Whiteout: Comic Adventures in Antarctica

Just wanted to clear things up – this is not a blog about the ingenius correction fluid otherwise known as “liquid paper” created by a secretary Bette Nesmith Graham – mother of Monkees alumni Michael Nesmith.

Nope – this is about “Whiteout” the comic book written by Greg Rucka and artist Steve Leiber.

This series was originally suggested to me by one of the producers of Villanelle – Hisham. At one of our meetings, he produced a stack of comic books that he thought I’d be interested in reading, given my proclivity towards strong female characters (well written of course). It was only the first issue or so, and I set it in a pile, intrigued, but most likely distracted by shiney objects.

Well – during the 100 degree weather stint this weekend, Dan and I ran some errands about town to get out of our stuffy condo and into some air conditioning. I happened upon both “Whiteout” and it’s sister “Whiteout: Melt” at one of the library branches.

My new ploy is to visit the graphic novel section of whatever public library branch I’m at and scour their pickings. So far it’s yielded some positive results. But there’s been a lot more drek than diamonds.

Getting back to it: I was drawn to the book.

The story for “Whiteout” follows Carrie Stetko, a U.S. Marshal working at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and her investigation of a murder which takes place there.

What immediately struck me about the artwork and the character of Carrie Stetko in particular is that she is not beautiful or even conventionally attractive. She is short – has “scraggily” hair – and a full figure. It’s rare to see “full-figured” or even short women in comic books (even though they are making appearances on television shows – America Ferrera and Sara Ramirez being two examples). It’s even rarer to see them in lead roles. I was pleased, to say the least to find that Rucka/Leiber were willing to bypass convention to tell a more realistic story.

What was not so pleasing – the untactful insinuations that Carrie is a lesbian by nearly all the men around her. That she is frigid because she won’t put out. Granted, she is frigid, but by location and circumstance, not by sexual desire or orientation. And of course in this particular remote setting and environment, these kinds of things would REALLY get said. The reality is there, I’m not denying that.

But – as people remind me quite often – movies, TV and comic books have very little to do with reality. So – having men question Carrie about her sexual orientation IS annoying. And here’s why: whenever a strong female character is introduced, her sexuality has to be established before we can start to take her seriously. She needs to prove herself to the characters around her, as well as the audience – before most of the action can take place. And mostly – she has to prove that she loves the cock in order to be taken seriously.

Of course – Carrie rises to the ocassion and confronts their accusations at every turn without answering them or accepting them. Her way of dealing with the situation of being 1 of 2 women with 400 men trapped on the ice definitely is a credit to her character.

But if it was a dude, there would be no question. He would be tough from panel one, and that would be it.

Thusly – my irritation.

The artistry was well done, and forced me to experience the punishing cold of the Arctic along with the characters. There was consistency (SO important), and I didn’t find myself missing the color (it was done entirely in black and white) or wondering what the hell was happening on a certain panel. The clarity was there, and the tension was real in several scenes. The violence was never gratuitous and the human emotion – sometimes obscured under layers of protective gear – still shown clearly from every panel.

My personal favorite sequences were the nearly wordless fighting scenes while Carrie is on the guideline in the blizzard. Impressively enough – many of the sequences managed to eek by with a minimum amount of dialogue or voice-over.

“Whiteout: Melt” takes place more on the ice – and so the minimal word usage is most apparent in the second book. It allows the scenery to become a character itself, and the environment to take the forefront – with Carrie’s voice-over adding a much-need human element to this alien climate. Really good stuff.

The books, both of them, come highly reccomended.

Now – there is going to be a film. Starring Kate Beckinsale. She is: thin, tall, and easy on the eyes. There is also no hint of toughness about her what-so-ever. I would not look at Kate Beckinsale’s body of work and say, “yeah, she could play a hard-core US Marshal holding it down in the wilds of Antarctica.” The idea behind Carrie being STRONG – is that she can physically handle herself around STRONG men.

That being said – Jennifer Garner would have been more believable (but not my personal choice). The sad thing is, there are no short, mildly attractive, full-figured women in Hollywood who could play this role. The very closest would have been Christina Ricci. If she put on about 20 or 30 lbs of fat/muscle.

But Christina Ricci alone cannot sell a film – I get that. Most women – alone – cannot sell a film. It’s an ugly reality that is sometimes true, and sometimes not. Just depending on the whims of whoever is helming the engines of Popular Culture at the time.

But two women leads could have sold it – methinks. Which leads to..

ANOTHER GRIPE: They changed the female British Agent – Lily Sharpe, into a male UN operative played by Gabriel Macht. I really dug the whole dynamic between the two female officers. It was like a be-grudging buddy movie. It was not sexual tension that drove them, just a desire to help the other solve the “mystery” (which really isn’t THAT mysterious) and make it through the event alive. There is a kind of comraderie between these women that rarely is shown in popular culture, which was very engaging to me.

Rucka completely avoided the lesbian trap with these two, which I have to give him credit for. I thought he was initially gunning for it, but realized about 2/3rds in that the connection between the two was not attraction, rather compassion for each person’s situation. Good stuff Rucka. Gold Star.

And now that entire dynamic has been lost. No doubt substituted by some cheesy ass romance between the man and the woman. Yawn. They will have sex. Or something. Blah.

The movie, for all intents and purposes – is done. It’s just sitting “on ice” (sorry, it was too easy) until October of 2008. Why?

Cause all the summer dick movies get to trot out before the winter chick movies. And they obviously haven’t placed much value or opinion in it’s ability to compete against Hulk, Batman or similar ilk.

I will most likely watch this movie in theatres, but my potential level of enjoyment is fairly iffy from this vantage point. Damn you Hollywood!

Do yourself a favor though – check these books out. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are – keep it to yourself. 😉

Much Love, Mindy C

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

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