Congratulations to Our Facebook Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Warren Newsom on winning the contest to design our new Facebook banner! You can see Warren’s fantastic work here. And check out more of his art, including costume redesigns of fan-favorite superheroines, at his DeviantArt page: http://heroid.deviantart.com/

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll be showing you all the other fantastic submissions we received. And remember, you can keep up-to-date on Girl-Wonder.Org’s latest news, recs, and blogposts by following us on Facebook or Twitter!

Superhero comics have come a long way

Superhero comics have come a long way. The range of female superheroes, vigilantes, and villains has broadened considerably since earlier times. There’s a lot more on offer for feminist fans of mainstream comics.

But today’s fans face a whole new set of stumbling blocks: objectifying, inappropriately sexualised art styles; gruesome deaths designed only to forward a male character’s story; and a generally held public opinion that superhero comics are the domain of boys and men and therefore have no need to be female-friendly.

movie downloadWe love comics. We want to see them remain a vital, energetic, engaging, popular art form enjoyed by a range of audience groups. If this objective is to remain viable, comics have to pick up their game. We’re here to see that they do.

One of Girl-Wonder.org’s primary aims is to get comics fans talking to each other in an environment where everyone feels equally free to express their opinions. Toward this end, visitors are strongly encouraged to make use of the forums.

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Submissions for proposed websites or columns can be sent to submissions@girl-wonder.org

December: Avengers Academy, by Christos Gage

Avengers Academy is possibly the best book Marvel is currently publishing. Written by Christos Gage and drawn by a number of fantastic artists (including Mike McKone, Sean Chen, Tom Raney, and soon Tom Grummett), Avengers Academy tells the tale of 6 new teenage superhumans who share a history of capture and torture at the hands of H.A.M.M.E.R. director Norman Osborn. In the wake of Norman Osborn’s fall from grace, these troubled teens (Veil, Striker, Mettle, Finesse, Hazmat, and Reptil) have been taken under the Avengers’ wing to become the inaugural class of Avengers Academy. But, as the kids very quickly discover, they weren’t chosen because they have the best potential to become heroes – they were chosen because the Avengers fear that, without guidance, they might turn into villains.

What separates this book from the dozens of other teen superhero books that have passed through comic shop shelves over the years? The answer is Christos Gage, a writer who has rapidly risen to become one of Marvel’s brightest stars. Gage’s work deals with consequences at a level that few other superhero writers are willing to tackle. No canon, no matter how old, is irrelevant for Gage. He expertly weaves the past and the present (without, it should be noted, relying on fans’ assumed knowledge of past stories) to illustrate the ways that past experiences and actions shape the lives and futures of all human beings. The Avengers Academy faculty includes characters like Hank Pym and Pietro Maximoff, characters who have made their fair share of mistakes and want to pass along the lessons they’ve learned to the next generation. The lives of superheroes are difficult and messy, and this book addresses that fact with a rare honesty.

Yet the book is far from glum and gloomy. Ultimately Avengers Academy is a story of hope, of adults trying to help kids and kids trying to help themselves and each other. The kids have their problems, but they’re still very much kids – they even have a prom! – and their interpersonal relationships are bright spots amid the stresses of battle. They have successes to match their failures, and the book is frequently quite funny. I rarely finish an issue without a smile on my face.

For those whose interest has been piqued, I highly recommend picking up all the trade paperbacks of the series so far. But for those looking to dip their toes in, the book’s recent status quo change – moving the school to the old West Coast Avengers headquarters and adding new characters – is a perfect jumping-on point. Pick up last month’s issue 21 and see what the fuss is all about.

Violence: This is a superhero comic, so there’s plenty of fighting of all kinds, including violence that ends in death (though not for our protagonists). Given the premise, all of the characters also have some kind of torture in their backstories. But violence in this book is rarely graphic or gory.

Sexualized Violence: There are references to the past sexualized attack on faculty member Tigra (which happened in another book) and one of the male characters is implied to have been molested as a child. Sexualized violence is never graphic or cast in a positive light, however.

Gender: Half of the original team was female, and more recently two more regular female students have been added, in addition to a number of part-time students (including former solo title stars Spider-Girl, the Savage She-Hulk, and X-23). The girls come from a variety of backgrounds and have distinct personalities, and gendered plots and dialogue are extremely rare. The girls are both as heroic and as screwed-up as their male counterparts.

The Bechdel-Wallace Test: Since the gender-balanced cast spends most of its conversations talking to each other about their powers, fights, and education, I doubt any issue has failed to pass the test, though I don’t have specific figures.

Minorities: From its inception, this book has made a conscious attempt to include diversity in its cast. Reptil is Latino, Hazmat is half-white/half-Japanese-American, and Mettle in flashbacks appears to be at least half Native Hawaiian (he’s also half-Jewish). The new cast includes a white queer character (Julie Power) and a Puerto Rican female character (the new White Tiger, taking up the mantle from wholesale jeans, Hector Ayala), and recent writer comments have hinted that one of the original team may be gay. The teaching staff, relying as it does on older characters, is totally white and straight (and mostly male), but that could change at any point as the cast shifts. In addition, the new part-time students come from a variety of backgrounds.

Parents May Wish to Be Aware: I would rate this book at least PG-13; it is definitely aimed at teens and adults, and the level of violence and implied sexuality is probably too high for younger kids. But compared to some superhero comics, this book tends to be less graphic and grim-and-gritty; the costumes and art are not sexualized and there is a strong moral center to the story. Teenagers should be fine.

Review by Jennifer Margret Smith

How to Draw off Jogger Jeans in the Office

Let’s face it — if you had a choice to wear sweatpants to work, you would do it; so do most of your colleagues. Fortunately, you can now pull off the office version of denim jogging pants, the “cooler cousin” of sweatpants. You just need to know and follow the ground rules of the office to do this with aplomb. To learn more, read on.
The last day of the work week is a time to wear a new fashion trend in the office. Give it a test, maybe once a month, and push the envelope. If there’s no resistance, make it a casual Friday staple. Add a jacket, a professional shirt (preferably with buttons) and dress shoes, and see if your boss notices. If you get caught, you can excuse yourself for not knowing the “casual fridays” rule. You also may want to have a second outfit ready to go in your vehicle.
Jacket makes everything and everyone look a little more professional, even college professors. By pairing your navy blue jean joggers with a customized jeans, you are hiding the fact that you are pulling off wearing sweatpants to work.
If you’re convinced that a shirt makes the whole outfit look more formal, it can also cover up a lot of mistakes. Choose muted colors and patterns. Make sure your button-down shirt matches your jogger and it is as professional as possible.
There is a plan to test out your blue and black joggers on a day where you will spend most of your time sitting at your desk. Until you’ve mainstreamed to wear joggers to work, you shouldn’t wear them on a day when you have to give a big presentation to your boss. By planning to wear them on a down day at the office, you can minimize your exposure to the office and thus make it less noticeable.
Give your joggers a polished look with twill or other professional-looking wholesale jeans. Don’t wear patterns because they draw attention to you. Match them with an all-business jacket, shirt, and shoes, and you will be able to pull it off with ease.
Jean joggers are basically sweatpants that, when paired properly, can be worn in the office. The key is the pairing and the timing.
Jeans jogging pants are basically sweatpants that you can wear in the office with the right combination. The key is pairing and timing.

