Showing posts with label feminism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feminism. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Level The Playing Field by Kristina Rutherford

Rating: WARTY!

Note that this was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. Note also that this is going to be a lot longer review than I usually give to a book of this short length, because this is an important topic and I don't think it was covered adequately or ironically, equitably here!

The overall impression I had of this book was not that of a reasoned and cogent argument, or of anything that went into any depth. It felt much more like a rant, and as such it failed to make a case. This is the kind of subject which all too often becomes emotional, but that serves no purpose in trying to get a the roots of a discrepancy like this, to properly understand the issues, and to determine how best to set them right - or even if they can be set right.

What disappointed me most of all was that the author seemed unable to recognize the issues even when she described them. For instance, I read:

Every PGA Tour event is televised and some tournaments draw more than 10 million viewers. Only select LPGA Tour events are televised, and even major tournaments draw fewer than 1 million viewers.
I don't get her point here. It seems to me that she's elucidated the problem perfectly: the viewership of the female tournament is one tenth that of the male tournament, meaning that the advertisers are not going to show-up in droves, meaning the money is going to be significantly less, meaning that the winner's purse is going to be dramatically reduced. The the root of the discrepancy, and therefore the problem to be resolved here is why the viewership is so much less, but the author evidently wasn't interested in pursuing this question, preferring instead to wave a hand at media coverage and mark it down as explained. Well, they had media coverage here, but the viewership was far less. Why is the author not asking why that's the case? I'll talk more about this later.

On the one hand the book makes some good arguments for equity in how women are treated when it comes to sports and it definitely highlights the discrepancy between how male and female athletes are viewed (and paid), but on the other hand it came across as rather whiny and preachy, and it seemed far more focused on money and celebrity than ever it was in trying to understand why there's such a massive discrepancy between how athletes of each gender (regardless of whether they're celebrities or not) are viewed.

The author never did distinguish between equality in how athletes are treated, and equality in how athletes garner for themselves a fan base. You can legislate equality, as the US did when Democrat Senator Birch Bayh introduced what became known as Title IX in June 1972 (a year before Roe v. Wade made huge strides in another direction related tomember of Congressr who co-authored it, but it's most commonly referred to as Title IX. Patsy Mink was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress

At the beginning of this book we're asked, of two basketball stars, "Why aren't athletes like LeBron and Maya valued and recognized equally for their talent?" There are reasons for that which we'll go into shortly, and I would have been much more impressed had the book gone after real answers like this instead of the route it took. I would have been more impressed still had it approached the subject as fairly as it expects male and female athletes to be treated! The only 'solution' on offer here seemed to be that if women are given the same media exposure as men, then everything will magically balance-out, but nothing was put forward to support this claim, and frankly I have a hard time seeing that happening for a variety of reasons, and especially not in the US.

The first issue is the question of whether sports really represents the same kind of workplace that other occupations, say in the medical profession or in businesses not tied to professional sports offer. Frankly it doesn't. No one in their right mind would argue that two people, regardless of gender, who were doing the same job to the same degree of skill should get equal treatment including pay, in any ordinary endeavor, but the question of how you resolve whether two people are doing the same job in sports went totally unexamined. There were some random potshots taken at it, but nothing substantial.

Instead, we were treated to a distinctly monocular view: that of men v. women, without any attempt to look at the issue using any other lens. In particular, the fact that sports is one occupation which is conducted in the full glare of media, and with huge audiences in attendance and dramatic financial considerations in play wasn't addressed at all. This is one reason why, at the risk of a pun, it's a different ball game when compared with other occupations.

The book opens with a mention of several female athletes, including Danica Patrick, a NASCAR driver, who is gushingly described as "the most successful female race car driver in history" yet this driver has never won a race on US soil, and as of this writing has had only a single win to my knowledge. So how is her 'success' being calculated? By the fact that she earned thirteen million dollars last year? What does that have to do with being an athlete per se, or with being successful at her chosen sport? Nothing! It pretty much has to do with her having a monopoly in being a high-profile female on one hand, and her not being a complete disaster at what she does on the other.

While I would not deny Danica Patrick, or anyone else the success she's had, however it's measured, I would balk at trying to use this as an argument for equality and the author strangely seems to agree with this because whenever she talks about other female athletes, none of those are championed as successful for having no wins! On the contrary, they're put on a pedestal as being very successful in terms of winning things.

So we immediately have a disconnect in what constitutes success, which then means we have a problem in determining how that success should be rewarded. Do we value a high earner who is not successful at least insofar as garnering wins goes, or do we value success in terms of wins even when remuneration is poor? What's the goal here?! It cannot be the double standard the author seems to have set up. This is important.

I also have to wonder why this book doesn't reference other people who are sports professionals, but who do not earn the big bucks. There are thousands of people in sports, men and women, and only the so-called top-tier ones get the big bucks. Most of the others are entirely unpaid or only part-timers, or full-time professionals earning only the lowest level of financial remuneration for athletes in their field.

Admittedly this can be significant pay, and much higher than most of us can hope for, but I think it would have served a useful purpose to ask why they - both men and women - are not as highly paid as the ones featured in the book, and to ask: does the reason for their inequality offer any clues to the reason for the inequality between men and women - and I'm not talking in terms of performance. This is sports, remember, and individual performance is only one factor - and a relatively small one as it happens, because this isn't your regular everyday occupation, especially not in team sports.

The natural response to what I've said here might be that this book was talking only about high achievers, matching high-achieving males with similar females, but if we apply the 'logic' employed here, but in this direction, can we argue that those people, too, would magically get pay raises and achieve equality if only they could get the same media exposure? You really can't, so I'm wondering how it is that we think increased exposure alone would magically improve women's lot in sports?

If you think I'm trying to make an argument here that female sports professionals are really only lower-tier, or poorer-grade, or second-rate performers, then you're misunderstanding. The argument I am making here is that it's really not as simple or as straight-forward as this author seems to be trying to argue. You can't make a case for equal pay without supporting it, just as you can't make a case for those lower-tier athletes (of any gender) to be on par with the top-tier athletes without supporting that in some way, too.

You can't argue that it has to be done purely from a bald claim that person B ought really to be remunerated at the same level as person A, regardless. You have to ask what is being contributed, because professional sports is about exposure and audiences, not just about personal performance. This is an aspect of the endeavor which the book doesn't explore. Yes, it complains about poor exposure for female athletes, but it doesn't offer any suggestions or real examination of root causes! It merely blames the media and leaves it at that.

