Nicole Embrey

Nicole is currently an adjunct English instructor at various community colleges. Aspiring to be more than just a teacher, she likes to say she is a "storyteller in training." The stories bouncing around in her head range from a collection of mythical "creature features" to an intensely personal (yet fictional) story about ghosts and clairvoyance. In her spare time, she absorbs anything pop culture, often jumping into new fandoms with reckless abandon. In fact, she is a proud rêveur (which simply means her favorite book is Night Circus).

From Amora to Zatanna: October

Finally, comic fans, the discussion you have all been waiting for! The Hawkeye Initiative! In the blog I posted two months ago, I discussed the comic art trend dubbed “broken back” women. Many comic artists, typically male artists, have a tendency to illustrate women with anatomically incorrect bodies. The up-to-date tumblr blog known as “Escher Girls” is definitely a page to check out for more discussion about this trend, especially if you’re looking for a particularly overused body trope, such as “helicopter legs” and “serpentine torso.”

From this trend came another, incredibly humorous trend dubbed the Hawkeye Initiative. Before getting into the components, let me try to contextualize this a bit in comic history. It started with the arrival of  the first Avenger’s cinematic poster. In this original promo poster (which is not incredibly hard to find), all the men are facing forward and appear ready for battle, whereas Black Widow, the only woman in the Avenger’s roster at the time, had her back turned towards the camera as she suggestively looks over her shoulder. This was most likely a publicity stunt to infuse the poster with more sexual appeal, and what has more sex appeal the Scarlett Johansson’s bottom?! Naturally, not all comic fans were amused and the promotional poster was quickly changed.


But from this original poster came the birth of a fantastic trend many of us in the comic community have come to love, and some have even cosplayed! The Hawkeye Initiative began with the character Hawkeye being redrawn in the various suggestive and sexualized poses that his female counterparts are typically drawn in. While Hawkeye is the primary hero placed in these hilarious poses, it has extended out to include the entire Avenger’s cast, plus many heroes from the DC universe.

But on a serious note, why is it that we laugh at these hilarious portrayals of men and not of women? unnamedWhy is it acceptable for a heroine to have her back broken to appear more attractive? These questions have been sparked thanks, in part, to the Hawkeye Initiative and has slowly made the comic community realize the unfair treatment of women characters in comparison to men characters. Perhaps this is also why both DC and Marvel have been looking for more women interested in writing or illustrating comics to jump aboard their creative teams. Now is my chance!

If you want to see more images pertaining to the Hawkeye Initiative, a quick Google search or tumble through Tumblr should yield some hilarious, yet poignant, results. As for me? I’m off to Day 1 of Stan Lee’s Comikaze. Sandman’s Death has entered the building. Until next month!

From Amora to Zatanna: September


werthampicwithcriminalOh, hello there comic fans! Now, I know I promised a blog dedicated to the wonders that is the Hawkeye Initiative, but I would be remiss if I didn’t write a blog related to Banned Books Week, which (as luck would have it) is this week. So allow me a moment to briefly relay some comic history, and I promise some levity at Hawkeye’s expense (or benefit?) can proceed next month.

I don’t think comic fans are at all foreign to the tired argument that comics are not literature. However, what many fans may be unaware of is the recent push by English scholars across the country to change this perception. Libraries (both public and private university) are dedicating shelf space to comics and graphic novels, while folklorists are recognizing the legitimacy of comics as an American cultural artifact. Heck, teachers are even assigning them in classrooms now because they believe comics engage students on a more sophisticated level by illustrating words in conjunction with visuals elements. With such a dramatic changes taking place in the academic field, one begins to wonder why comics were written off in the first place. And I believe I might have an answer.

Shortly after the Golden Age of Comics and just prior to the Silver Age, comics underwent extensive scrutiny. German psychiatrist, Fredric Wertham, strongly believed that comics were harming the mental development of young children during the 1950s. He did not believe that the reading material did not provide enough stimulus, rather he felt it provided too much! In his book Seduction of the Innocent, released in 1954, he explains how comics promote violence, hyper-sexuality, homosexuality, and even pedophilia through subversive and subliminal means. The grotesque scenes depicted in the EC comic Tales From the Crypt, and the potentially homosexual and pedophiliac relationship between Batman and Robin was enough to throw considered parents in a tizzy.


From Amora to Zatanna: August

From Amora to Zatanna: July Our monthly run down on the comic book world, by our very own Nicole Neitzke.

Well there you have it comic fans! I give kudos to the almighty Marvel and they release the controversial image by the Italian erotica illustrator, Milo Manara, of Spider Woman in a highly suggestive pose. This image is an alternate cover to the newly rebooted “Spider Woman #1” comic franchise and man, did it piss off comic fans! This is just another example of a continuing discussion in the comic community: super heroines are over-sexualized! However, I’m not going to re-hash the same conversation I’m sure many of us have already read regarding this image and topic. Instead, I decided to dedicate this blog to some light hearted japery directed at the comic community. I had it recently brought to my attention by an artist friend just how inaccurate the physiology of these super heroines are, so I decided to post images about a current artistic trend feminists have lovingly called “the broken back.”

