CSI: Catherine Still Incompetent?

Visitors to the lair know that when I’m devoted to a show, I’m in it to win it until the very end. I’ll even follow you into continued “seasons” in book form if I’m really into you (which reminds me: I need to finish the “eighth season” of Deep Space Nine before I completely forget the first three books from the run). It’s no surprise, then, that I have continued to watch the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through every bump and dip the show has seen in recent years. And, even though I confess to no surprise from the announcement earlier this year that CBS had cancelled the series after 15 years, I still felt a pang of loss. This show has meant a great deal to me for myriad reasons—so much so that, even though it had become only a sliver of its former self, I mourned the inevitable loss of the comfort I took from its familiar presence in my life.

It was, therefore, with no small amount of sadness that I tuned in this past Sunday to watch the final 2-hour movie that CBS green-lit to wrap up story lines and give fans one final Vegas hurrah. The final movie was, indeed, written almost exclusively for those of us who had watched the show with any sense of religious devotion. It was all about the characters, as it had become within recent years (much to my dismay, TBH). They brought back numerous characters, including Detective Jim Brass, “fan favorite” Lady Heather (who I found entertaining at first, but then quickly found irritating), and one-time show stars Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows.

Clearly, from the title of this post, I’d like to focus primarily on Catherine Willows as well as, more generally, how CSI ultimately failed many of its female characters as well as its female fans. I charge that its biggest failure in this regard, however, was to Ms. Willows.


When the series began in 2000, Marg Helgenberger and William Peterson clearly were marketed as the stars—sort of the Scully and Mulder of the forensic world, with the sassy headstrong redhead and the nerdy-hot socially awkward loner. As the series got its footing, it became more and more clear that, while Grissom was the technical leader of the team (read: He was the one making the bucks and getting all the attention), Catherine was the engine that made the operation run. However, there was a far less progressive message being conveyed in the depiction of Catherine’s “behind the scenes” role. She wasn’t in charge, but everyone on the team, including Grissom, depended on her to keep everything on track—paperwork completed, assignments passed out, reviews given, etc. In essence, in addition to being a high-ranking and capable CSI, Catherine Willows was Gil Grissom’s administrative assistant, taking care of all the clerical duties that Grissom felt were not what he should be focusing on.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with anyone who performs clerical tasks. There isn’t even anything wrong with setting up a scenario in which Grissom is completely inept at such tasks and Willows steps in to provide him the support he needed to keep the team on-track. What was wrong, however, was the turn of events that started at the beginning of Season 5, when the lab director decided to split up the grave shift, setting up Catherine as the new swing-shift supervisor in charge of Nick and Warrick. With Willows and Grissom separated, Grissom continued on as he always did, and no attention was paid any longer to his clerical ineptitude. He was simply the grave-shift supervisor. Period.

However, almost from the start, TPTB wrote Catherine Willows as unable to perform her supervisory duties with any degree of aptitude. She bungled cases, her team (two people previously under her supervision on the grave shift and previously possessed of respect for her skills and supervision) disagreed with her constantly, and the generally accepted presentation to viewers was that she was not suitable as the swing-shift supervisor. This was disappointing, of course, but also problematic. When the team was together, it was very clear that Grissom cared far more for cases, evidence, and investigations than in his supervisory duties. Catherine was the one who took care of all that, and Grissom trusted her implicitly. Plus, he trusted her implicitly as a CSI, often deferring to her as the next senior-ranking investigator on the grave shift. Nick and Warrick respected her as well while they were all on the same team. Splitting her away and making her their actual supervisor should not have changed any of what had already been established—should it? And yet, it did. The implication, of course, was that Catherine Willows could only be successful if she was supported by Grissom, who actually gave her no support at all. But clearly, she couldn’t handle all the things she used to handle without someone there to give her no help at all!

It was no surprise, then, that the next season brought them all back together as one team, Catherine once more serving as second to Grissom. Now, I get that this “breaking up the team” story arc was just a one-season ploy to begin with—something to stir up some controversy, shake the dust of familiarity off everything, and whatnot. What was frustrating was the fact that the ploy had to come at the expense of showing a previously capable member of the team fail so dramatically that no one even questioned her unspoken demotion at the beginning of the sixth season. Or at the beginning of the 12th season…but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve already gone off on a tangent about how CSI treated its female characters. And while some of my thoughts from that post have evolved with time, they’re still pretty on-target. However, what I point to from that post is the fact that Jorja Fox and Marg Helgenberger were the ones to call for a truce between their characters. They saw the value of ceasing and desisting with the continuation of discord between Willows and Sidle. It’s just one of the many reasons that I admire both of them. Of course, the writers’ solution? Stop having Willows and Sidle interact. Instead of climbing out of their clear comfort zone of supporting the notion that women cannot work together in the same collegial way that male characters often do and writing Willows and Sidle into two representatives of a new idea…a fantastic idea…the amazing notion that women can work together without sinking teeth into each other, figuratively or literally…they just gave up on having the women interact at all unless they had to. And usually? It was to spark some kind of fight between them that required male intervention to solve.