The only argument the author seems to be able to make is along the lines of "Hey! Fair's fair!" but the way this system works, and has worked for far too long, really has nothing to do with how well a given athlete performs. The most widely-followed sports really aren't about that, notwithstanding all of the individual achievement awards and post-game MVP appellations. It's about blind team solidarity, sheep-like (or perhaps more accurately, wolf-like) adherence to pack mentality, and in-your-face aggression towards every team and every supporter who isn't "us". Individual players have no part to play in that aspect of team 'sports' especially given that at some point the individual will move on or retire, while the team continues on largely unaffected by the loss of any one individual.

It's not that women can't give attitude or be aggressive, or assertive as over-hyped TV cameras love. They can. It's just that women in general are not as overt as men are in this regard and this applies whether the male or female in question is a player or a spectator. Women are not as combative (that's not to be read as 'not as competitive', which would be a huge lie) as men, and while this is perfectly fine - in fact, I personally prefer it - it doesn't play well given the juvenile frat-boy sports mentality which is rife in today's male-soaked sports media, where it's entirely given over to a combative attitude.

The mentality is 'destroy or be destroyed', 'win at all costs', losers are useless, and so on. The Queen song, We Are the Champions sums it up: "We are the champions! No time for losers 'cause we are the champions of the world!" This is how it's seen. The US football Super Bowl winners are hailed as champions of the world even though no other nations competed!

Again, it's a winner takes all mentality, and it has nothing to do with how well individual athletes perform per se. It's that very psychosis: aggression, combativeness, posing, strutting, in-your-face rudeness, and asinine attitude, which completely turns me off sports, but it is this which appeals to the cave-man mentality that far too many team sports and media outlets seem dedicated to embracing, promoting, and perpetuating. There is no more room for equity and fairness here that there was in the Roman Colosseum.

Before we go any further let's be clear that there are inequalities. According to the Women's Sports Foundation:

  • Female students comprise 57% of student populations, but female athletes received only 43% of participation opportunities at NCAA schools.
  • Male athletes get 55% of NCAA college athletic scholarship dollars. Guess how much women then get!
  • Women's teams receive only 40% of college sport operating dollars and 36% of college athletic team recruitment spending.
  • Median head coaches' salaries at NCAA Division I-FBS schools are $3,430,000 for men's teams and $1,172,400 for women's teams.
These telling stats are not ones you'll read in this book, because the book isn't about making that kind of a case. It's all about individuals, and I think that approach was a mistake. I think that very approach played into the media status quo rather than challenged it, which is what is actually needed here. There is a real problem, almost half a century on, in Title IX providing true equality for females in sports. This is a fact, but whether, if there were true and complete equality, this would translate into the same thing at the professional and media level, is another issue entirely. Given the result of over forty years of Title IX, the answer seems to be that it would not make enough of a difference.

The problem with the stats just quoted is that all we get is the bald fact of inequality. There's no exploration of why it's so or why it's being allowed to perpetuate and exacerbate in the professional world. This disparity is nowhere more pronounced than in professional soccer as is highlighted in Newsweek. The US women's team has won three world cups whereas the men's team has never advanced beyond the quarter-finals, yet male players routinely "earn" three times what female players do! To earn their relatively meager compensation, the women must win all twenty of the season games whereas the men could lose all twenty and still get full pay. Is this fair? Not even close. This is exactly the disparity that Title IX sought to set right, so how is it that it fails so badly when these athletes actually get to the professional level?

On this score (at the risk of another pun!) I was sorry to see some sleight-of-hand in this author's reporting. Consider this statement regarding remuneration in the National Women's Soccer League: "The average salary in the U.S. based NWSL is between $6,000 and $30,000 for a six-month season. A top-tier player on the men's pro side makes more than the high-end of that average - in a single week" Note how we went from an "average" to a top-tier performer? The average isn't even an average, it's a range. Is the actual average halfway between the two values? How does that compare with the men's average? We're not told, but comparing an "average" to a top-tier man's pay isn't comparing apples to apples. That said, the two would still be discrepant, but when the numbers are twisted and mismatched like that, it's really hard to get a good picture. We can't begin to figure out how to narrow a gap when we don't even get to know what the gap is or why it really exists!

One assertion from the author, referencing what someone else has said on the topic, is that "the key to closing this gap is simple: People just need to see us play. When increased exposure leads to interest from advertisers, the amount of money involved can rise pretty quickly," but this is not borne-out by experience. According to Newsweek, the Women's World Cup final of 2015 was the most watched soccer match - male or female - ever in the US, but this garnered nothing for women's sports, not even for women's soccer in the year that followed.

It's been almost twenty years since the US women's team won the World Cup soccer final in front of a sold-out Rose Bowl holding some 90,000 fans. It was a stunning game every bit the equal of a men's game - in truth leagues better than a men's game. The US men's soccer team has never done this! Whenever there's such a win, and there have been three, it's all "we're world class" and "women's sports are on the upsurge," but the day after it's always "ho-hum! What's next?" You cannot blame female athletes for asking "What do we have to do to get recognition? You cannot blame the US Olympic women who carried home 61 medals to the men's 55 from Rio for asking the same question. The author apparently isn't interested in asking this kind of question or pursuing it as far as it needs to go.

There are important aspects to these discrepancies which the author doesn't touch upon too, and which in fact relate directly to her calling an unfair play on pay. Look at US basketball, for example: while fifty or so top NBA players earn more than the entire WNBA teams roster combined, the NBA brings in five billion dollars, whereas the Women's National Basketball Association is lucky to break even. This is a question which ought to have been explored, but was not. Why does the WNBA fare so poorly? Is it because the media is shunning it, or because it simply doesn't attract as many fans and global sponsorship as the men's games do, and if that's the case, then why is that so? The author seems content to blame media bias, offer no support for the claim, and leave it at that.

We'll get back to that in a second, but let's take a moment and ask why the author never addresses the fact of women being segregated in sports as they are in no other profession, not even in the military these days. She simply accepts this segregation as a given, and I have to wonder why that inequality isn't addressed. If the leagues were white players on one side and black players on the other, then I'm sure she would have found that worth questioning, so why no questions about gender segregation? The black basketball league would then be the one making the big bucks and the white league would be in the position the women's league is, more than likely, in terms of garnering coverage! It's not an inapt comparison!

