,418 physical copies and “Elektra” #7 sold 15,021. You know what series sits between those two terminated ongoings? “Storm.” The fourth issue sold 19,862 copies, which, if “She-Hulk” and “Elektra’s” ultimate fates are to be used as proof, puts it in danger of being cancelled.

StormaProblematic to this entire situation is the way in which copies are being counted. The October sales chart only covers physical copies sold to retailers in North America. Sales from countries outside North America and digital sales aren’t factored into the charts, making the numbers unreliable in their representation of the actual market of readers. But if these are the numbers Marvel is using to justify cancellations, then we have to work within the same parameters.

Are the low sales the result of terrible marketing? Personally, I found out about the book when maybe one or two websites mentioned it, but I can’t recall any huge push from Marvel. Then again, a lot of the solo books have fallen by the wayside mostly due to event books taking precedence. It’s still surprising how little attention she’s received given that Storm is one of the most recognizable characters in the X-Men universe, if not Marvel as a whole. She was Marvel’s first major black female superhero and one would think they’d try to market the hell out of her solo book. Then again, there’s been a lot of speculation about how Marvel has been handling titles with characters they don’t have the rights to for their cinematic universe. Just sayin’.Storm_h622

Is it the readers? I doubt Marvel would give the greenlight on a solo book unless there was enough interest in the character to warrant hiring the talent and spending the money to bring the book to fruition. But, as stated previously, event books are the company’s bread and butter, and with the glut of comics coming out from Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Boom!, Archie, and other independent publishers, readers need to decide where to spend their money. This means they often purchase books they’ve always bought instead of opting for something new, especially if they’re working with limited funds.

Is it the character? Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean dollar signs and there could definitely be a bit of mental gymnastics going on in the minds of readers trying to justify not buying the book. Storm, as part of the X-Men, still appears in several titles and she’s a regular participant in the crossover events due to her affiliations with multiple teams. It’s easy to think, “Well, she’s in these other books, so I’m still going to have Storm but also all these other characters.” Then again, Wolverine’s been around for the same amount of time and he was (RIP Logan) in almost every book Marvel could stuff him into. Personally, I don’t think it’s a gender or race issue in terms of the lack of interest or cancellation, but it is important in terms of representation in comic books. Diversity is integral to the survival of the comic book industry, not just in the creative teams, but in the characters put front and center. Storm tumblr_mdcss8EKxX1qzgx3uo1_500is on par with Wonder Woman as a character who inspires others. Her strength, compassion, and wisdom, coupled with her very human flaws, make her relatable to readers of all ages, races, and genders. Featuring her as a major player and representative of the Marvel brand, however, gives validation not just to the character but to those who identify with her yet feel overlooked.

The question then becomes: Is that enough? Marvel is a company and numbers are what matter to companies. If a book isn’t selling, even if the higher-ups love it for all the right reasons, it will eventually boil down to numbers. So, for now, all we can do is support the hell out of Storm. Buy or order it from your local comic book store, buy it on Comixology, tweet about the book with the hashtag #SaveStorm, go on Tumblr, shove a copy of the book into the hands of your friends and families. Help Storm because she’d do her damnedest to help you.