Again, all part of the process of pushing stories forward, but it’s trite. It’s demeaning. And it reflects the perpetuation of a misconception that deserves to DIAF. Women work together all the time without fanging each other or deceiving each other or betraying each other or just in general hating each other, “because women.” I do it every day. Even better, my female coworkers and I can pass the Bechdel test with almost every single conversation we have—something that, even by the last episode of a 337-episode run, Willows and Sidle failed almost completely.

But I digress. This is about CSI Willows. Fast-forward from the sixth season demotion to William Peterson’s departure in the middle of the ninth season and Catherine Willows’s subsequent promotion-by-default to head of the grave shift. Again, a shift she’s been helping to run for many years, supervising people she’s worked with for years—she’s got this. Right? And yet, at the beginning of Season 10…the beginning of Season 10, when Catherine Willows has barely been in charge for half a season, we learn that one of her staff has left after filing charges against Willows, for what? Incompetent management.

Again, the writers needed to cover the fact that an actress they’d cast the previous season either left or they let go because the character wasn’t working, but notice how this is the second time they’ve made Catherine Willows incompetent to fix the flow of the story? Sara even tells Catherine, in one of those delightful yet sadly rare moments when these two characters interacted amicably, that she’s a great CSI and that “the only thing that Grissom had that you don’t, is you.” (P.S., this was yet another instance in which Sara and Catherine also failed the Bechdel test, because apparently the only way these two could see eye-to-eye was if they first discussed Sara’s relationship with Grissom…but we’ll get to that in a moment as well).

[Loba Tangent: By the way, this could have been an incredible moment in which the writers decided to make Sara Sidle the second-in-charge to Catherine Willows, thereby having two women in supervisory roles. Can you imagine? Instead, they had Catherine make Nick Stokes her second-in-command. Look at there: Catherine Willows, supported yet again by a man. Surely, she’ll be successful this time!]

So was Sara lying? Or was it simply the fact that the writers at some point decided that the best way to fix major story changes was simply to make Catherine Willows the default incompetent scapegoat? Don’t believe me? Head on over to the beginning of Season 12. Laurence Fishburne had decided that serial television was not to his liking so he departed, to be replaced by Ted Danson. Arriving as D.B. Russell, Danson’s character quickly was established as, what? The grave-shift supervisor. Apparently, being He Who Was Sam Malone trumps the status of the woman who has been on the series since the beginning, and once again Catherine Willows becomes too incompetent to lead.

What’s even worse is that this time her incompetence stems partly from her emotional response to actions that took place at the end of the previous season—actions that a few of the male characters were complicit in carrying out for equally emotional reasons. But it was Catherine Willows who fell and served in demoted silence for all of one season before Helgenberger finally called it quits and left the realm. At least they replaced her with another woman when they brought Elisabeth Shue on as CSI Julie Finlay. Strangely enough, Shue didn’t get to become the head of the team. You’d think that being an Oscar-nominated film star would trump being Sam Malone. Guess not.

Jump, jump, jump ahead to the end. Catherine Willows returns in her new capacity as a field agent for the FBI’s Los Angeles office. Incompetent as a state employee? Don’t worry. The federal government has got you covered, bae!

Seriously, though. By the time Helgenberger left the show, the writers had written the character of Catherine Willows as someone whose personnel file was so riddled with problems that she should have been shipped back to the strip club where she started. And yet, they felt it was appropriate to send her off to the FBI? Forreals?


So Willows comes back to help during a time when Sara Sidle, by dint of reason that she’s literally the last remaining original CSI left (even though she didn’t appear until the second episode), oh and the show is ending, is up for consideration as the director of the crime lab. WHO’S THE BIG DAWG? Winning by default is still winning, AMIRITE?