I further have to wonder if this segregation is part of the problem: if women, instead of playing in the WNBA, played in the NBA, how would they fare? This isn't to try and set up an argument for saying that women can't compete on equal terms and therefore shouldn't get equal treatment. Women have proven repeatedly that they can compete on equal terms. This is to point out that this book really doesn't delve very deep. It makes a superficial argument that everything ought to be equal, but it never makes a case for why, and it never wonders whether this particular aspect also ought to be equal and if so, would it improve matters? It avoids that altogether. It also avoids dress code, which we shall look at shortly.

Back to the segregation. It's a fact the women tend to be smaller and less muscular than men, but is this a problem? Maybe. Women would be typically shorter and lighter than the men they played against were the basketball leagues to be combined. In the NBA, the average height is six feet eight inches, whereas the average height in the WNBA is six feet. Would this be a disadvantage given that half the NBA players are necessarily six feet or less, and basketball is in theory at least, a non-contact sport? Would the advantage that a tall woman has among less tall-women in her league translate to poor performance if she became a medium-sized person among many taller persons in a male league? It's an interesting question, but it went unexplored and ignoring this made the author's case feel more like special pleading than it did a call for fair play.

Dd you know that the ball is also different between the male and female game in basketball? It's slightly smaller and lighter. Why is that and why does the author not address it? Why do female basketball players use a smaller ball while female soccer players do not? There's no answer because the author didn't ask the question. These differences in equipment translate across many other sports - the women's javelin and the women's discus are both smaller and lighter than the men's, the shot is lighter in the shotput, LPGA courses are shorter than PGA courses, and so on. In basketball, while women shoot free throws on par with men, their 3 pointers from the field average lower even in their own league. So what does equality mean? What does parity have to hinge upon? Again, we get not a word on this from the author who seems to be arguing for parity in pay but not in anything else.

As a Washington Post article puts it,

As Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, told me: "The reason we have females separated in sports is because in many sports, the best female athletes can't compete with the best male athletes. And everybody knows that, but nobody wants to say it. Females are structured like a disabled class for all sorts of, I think, good reasons."
This is something else the author did not explore in this book. Is the problem that simple or is there more to it? She didn't ask. According to the NY times, "There has yet to be a financially viable women's mainstream sports league in the United States." The author would undoubtedly argue that this is because of poor media coverage, but although she argues that, she fails to support any such argument.

And take a look at the crowd in the image accompanying the article. That says it all right there. Women are not sports attenders in general - not on the level at which men are - or even at which women are when it comes to men's games. The attendance by gender at all of the major sports in the US shows males turning up at literally twice the rate of female attendees. We read a lot in this book about women who play the sports, but nothing about those who attend and thereby help pay the salaries of the participants.

It bothers me that the author doesn't explore these aspects as a reason for disparity and inequality, asking why the attendance is so poor. Advertisers are not going to want to pay much to have an ad at a game with seven thousand people when they can have one at a game which will be seen by twice that number of people (not even including the viewers at home), and without extra advertising revenue, there's less cash to pay the players. The author doesn't explore, either, whether men really ought to get more if they play eighty games in a basketball season, which is twice what female players play.

There's an interesting, and sad, article here about this disparity in attendance related to Syracuse University's performance in the 2016 basketball season (and on the topic of inequality do compare the men's basketball page for Syracuse in Wikipedia with the women's! This makes a better argument about inequality than this book did, in my opinion!). Women had a far better season than the men (losing in the final whereas the men lost in the quarterfinals) yet their attendance was averaging less than a thousand, while the men's was almost twenty-two times as high.

Keep in mind that roughly thirty percent of the attendance at the men's games - that would be 6,000 to 7,000 people - was women. Where were these women when it came to games played by their own gender? ESPN is on record as saying that men accounted for 66% of its WNBA audience in 2013. Where were the women? Why are they viewing women's games at roughly the same percentage as they're viewing men's games? Why are so few men viewing women's games?

None of this is explored in the book, yet all of it is relevant to the case the author thought she was making. Is the lack of interest in women's sports not just from the media and from men, but also from women themselves? Apparently so, and this is one thing Title IX cannot legislate. They can compel equal opportunity (to more or less success as we've seen), but they cannot compel fans and supporters into existence or into attendance.

There are sports where women compete on perfectly equal terms with men, but where women are highly underrepresented. The author never explored this. For example, Danica Patrick has extremely high visibility and is highly rewarded for racing in NASCAR, but as mentioned, she has never won a race (as of this writing) on US soil, and has had only one win elsewhere. The author mentions Danica Patrick but never explores the details. Patrick earned about thirteen million in 2015, whereas Dale Earnhardt earned almost twice that, with no wins! Kyle Busch, who won at least five races earned less than Patrick did! There is no justice or parity anywhere in this particular story, yet no one seems to complain about that!

What do TV advertisers advertise at women's games? At men's games it seems to be cars, beer, power tools, and financial and retirement opportunities. What do advertisers want to offer to women, and do they have the same advertising budget to offer it with that the car and beer advertisers do? Again, this is unexplored, but it does have a bearing on the subject. More to the point is what happens in comparable situations.

For example, a new TV show is very much like a sports event. Because of the intensely capitalistic system the USA operates in, the show needs viewers to survive. If viewership goes down, the show is cancelled. We've lost a lot of quality shows because of this, while crappy so-called "reality' shows thrive. Why? Because this is what idiots watch on the idiot's lantern. It's that simple. Quality often fails were the lowest common denominator wins every time, and this is the issue: it all comes down to what makes money for the media. It has nothing to do with parity or equality, fairness or gender rights. If the female sports events don't attract viewers and sustain the attraction beyond world cup events, then advertisers are not going to be interested and the media is not going to cover them, yet this author doesn't ask why attendance is so poor. She just blames the media for it.

Let's talk about equality some more - in this case, equality of dress. Has anyone given any thought to how male athletes dress as compared to female ones? Probably not, but I think it's part of the problem. Take a look at your average male track athlete in the last Olympics and note how they dress for the track. On men, the shorts may be tight or loose fitting, and the shirt may be sleeveless or not, but they are wearing a shirt and shorts. Now take a look at the women who are, for all practical purposes, dressed in bikinis. Shotput? The same. Javelin? The same. Why is that? For beach volleyball, they wear even less! The men don't though. Why is that?