The End

In my haste to make an exit, I realised I had not brought this blog to a conclusion. I hope you will forgive me.
This blog was started at the beginning of 2008, and it has been a great place to get a lot of stuff out for me regarding manga, anime and other comics with regards to feminism and gender analysis. It’s been over six months since my last post, and while the staff at Girl-Wonder knew of my decision, I had yet to inform my readers. Again, I apologise.
I haven’t stopped writing, of course. It was just hard to write for this blog, when I felt there weren’t many reading. I am starting a new blog, Something Fishy, as part of my personal page, jellyfishattack.org. I’ve written for numerous publications, including The Skinny (Scotland), RAG (Ireland) and, soon, BoLT (Ireland too). I have to thank this blog for helping me get my writing mojo, honing my pop culture critique. I also have to thank you, my few but very dear readers.
However, this blog has ended, and will only remain here as an archive. If you want to follow more of my adventures, make sure to check back on jellyfishattack.org in the coming weeks. Also! There’s my video blog on youtube, username is platypusofdoubt.
Thank you for reading, this is me signing off x

Planetes: When anime gets it right.

Greetings, readers! How are you? Come inside, and sit down. We’ve got a lot to discuss. Would you like a cup of tea? I’ll switch on the kettle. Yes, yes, I know I’m a week and a half late. I blame exhaustion, plus Int’l Women’s Day, which kept me mad busy (and entertained and inspired) and away from my computer. (Next article will be up on Friday, though!)
I hope you’re comfortable, because today I’ll be telling you about an anime series called Planetes, released around five years ago. I’m still beating myself up for taking so long to get around to it, having now seen it in its entirety. If you’ve never watched anime, and you’re looking for something mature, not exploitative, intelligent and insightful to get you started, this series would be it. After watching it, you can always settle for the crushing disappointment that is 90% of the anime and manga world.
Now, let me preface by saying two things. One, as you may know, in most cases it is very difficult to figure out authorial intent in anime and manga. This is because most interviews and source material are in Japanese, and only few people have the skills/time/inclination to translate them. Add this to the fact that I don’t read anime magazines, and what you have is that I am a bit misinformed regarding the background of certain works. I am not the only one, either. Read anime blogs and you’ll find, time after time, deconstructions of the work with little to no reference to the authors and producers, unless they’re crazy famous. I also want to point out I have yet to read the manga, but since it is a separate production, I’m fine with that.
Two, is that I recommend Planetes because it hits all the right buttons in my head. My buttons mightn’t be everyone else’s, which is only a good thing of course. And yet… it deals with space exploration as well as the concept of privilege, international relations as well as love, the conflicting views of a capitalism for the few versus the needs of the many… In short, it’s not for everyone. But enough gushing, on with the article.
In the near future, year 2075, humanity has started colonising space. There are two small cities in the moon, and numerous orbiting stations which are like small floating cities (though nothing like the mammoth colonies of Gundam). Because of the spike in development, the issue of space debris has become crucial to the expansion of this new frontier. Its collection is entrusted to the space development companies themselves. We are put in the midst of Technora’s Debris Section, which despite its huge importance is seen as a bunch of failures and losers by the rest of the company. The story begins as Tanabe Ai, a graduate fresh from college, enlists with Technora and is assigned to the Debris section. Despite their unkempt, unprofessional look, these people are actually adept professionals, and soon Tanabe is part and parcel of the ragtag team.
What sets Planetes apart is its execution. The key word here is realism. Realistic science, realistic characters, and a realistic world. Many science fiction series touch on the problems humanity faces, but the viewer bears witness to these only fleetingly. Planetes, however, meets these head-on. The main themes are the meaning of space exploration, as well as its harsh realities: loneliness, disease… and privilege.
I’m not going to go into the scientific realism of the setting. This has been praised elsewhere, and while it is noteworthy, it isn’t unique. Planetes treatment of international privilege is one of its defining characteristics. That’s right, much like the more recent (and less realistic) Gundam 00, Planetes deals with the issue of international privilege head on. As episodes transpire, we slowly realise that this is not a bright new future for mankind, but rather the future of the world we live in. Disease and poverty are still widespread, with Third World nations falling behind drastically as they are denied access to the benefits of exploiting Space.
This isn’t an afterthought. The characters are actually affected by this reality. Two secondary characters come from the Third World, and they start seeing little by little what the reality is for them, being ‘others’. Their bitterness at the privilege others enjoy is portrayed perfectly, as well as the frustration with the biggest privilege of all: being unaware one is privileged. I’ll go as far as saying my only gripe with these two characters is that their home nations are fictional, although they are rather obvious stand-ins for Brazil and Conflict-Rife Middle Eastern Nation #32. I have seen this done in anime numerous times, and it feels like a bit of a ‘get out of jail free card’ for ignorance about particular national sensitivities, but still allowing the use of a specific national characteristic. Still, the characters are treated with such respect, and their motivations are so well-developed, that they are truly humanised despite the renaming of their very real nations of origin.
The other triumph of Planetes is in its characters. Admittedly, I was not impressed with Tanabe. She is not given much of a character arc, and comes across as excessively naive. However, despite being quite passive, she is shown as being a very capable individual, making her own choices. Hachimaki, like Tanabe, also comes from a cliché archetype (Tanabe is the shy short girl, Hachimaki is the rude antisocial boy). However, his development shows us a complex person with a deep anguish hidden behind his contrary behaviour.
Genderwise, though, the kudos goes to the characterisation of Fee Carmichael, an experienced astronaut who takes the astronauts of Debris Section out on their missions. Fee’s story has ended by the time the series starts, so she gets no arc, only what we can piece together. Regardless, she’s very well fleshed-out. Fee is married, happily so, and working away from home most of the time. She is not objectified, she is not chastised as being a bad mother for prioritising work over family, and she is highly, no, make that incredibly good at what she does. It is a common anime trope to depict tough women as being soft and weak on the inside, just waiting for the right man to come along and pry them out of their shell. Another common trope is that strong, capable women are somehow incomplete, due to their independence. Fee’s characterisation combats this stereotype quite beautifully.
What else? Well, fans of space exploration will get their due. The show is mega-realistic, as I’ve mentioned, with all the technology looking very plausible. However, the point of international privilege vs disadvantage is driven home quite frequently. This may make space exploration advocates think about what kind of world we would be exporting into the cosmos should we choose to do so. And yes, there is no sound in space, something used very well as a tool for dramatic tension.
Planetes didn’t happen in a vacuum. While it is a recent series, the 1980s fostered a new kind of science fiction anime, focused on realistic environments and realistic, mature characterisation. Planetes, thus, follows in their steps, proudly so. It’s well-written, it contains realistic female characters, and it explores privilege in a way no other anime is doing right now.
Planetes is available on DVD in both Regions 1 and 2. The manga is published in the United States by TOKYOPOP.