Never mind that she’s up for a job that we will never get to see her actually work. No, scratch that. That’s one of the things that really pissed me off about seeing Sara Sidle up for this huge promotion. Pardon my language, but big fucking deal. Why didn’t the writers consider her for the promotion when they decided to demote Willows a third time? You want to give these women reason to fight? There would have been your reason. You know, because women never support each other in the workplace. Instead, she’s not up for any kind of promotion until the last episode. A promotion that she gets (spoilers) and then just as quickly gives up (spoilerz) because love interest is love interest and nothing more. Sara Sidle was always meant to be, first and foremost, Gil Grissom’s love interest. All that time that Sara Sidle was on the show after Grissom left? Well, none of that counted. All those cases she worked and victims she helped and suspects she put away. Meaningless. Everything about her was meaningless until Grissom could return and woo her away once more.

So who became the director after Sara rode off into the sunset with her Prince Charming (literally, spoilers)? The intimation was…it was Catherine Willows. Third time’s the charm? Again, though, big fucking deal. Not only do we not get to see Director Catherine Willows, we don’t even get to see her take the role. It was far more important to see Sara Sidle give up everything to fulfill her ultimate destiny as “Gil Grissom’s love interest.”

Wow. That’s a lot more than I anticipated writing. And yet I barely scratched the surface. Not to say that the show didn’t have great female characters. It honestly had many wonderful female characters come and go through the years. For instance, Julie Finlay was a fascinating character—you know, up until the point where they had her beat into a coma by a serial killer, stuffed into a trunk, and then confirmed as dead in the last 10 minutes of the final episode.


Why does any of this matter? After all, it’s just a show. Just a show that not only ran for 15 years but inspired the creation of at least a dozen knockoffs, including three spinoffs. A show that helped change the course of television in highly influential ways. And yet, when TV Guide dedicated a cover to Helgenberger and Fox? This was the photo they felt was most appropriate:


Nothing like women on their knees, eh?

Oh, and if you’d like to dress like a CSI for Halloween? Better just put your own costume together, because this is what you’re going to find in the stores:


Positive representation matters. If you think it doesn’t, then you probably are lucky to belong to a group that has never had to worry about any kind of representation, either in the media or in reality. To everyone else, it’s a big deal. CSI made a huge impact in many positive ways, but it also missed the opportunity to make the same kind of impact on how women are depicted in popular culture. They could have taken the character of Catherine Willows and made her an example of a woman who brought herself up from a life she no longer wanted to lead to a life that could have inspired. Instead, she was Catherine Willows, forever destined to make poor professional and personal choices and never ever ever learn from any of them. She—and we—deserved better.

There’s still hope, even in this particular franchise. Patricia Arquette is the lead in CSI: Cyber, which returns this upcoming Sunday. Of course, Ted Danson is shifting over to that show now that the Vegas crew has investigated their last crime. So help me, if he somehow ends up bumping Arquette to second-banana, hell will truly have no fury like Loba unchained.

Go ahead. Try to demote me again.
Go ahead. Try to demote me again.

BookBin2013: Double Dealer


Lest I end the evening (or the month) with a negative review, let’s talk about that other television franchise over which I’m thoroughly gaga: CSI!

I may have mentioned this at some point here at the lair, but a while ago I found a great eBay auction on a large lot of CSI novels (I think I ended up with the first 10 novels; I could be wrong on that count, but I’m too lazy to get up and check) for a relatively low price. It was low enough, in fact, that I decided that even if I hated every single novel, it was still worth the cost.

Of course, we all know the deal by now: I bought them, received them, stacked them, and promptly moved on to other books. However, I decided one of these novels would be the perfect length for at least one leg of our recent Hawaii adventure…and I was right! I was able to finish this one during the flight from the islands to LAX. Perfect timing!

So Double Dealer, written by Max Allan Collins, is the first of the Las Vegas CSI novels. I’ve mentioned Collins here before; he was the author of three of the CSI graphic novels I’ve reviewed here. From what I wrote previously, I found his writing skills to be mostly entertaining, but I found that his stories didn’t really push the boundaries of the CSI fictional world in ways similar to how the Trek novel writers often pushed that franchise’s “accepted” boundaries. Of this, I wrote:

One thing that I’ve always liked about the Trek universe’s forays into comics and novels is the fact that the stories there tend to stray from the canonical path. With few exceptions, nothing shown in either written world is ever viewed as “truth” to the filmed Trek universe. I guess that’s not the case with the CSI universe, because not a whole lot new is revealed in these graphic novels.

