Since my comic book shop is about an hour away, I usually go every few weeks to pick up my pull list. This past Friday, I made the trek down to get my pulls for the past couple of weeks. While there, I wanted to find some new books to check out, and I asked someone if they had any suggestions. They pointed me to two new series: Tom King and Elsa Charretier’s Love Everlasting and Chrissy Williams and Lauren Knight’s Golden Rage. Each series caught my attention for various reasons. Love Everlasting follows Joan Peterson, a woman trapped in a series of romance comics, reminiscent of Golden Age romance comics that in some ways reminds me of some aspects of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Criminal: The Last of the Innocent. Kelly Sue DeConnick labels Golden Rage as “Battle Royale meets The Golden Girls with dashes of Agatha Christie and Logan’s Run.” Needless to say, each of these premises appealed to me before I even read the inaugural issues.
At some point, I want to write some about Love Everlasting, but today I want to look at the first issue of Golden Rage because even though I have so many questions still the first issue promises that the series will address a myriad of important issues, specifically through its direct confrontation with the ways that society views aging, womanhood, and more. Before we even open the issue, these themes become apparent, not just through the title of the series but also through the images and the quote on the back of the issue. Lauren Knight’s regular cover shows an older woman’s cut and bloodied hands, out in front of her as in supplication with a “Grandma” bracelet on her left wrist. Tula Latoy’s variant cover, which I picked up, shows a muscular, older woman, dirtied and bloody, carrying another woman on her shoulders. Each of these images highlight, in different ways, strength and fight. Even though the regular cover has hands lowered, and blood dripping from them, we see fight conjoined with sorrow. With the variant, we see the strength of the woman, who we learn is Rosie, carrying the other woman, who we learn is Jay, through battle.
Along with these images, the back cover contains a quote from Dorothy from the Golden Girls season one episode “Adult Education.” It reads, “No! No, I will not have a nice day.” In the episode, Dorthy says this to a ticket agency who has had her on hold for a long time only to tell her that the Frank Sinatra concert she is trying to get tickets for is sold out. Within the context of the scene, this quote plays as a joke, a frustrated moment where the ticket agency has wasted her time merely to tell her she can’t buy any tickets. However, within the broader context of the episode, and then carrying into Golden Rage, the quote has another meaning.
The Sinatra concert is the b-story in “Adult Education.” The main action involves Blanche going to night school and taking a psychology class so she can get a promotion at work. Unmotivated, Blanche doesn’t do well on her midterm and she speaks with her professor. The professor tells her that he will give her a passing grade if he sleeps with her. Blanche goes to the dean, but the dean says he can’t do anything because there weren’t any witnesses. So, Blanche studies hard and takes the test; however, when she turns the test in, the professor asks her if she has made a decision about whether or not she’ll sleep with him. Blanche tells him no. Even after all of this, another woman at Blanche’s office gets the promotion because she had plastic surgery to get the attention of the boss.
Thinking about Dorthy’s quote in this context, we can read it in relation to the misogynistic attitudes and actions of the professor, to the lack of action from the dean, to the sexist attitudes of Blanche’s employer. At each turn, Blanche experiences degradation due to her gender and to her age. She is expected to “have a nice day,” to push it down and move along. It is within this context that we need to think about Dorthy’s quote in relation to Golden Rage.
The intersections of aging, womanhood, and the commodification of women gets introduced on the opening page where Jay narrates arriving on the island unexpectedly. In the three-panel sequence which moves from an image of the island to a close up of Jay’s face to Jay standing amidst “old women” fighting each other, Jay ruminates on each of these issues. She tells us, “People always told me age demands respect. But the people who told me that? They were all old. Everything I saw around me told a different story. Old women were weak. Old women especially. I never wanted to get old — ” Within Jay’s narration lies her fear of aging and her examination of herself as a woman within society. She scoffs at the idea of respecting our elders because the ones saying that are the elders. She comments on the ways that society views older women, relegating them to weakness and deeming them obsolete because they cannot bear children or work. And she concludes that she never wants to get discarded.
During the battle, Rosie saves Jay and takes her to the lighthouse that she shares with Lottie and Caroline. In the panel that introduces us to the lighthouse, we see the structure, a light in the entrance carved into the rock and seagulls encircling it as Jay says, “That was my introduction to the island. Back then, I was so busy focusing on myself that I didn’t realise it was never about me at all.” Here, Jay’s thoughts begin to shift. While on the opening page, she thinks merely about herself, even thinking about her fears of aging, her she comes to think about community and the ways that the women she encounters create community. It becomes something much more, and while we do not know, based on everything the first issue, what that will look like, we get a glimpse of it within the interactions between Rosie, Lottie, and Caroline.
I don’t want to give too much away, partly because I still have so many question that will be answered in the upcoming issues. However, I do want to point out a couple of things I’m really interested in learning about more as the series progresses. For one, Caroline mentions being a creative writing professor at one point, and I’m extremely interested in seeing how her backstory may play out in the future in relation to art, work, and more. As well, I’m looking forward to finding out about Mary, a character who we have not met but who lingers on the page, out of sight and in the memories of Rosie, Lottie, and Caroline. What happened to her? Did the Red Hats have anything to do with it? Who are the Red Hats? These are all questions I’m thinking about.
What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @silaslapham.