Mafalda: From Viral Marketing Stunt to National Icon of Protest

[Before we start today, I wanted to quickly link again to the comment thread for my last post. In a surprising turn of events, Kenny Penman, owner of Forbidden Planet Dublin, which I mentioned in my rant. Kenny argues some of my points, and sheds lights on others. While at the end we disagree, the discussion remains civil throughout, and I believe his contributions are a really important complement to my column. Please check it out! I also want to thank Journalista and When Fangirls Attack for linking to my Sailor Moon article! Welcome, Journalista and WFA readers!]
Mafalda: From Viral Marketing to National Icon
Look! That’s the world, you see? You know why this world is lovely? Because it’s only a model. The real one is a disaster! -Mafalda showing her doll a mapamundi.
I must admit, it’s difficult to make a concise blog post about Mafalda. It’s the kind of comic (or rather comic strip) that has had entire doctoral theses devoted to its analysis. Yet, despite its fame throughout Latin America and continental Europe, it has largely been ignored in the anglophone world. This is a great shame, I find, and a great loss to those readers not fortunate enough to experience the joy of encountering Mafalda. It was my first comic strip and still one of my favourites. Hopefully this post will tell you why, and make you curious enough to track down the collections in English (they do exist!).
Whenever I used to talk to people about Mafalda, I didn’t know what point of reference to compare it to in the anglophone world. Peanuts comparisons are easy, but they are quite inaccurate. Mafalda is a much more intricate work, more mature and deep, as well as being deeply subversive. I recently encountered Calvin and Hobbes for the first time, and my dilemma was solved. Mafalda is like Calvin and Hobbes, only with a cast of seven kids instead of two or three. It has the same imaginary childhood escapism, the same analogies with real world events, and a similar take on kids and parenthood. However, Mafalda is at times more brutal in its honesty, more depressing in its outlook and, crucially, much more interesting from a feminist perspective. This has made Mafalda an icon (and character) of protest throughout nations like its native Argentina, Uruguay, Italy and Spain (where the Franco regime forced a ‘For Adults Only’ label on the Mafalda books).
Mafalda is born out of the mind of Joaquín Salvador Lavado, a.k.a ‘Quino’, an Argentinian cartoonist who creates the character as part of an undercover marketing campaign (which we would now call ‘Viral Marketing’) for an electric appliances company. The deal fell through, thank God, and thus the strip proceeded to find its home in several publications. At this point, a look at the genesis of the comic may be timely, but fortunately that area has been covered, and I can move on to look at what makes Mafalda timeless for me.
With the background out of the way, just what is Mafalda, exactly? The premise is very simple: with no on-going storyline, Mafalda recounts the daily lives of Mafalda, a 7 year-old middle-class child living in Buenos Aires, as well as her friends and parents. As time goes by, more and more characters are added to the strip, each providing something unique in their personality which serves as a foil for Mafalda as for each other. Despite having very little character evolution, each of Quino’s creation has a life of their own, a personality that comes through in vastly different situations.
Let’s start with the protagonist. Mafalda is a child who doesn’t take no for an answer. As soon as she learns to read, she is immersed in newspapers half of the time, pondering on the problems of humankind. She comments on them with her friends, from the unique perspective a child can have on, issues such as the women’s rights movement, Vietnam, and Israel.
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Aside from her, the rest of the characters are easy to summarise in few words. Felipe is imaginative but depressed by school and homework. Manolito is greedy and ignorant, symbolising the shallow material obsession of capitalism. Miguelito is a selfish dreamer yet, unlike Felipe, he is more selfish than anything else. Mafalda’s baby brother Guille, is quite like Mafalda in many ways only younger and more demanding. Mafalda’s overworked father tries to answer his daughter’s tough questions while, at the same time, enduring a mid-life crisis.
Felipe and Mafalda
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Manolito and Mafalda:
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Miguelito’s take on life:
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Baby Guille and his Dad:
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The female side of the cast, however, proves infinitely interesting from a feminist perspective. Her mother Raquel, who dropped out of university to get married, provides a critique to the traditional view of women remaining at home. Her choices are often questioned by Mafalda, who is growing up in the midst of second-wave Feminism, and strongly believes it is time for women to take part in public life in a major way.
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Another hugely important female character in the comic is Susanita. She is often a foil and counterpoint to Mafalda. While the protagonist of the strip often ponders the great problems that face humankind, Susanita has but one aim: to become a high society lady, get married to a prestigious man, and have kids. Susanita is in fact obsessed with this, and considers alternatives to be unimportant or irrelevant. Indeed, she represents a certain conservative cynicism, and is based on the stereotype of the gossip-peddling housewife. Her confrontations with Mafalda often revolve around their drastically different outlooks.
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Finally, near the end of the comic’s life, Libertad (‘Freedom’) is introduced; her tiny size a symbol of the concept she is named after. She is a small girl who is, basically, a more radical version of Mafalda. The daughter of a couple of idealist young intellectuals, Libertad is constantly awaiting the impending social revolution which will bring justice to the oppressed masses. However, she lacks Mafalda’s healthy skepticism, naively regurgitating her parents’ ideas without much thought regarding their complexities.
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The characters are very uniform and their personalities do not evolve or change, but this is quite irrelevant, as Quino is a master of the ‘gag’ strip. Oftentimes, one can see the same basic joke presented in over a dozen strips, yet the presentation and delivery are so different that, despite having the same punchline (Manolito is ignorant, Susanita is shallow, Felipe is depressive), still manage to surprise and amuse.
The strip is made timeless due to the fact that many of the problems that concern the characters have endured: Vietnam’s ghost is now ever-present with Iraq; Israel and its neighbouring nations are still in conflict; women’s liberation hasn’t been achieved. And, of course, the more innocent side of the comic is also timeless: everyone hated school at some point, or knew a very selfish boy or girl. Many generations of Argentinian children grew up with the imagery of these kids, often trying to see where our personality ‘fit’ with these archetypes. Myself, I was somewhere between Mafalda’s inappropriate questions, Felipe’s escapist fantasies, and Miguelito’s unabated selfishness.
