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.

We Can Do It! shirtThe Girl-Wonder.org store features a range of t-shirt designs. You can multi-task: promote the site and look fabulous, all in one fell swoop!

Girl-Wonder.org received a Tartie from Sequential Tart, in the fifth annual Tartie Awards!

Girl-Wonder.org was Yahoo’s Pick of the Day on June 20, 2006!

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.

Why I hate rape affirming storylines

I started writing a reply to a comment about rape storylines, over on the G-W board, and I realised that the poster’s one line hit a raw nerve with me.
This post goes for a while, and it was a bit confronting for me to write. It’ll probably change some of my readers view of me, and I accept that in advance. I took this role as the Designated Sidekick to present a male view, and this is one of those times. This isn’t every man’s world view, or representative of males in general. This is my story, and my life, and my explanation. I don’t expect to be praised or rewarded for it, I just wanted to put my reasons, my experience and my rationale on the line. I don’t know what I expect to achieve, I just think it’s worth saying and moving on from there.
TRIGGER WARNING: Both the column and resultant discussion may contain trauma triggers. Please be safe.
(Hell, it’s been a bad night writing this, take care reading it)

One of the issues that I carry is from what I went through to get to the point where I’m blogging for Girl-Wonder, rather than blogging against it. Basically, somedays, it’s hard not to still think of myself as one of the bad guys. I’m from the bad guys side. If I had the internet, as it currently exists, back when I was at high school, I’d be part of 4chan and the related cesspools. This isn’t some self flagellating cry for ‘But DS you’re not like them’ backslaps. I’m not like them now, but back then, I was one of them.
I come from the mid to upper class over privileged young white men who thought the world owed them. We felt entitled to say what we wanted, about who we wanted, and we were taught that our God endorsed right to children and wife and to be the protectors of the women for we were warrior-men. Friends of mine felt that women should fuck them just because they’re white, male and that was god’s gift to females. Back then, I’d support them either actually agreeing with them, or by shutting up and letting them take my silence as support.
Sure, I wasn’t entirely like the rest of the pack, but I had the option to join and merge with the herd open to me at any point. I was a Nice Guy (TM). I thought that just being a reasonable civil person not just meant I deserved a cookie, but full sexual favours to go with that cookie. The stuff I heard, the stuff I said, the stuff we tacitly supported because we didn’t speak up and oppose it led to my peers, my friends (and some of my enemies) thinking that woman hating was fine, so long as you fucked them while hating them. After all, the only thing most of those guys hated more than women was gay men.
That was my peer group, my high school buddies and my social circle. Welcome to my back story as a late 80s high school boy in a nice school in a nice suburb with nice boys as friends. We reinforced each other, outdid each other, and created a vicious circle of a misogyny arms race each trying to be cooler, tougher, more fucked up than the other.
Getting out of that social sphere took a lot. It took rejection, for which I note with pride, when the white power fascist kid doesn’t want to be your friend, you’re doing something right. When he’s got one of the bigger circle of friends in the school, right isn’t always backed by might.
It took bleeding, fistfights and being a target. Because I chose not to be one of them, when the rich kid who endorsed hating those who were different to him (read, anyone not rich, straight, angry, white male and avowedly misogynistic heterosexual) turned to me expecting tactic support and didn’t receive it, I was marked as an acceptable target for in-school violence. That said, don’t mistake me for a martyr. I fought when attacked and attacked when it suited me. I perpetuated that school pecking order system every bit as much as the rest of the young men who fought me and I fought. Pointless (in retrospect) violent male behaviour was normal for me. I know what they feel, because I’ve felt it, enjoyed it, and suffered the consequences (and reaped the rewards). Leaving that social structure behind was difficult.
Rejecting the social messages also took saying things to friends who stopped being friends because you weren’t agreeing with them, and they craved peer approval (which, when you’re turning into this woman liking weirdo, you’re not providing). It took the willingness to voluntarily be a social outcast as a teenager (I fear what I’d have made of Myspace if I’d had it back then)
Above all, it took finding reinforcement from places where you retreated because you were getting shunned, beaten up or rejected. For me, I headed off into left-wing late 80s comedy. I was listening to Ben Elton espousing feminism, socialism and anti-Thatcherism when my friends were reading fantasy novels where non consensual sex was eroticised and normalised as what people did. If I’d had access to comics, I’d have been reading them, and absorbing their messages as much as I was downloading Rik Mayal, Ben Elton and Alexei Sayle into my life.