Consider this: swimming is the only event I can think of in the Olympics in which men wear less than women. Maybe it is literally for all practical purposes that women dress so skimpily, but if that's the case, then why are men not emulating them in terms of wearing an abbreviated top and bikini shorts? Now look at soccer or basketball. What do women wear? Very much the same as men do! Why is that? It seems to me that if you want to be taken seriously as an athlete, you might want to reconsider wearing bikinis for every event! Is this a valid argument? We don't know, because once again, this is a highly visible aspect to sports which this author completely ignores.

I didn't like this author's overall attitude either, quite frankly! At one point, she says, "But it's female athletes who most consistently give us representations of women who embody qualities like toughness and power and tenacity." How disrespectful is that to women who work in other professions? Are female firefighters not tough? Are female law enforcement disempowered? Are female soldiers, sailors, air personnel, and the Coast Guard lacking tenacity? Are female industry leaders powerless? Are teachers not tenacious? Are female nurses not tough?! The single-minded focus on athletes here, notwithstanding this was the main purpose of the book, was an insult to women working in other fields.

In conclusion, this book felt far more like a cult of personality than an honest exploration on gender inequity in sports. The bottom line, though would seem to be popularity: does the media really shun women's sports or does the media simply show what's most popular because it's from this that advertising revenue will derive, regardless of what gender is involved in the sport?

This question should have been one to explore, but we don't get that here: who attends? Who pays to watch? Is the female game perceived, by those who pay the entrance fees, just as worthy of admission price as the men's game is? As reported in late 2016, "The WNBA registered its highest attendance (1,561,530) since 2011 and the highest average attendance (7,655). For comparison, the average attendance at NBA games is over twice that, at around 17,000.

Are people simply voting with their feet not for which gender is worth supporting, but for which game is worth viewing with their limited budget? Which has the best atmosphere? Which one their friends will be going to and talking about the next day? Maybe it's just that simple, maybe it isn't, but we won't know the answer to that from reading this book, and I cannot recommend it because not only does it not achieve what it claims to aim at, it doesn't even pursue what it claims to be chasing! If you want to write a book about leveling the playing field, you need to be on the level in what you write.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Going Through the Change by Samantha Bryant

Rating: WORTHY!

This novel is different! Four women who are going through menopause discover that they've developed super powers! Is it the menopause, or is it the alternative medication they've been taking - all of which comes from the same source? Or is it a combination of both? Or neither?!

This novel was original, gorgeous, and a true joy to read. It's the kind of novel which makes you comfortable with going through all the crappy novels that Amazon unloads cheaply, because you know that if you persevere, you'll find one like this once in a while - a diamond in the rough as they say - and it makes it worth reading the crap just to get to it.

Patricia O'Neill, who is a lifelong friend of the herbalist, Cindy Liu, seems to be growing scales on her skin. Jessica Roark discovers that she can fly - or at least float. Helen Braeburn learns, uncomfortably, that she can create fire - and survive it. Linda Alvarez changes, rather abruptly, into a man - although how that's considered a super-power is a mystery This man does have unusual strength, but what kind of message is this sending - you can only be strong if you're a man?

That's about the only negative thing I have to say about this novel. That should have been re-thought. Aside from that, and other than that it needed a final spell-checker run through before letting it loose on Amazon, I have no complaints at all. Waiting is not spelled "waitign" and every spell-checker knows that! And it should have been "while the early birds were still sleeping", not "before the early birds were still sleeping," but those are all I noticed and they're relatively minor quibbles.

Some might find the build-up a little slow, but for me, the story moved intelligently and at a fair clip - not too fast, not too slow. People behaved like people - not super-heroes(!) and not like dumb movie action "heroes". These girls grew into their powers as you might expect someone would and as we grew to know them. The whole story was smartly plotted and written. I'm fully behind it! If the author wants a beta reader for volume two, I'm right here and available! I recommend this story for originality, freshness, good writing, and realistic female characters (within the super hero context!), who live and breathe. I'm not a big fan of series, but once in a while one comes along and I can say, honestly, that it's great work, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Pedestriennes: America's Forgotten Superstars by Harry Hall

Rating: WORTHY!

"May Marshall could now lay claim to the world's to pedestrienne." (p81) I don't know what was meant here.
"In June, in she quit in the middle...leaving her manager in arreareages." (p82) The first part of the sentence makes no sense, and the last word should be arrearage or better, simply 'arrears'
"Von HIllern" (p85) Inappropriate capitalization in 'Von' (should be 'von') and with the 'I' in Hillern.
"When the man persited" (p93) should be 'persisted'
" leg..." (p154) should be "gammy leg"
"Madame Vestras" should be Madame Vestris - Lucia Elizabeth Vestris.
Laura Keene's name is misspelled as "Keane" at one point.
"...letting loose with a torrid of cursing..." should be "torrent"
"Fueding" should be "feuding" (p190)
"Seheduled" should be "Scheduled" (p227)

The description of "Madame" Ada Anderson's feat in Mozart Garden New York covers several chapters and not a bit of it is boring. It's really quite emotional and made me feel I was very nearly there. Her achievement was incredible. It was even more incredible that within a few months of her achievement, her record would be exceeded by May Marshall, and pretty much in tandem with it, Exilda LaChappelle would exceed Marshall's new record.

If there is one thing I do love it's quirky - as long as it's not endlessly, excessively, or mindlessly so. I especially like quirky when it comes to women and things they get up to that we may, rightly or wrongly, never have imagined them doing. One thing I freely confess never did cross my transom was "...a handful of late 19th century female athletes who dazzled America with their remarkable performances in endurance walking."

The blurb continues: "Frequently performing in front of large raucous crowds, pedestriennes walked on makeshift tracks set up in reconfigured theatres and opera houses. Top pedestriennes often earned more money in one week than the average American took home in a year." Female superstars in Victorian times? Quirky that's also pedestrian? How can a body not want to read that? So off we go!

