bradygirl_12 (bradygirl_12) wrote,

"All Systems Go!"

Since my other fannish name ought to be Retro Girl, I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to many that I loved Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier!  :)

So, some thoughts on it, with lots of spoilers: 

First, what I didn’t like about it or wanted to see more of.  I like to get the negative stuff out of the way first before I start gushing!  ;)


Okay, I knew going in that Clark and Bruce would only have a few pages together.  Still, I was disappointed.  And I also understand that Cooke was trying to feature the ‘new heroes’ of the Silver Age, but to me, the bridge of the two from old-to-new should have been a little more acknowledged.  How cool would it have been to see the World’s Finest in actual action? 


And I would have liked to have seen Batman and Robin in action, too, instead of just symbolic panels.


As a Steve/Diana girl, I was disappointed at no Steve in this book.  They have room for the Losers, an almost totally obscure group, but not Steve Trevor, who was one of the major reasons that Golden Age Wonder Woman left Paradise Island and came to Man’s World?  I understand that Cooke wanted to show an alienated Diana, and probably couldn’t do so as effectively if Steve was around, but I think he could have been worked in.  J


Lois: I understand that many reporters were and are right-wingers, but Lois being so gung-ho and practically a McCarthyite jarred me.  Somehow, investigative reporters suggest to me distrust of authority and so on, so it disturbed me to see Lois in this political light.  I understood Flagg and Faraday’s right-wing politics, but it didn’t ring true (at least for me) in Lois’ case. 


The ‘villain’ of the piece?  Kinda hokey if you ask me!  J


There is a scene showing Bruce Wayne helping the fight against the Centre by giving the Government what it needs, but it disappointed me that Batman was not present in Florida.  The new heroes had to save the day?  But Green Arrow was a hero from the Golden Age, unless Cooke intended him to be a new Silver Age hero, and he was there. 


Okay, the gushing!  ;)


The look of this book is fabulous!  It’s definitely the classic visual look of the ‘50s (nudging toward the early ‘60s).  If you’ve ever seen old movies, TV shows, posters, book covers, or any other art, you know that Cooke got it right as to architecture, clothes, cars, etc.  It’s a very distinctive look, as Art Deco is for the ‘20s and’30s, for instance.


A skip to Clark/Bruce again: the meeting between the two which introduces Dick to Superman is a fangirl’s dream! J  Cooke has captured Clark’s genuine smiling rapport with Dick, who is beside himself with excitement at meeting his ‘cool’ hero.  J  And Bruce is very business-like, but throughout the dialogue in this scene, his firm hand is laced with affection.  Dick would not be the bubbly, happy child that he is if Bruce didn’t show him that affection from time-to-time.  This child is not merely a soldier in Batman’s dark Mission (sorry, Frank M.!).


This scene was perfect, with Dick performing handstands and flips while Bruce and Clark talked.


I’ve read that people consider Superman a ‘smug government lapdog’ in this book.  To me, he certainly has his share of naivete, illustrated by the scene in Indochina with Diana, but he’s not stupid. 


The key for me?


He and Bruce cooked up this plan for ‘you on the outside, me on the inside’.  To me that suggests that Clark isn’t completely behind everything the Government’s doing, but he and Bruce figured the only way he could continue to use his powers would be to convince the G-men that he was with them 100%, and could also protect Bruce, which is why they staged the phony fight.  Clark hates the Federal law making criminals out of costumed heroes, and doesn’t like it being applied to Bruce at all.


Another indication that he just doesn’t blindly follow orders or like it is his “This better be good, Faraday” when King calls him to rescue the astronauts in space while he’s battling a supervillain in Tokyo.  Hardly the response of a lapdog!


The scene in Indochina: why did he threaten to tell the Administration about Diana’s allowing the women to kill their rapists?  I’d say shock over what had happened.  No doubt he was horrified for what those women went through, but he still has that code of ‘no killing’.


Diana?  She is a warrior, has seen war for thousands of years, and knows it’s not all black-and-white.


The friendship between the two is a lovely part of the book.


There’s also a panel in which Hal and Carol Davis are in Carol’s car together.  This scene illustrates for me a lot of what the women of the postwar era were about.


A little background: there’s always been some idea of a ‘New Woman’ in American society, stretching back to the Gibson Girls of the 1890s and the flappers of the 1920s.  Despite discrimination in law and custom, American women were still asserting themselves in ways that their sisters abroad could only dream of.  In the 1890s it was being more physically active, with clothing design that still seems ridiculous to us for the amount of skirts and other accessories, but considering that their mothers wore hoopskirts and dozens of petticoats, their ‘new look’ wasn’t so bad.  And women rode bicycles (bicycling was a huge craze back then), eventually learned to drive, and in the ‘20s, cut their hair and shortened their skirts, smoking cigarettes and drinking Prohibition booze. 


During World War II, women worked in factories and performed other jobs that a shortage of men on the homefront required them to do.  When the men came back, they were told to go back to the kitchen, and the Fifties Woman would be relentlessly domestic and back to wearing long, frilly skirts and crinolines (shades of the hoopskirt!).


But not all women accepted those roles, or accepted them completely.  While it wasn’t uncommon for a woman not to know how to drive, or to continually renew a license yet never use it, many women and young girls did learn, and it gave them independence.


And Carol Davis is driving Hal Jordan in one particular scene in The New Frontier, showing that Hal is secure in his masculinity to allow her to drive, boss or no boss, and she is comfortable driving him.