[Sidenote: One of the guys who was a friend of mine loaned me this “great fantasy novel”. There were two rape scenes in it before I gave up. Note – I read the first rape scene, and kept reading the novel. The older I get, the more discomfort I have with the memory of the text of the second scene. Serves me right, I should’ve quit at the first warning mark. As far as I could see, the basic story was “Independent woman is turned into obedient sex drone for male through rape and violence”. I remember being utterly repulsed by the whole thing, and having to look a friend in the eye as I gave the book back whilst hoping he didn’t want me to approve of his choice of reading material. In the end, when I found out he had the entire series of the books (something like thirty of them, with most of those nonconsensual sex scenes marked out in highlighter pen) I had to remove another mate from my social circle. I may have gained a less noxious social sphere, but I did nothing to help him by walking away. That’s what he was downloading to his brain when I was learning that consent mattered]
So when it comes to 2007, and comics, and movies, and contemporary media, I find myself railing against the rape back story culture for a lot of reasons.
I detest these storylines because they perpetuate a myth that rape is an empowering event that creates you into a stronger, better faster whatever. If that shit was remotely fictionally supportable, Batman’s origin would have a rape story. Batman parents could live as Joe Chill just needed to rape Bruce to get the story started. Krypton could continue to exist. Uncle Ben could still be alive. All through the virtue of non consensual violent power crime. This is not to say I want rape to become the feature storyline for men. I want it to stop, and I want it to stop being the motive du jour for female heros.
I am sick to death with being presented stories of empowerment through non consensual power crime as the necessary prerequisite for female competence. It’s sickening, it’s frustrating, and it’s saying to me, as a male, that women exist as impractical, hopeless, useless and powerless creatures until violently cast in these empowerful roles through non consensual violation.
I’m sick of being told that rape is something empowering that creates heroines. It says that these women cannot become something by their own choice, they must become it because of the acts of a male. I’m rejecting the message, but hell, I’m still getting the message to reject. What’s it doing to the guys not realising they’re supposed to reject this idea?
I’m sick of having the medium that’s aimed squarely at me and my gender tell me that ‘Hey! It’s okay if she’s raped! It’ll give her really good positive things later! Really! See? RapedinBackstoryGirl turned out okay didn’t she?’.
I hate the support it gives to the guys who are looking for justification. I hate the lies it spreads to the kids like me who are desperately looking outside their social circles for cues on how to deal with life.
I hate the way rape stories are used to sell books, sell movies and make a profit from a violent, brutal and degrading power crime.
I hate it, because I was so close to becoming a rapist myself.
I have the same coding in my head that they do. I have the same privilege blinkers, my default settings are white privilege male. My language and my world view is hetero centric, empowered and powerful. I was taught that women owed me sex because I was a man, and men are entitled to sex from women.
The rape normalising storylines are something that I resist with all the power I have, because damn me, there was a time, one moment, one point in my life where my partner said no, and I stopped when frankly, I did not want to stop.
I’ve been there, I’ve experienced that point of choice.
I stopped because there had been enough messages in my life that supported my decision to respect my partner’s choice. There was everything I’d been taught that said I was entitled to keep going and there was enough countercode to support me doing the right thing and stopping. It was me and her and what had been consensual sexual activity until she wanted to stop.
Thankfully, no meaning no, and the rest of the understanding I had at the time meant that I stopped.
My fear is simple. I don’t know if I would have stopped if I’d been exposed to all of the rape affirming social messages instead of the consent affirming messages I’d heard.
In short, that’s why I won’t fucking chill out about rape stories. I know I was that close to being the perpetrator of one of those stories, and it’s only because I’d had access to the social messages that supported consent that I stopped when I did.
If I’d had the exposure to the opposite messages, there’s a chance things would have been much much different. It’s also something that I have to deal with for my life. I was very close to being a perpetrator of a very serious abusive crime with my partner at the time, who knew me and trusted me. I’ve been that close to the edge, and now I’m doing my level best to move further and further back away from it.
That’s why I hate the normalisation process that comes with these storylines. I know how vulnerable I was, and how vulnerable I could still be to those messages.
DS
[As a footnote to this, it took until comparatively recently for me to realise that I’d been socially encoded to say yes by default to sexual consent. Discovering that when I said no, the no was enough in itself for my partner was a break through. I’d been so conditioned to accept that the socialisation baggage of male consent as disposable that I didn’t realise that when I said no, it meant no, not “make a counteroffer”. I knew that when my partner said no, that was enough for me, but I never saw any problem with my non-consent being rejectable (See also Karen’s article dealing with how non-consensual heterosexual sex is covered in DC comic books. Suffice to say, Nightwing 93 really upsets me.) ]