These names will be unknown to you more than likely. They were to me, but back then, they were household names making newspapers headlines. Now at least they have a web site!:

  • Ada Anderson
  • Alice Donley
  • Sadie Donley
  • Fannie Edwards
  • Helene Freeman
  • Lillie Hoffman
  • Amy Howard
  • Exilda la Chappelle
  • Bertie LeFranc
  • Tryphena Lipsey (aka May Marshall)
  • Kate Lorence
  • Carrie Ross
  • Emma Sharp
  • May Bell Sherman
  • Bertha von Berg (aka Maggie von Gross)
  • Bertha von Hillern

These women were from a variety of backgrounds and an assortment of ages from their mid fifties to as young as seventeen years old in the case of Lillie Hoffman, yet whereas Captain Barclay walking 1000 miles in 1000 hours for 1000 guineas in 1809, and falling asleep literally on his feet gets a page in Wikipedia, virtually none of the women do. Some of these endurance walkers met or exceeded his feat, such as for example, Emma Sharp. Perhaps these women faded too quickly into obscurity. perhaps genderism played a part. And not all of the men merit a page either, it would seem. William Gale, who achieved several pedestrian feats (which were not at all pedestrian!) of his own, gets no mention either, and he was instrumental in aiding and abetting female endurance walking.

A man named O'Leary kick-started the women's pedestrian competitive sport by staging a six-day marathon between two willing competitors: Bertha von Hillern and May Marshall. From then on it was a roller-caster bi-coastal ride coasting to a standstill in the 1880's and thereafter fading into complete forgetfulness until this author raised heir profile tow here it should be.

This book isn't quite ready for prime time: I found numerous spelling errors, which a good spell-checker would have cured (apart from a couple of misspelled names, that is). I know this was an advance review copy, but spelling errors should never get through even to that stage in this day and age. That aside, the book was well written, exhaustively researched, and pleasantly enlightening. It comes with extensive end notes, a bibliography, and an index. It's a fast read despite being close to three hundred pages. I recommend it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Story of My Tits Volume 2 by Jennifer Hayden

Title: The Story of My Tits volume 2
Author: Jennifer Hayden
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Rating: WARTY!

Note that there are two authors named Jennifer Hayden, so please don't confuse them! One, this one, is the graphic novelist and artist. The other isn't! It pains me to review negatively a novel about an important topic like this, but I cannot in good faith recommend this. The title, as it did with volume one, suggests this is about breasts, and as metaphorical as it might be, it really wasn't about breasts as much as it was about the author's life, which was plagued with family issues and with health issues not only for herself, but also for her mom.

I'm not sure how much more I can say about this pair of graphic novels that I haven't already said for volume one, so this review may be unusually short for me! Please read the review for volume one to get the bulk of my views and insights, such as they are. I think my main problem, apart from not liking the art work or the insanely crowded images, was that the topics discussed here were really rather mundane - as sad and tragic as they may well have been for those persons involved, so there was nothing here for me to learn, and nothing to entertain or engross me. Volume one was better than two, but both were largely the same - a simple biography about the every day life of a rather dysfunctional family, but these "revelations" were neither unique nor particularly unusual in the big picture.

This volume covers the author's later life, post marriage, and it's really a comedy of irritations - using comedy in the Shakespearean sense. I really had little interest in these stories because there was very very little here which I have not experienced in one way or another, even if only vicariously by reading about it. In addition to his, I am not into hippie or new age stuff, and cannot take seriously books laid at the feet of a goddess or dedicated to a husband who is evidently superior not only to all husbands, but to all possible husbands. That just seemed unnecessarily unkind to me - as though everyone else's husband is second-rate at best.

This volume covers later events in the author's life, and the deaths of some family members. This is fine and I am sure it has import for family and friends, but it's nothing that other families do not go through, including my own so there is, sad and tragic as these events are, nothing to move me about these events. Death is a part of life, and it's coming for all of us sooner or later, so while we need to acknowledge that, and be prepared for it, we don't need to dwell on it or take pains to write paeans to it.

As I mentioned, the art work wasn't very good, and the images were way too crowded, and dark and insanely detailed to get the best out of them. In addition to that, there was often way too much text, which meant it was too small and hard to read at times, so I found myself skipping a lot of it because it was rambling or because I didn't want to go to the trouble of straining to read all that tiny text. That said, the writing itself, apart form being too wordy, was decently done. There were no spelling or grammatical errors that I saw, so this author can write, but perhaps needs a better topic.

I didn't appreciate the bad language in this case. I don't have a problem with it in a novel where it fits, but in something like this, it felt out of place. It could have been avoided and thereby perhaps made the message accessible to a wider audience. For me, it contributed nothing to the story, and it may keep some potential readers away. That said, this novel is explicitly about female function and organs, so maybe the language would make no difference! Some people are just too squeamish no matter what.

In short, I cannot recommend this volume because I didn't feel it was the best the author could do, or that it offered anything really new and engaging. I feel bad about this because I know there are important messages to relay about such events, and I also know that these things are important parts of the author's life, but I also think authors need to grasp that not everything that carries weight with them has the same gravity for anyone, let alone everyone else out there. I think we need to pick and choose what to relate and how to relate it, and I don't think this was the best approach.

The Story of My Tits Volume 1 by Jennifer Hayden

Title: The Story of My Tits
Author: Jennifer Hayden
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Rating: WARTY!

Note that there are two authors named Jennifer Hayden, so please don't confuse them! One, this one, is the graphic novelist and artist. The other isn't! I really wanted to like this graphic novel, but no matter how hard I tried, I just could not get on its side, I'm sorry to say. I think there's both a need and a market for this kind of story whether it's autobiographical, semi-auto, or purely fictional, but this autobiography just didn't work for me. Your mammary-age may differ!

I was excited to get this and volume two from Net Galley, but I had to read volume 2 first because volume one flatly refused to download until the next day, and I didn't want to wait in case it never downloaded! At first I thought maybe I should have waited, because there seemed to be parts of volume two which were dependent upon the first one for better understanding, but when I finally read one this morning, it did not clarify the things I thought it would, so in the end it made no difference that I read them out of order.

I preferred one to two, but only marginally. For me, the biggest problem was that there were no insights or points of interest in either volume for me. There was nothing really unexpected, nothing I didn't know, nothing I found fascinating, and no ah-ha moments, so for me, it did not deliver.

What I did get was too much trope and cliché for my taste. It felt like watching one of those truly crappy TV sitcoms where the wife is pregnant, and the husband can't cope, and every tired joke is tediously retold. A story like this deserved better and this one is better than those stupid, clueless, pedantic, canned-laugh shows, but it still lacked too much for it to appeal to me.