It’s pretty much the same with Collins’s novel work as it was with his graphic novel work. Nothing very unorthodox, nothing shocking or even remotely different from what you would already know as a fan of the show (which is highly unacceptable to someone who may or may not spend an inordinate amount of time reading CSI fan fiction). I wonder if that changes as the novels progress or if the writers were instructed to stick within the established world seen on the show. I hope we learn some new stuff, even if it isn’t canon.

That being said, Collins wrote a pretty solid story about two murder mysteries that quickly become one mystery that leads the team across many years and many miles to reach a rather satisfying ending. It’s not going to appeal to anyone other than a really devoted CSI fan (no one will ever doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion, I can assure you all of that), but I found it to be a great way to pass the time. Also, I very much enjoyed the deeper exposition on the more scientific aspects of what the criminalists do to solve their cases. Collins put in a fair amount of research for this story, which I greatly appreciated. One of the things that sometimes irritates me about the show (although I do understand the reasons why) is how they will gloss over the actual processes in favor of interpersonal interactions or other such character developments. I’m much more into the procedure of it all rather than the characters (most of the time). The books, therefore, are probably going to make me slightly happier than the show. Not that I’m going to give up on the show any time soon. Hell, if I’m still watching it after 13 years, I suspect I probably won’t stop until the very end…20 years from now.

Final Verdict: I’m going to hold onto this one, at least for now. No, it’s not a terribly deep novel, but I imagine it would be fun to revisit on a beach at some point. You know, when I’m finally caught up on reading all the books I own at least once 😉

BookBin2013: Mr. CSI: How a Vegas Dreamer Made a Killing in Hollywood, One Body at a Time


As you can already tell by the types of books I review here at the lair, I don’t read many autobiographies, biographies, or memoirs. I suppose because I’d much rather lose myself to a good fictional tale or immerse myself in the non-fiction minutia of one of my nerdy fandoms. I do (infrequently) purchase these more people-oriented books, if it’s about or by someone I’m terribly interested in, but they tend to languish, unread, far longer than my other purchases. Apparently, my general disinterest in people extends beyond the every-day disdain and into my free-time reading choices.

What better way to start to ease myself into the task of tackling at least some of the bio-esque books from my collection than through one of my nerdy fandoms? That’s why this review, denizens, is brought to you by three of my favorite letters in the alphabet: C, S, and I.

That’s Mr. CSI to you, however…or, if you’d rather, Anthony Zuiker, creator of that smexy team of Vegas criminalists that made science-based procedurals ubiquitous across the channel spectrum. In traditional memoir style, Zuiker maps for us the path that led him to create the biggest cash-cow franchise that Paramount’s sunk their teeth into, possibly since Trek.

What I found most intriguing about this book is that, for the most part, it’s Zuiker telling us absolutely nothing about CSI…while telling us absolutely everything about CSI. It almost reads like an episode script: Give the reader a stunning cold open, then flash into back story, full of clues and foreshadowing all along the way, and see if they can piece it all together on their own.

There’s even a grisly crime scene and guest appearances by real people who inspired characters from the Vegas series. Zuiker confirms the identity of one of his inspirations. Others are very obvious, even if they remain unidentified.

I have to admit, denizens: I really enjoyed this book. Not all that surprising, I suppose, considering the source material. However, before I read this, I didn’t know anything about Zuiker; I didn’t even know what he looked like until I saw the book cover. I had no idea that he grew up in Vegas, surrounded by the people who would later populate the world of his greatest professional creation to date. Reading this book gave me some great CSI trivia as well as a pretty decent understanding of what motivated Zuiker, not just to create this show but to persist in all his creative endeavors. I guess you could say this is kind of a memoir/detective novel/self-help/motivational speaker book.

Whatever you classify it as, it’s a quick, enjoyable read, but definitely meant primarily for CSI fans. You might enjoy some aspects of it if you’ve never watched CSI, but you’re going to miss a lot. “True believers,” however, will probably really dig the ride. I know I did.

Final Verdict: Yeah, this one’s a keeper. I actually have a shelf dedicated to memoirs and such, and Zuiker has definitely earned his spot…now, excuse me while I go cordon it off with some crime scene tape…

Flashback Friday: Adventures in Babysitting

I’ve actually wanted to write about Adventures in Babysitting for a while. I even mentioned it in a previous Flashback on sleepovers. This wasn’t a traditional go-to sleepover movie, like Clue, but honestly? It would have worked for me. I love this movie. Then again, how do you not love a movie that starts like this:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nly-bfguf4k&w=560&h=315]


I still know all the words to this song because of this movie. I also still know all the words to this song as well:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK_NSiPB52U&w=480&h=360]

Look, kids! Diversity! As only a 1980s movie geared toward middle-class White people can do it. Blues, indeed.

