Friday, February 26, 2010

Female Force by Neil Bailey, Ryan Howe, Mike Adams and others

"Female Force" is a series published by Bluewater comics, containing biographies of famous women. This graphic novel reprints the first four issues in the series, focussed on women in Politics: Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Caroline Kennedy.

Michelle Obama is first up. Author Bailey starts out by telling readers that when Barack Obama was elected, he was truly electrified, knowing he was seeing history happen- and Michelle was equally an architect of making her husband's Presidency happen, But during his campaign, lies were circulated about her, lies the author puts right. First is that she was a child of privilege, something that just isn't the case. Her father was a janitor and did his best for the party he worked for. Many claimed he got his job through cronyism, but if he did, why a janitor? Why not some other political job that would have paid more?

Other topics tackled are her thesis, which most of the people who speak out against it have only mined for quotes that can make her seem anti-American. Not only did she collect the statistics personally, but she spent much time working pro bono for not only poor blacks but poor whites, and encouraged both to live in harmony. One should actually read her words before attacking her- don't listen to what someone else says about them. Read them first, with an open mind, and then judge.

Next is Hillary Clinton, who got an incredible amount of flack for trying to be more than just a first lady who smiled and stood by her man, serving tea and entertaining the wives of visiting dignitaries while her husband did all the work. While many people are convinced that they know everything about Hillary Clinton, I was surprised to learn that she started out a Republican, and worked the campaign for Barry Goldwater when she was just a teenager, However, after the turbulent 60's, she ended up a Democrat after she re-examined what each political party then stood for.

When she was first lady, she was constantly attacked by those who opposed her husband, Bill. Most of them thought she should shut up and go back to raising her daughter and leave the job of running the country to the real men. She's not without fault and made some definite missteps in her political career, both when her husband was in the White House and when she was campaigning for the Presidency, but she was able to put aside her defeat and wholeheartedly support Barack Obama after losing the Democratic nomination to him- not something that many members of any political party could say.

Sarah Palin has become a notorious figure in American Politics, a lightning rod for both political parties. And even though Neal Bailey is unabashedly liberal, he tries his best to show Sarah Palin as she really is- Folksy, yes, a straight speaker, yes, but also vindictive, and at the time of her nomination for the Office of Vice President, completely unsuited for the post- she didn't know what the duties of the Vice President were, and her interviews with the press brought her almost nothing but censure, because it was obvious she was lying. Saying she read magazines and when asked which ones, she replied, "All of them," made her look disingenuous and she seemed to believe that America was gullible enough to believe her.

And even when McCain lost, she was rocked by scandals that even those of her own party agreed she was in the wrong on, such as Troopergate and the report from the Republican Alaskan Legislative Council in which they said she had abused the power of her office. Later, she quit her job and left office- why is not immediately clear, and the reader is left to make up their own mind on Sarah Palin.

Last in the book is something of a non-starter, politically, although she has links to politicians past. She's Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier, who later married Aristotle Onassis. Her brother was Jon, Jr. (who died in a plane crash with his young wife), so she is the last remaining member of the dynasty of Camelot. But unlike her father and brother, she's cared less about Politics than doing good works and making sure that underpriviledged kids have the materials to read.

Her closest brush with Politics came after her endorsement of Barack Obama for President. It was claimed that she would be offered the position of Secretary of State in his new cabinet. But before she could even be considered, she withdrew herself from consideration. Like her or not, she's spent her life in supporting kids learning to read, and reading. What could be less controversial than that?

When I first saw the cover of this book, it made me sick to my stomach. I thought it was going to be a superhero group composed of the Presidential First Ladies as some kind of hero or superhero group. I tried to imagine Sarah Palin working with Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton, and I just couldn't. I think other readers will admit, though, that "Female Force" does sound like some kind of Superhero group. I thought it might be a parody like the "Ex-Presidents".

The fact that it's a bunch of comics biographies of women in politics didn't even cross my mind, but I did want to check it out. I admit it, I was quite surprised. But pleasantly so. Each issue is rather short- 22 pages, more or less, and covers each woman's life from childhood to the present of whenever the comic was published. The research done on each woman is astounding, and managed to tell me things I didn't know about each woman covered- like Hillary Clinton originally being a Republican. Even when the author disagrees with the politics and views of the women he is writing about, he does try to bend over backwards to be scrupulously fair to each.

While Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton are very well known to most people who follow politics, I wasn't all that aware of Caroline Kennedy (yes, she married Edward Schlossberg, but she kept her own name- something that dismayed both her mother and the mother of the groom). It was interesting to read each issue.

The artwork is mostly well-doe but occasionally faces look grotesque. The cover is well done, the interior art, not as well. Michelle Obama's art is the best drawn, but all the subjects don't look like themselves more than occasionally, lapsing into carticature in picture form. But overall, this isn't a bad graphic novel, and one I would certainly recommend for those wishing to know more about the person depicted.

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