I felt really bad to feel so negative about this because it's an important subject, but I can't in good faith recommend something which I don't feel gets the job done and this one didn't, starting from the title on in. I felt that the title was slightly misleading. I do get that the title was designed to shock, to perk interest, and to be metaphorical and to show how women all-too-often feel defined by their basic physical appearance, but the story was much more about the person than ever it was her breasts. I get that for a woman, living in a male-dominated world, it can become hard to differentiate yourself from your breasts. We're mammals, defined by our milk producing ability so they are out there, so to speak, and they have unfortunately become so representative of womanhood. This is wrong, obviously, but for now, it's what we have to deal with. It would have been nice to have had more observations on, and insights into that.

For me, it was hard to empathize with this character to begin with. I think that might have been one of my root problems. She doesn't come off as very smart. She seems like a slacker with little self-motivation. She's a smoker - although commendably she gives that up, but it's because she goes on the pill, not because there's a history of cancer in her family. She didn't get regular health check-ups. Although her honesty in revealing all of this is commendable, it just didn't appeal to me or make me feel like I was on her side. If she had been more proactive, she would have been more appealing. That said, she does take more charge in volume two.

This volume deals with her childhood and youth, up to college, and meeting the guy she wants to marry, and ends with them finally marrying, but I didn't feel like there was anything new here. There was a lot of old - a lot of addressing the same issues through which everyone goes, which seemed pointless to me. It's sad to think that any of this could be news to your typical modern women, but that said, there are unfortunately too many who have not been well-educated by parents or by schooling.

I think that what I found most annoying was how over-crowded the images were. Where there wasn't too much shading and scribbling, there was too much text. I read this on an iPad, not as a print book. I don't know how large the print book would be, but the iPad screen is fairly large, yet the text was often hard to read, and I found myself skipping lots of it because there was simply too much and it was too small to bother with, and it was rambling anyway with endless asides and footnotes. It was amusing in parts, but too often tedious to read. I did get the impression that it might be more fun to listen to the author talk about this than to read what she's written about it. Maybe she should try an audio rather than a graphic novel?

The art work wasn't very good either. It was all black and white line drawings with heavy, heavy shading and overwhelming detail, and the character depictions felt more like the weekend children's cartoons in a newspaper than they did a graphic novel. I can't recommend this as a worthy read, and I take no pleasure in that.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Y The Last Man Unmanned by Brian K Vaughan

Title: Y The Last Man Unmanned
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

This was an unexpected treasure! I went to the half price bookstore to see if I could find Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch (Barty's other son, no doubt). Failing to get that, I checked out the graphic novel section and found every single one of the books I recently checked out of the library - and only those! Weird. There was however, one more tucked away deeper back on the shelf and when I tugged it out, it turned out to be the very first issue in this series! How fortuitous was that? So here, completely out of order (which is my middle name), is how it all began.

It's the amulet! Yorick's un-proposed-to fiancée seems to be having cold feet (she fell in love with a kangaroo) and Yorick is covered in Monkey sheet monkey doo-doo. Meanwhile, 355 shows up - with the amulet! The Republican desperate housewives try to run the government out of town, and Yorick's sister Hero puts in an all-too-brief appearance.

So 355 rescues Yorick from the psycho Amazons and just about everyone learns that he's, why, the last man of course! But 355 has a plan. Glad that someone does. She takes Yorick to Dr Allison Mann who is utterly astounded - to discover that a male Capuchin survived.

So this was a bit choppy for my taste - running between one group pf people and another, and then have flashbacks and flash forwards, so it was very uneven and a bit hard to follow at times. However, it was a great start and I recommend it.

Y The Last Man Girl On Girl by Brian K Vaughan

Title: Y The Last Man Girl on Girl
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

This is one of my favorite volumes. Agent 355, Dr Mann, and Yorick are on a boat heading for Japan. The problem is that Yorick is in a crate in the boat's cargo hold. He's an escape artist so he's supposed to be able to escape, but the escape was predicated on the crate being stowed the right way up with nothing on top, so Yorick is trapped. When the crate is broken, the ship's crew discovers that there is a man left alive on Earth.

The crew seems friendly, but in end are revealed to be drug runners. The Royal Australian Navy is in hot pursuit in a rickety old submarine. One of its crew, Aussie Rose Copen, is already aboard the boat, with her distinctive eye-patch, spying on the drug runners. She relays information about their location to the sub. Meanwhile, Dr Mann and 355 get it on - or at least they try to before they're rudely interrupted by Yorick.

Rose ends up in the brig and slowly, Yorick and 355 change their minds about her - and about the crew, but the captain, Kilina, sweet talks Yorick and makes herself sound less of a villain than a woman acting out of desperation. They almost get it on, but are interrupted by the arrival of the sub.

There's a brief exchange of weapons fire, but the sub wins, sinking the boat. Captain Kilina evidently went down with her ship, but most of the crew were saved. Rose asks to come with 355, Mann, and Yorick. She seems to have far more of an interest in Mann than she does in man.

Here's a writing issue from this story. The sub's captain at one point says, "That's because less accidents happen...". This is grammatically incorrect. It should be "fewer accidents", but this is someone's speech and no one speaks with perfect grammar unless they're insufferably pretentious, so in this case, bad grammar is good writing!

I recommend this volume. The writing is excellent, the plotting wonderful, and the art work great. One thing I really liked about this one was that I finally got to meet Beth, Yorick's fiancée, who turns out to be an interesting character in her own right. I don't know why the focus has been so much on Yorick and so little on her. Yes, I get that it's about the last man, not the last man's fiancée, but still, I think she's been done a disservice. I hope I'll see more of her as I read more volumes.

One thing which has bothered about this series (apart from my not being able to read it in order from start to finish!) is that not only are there pretty much only women left alive, but very nearly every one of those women is drawn in male fantasy mode: young, curvaceous, long-haired and lax morals. Why is that? I think it's because this novel was written by a guy, and he has no interest in depicting women who do not figure in his fantasies. That's something that's just not right and is the one real blemish on this entire series, for me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Y The Last Man Kimono Dragons by Brian K Vaughan

Title: Y The Last Man Kimono Dragons
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

I love the titles of some of these volumes. Kimono Dragons! Perfect! We start out here with Yorick, alas, looking like a reject from a remake of A Clockwork Orange. They're finally in Japan, and he and 355 are trying to track down Yorick's pet monkey (that's not a sexual as it might sound to some). Dr Mann is trying to track down her mom, but someone burned down her mom's lab - not her dog, her laboratory. Mann is with Rose and Rose is definitely with Mann.