I kid, of course. Kind of. Heavens know that director Chris Columbus had good intentions, even if he does tend to deliver them wrapped in treacly finery. How he ended up directing the first two Harry Potter movies still confounds me.

Still, Adventures in Babysitting was one of my absolute favorite movies when I was a kid. I will still stop any time it’s on television. I still think of this movie first whenever I see Elisabeth Shue. Doesn’t matter that I’ve seen her in many movies since…doesn’t matter that it’s close to 30 years since she made this movie (WTF?!?) and that she’s going to turn 50 this year…doesn’t matter that she nearly won an Oscar for playing a Vegas hooker…or even that she’s once more back in Sin City, this time working my favorite Vegas beat of all:


She’s first and foremost Chris Parker, and for this reason alone, no one should ever fuck with her. Not even the Lords of Hell.

Amazingly enough, I don’t own this on DVD, although I still have my very well-loved VHS copy, purchased many moons ago from Suncoast (ooh, look at all these Flashback callbacks! HOLLA!). I really don’t know why I don’t own this. I should probably fix this, if only for this scene alone…actually, you know what? Here, denizens. Just…here:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN5IUKV07us&w=560&h=315]

I’ve no idea how long this link will last. Enjoy it while you can…or I might be forced to spike your Tab with Drano…

Who Are You?

I was fingerprinted this morning.

No, you’re not going to see me on the national news, being led away in handcuffs from the scene of some horrible pre-caffeinated rage crime. Believe it or not, I had to be printed for my job.

This statement is just going to fuel those pesky secret agent rumors. I know it.

Truth of the matter is, while what I do does require a bit of clearance from the agency to which I am detailed, I really don’t do anything that would demand this level of security clearance. However, the federal government, being the machine of brilliance and preparedness that it is (and not the least bit hyperbolic in its actions whatsoever), has decided that all people affiliated with any aspect of the federal government will inevitably have to go through this security process.

Which is how I ended up being fingerprinted while my two pieces of government-issued photo identification were scanned and I was photographed. And then everything was uploaded into a government database to be processed to confirm that I am who I say I am, and that I have not committed any sort of crime that would prevent me from receiving final clearance.

After the initial disappointment I felt when I realized that: A) I was actually going to be fingerprinted (there was some confusion about this fact from my sponsor); and B) the fingerprinting wasn’t going to be done by Sara Sidle, I settled into a state of conflicted resignation. The tech-geek side of me was fascinated by the tool they used to capture my fingerprints. Gone are the days of messy ink stains and paper ten-cards. It’s all digital, denizens. You know those machines we see those TV CSIs using? The ones that always make us roll our eyes and tsk in disbelief?

They’re real.

The security agent pulled out this device that was no bigger than a box of teabags and proceeded to print my fingers, just like you see them doing it on TV. Each finger, rolled across a plexiglass slide. Each print immediately captured in a digital image on his screen, saved to the appropriate designated box. Took fewer than 5 minutes.

While the tech-geek was mesmerized by all this, the conspiracy side of me was raging over the fact that the digital capturing of my fingerprints has somehow stolen that much more of my privacy. Kind of like how those isolated tribes felt that pieces of their souls were stolen away every time one of those pesky National Geographic excursions came through to photograph them.

If you hadn’t noticed this about me, I’m a bit of a private wolf. I like keeping as much personal information as I can…well, personal. I know it makes me seem paranoid (which I admittedly am), but I like the false belief that I have some shred of control over my identity. Up until this morning, one of the things over which I thought I would always have control was my fingerprints not being in any database.

Now, like those sad little tribes and their ever-shrinking souls, another little piece of my privacy has been hacked away. And they couldn’t even send Sara Sidle to do the hacking.

BookBin2012: Secret Identity

I promise, this will be the last book review for a while. It will also be much shorter than my last two reviews. I don’t want to overload you.

I’m now finished with the stack of CSI graphic novels that I purchased last year, with the fifth in the series, Secret Identity. I thought this was the last one illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, but it looks like there might be one more, although it doesn’t seem to be part of the longer serial novels. I think it might be a one-shot novella done back when Ashley Wood was still doing the abstract artwork. More investigating is required.