For Argentinians, there is another timelessness feature of Mafalda: the representation of cultural features of our society which remain largely unchanged. The ghost of militarism is ever-present, with the 1966-1970 period seeing the comic become slightly less overtly political due to the dictatorship of General Juan Carlos Onganía. Free market capitalism is still a huge concern, as is U.S. imperialism. Many women in Argentinian society still aspire to little other than being a wife and a mother because of society’s pressures. Indeed, in Buenos Aires it is common to say of women obsessed with these trappings ‘she is such a Susanita’. Other characters are synonymous with personality quirks (Mafalda=contrariness; Manolito=greed; Miguelito = selfishness; Felipe=idealism with bouts of depression).
For this column, I’ve been re-reading my Mafalda collections. Every time I return to it, I find something new that draws me in. As a child, I was amused by the adventures of kids like me. In my adolescence and college years, the politicisation I experienced was reflected in the comic, and I finally got all those jokes I was too young to understand before. Now, I see the strip was incredibly subversive in feminist terms (though perhaps not in gender terms).
At the time, comics in Argentina (and largely, all over the world) did not feature female characters who were more than a relative or love interest of the hero of the story. It is very interesting to me that, over 20 years before its creation, Mafalda stands up to Bechdel’s Test much better than hundreds of comics that came afterwards. Not only that, but what fascinated me is that Mafalda actually… subverts Bechdel’s Test.
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See, Bechdel’s Test (though originally applied only to films) requires three points: 1. Two or more women who 2. Speak to each other about 3. Something besides a man. The point of this is that in film and many media, women have been unfairly depicted exclusively in supporting roles of the main male characters. In Mafalda, a regular gag involves Susanita talknig about her future husband and home life, but this is subverted by Mafalda’s frequent observations that these are superficial ambitions. Mafalda tells Susanita that a woman ought to see past these limited horizons set by society. The conversation thus ceases to be about a man, and becomes one about how and why women may hold these limited ambitions.
I guess you can see now why I consider Mafalda to be one of my favourite comics, perhaps the best I’ve ever encountered. Here is where I have to tell you its flaws, and sadly I have come to realise they do exist. The first flaw that comes to mind is subtle racism. Let’s clear something up first: Mafalda herself declares often her distaste with racism, her disgust with anyone that can dehumanise another human being in such a manner. She often calls for human understanding and world peace. However, at the time the comic began, Mao’s declaration were a source of grave concern for many in the West, who feared a Third World War if the two Communist colossi united their forces to invade. This is reflected in many comics in which the characters are scared of the Chinese people due to their massive numbers.
Moreover, Manolito is, though relatively harmless, a slightly racist stereotype. In Argentina, it is common to call a Spaniard ‘Galician’, this being a strong cultural stereotype. These stereotyped features and attitudes include: large thick eyebrows, lack of education and outright ignorance, as well as greed. The stereotype of the ‘Galician’ is exactly what Manolito represents: brutish and ignorant, with a materialist mentality that is only concerned with money. Thankfully, Quino’s writing allows Manolito to rise above the stereotype as a character, becoming more a critique of a very Argentinian kind of greed.
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Finally, and this is a personal issue of mine, Mafalda often displays a rather naive nationalism, the kind that is promoted to children. It’s very hard to form an opinion regarding this, because the Argentina of 2008 is not the same nation as 44 years ago. Indeed, three years after Mafalda ceased publication, my country endured the most bloody dictatorship of its history, which murdered over 20,000 of its own citizens. A ‘Western Catholic Capitalist’ oppressive regime, it was intrinsically nationalistic, ending with the lamentable Falklands War. After that, nationalism in Argentina has never meant the same thing. Perhaps foreseeing this, Quino stopped the strip quite suddenly in 1973, as the nation began spiralling into violence, which would culminate in the aforementioned regime.
As a final critique, while traditional gender roles are questioned very often throughout, gender identity is seldom an issue. It only comes into play when, by accident, someone preys on the fears of the ‘older generation’, and this is very infrequent. Generally, Quino uses this as a tool to display the conservative attitudes of previous generations. What may appear so normal as to be ignored by youth may be perceived as ‘depraved’ by an older character (usually a passers-by).
Closing thoughts? I don’t have many. Mafalda is the best kind of comic strip, in my honest opinion. It is funny, it is endearing, but it can also challenge the outside world, and has little pretense and a lot of hope for humankind. It’s a fantastic second-wave feminism comic strip while, at the same time, being much broader in scope. It offers a complex image of children very much at odds with the traditional view of a child as an innocent angel. And it is always, always, insightful, shallow, depressing, hilarious, thoughtful and profound. Often all at once.
Now, for a useful tidbit, I’ve tried to track down English-language editions of Mafalda. This is difficult: an old British edition of the books is lost to the mists of time, and to this day there is no U.S. edition (U.S. publishers rejected the strip in 2004 saying it was too complex for children). Regardless, Mafalda has been finding an audience in English, thanks to its publication by the Argentinian publisher of the collections, Ediciones de la Flor, which still sell by the thousands. The translations aren’t always 100%, after all a few strips rely on wordplay that is untranslatable cultural lingo or slang. But for what is possible, it is an appropriate adaptation (I own 3 of the 5 collections in English). Here are some sites that stock the collections in English. For now, only 5 out of the 10 books have been published so far. If you want to search for it yourself, the books are published as Mafalda and Friends.
Amazon
Amazon UK
Blackwell
Finally, if you’re a Spanish speaker, I recommend Toda Mafalda. It is a coffee-table sized book which includes all the ten collections, as well as extra strips and illustrations made by Quino of his characters down the years. It includes tributes by artists and cartoonists as well.