The Yakuza is now being run by a Canadian cross between Madonna and Miley Cyrus, and it is she who has this Capuchin monkey, famous for its coffee. Or maybe not. The question is, will You who is now a purveyor of android pleasures by way of being a wakaresaseya and before that a member of the Ginza-Yonchome Koban police, actually help them retrieve & (figure it out) from the Takuza, or will she betray them?

355 has a bit of a breakdown after she realized that in order to further the mission, she was getting ready to blow the head off a young girl. Unfortunately, she hesitated and was lost. Meanwhile, both Rose and Dr Mann feel stabbing pains - and from the same Ninja katana, too.

Can the Israeli army drive their tanks to their destination in time and if so, where are they going, and what the hell are they going to do with them when they get there? Capture the twins? It takes two to tank-le! And is Dr Mann going to bleed her secret - all over the floor, as Rose once again lies - on a bed, injured? Still loving this series!

Y The Last Man Motherland by Brian K Vaughan

Title: Y The Last Man Motherland
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

The motherland volume proceeds very much in the same mode as the earlier ones, but the characters change somewhat and the locations too, and new things are coming to light all the time - including some dark and dirty secrets, so my interest was very much maintained here.

The one-eyed Australian spy turns around and resigns from her commission out of love for the part-Chinese character, although agent 355 doesn't trust her, especially when she gets sick and starts bleeding. But then agent 355 doesn't trust anyone, and makes short work of a ninja girl who is rather full of herself.

We get to meet the Israeli navy, such as it is - or rather, I guess, a rogue portion of it. The commander of the boat claims she stole a battleship, but the boat looks more like a cruiser or a patrol boat than ever it does a battleship.

The art work is simple but very functional and very well done. Even the animals get a fair shake, as attention focuses in this issue upon Yorick's pet Capuchin monkey, which the group is trying to get mated to a suitable female without much success. Since I was reading these out of sequence I wasn't sure what the point of this was. Yorick was certainly deeply interested in the monkey's welfare, however! Another volume that's a worthy read.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Y The Last Man Paper Dolls by Brian K Vaughan

Title: Y The Last Man Paper Dolls
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

Paper Dolls is another in a rather random sampling I made of this series perforce, since the library didn't have the whole set! Having read a few volumes, though, I do want to read the whole set now. It was in Paper Dolls where I first met the crew of the submarine which has abducted poor Yorick, alas, and is transporting him around the world. We get to know Yorick's pet monkey and stage assistant, named & (figure it out!). The monkey is the key to what's going on here. We also get an origin story for the secretive but highly-effective Agent 355. Yorick continues his forlorn quest to find out whence his fiancée Beth has disappeared (Hint: she;'s somewhere in Australia, supposedly.

This is where his naked picture is published in a tabloid newspaper, supposedly proving that there's at least one guy still alive on Earth - although who will believe it? It also introduces us to the pregnant one and to a weird-ass religious order (one of several we'll meet in this series.

The writer's and artists' willingness to show a full-frontal nude male is refreshing. Usually in these kinds of comics, they show the female in all her glory while hiding the naughty bits of the male. In this series, they seem quite unwilling to show females, yet unabashedly show Yorick's particulars. Go figure.

I liked this comic because it keeps unveiling the story. It's like one of those giant theater curtains which keeps on drawing back, and drawing back, and you start to wonder if and when it will ever stop! I recommend this one.

Y The Last Man Ring Of Truth by Brian K Vaughan

Title: Y The Last Man Ring Of Truth
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

This is a series I stumbled onto at the local library (yeay libraries!) which unfortunately did not have issue one to hand, so having perused a volume and decided I liked it, I decided to take the plunge with the series "in progress" as it were, and I wasn't disappointed in the first volume I read, which was Paper Dolls. Yeah, it sounds like a novel by John Green, but this novel makes John green with envy, and having read it, I think I can say that you don't absolutely need to have read previous volumes to enjoy it, but it helps for background! Having read this one I did want to start the series over, it was that good and that engrossing.

For a series written by a guy about the one lone remaining guy in the world after a plague wipes out all (or as we later discover, very nearly all) human males, it's not what you might think. While the context is adult in nature, it's not x-rated by any means, although there are adult situations and some violence, which is relatively mild by comic book standards. The published graphic novels in the series are these:

  • Unmanned
  • Cycles
  • One Small Step
  • Safeword
  • Ring of Truth
  • Girl on Girl
  • Paper Dolls
  • Kimono Dragons
  • Motherland
  • Whys and Wherefores

I started from volume five and read through volume ten.

Why it took a guy to write this I don't know. Why some female graphic novel artist/ author (and there are a lot of you, I know, despite popular perceptions!) couldn't man up is a good question. Yes, I'm kidding with the man up comment, but I'm very serious about why a guy wrote this. Is there a female writer who wants to write the one about the only female left on the planet? It needs to be done! I'd be happy to write it with you if you're interested.

So Yorick, alas, is one of the insignificant, yet highly significant few men remaining alive, and all he wants to do is get back to his fiancé, Beth, who is somewhere e=doing walkabout in Australia. Unfortunately, when he finally talks the crew of the submarine in which he's traveling almost like a prisoner, into letting his look for her, it turns out, so he learns, that she's gone to Paris to find him!

Here's a writing issue that I see frequently in books and movies, and on TV, and which also appears here: "My name is Sister Lucia Ober..." (p88) - no, that's her title and her name! Unless she was actually named "Sister" by her parents, then her name is Lucia Ober, her title is "Sister". OK, pet peeve off.

Sister Lucia is delusional, and I'm not talking about her belief in a god, although that's one problem. She thinks that the Catholic Church pulled people out of the dark ages when it actually dragged people down into the dark ages - and is still trying to hold them there today!

There's unintentional humor, too. A tone point one character says, "There's a reason the best rock climber sin he world are all women" - well in a world where there's only one or two men left, I imagine the best rock climbers are all women!

I found it odd, and not a little affected that the speeches for people in the flashbacks were all in parenthesis. It was annoying, but not a killer, and the rest of the novel was great: nice writing, good humor, cool action, lots of interesting characters, and really good art work, so I recommend this volume.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Girl Who Played With Fire Adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: DC Comics (Warner Bros)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art by Andrea Mutti, Antonio Fuso, and Leonardo Manco.
Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill, and Lee Loughridge.
Letters by Steve Wands.