For Secret Identity, Rodriguez again paired with Steven Perkins on the abstract art. Steven Grant took over from Kris Oprisko as the writer of this story. It’s a shame that this was the last novel Rodriguez and Perkins worked on together, because I believe this is the best of the bunch. Not only did these two artists’ divergent styles merge beautifully for this novel, Rodriguez really came into his own for the main artwork. He invests a great deal of care and creativity into exploring the space of each page, each panel, bringing a sense of grace and artistry to what is also the darkest, and in my opinion, best written story from this batch of five novels.

Steven Grant did a tremendous job writing this story, giving readers something that not only can compete with a television script, but might in some ways surpass what we’ve seen from the show (especially in recent years). It’s refreshing to see such a cumulatively extraordinary effort put toward a medium that, when done in such a mass market style as comic book tie-ins to television series, typically tends to suffer from mediocrity and apathy from all involved. Case in point? Go flip through a stack of hastily written/drawn/published Trek comics and tell me what you think…you know, after you finish peroxide-washing your brain and eyes.

The coloring is again superb, drawing from a palette of soothing to passion-infused, and enhancing the almost cinematic-quality angles of Rodriguez’s cleverly drawn panels. Also, IDW Publishing returned to the standard size for this graphic novel (although it looks like they also offered it in the smaller “New Format” size; avoid this one at all cost), which means larger space for artwork that truly deserves every inch and more.

Final Verdict: Definitely a keeper. I’d vote this the best of the first five CSI graphic novels, hands down. If you’re at all interested in seeing what the comics can offer you, this would be my top recommendation.

BookBin2011: CSI Graphic Novels

No, that isn’t a mistake, denizens. This will be the final book entry for my 2011 reading endeavors. Even though I was in the process of reading several other books (my attention span seemed to shrink significantly toward the end of last year), I decided I wanted to end the year on a fluffy note. Therefore, the stack of CSI graphic novels that I picked up from Amazon Marketplace a while ago seemed like a great place to go. Besides, as I mentioned in my last post, there was road-tripping to be done this past weekend, and since I wasn’t driving, I chose to entertain myself with reading.

Okay, so here’s the deal: After reading the first CSI graphic novel, Serial, I decided that—true to my obsessive nature—I wanted to read more CSI graphic novels to see if they improved upon what I considered to be a relatively sturdy foundation. I purchased the next four novels. There are more graphic novels beyond five; however, these are the only ones illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. I mentioned in my review of Serial that at some point the artwork for these CSI novels turns quite mucky. However, Rodriguez’s artwork in the first novel was impressive enough to assuage my fears that he might be the tainted artist.

In all honesty, it’s Rodriguez’s art and coloring that compelled me to continue reading these comics. His grasp of illustrating our favorite band of Vegas criminalists continued to improve throughout each of these three novels. The disproportionate appearances that I noted in my review of Serial continued through Bad Rap and Demon House, but definitely began to diminish.

[Loba Tangent: If the cover art for Demon House looks a little familiar to regulars here at the lair, it’s because I used it as the inspiration for my CSI: Bajor spoof cover, Blood Prophecy. You’re welcome.]

By the time I started Dominos (yes, I know the title is misspelled; yes, it did irritate the hell out of me), I was noticing a definite balance in proportions. Also, the likenesses became even more refined with each effort (with the continuing exception of Greg Sanders…I don’t know what it is about our favorite Lab Rat, but Rodriguez simply cannot get him right!). In fact, the only nitpick I can come up with is a minor one and really only something that would bother me: In all three novels, Rodriguez gave Sara Sidle long, sharp fingernails with a dark red polish.

Er, no.

Seriously, find me three instances on the show of Sara Sidle wearing any kind of nail polish and I will send you cookies.

The real beauty of each of these novels, however, is in the coloring. I think Rodriguez did the coloring, but I might be wrong. Fran Gamboa is listed as being responsible for colors in Bad Rap, but that’s the only time someone else is listed. Regardless, whoever did the coloring for these graphic novels did an amazing job. The attention to shadows and lighting gave the panels a gorgeous dimensionality that often is missing from mass-produced comics. The lighting closely mimics the lighting as seen in the television show, which adds a nice connection between the printed and televised worlds.

The flashback and speculation scenes for all three novels were still done in a different, more abstract style than the primary artwork. Ashley Wood continued to do these watercolor renderings for Bad Rap and Demon House. Steven Perkins took over for Dominos. I appreciated Perkins’s abstract style to Woods’s work. Woods’s take on these scenes seemed to degenerate throughout each story, becoming more abstract and less interesting with each offering. Toward the end of Demon House, it seemed as though the abstract artwork became nothing more than scratched-out stick people over a sickly mottling of drab olives and browns. Perkins brought back a more refined level of artistry with his take on the flashbacks, keeping them stylistically different from the rest of the story while imbuing them with an appealing sense of sophistication.