Sailor Moon: Queerness in the Queerless ’90s

And so we begin regular updates! I know I’m excited, so let’s get right to it!
For my first column, I wanted to talk about one of the shows that got me (and many people) into anime in the first place: Sailor Moon, and how it impacted on my queerness as well as many people of my generation. In looking for references for this column, I stumbled across this interesting article regarding queerness and attitudes to sexuality and gender in anime.
If you were coming of age in mid-’90s Argentina, and you sensed you were, let’s say, ‘different’ from your peers with regards to your sexual identity, there weren’t a lot of readily available images for you to begin to understand yourself more. Media images influence us: they contribute to defining how we see ourselves, and may sometimes even help contribute to our development by giving us positive role models. This is particularly important if one is part of a minority, one which doesn’t get a lot of airtime or attention. And as we know, queerness is something that gets silenced in many societies.
In Argentina, there weren’t really many role models at all if you were a coming-of-age young queer. Indeed, queerness was relegated to homosexuality and cross-dressing as a source of comedy, the best exponent of which was Antonio Gasalla. A TV presenter with his own sketch show, the late Gasalla was as intelligent and witty as he was problematic. For all his groundbreaking, anti-establishment comedy, Gasalla still played up to certain stereotypes of camp which were deemed acceptable by mainstream Argentinian society. So we can file him under ‘mixed blessing’ at best. Apart from him, there wasn’t much else on TV or film, you had the stereotypical ‘tragic gay’ here and there in arthouse films and that was it. Argentinian society really didn’t have room for much more (for added context: sexual ‘minorities’ were denied the vote in the city of Buenos Aires until the year 1990).
The year 1995 marked the beginning of the ’second wave’ of anime in Argentina. The first wave had been very light, consisting of Astro Boy, Mazinger Z and other old time classics, as well as Robotech, being aired. The second wave provided more authentic, less altered content. The spearheads of anime were three shows in particular: Sailor Moon, Saint Seiya, and Dragon Ball.
They all stood out in their own ways, but as far as different ways of doing an adventure show, Sailor Moon was quite groundbreaking for many of us, accustomed to getting our animation/comic fix from American derivates. First of all, it was a show about a group of girls. While they may have their loves and relationships (and on further analysis many of these were troubled in the way they were presented), each of them was their own person, with their own lives, and no male ally or villain ever really stole the spotlight. The first season of the show already featured a queer romance, that between villains Zoycite and Kunzyte, yet the dub for that season, the only one based on the U.S. one (though without blatant censorship for the most part), portrayed Zoycite as a woman. Many, myself included, took little notice, after all his facial features matched those of the women in the show, and few people were used to anime portrayals of feminine men.
Still, a while later Sailor Moon S came along, one of the heights of plotting and drama for the series. And there you had it: Haruka and Michiru. Haruka was a woman, identified as such, but used a low voice when in ‘civilian’ guise, and dressed as a man. At first sight, most of the main characters were attracted to her. Oh, but Haruka was going out with the very feminine Michiru. They rarely did more than hold hands, but the normality with which their relationship was presented was a clincher for those of us in the audience. After that, whenever queer characters showed up, they were treated with the same normality in the narrative: Fish-Eye’s trans sensitivities were not played for laughs, it was just another feature of the character. Later on, we get the more protagonic Sailor Star Lights who, for the unitiated, were men in their civilian identity but transformed into women when changing into Sailor Scouts. Once more, the characters seemed at home with either gender, which was quite unique at a time when all other trans people on Argentinian TV were part of cop dramas, usually involved in sordid tales of prostitution.
In hindsight, the relationship is not without problematics, of course. Haruka and Michiru suscribe to the butch-femme binary to the letter, a common misinterpretation of identity in homosexual relationships (that is to say, the idea that that is ‘the way’ in which they occur). Also, they are both tragic characters, their destiny is considered by both of them to be doomed, which may put them in the category of the ‘tragic gay couple’, one that is not seldom found in shoujo manga. Furthermore, I remember clearly back then, in the budding fandom that sprung up around the aforementioned anime shows, many people started to spread the misconception that, somehow, Japan was an advanced society in which being gay or trans was perfectly acceptable and a-okay. In the pre-internet world, with only anime to gauge it, it may have indeed seemed to be the case.
In opposition to this, I link to the aforementioned article, as well as this interesting essay entitled Male Homosexuality and Popular Culture in Japan. Both look into queerness in manga, particularly shoujo (manga ‘for girls’), a classification Sailor Moon and most of its companions in the ‘magical girl’ genre fall within. While the second article focuses on male homosexuality, it points out how, for a lot of Japanese gay men, homosexual imagery in shoujo manga isn’t a plus, but rather it is a burden due to stereotyping. I can imagine Japanese lesbians may feel the same way about the very idealised relationship between Haruka and Michiru. However, it is interesting how for a large part of it, the main concern is that sexual activity, or the indication of it, remain behind closed doors. This social taboo against public sexual conduct appears to be more of a concern in Japanese society rather than which sexuality it is that is practiced.
Back to the main topic, I’d say the issue here is one of perception, visibility versus stereotyping. When we first encounter queerness in the West, often visibility is enough to start with. If this happens through anime, since the stereotypes emanate from the ignorance (or desires) of another culture, we are often unaware of their actual problematics. We have to remember that Sailor Moon, and its iconisation by queer anime fans happens in the context of that barren land known as the pre-Internet world. Before MySpace, before MMOs, before big-name shows like Queer as Folk or The L Word (with all their problems), back when the web was neither massive nor well-known, and our access to different portrayals of sexual identity were exceedingly limited.
As such, with its problems (and it has many), I’m not ready to dismiss Sailor Moon. Its portrayal of female characters at the center of the narrative was extremely important in how I came to perceive superhero stories (which is what Sailor Moon is at its core), for one. And its normalisation of queer characters was important as part of the self-acceptance process. For indeed, stories make us reflect on ourselves, if they are compelling and well-written, even if they can be infantile and feature men wearing tights fighting crime, or girls in Sailor outfits fighting aliens. It’s the beauty of fiction that we can allow such indulgences for the stories, and characters, that lie beneath.

Shining Gundam, the first Trans robot?

(In a spot of guerrilla blogging to keep Trouble afloat, our fearless protagonist finds herself blogging from a queer coffee shop somewhere in southeast Berlin!)
SPOILER NOTICE: This post has spoilers for Mobile Fighter G Gundam, around episodes 23-25. You’ve been warned.
So, robot genders, again. We’ve been down this road before here at Prepare For Trouble HQ, and being a fan of giant robots as I am, it’s one I can’t resist but come back to.
So I’m watching G Gundam, which some of you may know. It takes after Shounen archetypes to a tee, down to not having many female characters, and those who are there are at the service of the male characters, generally as love interests (of note, however, is Natasha, the officer from Neo Russia, who has a degree in badass while not being romantically linked to anyone. But they also show her nude gratuituously, because we can’t have a strong woman without some of that huh?)
Anyway, our post today is about the fact that G Gundam has something we’ve all been waiting for but may have been too scared to truly see: the very first transgender robot. Of course, Gundams don’t seem to have genitalia as far as we know, so we can only tell this from our good friend, Doctor Gender Cues.
See, in episode 24, protagonist Domon Kasshu obtains his new robot, the God Gundam. However, he cannot operate it and needs the data from his previous robot, the Shining Gundam. To accomplish this, his operator and implied romantic interest, Rain Mikamura, remotely controls the Shining Gundam in the middle of a heated battle.
Here is where it becomes interesting. Up to now, Domon’s Shining Gundam has been powerful and almost undefeated, strong and commanding. (Once in a previous episode, Rain had controlled it, but to little effect since we all know Girls Are Weak). Anyway, Rain starts controlling Shining Gundam, and instantly its entire body language changes, something you have to watch the episode to understand I’m afraid.
To wit, the damaged Gundam makes its way to Domon, crawling in a submissive way that belies the female = submissive gender cue. See, G Gundam tends to equate a robot with its pilot, as the robots follow exactly the pilot’s movement. So when Rain, a woman, is controlling it, Shining cannot help BUT be submissive, as a woman ought to be. In its gender, then, the previously powerful (=male) Shining Gundam is now the weak, submissive one in the face of the new powerful (=male) God Gundam. The Gundams join hands to transmit data, and in a touching scene, almost kiss, and then proceed to hold hands. It’s a good thing that they spent the previous minute making the Shining Gundam crawl over in a submissive femmy way, because otherwise, considering how we’ve read the robot so far, the scene would’ve looked very genderfucky, and we cannot have any of that. As it is, it looks heteronormative.
Until you realise the gendered actions of the Shining have changed from Stereotypically Male to Stereotypically Female. Say it with me, Shining Gundam, the first Trans Gundam. Certainly not the last. As a finishing touch, the God Gundam holds the Shining Gundam in its arms, the Shining in a pose that almost looks like both Gundams are newlyweds about to step over the threshold. Yeah! The manly God Gundam with its weak femme partner, the Shining Gundam.
I know you were trying to make us forget the Shining Gundam was masculine only five minutes prior, G Gundam writers. But we trans people, we have longer memories than that. And we know one of our own when we see hir.