I already reviewed this novel so what's up here? Well I originally read this in print book form. Later, I listened to it in audio book form, so now it's only right that I check out the graphic novel too, right?! That's why this review is shorter than I normally write. I'm not going into any details of the plot since I've been there and done that, and you can get those from my original review. This review is all about the graphic side of things.

The graphic novel again relates Steig Larsson's original story faithfully and while there's just as much violence in this volume, there's no sex at all worth the mention. I don't know why, but the art work here didn't grab me like it did in the first two volumes. I was nowhere near as fond of the rendering of Lisbeth here as I was in the previous outing, but the art was very workman-like and got a complex job done. It just didn't leave quite the same pleasant taste the previous material did. One notable exception (illustrated on my blog) was the full page rendition of Lisbeth's dragon tattoo, which I thought was really good.

The lettering felt better in this one than in the previous volumes, and it seemed a better reading experience to me for that. Maybe I was just more used to it this time after reading two previous volumes? On this topic, I was amused where we saw one frame of a report which was actually information about a software license, but imaged with the lettering backwards! Later we get a news report, but if you look at it. It consists of the same paragraph repeated over and over again.

We do get to meet a member of the Evil Fingers punk band which is mentioned in the book, and which is now a group of female friends who are close - as close, that is, as Lisbeth would ever let anyone get. Lisbeth was never in the band since she's tone deaf, but she was part of the post-band gatherings. It doesn't specify the name of the band member who is interviewed. We know it's not lead singer Cilla Norén, unless she's changed her hair completely and lost a lot of weight, yet that's the band member whom officer Faste interviewed in the novel.

So, to sum up, I didn't like this quite as much as I liked the first book (which was in two parts), but I still think it's a worthy contribution to the canon. I am looking forward to, and hoping for, the third volume to be completed.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 2 Adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 2
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: DC Comics (Warner Bros)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art by Andrea Mutti and Leonardo Manco.
Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill.
Letters by Steve Wands and Lee Bermejo.

I already reviewed this novel so what's up here? Well I originally read this in print book form. Later, I listened to it in audio book form, so now it's only right that I check out the graphic novel too, right?! That's why this review is shorter than I normally write. I'm not going into any details of the plot since I've been there and done that, and you can get those from my original review. This review is all about the graphic side of things.

Again, as with volume one, I was impressed with this. Denise Mina's writing covered everything of import, but also kept the pace tight. Steve Wands's and Lee Bermejo's lettering was nothing spectacular, and a bit on the small side. Obviously you can't hide the image under large blocks of text, but for me, and especially in this era of e-comics, lettering is nearly always a too small. I was glad I read this in print form as opposed to on an e-pad. What impressed me were Giulia Brusco's and Patricia Mulvihill's colors and Andrea Mutti's and Leonardo Manco's art work which continued the same standard set in volume one. The covers were excellent in quality, but as I mentioned in the review of volume 1 thought that the cover for part 2 didn't capture Lisbeth Salander. The face was wrong, somehow. The interior artwork captured her magically.

The hilariously squeamish depictions of nudity continued. I found it curious that there were no-holds-barred when it came to violence, but that genitalia were deemed too horrific to show! One of the most important scenes - the rape of Lisbeth Salander, was glossed over a little too conveniently. We get the full gloory of the headless cat, with its bloody entrails all over, yet a central event of the brutal rape of a woman is deemed inappropriate?

Nothing overt was depicted except blood and strongly implied violence. A sheet strategically covered her butt crack afterwards. Seriously? If you're going to show the violence, then show it, don't blow it. If all you feel you can show is blood spatter, then don't show anything. This part made no sense because it robbed Lisbeth of the full horror of her torture. I didn't get the point of a graphic novel that's inconsistently graphic! Why the artist would baulk at that, and not at blood spray and cat entrails is weird to me.

That gripe aside, I really liked this overall, and I recommend it. I'm certainly going to buy it if I get a chance.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 1 Adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 1
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: DC Comics (Warner Bros)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art by Andrea Mutti and Leonardo Manco.
Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill.
Letters by Steve Wands and Lee Bermejo.

I already reviewed this novel so what's up here? Well I originally read this in print book form. Later, I listened to it in audio book form, so now it's only right that I check out the graphic novel too, right?! That's why this review is shorter than I normally write. I'm not going into any details of the plot since I've been there and done that, and you can get those from my original review. This review is all about the graphic side of things.

So I was very impressed with this work. It's been somewhat updated from the original novel to include smart phones, for example, but otherwise is faithful to it. Denise Mina's adaptation was sparse but covered everything that was important, and kept the story moving at a clip. Steve Wands's and Lee Bermejo's lettering was pretty much boiler-plate comic book, so there was nothing there to praise. On the downside, lettering is nearly always a little too small for my taste, especially if you're trying to read it on a screen, such as an iPad. I'm glad I read this in actual print form. It would have been annoying on a pad. What impressed me were Giulia Brusco's and Patricia Mulvihill's colors and Andrea Mutti's and Leonardo Manco's art work. Both were excellent for my taste and really brought the story to life. The covers were excellent in quality, but I thought that the part 2 cover really didn't capture Lisbeth Salander. The face was wrong, somehow. The interior artwork captured her magically.

I was amused by the depictions of nudity (and almost every eligible female gets nude in this graphic novel, even young Harriet, whereas only one guy does). The amusement came from the apparent squeamishness of the artists to depict genitals and butt cracks! I've never understood this, especially when violence is depicted without a single thought to covering it up! Are we to understand from this that our society believes that looking at something sensuous and beautiful is verboten, whereas violence is cool?>/p>

To me breasts are far more out there, provocative and 3D, than ever female genitals are, so what's with the shyness? We got mammaries a-go-go, but whenever there was any danger of a vulva heaving into view, there was always something in the way: panties, or a judiciously draped sheet reminiscent of the wispy gauze which inexplicably floated around in classical paintings of nudes. The same applies to male genitalia.

So, overall, I highly recommend this - especially if you haven't read the original. It's a great introduction to the first novel of the trilogy, but the cost, I have to say is pretty steep. It's forty dollars for both of the volumes which make up the first novel, so you might want to get this from your library before you decide to buy, or look for it used. I would definitely like to buy these two.