Shades of Gray

An open letter to a few points, debates and blogs around the internet.
Girl-Wonder.org is a collection of sites dedicated to females in mainstream comics. Our goals are to foster an attentive, empowered audience community and to encourage respect and high-quality character depiction within the industry.
Point 1. Slash fiction is not mainstream, nor is it mainstream comics. In fact, it’s a small breakaway movement on the internet that’s largely more self congratulatory than it is noticed by the outside world. As an art form, it’s also old news Kirk and Spock slash fic is credited as the big break through moment for the sub genre of fan fiction.
In short, slashfic is not mainstream comics. It’s not actually on our watch.
Point 2. Feminism, and girl-wonder.org, are not the borg. As part of Girl-Wonder, I am allowed to hold opinions that differ from other Girl-Wonder staff, and the CEO. This is what makes Girl-Wonder an interesting place. It’s also so far obvious that we’re not the Borg that I have to give back my latex body suit and laser pointer eyepiece before I’ll be allowed in the group photo for the annual report. We can differ in what we do, think, read and write.
Point 3. Girl-Wonder’s mission is to be a clearing house of related themes, starting out like a local store, and maybe one day being the Wal-Mart sized megalith of comics critique work. Maybe. We don’t know, because maybe we won’t need to expand beyond the core of dealing with women in mainstream comics.
Point 4. If you want to start up a site that deals with the portrayal of male or female characters in fan-fiction, you should do that, and you’d probably get a few supporters from fanfiction, mainstream industries and some of the people writing here and reading here might join you. However, the role of Girl-Wonder.org does not currently include fan-fiction. Maybe in the future, maybe not. Right now, Girl-Wonder deals with women in mainstream comics
Point 5. Portrayals of hyperviolent women who castrate men, published under an X-Rated publishing company are outside of the Girl-Wonder gambit, definitely don’t come into Project Girl Wonder, and really, not what we’re dealing with here at Girl-Wonder.org where we deal with women in mainstream comics.
A point of personal opinion. I don’t read slash. I don’t read yaoi, yuri, femmeslash or any other form of slash. That said, I regard slash as a form of fandom, and one that I plan on actively encouraging when I get my fiction writing published. I plan on having a slashfic/fanfic license agreement built into my novels because I regard the fandom (and fanon) as an interesting exploration of the text. I don’t read Harry/Draco or Bruce/Jason because I don’t read any slashfic.
That said, I don’t regard slash fiction (or fanon) as mainstream comics. In fact, I really don’t worry too much about non-mainstream comics here at DS, because I accept that niche markets will serve niche interests. I don’t have to agree with the interests to accept that they exist, or even personally support those interests (personally, I find the whole XXX porn comic industry to be bizarre. Black and white, difficult to hold in one hand? That’s meant to be art isn’t it?).
My reason for wanting to see an improved lot for female characters in mainstream comics has been documented before here on DS. Whether or not my fellow bloggers, my CEO, my readers or anyone else produces content for niche non-mainstream markets doesn’t matter a rat arse to me.
In fact, my response is this so?
I joined Girl-Wonder.org because I want to contribute to improving the portrayal of females in mainstream comics. What anyone else from this domain does with anything else in their life is their life, and I don’t give a damn whether you like that, agree with that or what you think. Because so long as they’re pulling their weight on this project, kicking some arse on their end of the cause and being willing to let us disagree and be different people outside of the G-W.org work, then I’m damn glad to call them allies, friends and fellow travellers. The world ain’t black and white, it’s a full spectrum of gray scale, and that’s the gorram point to it all.
People can and do hold contradictory positions on issues. It’s human nature. So teh_no? I’m over here if you want to fight me about that. Except that I can accept you can have a different opinion. Can you handle the fact I’m not agreeing with you?

