I love comics. In no way should this be a surprise to anyone who’s given this blog more than a passing glance. I also love television a lot, and when the two happen to overlap you can be assured that you have my undivided attention.
Yesterday I wrote a little bit about Bleeding Cool’s response to The Big Bang Theory episode “The Bakersfield Expedition”, half of which revolved around the premise that the show’s female cast would be entering a place traditionally closed off to their gender. I was able to catch the show last night and have many thoughts, but my ultimate conclusion is this: It really wasn’t that bad.
The guys, Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard are all off to the Bakersfield Comic-Con, so the girls enjoy their weekend alone by having brunch [an idea celebrated by the character we all know is an alcoholic, Penny]. While sitting around and enjoying their croissants and mimosas, Amy states that she doesn’t get why the guys go to these conventions. To which Penny responds:
“The four of them work at a major university, they’re all super smart, how can they still be into something made for 12-year-olds?”
Which did not please me. Having given it a second viewing, however, I realize that it’s a believable response and the perspective many people still have on the medium today. Bernadette suggests that they try to become a part of their significant others’ lives by seeing what the big deal with comics is, and soon they’re all off to their LCS [local comic store].
As the promo advertised, the following does indeed happen:
But it’s a quick gag that thankfully doesn’t overstay its welcome. Owner of the store and new series-regular Stuart is quick to chastise his socially awkward clientele and is soon talking to the girls about comic book recommendations.
Amy’s direct approach of asking “Alright, well who’s the best super hero?” and Stuart’s haste to nip that line of questioning in the bud was fantastic. There isn’t really any media that’s cut and dry as far as what “the best” is, and his whispered “What do you want to do, start a riot?” communicated well that this is a pretty contentious topic in certain circles.
Stuart also does a great job in saying that there are many different kinds of comics, and a little later on that there are different types of super heroes as well. The character really shines when he recommends to the ladies the incredible Fables #1, about which he says:
“The artwork is sophisticated, it’s intelligently written and it doesn’t objectify or stereotype women.”
Unfortunately Penny ultimately chooses for the group when she looks over and sees an issue of Thor and notes that:
Back at the apartment Amy and Bernadette sit quietly as they wait for Penny to finish the twenty-or-so-page issue. The following exchange occurs:
Amy: “There was a lot of action, the story moved along at a brisk pace, it was overall, what’s the word I’m looking for?”
Amy: “So stupid.”
This upset me when I first watched it, but upon finding out the title was Thor, God of Thunder #2, written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Esad Ribic I was dumbfounded. The Big Bang Theory has always been really good about keeping their comics contemporary, and the stock in Stuart’s shop actively changes to keep up with what’s new on the stands, but this was something else entirely. Aaron’s new Marvel NOW! title follows the character as he grows from a young, brash god to the hero we all know today and then further on to his role as the future king of Asgard. It’s masterfully written, and features artwork like this jaw-dropping splash page [which also happens to be my current desktop wallpaper.
I’m willing to assume, probably correctly so, that the show was in no way actually referring to anything in the actual book [though it would not surprise me to have an entire page featuring the single word “Krakka-DOOM” in a Thor title].
Then, as the three gripe about the waste of time that is their boyfriends’ [and husband’s] pastime, Bernadette notes that “It’s crazy, they spend hours arguing about things that don’t even exist!” And then things get interesting. Penny mocks the idea of a “hammer so heavy that no one else can pick it up” and then before you know it the girls are deeply debating the fundamentals of who or what can wield Mjolnir.
A lot of good points are bandied back and forth, but the best is easily Penny’s observation that:
“If we were in outer space, anyone could pick up the hammer because it would be floating around in a weightless environment that’s right the slow reader used science suck on that.”
Wonderful. I say that without a trace of sarcasm.
After a fairly unenjoyable pan back to whatever it is the guys are doing we return to see that the girls are in Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment, eating takeout with comics strewn all around them. They are still talking about Thor’s hammer. Then the following exchange happens [and this is my last quote, I promise]:
Bernadette: Red Hulk must be worthy.
Penny: How can Red Hulk be worthy?
Bernadette: You don’t know his life!
If there was any laugh-out-loud moment of this entire episode that was it.
Coming away from watching “The Bakersfield Expedition” for the second time [which I did to write this post] I have to say that I quite enjoyed exactly half of it. Absolutely no part of me was invested in the guys trekking [ah ha] around the desert as a Federation landing party. What I was interested in was watching three characters, formerly wholly unfamiliar with comic books, arguing intensely about a matter which, and I’ll be honest, is not important in most senses of the word.
While The Big Bang Theory has often taken the nerdier passions and portrayed them in a fairly mockable light, it was certainly not so in this episode. Yes, comic books were referred to as something for twelve-year-olds, but Stuart does a great job in telling both the girls and the audience that it’s a broad, diverse medium that has beautiful illustrations and excellent writing, as well as a little eye candy for the ladies.
Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool thinks they did a passable job at addressing comics, but continues to assert that it’s still The Television Show That Hates [Comic Book Fans]. The episode review over at The A.V. Club’s TV Club actually referenced the Bleeding Cool movement [which you again read about in yesterday’s Fame Day post] and similar to what I did focused mainly on the girls’ plot for this episode. The comments section of that review go over the age old conversation of how the show treats its subject material and its potential audience, but that is another post for another day.
All I have to say is that I was pleasantly surprised by the episode, and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I also finally received the second volume of Mark Waid’s Daredevil, so this is not a day on which I can feel unhappy. Here’s another picture of Thor from Issue #4 of Aaron and Ribic’s title for all you lovely people.