As for the writing, Max Allan Collins stuck around after his first crack at graphic novel storytelling to write the stories for Bad Rap and Demon House. They were acceptable stories, but nothing that would push the boundaries already established by the show. One thing that I’ve always liked about the Trek universe’s forays into comics and novels is the fact that the stories there tend to stray from the canonical path. With few exceptions, nothing shown in either written world is ever viewed as “truth” to the filmed Trek universe. I guess that’s not the case with the CSI universe, because not a whole lot new is revealed in these graphic novels.

Kris Oprisko took over the writing from Collins for Dominos. Again, nothing too different, although Oprisko enjoyed invoking a darkness in his tale that Collins very seldom embraced. Dominos had a much more brutal feel, which inspired equally brutal imagery from Rodriguez and Perkins. It was in these aspects that I felt the graphic novel finally started to reach beyond the boundaries of the show…although that’s not really the case anymore. Ever since CSI switched to a later time slot, they’ve definitely been exploring the reduced level of restriction in what sort of gore they can show their audience.

All that being said, if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll enjoy these dalliances. Are they worth purchasing? Again, if you love CSI, then they’re worth owning if only for the enjoyable artwork. That reminds me: Here’s a more objective nitpick, not necessarily about the artwork but more about the skimping the publishers did to the artwork. Whereas Serial was printed in what has become a “standard” size for many graphic novels, these three were printed in what IDW Publishing called the “New Format.” Reduced size, which means: A) The artwork was skimped the way comic strips get skimped in newspapers; and B) these books now look ridiculous on my graphic novel shelf. All the other books there are a relatively standard size. Even the fifth CSI novel, Secret Identity, went back to the standard size. Guess they realized their mistake and corrected it.

Oh, and if you’re interested, I’m nearly finished with Secret Identity. I promise my comments on that one won’t be nearly as long as these comments.

Final Verdict: I’m keeping these three for now. I like my obsession-related collections. Prophets know I have plenty of Trek-related books. While my CSI collection will never grow to that level of insanity, I’m having a fun time collecting for a new obsession…at least until the Buffy collecting bug kicks in…

Photo Fun Friday: CSI: Bajor

Crossing streams again, denizens. This one started about a month ago with a conversation I had online regarding which Star Trek alien Jorja Fox would look best as (yes, my world really is this geeky…and, consequently, this fabulous). I contend it’s Bajoran all the way. Then again, I think nose ridges make anyone look smexy.

I love Bajorans.

Then, yesterday, I may or may not have received several CSI graphic novels in the mail, as I mentioned in my BookBin review of my first CSI comic series. As I casually flipped through said novels to check out the artwork, I started once again to think about how similar in marketing approaches CSI is to Trek. Which got me thinking again about a CSI/Trek crossover (what, you thought I’d forgotten about that request?).

Since I’ve already set a precedent regarding dragging my favorite CSI into other geeky forays, I figured why not? If she can be a vampire investigator, why can’t she be a Bajoran investigator next?

And so I give you…

Buckle up, denizens. It’s bound to get geekier from here…

BookBin2011: CSI: Serial

So remember when I was in Toronto a few weeks ago and we met up with a bunch of my groovy ImagiFriendsTM to go to this used book store that specializes in geeky books?

Yeah, so while I was there, I stumbled upon their graphic novel section, which was kind of small but still decent. And what, dear denizens, should I find but a CSI graphic novel! After quickly perusing it, I realized that it wasn’t one of the collections that I’d seen before, which, to be brutally honest, had some of the most horrifying and amateurish artwork I think I’ve ever seen in a comic book. I need to figure out which collection that was, because I don’t want to have anything to do with it or the artist behind it.

CSI: Serial, however, was drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, with flashback and “speculation” (think those moments on the show where the CSIs speculate about what they think might have happened based on evidence they’ve just collected or testimony they’ve just heard) artwork done by Ashley Wood. I have to say, this was one of my favorite aspects of the art in this collection: the delineation of styles, with the main story presented in more traditional comic line art and the flashbacks and speculation moments done in rough, abstract watercolors. I also liked how the lettering was done in the flashback sections, with the text captured in boxes that looked like little manila folders. The extra-nice touch? Each CSI had a different “tabbed manila folder” design for their dialogue during these abstract sections. For example, Grissom would have a folder with a green tab all the way to the left of the box, while Sara would have a folder with a red centered tab. Subtle, clever way to help us keep track of who was providing the exposition.