This trend is two-fold: it can either relate to a women who are illustrated with not only their full face and bust visible, but both butt cheeks as well; or it can be related to the exaggerated bust to hip disproportions, which hints at back problems due to the weight. This isn’t to say that these body shapes are not possible, mind you, just that our suspension of disbelief for a world populated by these types of woman almost exclusively is stretching it. Without further ado, “the broken back.”

Starting with DC, Catwoman


From Amora to Zatanna: July


Alight comic fans, let’s get right to it this month. Where DC’s “New 52” is just failing in the reboot comic department, “Marvel Now” is kicking ass and taking names. Here are just a few ways Marvel Now is progressing with the ideals mass and geek culture seem to be adopting for themselves:


1) Brian Wood’s and Olivier Coipel’s all-female team for X-Men:

When initially announced, many fans believed it to be a publicity stunt akin to Marvel Divas back in 2009. However, the tight storytelling of Wood and non-sexualized artistry of Coipel has given us a comic series featuring the badass X-(wo)men we have all come to love and admire. The content not only engages the once hidden female comic audience, but your basic male comic audience as well, proving that stories focused solely on women protagonists can be just as exciting as any other story featuring men. Plus, how can you not celebrate the return of Storm’s 80s mohawk?


2) Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel:

Again, the initial announcement of this title was met with criticism. Many groups were thrown by the Muslim American heritage of the new protagonist, claiming the comic to be some type of propaganda. But it is this exact reaction that illustrates the necessity for this comic heroine! Not only is she a woman of color, who are severely underrepresented in most popular culture, but she is a Muslim American. This comic was intended to dispel many of the common misconceptions held by various groups in the US about Muslim Americans and confront them with the truth that they are just like any other American citizen.


From Amora to Zatanna: June


Welcome back comic fans! powThis month’s blog is actually going to add to the writerly advice this Poetics Project group tends to publish. In particular, this blog is going to be a “Beginner’s Guide” to breaking into the comic business as a writer, assuming that many of you out there are in fact writers. As I may have mentioned in earlier blogs, I want to write some comics/graphic novels myself and dove into researching various comic houses. Now I must admit that I am still learning some of the ins and outs of this business myself, but below are some of the factoids I have found thus far on my own. But first, some realities:

1) Being an aspiring comic writer is tough. It’s likely that you will never work for the big comic houses that are Marvel and DC, but it is possible to produce some work and eventually transfer over to their creative crew.

2) It’s also likely you will not get picked up as a solo writer. Not many houses accept unsolicited work. Furthermore, you will have more luck being hired by comic companies if you are a part of a creative crew. What these means is you need to know illustrators, inkers, colorists, letterer… so make those friendships now!

From Amora to Zatanna: May


David Goyer imageOkay comic fans, fasten your seat belts for yet another comic junkie rant! A recent Podcast known as Scriptnotes released Episode 144: “The Summer Superhero Spectacular” on May 20, which showcased a extremely controversial comic-talk featuring David Goyer. David Goyer is both writer and producer of various DC movie titles like the recently named Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. This topic has been widely discussed by various bloggers and the conclusion many seem to agree on is one of pure outrage. However, there are still some out there who “don’t get what the big deal is” and felt that Goyer was merely joking. As a result, I thought it wise to explain WHY there was such an outrage with his comments throughout the interview and illustrate how he managed to offend just about everyone. Let’s get started:

1) She-Hulk as a Pornstar: Forget Feminism!

Shehulk1stComic fans who are also women were particularly outraged by this comment, and rightfully so. When it comes to strong women role models in the comic realm, it is fair to say that Wonder Woman for DC and She-Hulk for Marvel are likely the most cited. She-Hulk is the go to attorney for the Avengers and is wicked intelligent besides. As many bloggers have also cited, she is able to control her emotional state while in Hulk-mode, something her male counterpart still struggles with. The team depends on her intelligence just as much as her physical strength. So when Goyer remarks “let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could fuck,” he strips away the power that was built into the character and has inspired so many women reading her comics. And this agency was built into the character, just ask Stan Lee: “I know I was looking for a new female superhero, and the idea of an intelligent Hulk-type grabbed me.” Furthermore, Goyer’s comments discourage women from entering the comic community, which is a problem we have been facing for quite some time now. We are either “a fake geek girl” because we do not yet know every minute detail about all superheroes, probably because we are constantly assaulted with tests of knowledge when we enter a comic store, or we are “sluts” because we accurately cosplay the heroines we enjoy, which is our fault not the illustrators. So for an iconic, and yes feminist, role model to be degraded to an “extension of the male power fantasy” just excludes the emerging women comic fans all the more. Let’s see what he does with Wonder Woman, right ladies?

2) You Like Martian Manhunter? Clearly You Are a Stereotypical Virgin.