At the risk of consequentialising…

Catching up on my blog reading recently, I noted Feminist Allies: Gender Identity in the Comics post about (and it’s early, so I direct quote)
‘I think comic strips are an interesting place to see how gender is reinforced in our daily lives, and how that reinforcement often affects us all negatively.’
it’s an interesting piece, and one that’s noticeable in a quick scan of the black and white single panel to three panel dailies. Gender roles are reinforced or if broken, are broken as the form of a punchline. ‘So MaleRole was done by A FEMALE cue audience guffaw’ Oh Beetle Bailey, how wacky art thou! I mean, I gave up reading Cathy years back because it started to grate raw nerves with me. Don’t get me started on the creep out inducing stuff that goes on in For Better or For Worse (for worse actually) since there’s enough other people on the internet covering that watch. There are problems in the funny pages that reflect society and show both comic and society needs work.
What got me thinking was jeff’s last paragraph….
Mountains and Molehills
Some might say I’m trivializing gender stuff by focusing on a small segment of pop culturecomic strips. But again, these are solid parts of our day-to-day lives (ok, of my day to day life, and I think this is where a lot of the work on recognizing gender norms and how they might negatively affect us can be done.
In short, I think jeff’s nailed the importance of this in a nutshell. This is reality, real life, day to day, common touch ordinary people territory the funny pages. I’m an academic, I hang with an elite crowd at work, teach at a university (highly ranked one at that). I don’t run with the average person in a lot of respects, but I do read the same comics in the paper as they do. It’s the one point where I can say that I intersect with a lot of other people. Sure, I read Cathy in preference for the Phantom, but still, I could talk about the Phantom to the other boys at school. It’s more real to a lot of people than big issue changes like social reform or equity or equality of wage, or domestic violence shelters or war in Africa. It was a common ground, and a part of people’s real daily life (go on, tell me that reading the comics isn’t important because it’s done by ordinary people)
The so called small issues are places where you can intersect with the real life of people, yet we’re forever on the defensive about whether we’re trivialising the big picture by addressing these smaller real life issues. So this got me thinking about the ‘But you’re trivialising…’ concept in other contexts, namely the fact that I’m in the process of moving apartments. Did I trivialise the apartment moving by packing the small objects before moving the bookcase? Or was it a hell of a lot easier to move the bookcase once I’d dealt with the raft of smaller objects, freeing me up to take on the bigger issue of the bookcase as part of the biggest issue of moving the entirety of my possessions?
Tackling what we can, where we can, and bringing about incremental improvement in all areas of society isn’t trivialising the major cause. Assuming that the only change is big change is that none of us can really ever feel that we can acheive is to make what we work for into something of little significance or value. Getting to people’s self interest in small ways each and every day is much more significant, and a hell of a lot more valuable.
That, if you want to take Answers.com’s second meaning of trivial, is the whole point of well constructed social change taking it from the unachieved and unachievable and making it something ordinary and commonplace (and achieved) is the endgame scenario.
Change enough of the smaller parts, and the composition of the bigger picture alters. If making a better big picture isn’t significant and valuable, then what is?