Don’t laugh, back in the ‘50s it was simply the way of things that when a man and a woman got in a car, the man drove.  When the order was reversed, it was always interesting.


Carol, of course, has her father’s approval and respect in that she is the one in charge of day-to-day operations at Ferris Aircraft.  She can handle Hal as we’ve seen in earlier chapters. 


She is wearing a headscarf, which was a fashionable accessory, dark sunglasses, and smoking a cigarette.  She is wearing a skirt instead of Capri pants, but her outfit and casual ease behind the wheel is indicative of a woman comfortable with going outside the conventional box. 


An interesting aside here: the well-dressed Fifties woman never left the house without a hat/headscarf and gloves, and always wore a dress, not pants.  Women wore pants to do yardwork or when they vacationed at the beach, wearing ‘culottes’ or ‘pedal pushers’ and maybe even Capri pants.  Women even did housework in ‘housedresses’!  Though I can assure you my mom and grandmothers never cleaned house in pearls as June Cleaver did.  J


When did it become popular to wear pants on a fairly regular basis outside the house?  When Mary Tyler Moor of The Dick Van Dyke Show insisted on wearing Capri pants at least part of the time on the classic sitcom, and eventually she got to wear them nearly all the time as the idea took off and you’ll see more women in the early ‘60s wearing the pants and other non-dress designs.


I don’t think some women today realize how lucky they have it!  J


Back to Carol and Hal: driving was something that was common for women by the 1950s, and considering how some societies even in the 21st century don’t allow women to drive, it shows you how to some extent, women in the States did enjoy some degree of progressive lifestyle, despite the fact that even as late as the 21st century in our country, women still make only 74 cents to every dollar a man makes for the exact same work.  Lovely!


Sorry, feminist rant over.  J


Lois was not exactly atypical, either, and she and Jimmy were marvelous in the Korean War chapter.  She was the Margaret Bourke-White character here, and despite her politics, her reporting skills are exemplary. 


Why these thoughts on the women in this book?  Because despite society trying very hard indeed to keep women in the kitchen, females were asserting independence in ways large and small even before ‘Women’s Lib’ came to the forefront in the 1970s.


And you know what amused me?  A cover shot of Black Canary and Catwoman done in the ‘50s style in the Notes section.  I knew those two had something going on (“The Cat Swallowed The Canary” by BradyGirl)!


J’onn!  Who cannot love J’onn?  His shape-shifting from Groucho Marx to Bugs Bunny to an Indian to Mike Hammer is priceless!  As is the fact that he’s drinking HotSpot soda just as the ads say he should!  J


J’onn loves movies and TV and he is just a fanboy at heart!


J’onn is wonderfully realized in this book, and I even got to respect and like King Faraday through his friendship with the Martian Manhunter.


Other goodies:


Batman’s ‘new look’ is a subtle answer to the kidnapped child being scared to death of him as he attempts to untie the boy after rescuing him in a pre-Robin chapter.  It parallels his RL journey, as his image was ‘softened’ by bringing in Robin, because his character was deemed ‘too grim’ in his first year of existence.


The scene on the moon!  The Phantom Stranger and Zatanna host the Spectre and Dr. Fate as Billy Batson eats ice cream.  J  It’s such a wonderful scene that in addition to the Clark/Bruce/Dick meeting, I have an idea inspired by that scene for a series I’m planning under the umbrella title of ‘The New Frontier’ (gee, original, eh? ;) ) 


The Flash is fantastic in this.  I love how he defeated Captain Cold in Las Vegas, which, by the way, is a fantastic chapter that brings together so much of the ‘50s: the prizefight, the Space Age-inspired club, the appearances by JSA people and others important to the DC mythos.


And we get to see Speedy in a few panels!  J  Green Arrow has an important role in the final scenes, too.


The little touches in this book are marvelous: a sailor reading Mickey Spillane’s I, The Jury, and Movietone News and a zillion other things I could mention!  J


I loved the way that JFK’s 1960 speech ends the book, and we get to see the Titans, Supergirl, the Metal Men, the Doom Patrol, etc., as a New Frontier dawns.


And what about the Notes section?  It’s a marvelous look at how Darwyn Cooke used certain characters or items from the past, and how the story and individual chapters were conceived, both in words and pictures.


My only headshake here is that when he describes an alternate ending in which Clark recovers on a tropical island after his encounter with the Centre under the care of Arthur (Aquaman), they talk about the human race and the whole thing was very low-key and introspective.  Cooke decided he wanted a more upbeat ending.  Unfortunately, he had to say that the first ending was ‘too gay’, even though the used the Seinfeld ‘not that there’s anything wrong with that’.  Sigh.  I loved you 100%, Darwyn, until you had to put that derogatory use of ‘gay’ in there.  Now I guess I’ll love you a little less, because, you see, you could have just said it was too low-key, etc., instead of using the word ‘gay’ that way.  Like the way it’s often used today: ‘that’s so gay’, meaning something negative and derogatory.


Just my opinion, folks!  Maybe you saw that comment differently.


But, in a positive response, I’m definitely going to have write that scene on the island, because it does look gay and is perfect for a slash writer!  Clark’s bare-chested (so is Arthur, of course), Clark’s got beard stubble, he’s drinking from coconuts and using his cape as a flag, and Arthur is making sure he’s taken care of!  ;)


So, I guess if you enjoy The New Frontier, you might enjoy the stories I’m cooking up!  









Tags: darwyn cooke, retro girl, the new frontier
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