From Amora to Zatanna: April


Welcome back comic fans. This month I decided to crack open my laptop and ransack the Marvel Database for some information on the more obscure superheroes. This month, I decided to look into the spunky blonde X-men member Magik, aka Illyana Raspuntina.Illyana_Rasputina_(Earth-616)_Uncanny_X-Men_vol_3_4_cover

While her background is seriously expansive and fascinating, I will highlight five particularly awesome attributes here. Let’s get started:

1) Illyana is the sister of another mutant of the X-men, Colossus (aka Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin): As some might have noticed, Colossus and Magik share a last name. While they have another older brother, who is also a mutant, it is the relationship of these two that the comics illustrate in great, loving detail. The closeness between them is one of the more touching relationships in the Marvel Universe as Magik is infected by the Legacy Virus, which later kills her, and Colossus leaves the X-men to find out how to save his sister, and later how to resurrect her. She returns this love as she coaches her brother, who has become the new Juggernaut, on controlling his need for destruction. The two even become a part of the Phoenix Five and help Cyclops “peacefully” enslave mankind. How sweet! loveit

From Amora to Zatanna: March


iris_v3-02c-torque_retHello, hello, comic fans! Time for more comic talk with yours truly. Today, I wanted to talk about some other comic franchises outside of the dynamic duo that is DC and Marvel. In particular, I want to talk about Aspen Comics.

Aspen Comics is a small comic franchise that focuses primarily on female protagonists to drive their stories. Pretty awesome, right? Sure these women are sometimes sexualized…

Okay, maybe that happens more frequently than I care to admit. However, these stories are genuinely interesting and worth following. While I have not yet read all the comic arcs of this franchise, I would like to discuss three here:

1) Executive Assistant Iris: This follows the story of a very enigmatic woman who appears to be an expert assassin, which in this comic world are referred to as Executive Assistants. Iris is a very tough, monotone woman who focuses solely on the task at hand. Many of the other characters in this comic arc are women as well, including the antagonists. I have only just begun reading this series and already want to know more about her past, which is shrouded in a thick fog of mystery.

BubbleGun-01f-HeroesCon2) Bubblegun: Bubblegun is a cyberpunk comic that recounts the misadventures of Molli, a novice to mercenary heists. She is part of a team run by her sister, Devyn, and finds that she has to grow up quickly if she wants to save her and the team from rival mercenary companies. Plucky and mischievous, this multicolored hair girl is just so fun to read!

3) Lady Mechanika: Let me begin by stating that this comic arc is a rare treasure. While a part of the Aspen Comic fold, it is not listed on their website as part of their canon. This work is incredibly hard to find in hard copy and is only on issue 4, with following issues taking up to a year or longer to be released! Regardless, this steampunk-influenced story is captivating. Writer and illustrator, Joe Benitez, takes great pride in his work and wants this series to be nothing short of spectacular, and it is for this reason that I use his verbiage to describe this wondrous woman: “The tabloids dubbed her ‘Lady Mechanika,’ the sole survivor of a serial killer’s three-year rampage through England. Authorities found her locked in an abandoned laboratory amidst an undeterminable number of corpses and body parts, lm0bFULLher own limbs having been amputated and replaced with mechanical components. With no memory of her captivity or her former life, Mechanika eventually built a new life for herself as a private detective, using her unique abilities to solve cases the police couldn’t or wouldn’t handle. But she never stopped searching for the answers to her own past. Set in turn of the century England, a time when magic and superstition clashed with new scientific discoveries and inventions, Lady Mechanika is about a young woman’s search for her own identity as she solves other mysteries involving science and the supernatural.”

These are only three stories I have begun reading myself. However, there are many more listed at this website. Aspen Comics are sold at select stores only, but the phone/tablet application and website comixology allows you to download digital copies of their stock. Check them out and show them support will ya? Until next time!

From Amora to Zatanna: February



It’s that time again, comic fans, for another installment of “From Amora to Zatanna with Nicole!” For those who have been keeping up, last month I mentioned how DC is royally messing up their franchise and I thought I would explain why in this month’s blog. Five reasons why, to be exact. All these reasons are tied to the abomination that is the “New 52!” DC reboot initiative. Let’s get started:

1. Shipping Superman and Wonder Woman

“But is this really that bad?” Yes it is, because of the mythology behind these characters. Superman is in love with humanity, thus the relationship between Lois Lane and him. This relationship was not only witty and fun to watch develop, but symbolic of Superman’s deep love for everything human, and possibly even his psychological need to fit in. Wonder Woman comes from a land of Amazons, making her born independent from any patriarch and apt to become the ultimate feminist icon she is deemed today. This isn’t to say that a romantic relationship for a feminist icon automatically makes her “no longer feminist,” but something about pairing her with the ultimate masculine symbol leaves a bad taste in the mouth.


From Amora to Zatanna: January

THENicolecolumnbannerHello again comic fans! This is your comic blogger here with a more serious matter. As a new writer to this blog, I expressed last month that I was a comic junkie, but what I did not menton then was how important I think they are not only as popular culture, but as literature.

Now stay with me here, because while I cannot go into a huge dissertation as to why I believe comics can serve as literature, I am going to briefly share some feelings here today.

What prompted me to write this was an article recently published on theguardian. It was an interview with comic legend Alan Moore and his reasoning for leaving the public realm of comics for good. He addressed such concerns as his supposed “racism” and “sexism,” but, for the time being, that was not what caught my attention. Moore opens his interview by stating “To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence. It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics.”