As for the main artwork, Rodriguez did a laudable job of bringing our favorite band of Vegas investigators into the two-dimensional comic book world. They were passable but not precise duplications; there was always something just a little off about each of the comic depictions. I think it might have been that all their heads were slightly too big for their bodies. Made them all look a bit like bobble heads. However, with the exception of his depiction of Greg (which looked nothing like Eric Szmanda), Rodriguez’s renderings were easily identifiable, including those of secondary and even tertiary CSI characters. Plus, I finally discovered the origin and meaning of this panel, which I found a while ago and has made me laugh every time I’ve looked at it:

Image courtesy of Jorja Fox: Online

Yes, I really am that juvenile. You have to admit, though, out of context? You know you laughed, too. Nice eyebrow arch, though, right? Right.

So what about the actual story behind CSI: Serial? Written by Max Allan Collins (who is probably best known for: A) his graphic novel The Road to Perdition; and B) looking like an Elton John clone), the primary case is all about a Jack the Ripper copycat killer, with a secondary case that’s not terribly difficult to figure out but was run by Sara and Nick, which is a pairing that we don’t see that often on the show anymore. It’s admittedly not the most original or creative storytelling for the very first CSI comic arc, but I will say this in this collection’s favor: A lot of times when production companies decide that they want to saturate the market with as much merchandise as they possibly can pertaining to their show, in an attempt to ride the coattails of popularity for as long as they can, what you often get is something rushed and inferior. With Serial, IDW Publishing gave CSI fans a solidly drawn comic with a story that, while not earth-shaking in originality, is thoughtfully crafted, well-written, and an enjoyable ride.

Final Verdict: Not only am I keeping this collection, I’ve done a little research and discovered that Collins, Rodriguez, and Wood teamed up for several other collections, which are supposedly superior in story and presentation to this one. I perhaps may have sought some of these out for further investigation. Analysis may soon be forthcoming.

Strictly Ink Is Strictly Awesome

eBay is a dangerous place, denizens. A wonderful, dangerous place. It feeds my need for collectibles. It never judges me for my nerdy passions. It remembers what I like most and makes awesome recommendations based on what makes me squee.

It also introduces me to things that I never knew existed, and in doing so, makes me wonder how I ever lived without them.

Okay, that’s an infamous Loba HyperboleTM. However, eBay did show me a new dimension to trading cards to which I was previously clueless. It’s been a while since I dabbled in this particular collector subgenre, so imagine my delight to discover “sketch cards.”

Maybe it’s because the concept of trading cards has become a bit quaint and silly (yes, I’m fully aware that “normies” would argue that they have always been silly). Whatever the reason, I have noticed a few snazzy concepts that have been introduced to genre card series that have helped keep these as viable collectibles. The two standouts that I already knew about were limited edition autograph cards and costume cards, which contain pieces of fabric cut from costumes worn in genre shows like Star Trek, Xena, et al.

These are both creative concepts, even if they didn’t really reach me on any particular level. I’m a bit old for autograph collecting (unless it’s Keith Birdsong…or the autograph accompanies latex body parts), and the only costume prop I actively lust after is a Dr. Crusher lab coat. And I don’t want a scrap from it. I want the whole enchilada.

The sketch card concept that I just learned about, however, is one that I think is utterly brilliant. The trading card companies design a shell template that identifies the card as being part of a particular set, but they leave the bulk of the front side nothing but white space. They then disseminate copies of this shell to various genre-related artists and pretty much say, “Show us what you can do in this space that’s somehow related to our [show, cartoon, comic book, etc.].”

What you end up with is a pint-sized original drawing that gives a unique take, not only on the trading card concept but also on a genre favorite. Like this card, part of Strictly Ink’s CSI sketch card series:

Loba's protective pawprints of approval added for effect...

This sketch card of Sara Sidle was done by artist Rowena Pagarigan. I love everything about this card: the still visible pencil guide marks; the rough, cartoonish coloring; the random details like the surfer-esque beaded necklace and the pensive eyebrow arch. It’s quirky and one-of-a-kind. Just like Sara Sidle 😀

Does this mean that I’m going to start collecting trading cards again? Nah. But do I think this is a wonderful idea? Absolutely.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I still have some lunch time left. I’m going to go stare at my sketch card a little more…