Guest Column: Astro Boy, Now Guaranteed Not To Hit Like A Girl

Last week was dead in the water, but this week we’ve got a treat. The stupendous Avery Dame, part of the board of Girl-Wonder, is guesting, thereby allowing me to gallivant through Europe for another week. Here are hir thoughts on the rather… perplexing changes that have been happening down Remake Lane, when Hollywood meets a venerable Japanese comic icon…

Astro Boy, Now Guaranteed Not to Hit Like a Girl, by Avery Dame
Recently, I was linked to an article on the Hollywood animated movie adaption of Osamu Tezuka’s classic Tetsuwan Atom, known in America as Astro Boy: Astro Boy’s makeover
When [the Tezuka estate] saw the initial designs for Astro Boy in the upcoming computer animated flick, the one thing that the Japanese owners did not fancy was the size of his rear end.
They found it too small.
At first, it seems impossible a battle over rear ends? Really?
Really. And it’s but one in a line of gender-normative changes applied to the iconic Tezuka character, as I found out. Astro now has less ‘feminine’ eyes, has been aged up to the appropriately rambunctious age of 12, and wears a light blue shirt.
In reading the article, there’s a lot here that can be unpacked relating Asia to infantilism, the (usual) conflation of femininity as being threatening to masculinity, the hints of gay spandex panic, or how many pounds of salt one should the ‘unplanned’ Caucasian appearance of the new Astro be taken with.
However, I think the element most easily missed is how Astro’s ‘reimagining’ highlights the problematic nature of Western society’s view of childhood—an intensely gendered wonderland trapped within its own idealism. As in the Pinocchio fable, Astro is a child robot, made in the image of Doctor Tenma’s dead son. Astro exemplifies the presumably non-adult, non-jaded innocence of childhood, as well as the complications that can arise in trying to meet black and white childhood expectations with real world prejudices.
Such themes are fairly universal—Pinocchio, after all, originated as an Italian fable—but more importantly, these feelings can exist without any one adult’s moral guidance. The gendered narrative of childhood experience and the products that accompany it, however, originate almost entirely from adults. Adults determine if a child be dressed in pink or blue and create the dividing lines between ‘girly’ dolls and ‘manly’ action figures.
When children gender-police, then, it is solely a learned action; they or their peers must be trained early on by their parents or authority figures to view nonconforming gender expression as bad and then pass these beliefs on. Such children, raised to believe in the necessity of gender policing, grow up to be, among many other jobs, Hollywood movie-making professionals. And though the animation half of Imagi may be based on Hong Kong, Astro Boy is a decidedly Hollywood adaption.
Indeed, it is these professionals who have bought into the Western myth of ‘childhood’ they themselves were fed boys reenact action shows, and girls have tea parties. Over time, depicting ‘tomboys’ has become acceptable (after all, who wouldn’t want masculinity?), but any expression of femininity in young boys is still stomped out.
Into this space comes new, ‘improved’ Astro. A ‘masculine’ Astro, a ‘heroic’ Astro. Not even Astro’s punching power and rear-mounted machine guns can put aside that threatening hint of visual femininity. Because, after all, feminine boys can’t be heroes. Feminine boys are jokes, things you threaten your friends with, not heroes. And even more, feminine heroes are not marketed to small boys. Boys already don’t want to buy girl action figures, the toy industry tells us, so why would they want to buy a sissy?
If all this seems rather reductionist, I admit it is. Yet even after years of Butler or Bornstein, childhood gender training can be inescapable. When I mentioned to a gender-flexible friend that new Astro had a shirt, he later told me that his first mental image (having never seen the updated Astro design) was of Astro in a blue shirt.
This is, then, a cautionary tale, of the prince who, even though he liked the pink horse best, chose the blue one because he knew it was the only way he could rescue his prince(ss).

