Every Thursday on her blog, American Fantasy author Jane Lindskold hosts a conversation with a reader from New Zealand. Then, every Friday, she shares what books she's been reading lately. Last week's conversation covered how readers often judge older stories by contemporary values, and criticize such works if they fail to live up to current standards. On Friday, I shared with Jane Lindskold the novels I had read that week in her Comments section. Given their discussion, I thought it would be fun to judge these novels as critics might if they had been written today.
1) Omoo by Herman Melville. (Published 1847) No strong female characters. Whaling Industry Employees stereotyped as layabouts and scoundrels. Assessment: Must be rewritten for today's diversity-conscious readers.
2) Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich. (Published 2015) Stephanie seems more capable than ever before. Her mother reveals herself as a kick-ass heroine. Morelli portrayed as weak and fragile. Conclusion: suitable for today's readers.
3) Nova Classic: Volume 1 by Marv Wolfman. (A graphic novel, made up of comics published in the 1970s). Early adventures of Nova, who gained his powers from the Nova Corps on Xandar, as shown in the recent movie "Guardians of the Galaxy." Bronze Age superhero fare in the tradition of Stan Lee's early Spider-Man stories. Sadly lacking in strong female superheroes, naked people, or characters with TV sets for heads. Warning: Reading Volume 1 could lead you to purchase Volume 2.
With regard to Nova, my remark regarding a lack of naked people, or characters with TV sets as heads, was intended as tongue-in-cheek. One of the books Jane Lindskold listed in her weekly reads was a graphic novel compilation of issues of Saga, a Science Fiction comic book series geared to adults. I read the first issue, and a few later ones, and didn't feel attracted to the story, let alone such outrageous character types. But others find value in it. Not only is the series successful, but the first graphic novel compilation of Saga issues won the prestigious Hugo award in the Best Graphic Story category.
Regular readers may remember my posts on Sam Alexander, the newest Human to bear the mantle of Nova on Earth. Sam is a fun character, created by author Jeph Loeb, and subsequent writers have preserved the young boy's charm. His adventures tug at the heart, as he seeks to defend Earth, find his father (a retired Nova who has gone missing), and keep up his grades in school. These stories, while original in themselves, build upon the stories contained in Nova Classic: Volume 1, in which Marv Wolfman introduced readers to High School student Richard Rider.
When a dying Nova Corps agent arrives in Earth orbit, he transfers his powers to Richard. Like his successor, Richard would fight to defend his fellow Humans from super villains, preserve a family struggling financially, and keep up his grades. Unlike Sam, he had close friends, and when those friends were threatened, he used his powers to come to their aid. Also unlike Sam, Marv Wolfman created new villains to fight his new superhero. There's even one episode where Richard flies to the Marvel Comics office in New York, and tries to convince actual writers, artists, and production staff to portray his real life adventures in their comics. Who should ultimate axe this brilliant idea? No one other than Marvel's sunny Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee!
With its preponderance of male heroes, villains, and supporting characters, Nova Classic may not represent contemporary readers' hunger for strong, female characters. But it's a lot of fun, and shines a light on life in the 1970s. Unlike Saga, it features no nude characters, or people with TV sets for heads. But hey, it features special appearances by Marv Wolfman and Stan-the-Man Lee. And really, what could be better than that?
Related Dragon Cache entries
Falling in Love with a New Nova: Part 1
Falling in Love with a New Nova: Part 2
Related Internet Links
Jane Lindskold's blog