Authorial Intent, That Elusive Foe

Hi again all.
Sigh.
The last few months have been difficult in real life, hence my protracted absence. In the meantime, I’ve been reading, I’ve been writing, yes. But I haven’t been publishing. It’s almost a year since I got the e-mail that offered me a blogging position here at Girl-Wonder, and it’s about time this blog saw action once again. My promise to you, is that I will be posting more. Perhaps shorter articles, but the show will go on.
This post, however, has taken me a long while. And I’ve chipped away at it again and again. Because it just wouldn’t come out right, and I’d just save the draft and close the window. Only to add, substract a bit more, and then close the window off again, leaving this unpublished for a ridiculous amount of time.
I also missed a few little deadlines I’d set for myself. I wanted this post to be around the time of Coming Out Day, for example. You’ll see why it’s been so difficult for me to write this, and why it’s been so important that it comes out properly. Without further ado…)
In this article I want to discuss authorial intent, and a rather ironic way in which this has intertwined between one of my favourite manga/anime, Saint Seiya, and a very personal process that 2008 saw the beginning of.
Time for full disclosure. I am a card-carrying Saint Seiya fan. A littering of shiny Myth Cloth figures, and a number of comics and DVDs sit in my shelves silently, bearing witness to this fact. Back in 1995, Saint Seiya is what got me started into the whole Anime/Manga mess, along with Sailor Moon and, later, Dragon Ball.
Intent is a rather fascinating creature. Robert Heinlein may have intended for Starship Troopers to show a militarist utopia, but this didn’t prevent its large-screen adaptation from being, basically, a parody of his views.
The author’s intent is always up for debate. Do we dismiss the intent, focusing instead on the impact a work has on the world? Do we focus only on the intent, disregarding the alternate readings and meanings that can be made on the work? Or do we synthesize these, taking all of them into account when analysing said work?
I feel the latter works better sometimes. Because, while I don’t think that Naoko Takeuchi is a queer woman, Sailor Moon is, regardless, a queer icon. Yet there are themes there that are obviously put in the story because of the author’s own intent and interests, that is to say, the story she wants to tell. But today I’m not talking about Sailor Moon. Instead, I’m going to be completely uncharacteristic and talk about… well, I’ll talk about Saint Seiya (known as Knights of the Zodiac in the US and pretty much everywhere else).
With that out of the way, let’s talk Shounen, shall we? Saint Seiya became a worldwide phenomenon adhering, as it did, to a number of staples within entertainment aimed at men. The novelty being, it was in cartoon form. It featured epic wars between men, violence, very little romance, themes of friendship, honour and heroism, and a nice backdrop of somewhat misrepresented Greek mythology to justify it all.
Watching or reading Saint Seiya, the modern, well-informed viewer or reader of the Internet age will, of course, wince. Even for the time, in Japan it was considered a very retro manga. And this shows. It’s simple, in parts I’d say simplistic, and particularly in its manga incarnation, it is very, very macho. Then how come I loved it, never having adhered to that kind of masculinity? How come my friends, girls, queers and other people who were very far from chauvinism, didn’t miss a single episode?
Here is where authorial intent, that elusive foe, comes into play. Masami Kurumada, the manga’s creator, focuses on the theme of the ‘true man’ in most of his stories, and Saint Seiya is no exception. For it is really the story of Seiya, his trials and sacrifices towards becoming a ‘true’ man: honourable, strong, fearless, with no doubt in his heart about his duty to save the world. Kurumada places such an emphasis on the men of his manga, that the few women in it are mostly secondary, relatively weak, and/or ultimately of little relevance to the main action. I’d like to say you could count the female characters in Saint Seiya with one hand, but sadly there’s a grand total of six female characters. And even writing strong characters like the female warrior Shaina, Kurumada stumbles: her resolution as a character is to fall in love with Seiya, and thusly fade non-threateningly into the background.
Now, I’ll admit that many people loved the anime so much, they went to the source material. But it was in the richness of the animated version that many, dare I say most of us founded our fabulous fandom. The manga-to-anime adaptation is more common in Japan than book-to-film would be in the west, and it’s an interesting process. Just like all adaptations, there are jewels and true stinkers. There are times when a manga and an anime are created concurrently, and as such aren’t adaptations of each other but rather different visions (Evangelion, Utena, Brain Powerd, Nadesico, the list goes on). Saint Seiya followed the more traditional route of being adapted into animation with little input from the author (at least until the recent Chapter: Inferno arc, but I won’t go into such detail).
It fell to the anime staff to make something out of Kurumada’s often sparse, blunt manga. His interesting character designs were updated and stylised, in the process mixing shounen sensitivities with shoujo ones. This was both the influence of Michi Himeno, as well as Shingo Araki’s experience in adapting the Shoujo classic, The Rose of Versailles, for animation.
Here’s where I come in. I’ll preface by saying I don’t know how much of an influence Shingo Araki had on the actual writing of the TV show, and the way it handled characterisation. It is also unknown what the input was from Michi Himeno, Araki’s wife and fellow animator, who would take over lead animation duties, giving the characters greater Shoujo stylings.
So, in the anime the characters’ personalities are a bit more strongly delineated than their manga counterparts. Seiya is more headstrong and the butt of many jokes, Hyoga tends to be the foil, the serious angsty one. Shiryu becomes a closer friend of Seiya, and Ikki is… well, he’s still Ikki. Which leaves us with Shun.
The five leads are, indeed, tropelicious. Seiya is the shounen protagonist with a heart of justice, Hyoga is the strong silent one, Shiryu is the mystical one, Ikki is the bad boy, and Shun, who is meant to be the total opposite of his brother, is the girly one.
Shun, the Saint of Andromeda, is a paradox. He represents the constellation of Andromeda, a Goddess. His armour, at the beginning, is pink and female-shaped, which led many early viewers to think Shun was female. He’s depicted as possessing more traditionally ‘female’ traits than some of the female characters, such as the vicious Shaina and the tutoress Marin. He is often chastised by his partners for not being strong enough, for being too merciful, too ‘pure’.
The fact is Shun is simply part of a Japanese stereotype of the strong, feminine male warrior, who is somehow possessed of the female ‘mystique’ while still being deadly (another example would be the villain Seta Soujirou in Rurouni Kenshin). Kurumada’s audience, back then, was the Japanese public, unlike today (when Saint Seiya is primarily a product for export). Shun follows this role down to a tee, where his femininity is, in fact, part of his strength.
And this is all well and good. But when I was 12 years old and delving into this world for the first time, I had little analysis of Japanese culture to inform me of this. And I saw something else.
I saw a character that reflected a part of my reality. While I never looked like a girl, nor tried to, as a kid I tended to shy away from ‘masculine’ activities, mainly meaning sports. Insults about not being ‘man enough’ abounded, which in meaning, if not in tone, were not too dissimilar to the comments made by Shun’s friends about him.
But in Saint Seiya, Shun is not a loser. He is presented as a relatively pathetic character, up until he actually defeats an incredibly powerful enemy all by himself: Pisces Aphrodite, another gender-transgressing warrior. A man who wears lipstick and whose salient features are his cruelty and unparallelled beauty, it is doubtlessly a metaphor for another path that Shun could have chosen. At the last minute, the pacifistic Shun does defeat Aphrodite, and it is revealed that he has had secret powers all along -powers that surpass those of his peers, but which he has never felt compelled to use.
I think I saw a spark there.
There was a place for a boy, who was not a boy. Who had something different about him, which made him stand apart from his peers. But since Shun was in a fantasy, he was accepted for this, because in the end he does wield the male power of violence to defeat an enemy. He just does it differently.
Fast forward to October 2008, then, thirteen years after I first laid eyes on that green haired boy with the chains. And there’s this thing that I know about myself. That I’m certain, and that I want to share with my parents. Because I have a good relationship with them, because I’ve built up my confidence through a series of incredible events I experienced in 2008. Because I love them and I want them to know about a very important part of my life.
So there I was, by sheer coincidence, on Coming Out Day, and I told my parents I was a transsexual girl.
What’s going to happen from now on, I’m not sure. I’m happy that I know who I am. I’m confident in this person who seemed to be buried underneath, occasionally peeking through. And certainly there’s been a lot of things that have helped me get to where I am. But seeing Shun, seeing the boy who was not constrained by what a ‘man’ was, despite being surrounded by a very narrow masculinity, did have something to do with giving me a little spark of confidence.
I’m sure Masami Kurumada never thought of that.

Troubled Rant #3: Disempowering Figurations

As you may or may not know, I purchase figures from time to time. I limit myself to anime/manga figures, and then I focus almost exclusively on Gundam and Saint Seiya. Why, you ask?
Because I’m sick and tired of not getting the figures I want, that’s why. Allow me to elaborate.
Most Gundam merchandise revolves around robots, which makes sense (too bad I would codify most of these robots as men, eh?). However, because of its popularity, there are now tons of character figures as well, which is a plus. Many great, strong female characters like Haman Karn have got figures, and I’m sure popular ones like Sayla Mass are in the works.
Elsewhere? Not so much. There are a lot of strong female characters in anime. And I’m not talking about niche stuff like Utena (much as I wish there were good statuettes of Utena characters). I’m talking about the mainstream: Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Goodness, Eva figures… they go from the tasteful-but-boring to the simply outrageous. I love Misato as a character, I find her to be a complex woman (despite certain mysogynist aspects to her portrayal). Misato figures and statuettes are around, though not as much as Rei and Asuka (probably because Misato is ‘old’, ie she’s in her late twenties, but I digress). Now, try and find a statuette that depicts Misato as a strong person, and you will fail utterly. I can think of many scenes in Evangelion where Misato displays her strength of character. But look at the 3D versions of her and it’s always the same, either playful-sexy or weak and sorrowful. That’s not the Misato I spent 26 episodes and 2 films with. Are other people simply seeing a different character? And where, in this deluge of endless scantily-clad, anorexic Reis, is Ritsuko?
It gets worse. As I pointed out, there are no decent-quality figures of almost any Sailor Moon characters (there’s the barbie-like dolls that look little like their animated counterparts, as much fun as they can be). How about The Rose of Versailles, the shoujo manga that was such a furore in the 70s that there is STILL merchandise being produced, and the manga is still being edited again and again in Japan? Nope, no figures of it either, unless you count the terrifying dolls made back in the day. And may I remind you, Versailles was one of these huge cultural phenomenons in Japan, much like Dragon Ball or Rurouni Kenshin would be decades later. Utena figures? Don’t make me laugh, probably way too queer.
How about Saint Seiya? Well, as a story it’s not exactly a paragon of female empowerment (quite the opposite), but it does feature some strong women: Mermaid Thetis, Ophiucus Shaina and Eagle Marin. The celebrated Myth Cloth line has featured, so far, Pandora and Athena, both important characters… yet who are traditionally within what I would call ‘mystified females’. Thetis, Shaina and Marin are strong warriors, do they get any figures? Nope. I’m sure they’ll be released eventually (the Myth Cloth line is quite complete), but nobody seems to care for now. Maybe I’m the only one whose favourite character was Shaina, a character utterly ruined, by the way, by the necessities of a male-centric plotline…
And you know what gets absolutely on my tits? We all know there isn’t any lack of female anime figurines. But I dare you to look for a figurine of a strong female character who isn’t: a) from a Gundam series or b) distorted to be as hentai-like as possible. Seriously. Before the great current line of RAHDX figures, the last statue of Sayla Mass I saw had changed her quite normal body proportions to that of a hentai female character. To put it simply, strong female characters, it doesn’t matter how popular they are, simply don’t get statuettes or figurations that show their strength. Even the Gundam ones have caveats: Haman Karn, for all her strength, is still ‘evil’; Ayna Sahalin’s statuette is all about the sexy. And I haven’t seen many figures of Emma Sheen or Reccoa Londe, two strong females from Zeta Gundam who, because of their personalities, would be very difficult to realistically show them in porn-like poses.
There is something else to say here too, because what you get for female characters, 9 out of 10 times, is that: a statuette. A fixed piece. The Myth Cloths are amazing figures, one of their main selling points being that you can replicate almost any pose the character ever made. There is a similarly accurate line of Dragon Ball figures, and the same goes for Bleach. But this doesn’t seem to happen with female characters, or female-centric stories: women are fixed statues. They cannot move, indeed they are objects.
I know I sound cranky. I know. I’m just sick of seeing great characters, anime after anime, and realising there’s little recognition for them out there. Someone please prove me wrong!

Chronicle of a Hiatus Foretold

Dear reader,
I hope this post finds you well. As you can see I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties for a while. Please be assured, it is nothing personal against you. I just have a lot on my plate right now, up until probably the middle of June.
I have something special for you, however. You see, it’s not fair that you’re not getting your fix of troubled anime, manga and European comics just because I’m off doing something silly like having a personal life… So! Today I’ll link you to some seriously awesome blogs and websites that may be of interest to the comicque booke animanga eurocomicque feministe dilettante. To wit:
A Feminist Critique of Animation Genevieve Petty’s website is where it’s at. While I’ve been here thinking I’m toiling fresh new ground, Petty’s been at it for ages. Her extensive website is chock full of essays, from critiques of specific anime shows, to a breakdown of the Disney mythos, sexuality in cartoons, racism in animation and more.
La Feministe Imaginaire: a feminist’s journey to fantasy and science fiction in modern media A relatively young blog which offers critiques of fantasy, sci-fi and comic books. Contains the first part of a series on Fushigi Yuugi, which I found quite interesting.
Feminism in Shoujo Manga, an introduction & Feminism in Shoujo Manga: NANA From the sadly defunct anime blog, Bento Physics, which I have recently discovered. I say sadly because the articles in it are awesome! The series on shoujo manga never went too far, but it contains these two articles which are great reads.
European Comic Art Journal This is quite interesting, the very first scholarly english-language publication dealing with European comics! I must say I am seriously excited at the prospect of getting my hands on the first issue whenever it becomes available. It goes to show how little attention has been paid to Euro comics if this is the FIRST academic publication of this kind. Of course, it is more than welcome and timely! Luckily for those of us with small pockets, the journal will be available to read online.
I hope you enjoy checking out these links, and I’ll catch you on the flipside.
Regards,
Ariel Silvera
Discuss this post at the forums.

A call for guests

Astute Troubled readers may have noticed a more haphazard update schedule recently. Once more, I must cite personal reasons and once more, you have to sit there and take it. For, sadly, what’s keeping me away from blogging is a multitude of very personal issues that are a bit too private to share publicly. Just so you know, I am okay. But blogging comics, specially when I’m reading so few new ones, is a bit of a struggle. Oh, there’s stuff in the horizon alright. I plan on doing a follow-up to my Fruits Basket article when that comic finishes publication, for example. I’ve got stuff in the cards about both Macross and Gundam, with a side helping of gushing about The Rose of Versailles and Revolutionnary Girl Utena something I’m surprised I haven’t gotten around to yet.
There’s still life in the land of Trouble.
But I don’t want this blog to go completely silent due to my personal offline issues. And so, the call is out to guest bloggers. I’ve already personally contacted a couple of people I found through google, interesting authors that have written great stuff on this world wide web of ours. So far I only got one response, but I’m hopeful that it’ll bear fruit.
In the meantime, I put the call to you, dear reader. Have you ever wanted to write a column about gender, trans or queer issues in non-American comics? Ever wanted to elucidate about your nation’s little-known comics output and gender issues associated with it? Just felt like ranting about a particular issue of representation? Or do you know anyone who does?
Now is your chance! I will review all submissions, but I cannot promise all will get published. The terms are simple: write about anything that you think is within the remit of this blog. Write a review, an analysis, comment on a specific issue that bothers you. Just remember it has to be about comics or animation from outside the United States.
Oh, and try not to be better than me at this whole blogging business, will ya? Last thing I want is some brilliant contributor to end up replacing me and getting all the millions of dosh I get for writing in this space*.
Comment on this column at the forums!
*: I don’t get any dosh for writing in this space. Only Zuul.