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The Deniability of Chuck Dixon

Oh man. The levels of issue I have with this interview is long. Very long. I know what Dixon is thinking he’s saying, and what he’s actually saying aren’t meshing up. I know there are Chuck Dixon fans, and Chuck Dixon himself on the Internet. That said, I don’t have any problem going to the dance with anyone who wants to to reply to me here and discuss my reading of the interview and my interpretation of the chasm between wanting deniability and stating support for the sexual orientation or existence of relationship between two characters. If you want to write for the deniablity, then in my view, you’re not writing for the support of the existence of ANY aspect of the character.
Onto some quote by quote work after the jump

‘Maggie Sawyer, in Superman, was obviously being portrayed as a lesbian. But there was a level of deniability because she wasn’t always being shown in romantic clinches with her girlfriend.’
Because deniability is important. Mustn’t forget that denialability of sexuality is more important than any other aspect of sexuality. In fact, so important…
‘When I was writing Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon’s romance I stayed away from stating that they were in any kind of sexual relationship. You could absolutely imply it. But you could just as easily tell yourself they were saving it for marriage.’
Yup. One of the most important things Chuckles has given us was the deniability of Dick Grayson’s heterosexual liaisons with Barbara Gordon. That way, we can deny Dick to Barbara, and it’s only implied they were an item. Thus sating Dan DiDio. Double points!
‘Astute readers picked up on it.’
Anyone who’s ever picked up on Dick Grayson’s deniable heterosexuality is an astute reader.
‘Others either didn’t notice or chose not to’
Thanks to Chuckles Dixon, you can now chose not to notice the heterosexual orientation of any character he writes. Thanks Chuck!
‘Maggie even appeared on the cartoons with her girlfriend.’
They were just good friends who enjoyed hot tea together. In a deniable way.
‘I much prefer this kind of characterization over Northstar’s ‘I’M GAY!’’
That’s because Marvel doesn’t have any truck with deniability as a core to character sexuality in this instance?
‘The important thing, for story purposes, was that Maggie was a good, three-dimensional character first and a lesbian second.’
This statement bothers me to the point I won’t mock it. What Chuck Dixon says here is that the sexual orientation of a person is an add-on pack to their character. That who we are as people is something that consists of everyone but the way we would love people, form relationships and bonds with others, and who we would choose as our partners, lovers, soulmaters, and marriage partners. It’s saying that the deniability is more important than the reality. It’s detaching Maggie’s capacity to love another woman as a partner from who Maggie is, and making it not part of her being.
Chuck Dixon didn’t say ’ The important thing, for story purposes, was that Clark was a good, three-dimensional character first and a heterosexual second.’ when talking about Lois and Clark.
I know Chuck Dixon was asked a set of questions about issues of sexuality being raised in comics, and I know the context behind it. The problem is, Chuck Dixon says some bloody stupid things here, and that’s when as far as I can see, he’s trying to be supportive.
As far as issue comics and real life issues being raised in comics… look, it’s okay to have a dissenting opinion on whether that’s the best place for it but the reality is, it’s the place it is happening. The heterosexualised normative values of the comic book is a reality that is used by artists and writers to convey messages that are sufficiently grounded in today’s reality to make sense to today’s readership.
Try going back and reading the comics of the 1950s and you’ll see an alien world. If the contemporary comic books characters have mobile phones, iPods and Myspace equivalents, then they make a connection at a base level. Characters interacting in social stratas that make sense to the contemporary reader.
‘But why can’t that be outside the pages of a superhero comic? Why do comic writers have to take on the mantle of social engineer?’
They don’t, but they do have to then accept that comic books are for kids, and that the stories they tell will have an upper age limit. Comic books would be just for kids, and that market has talking ducks.
‘I haven’t met a comic book writer yet I’d let talk to my kids about sex. Why would I want them doing it as part of a story about super-powered men and women in tights?’
Because they have been since the creation of the medium? This is an art form, a communications medium, a mechanism for broadcasting ideas, stories and characters. In short Chuck, the reason this is happening is that you’re working in a popular culture medium that addresses the contemporary culture, shapes and frames stories against the current world and filters these events through the lens of Batman, Wolverine and every other franchise character.
What we become as people is informed in part by the media we consume. Comic books aren’t given a get-out-of-influence free card (nor are they solely responsible). They’re part of the package deal of content and informational influence that shapes us.
‘It’s of paramount practical concern that the comic companies guard and shepherd their franchises even more carefully than before.’
By ensuring that all sexual and/or relationship elements are deniable?
‘They’re being seen more and more by audiences of casual readers who have an expectation of who these characters are. This is no longer the sub-culture hobby that it was even ten years ago.’
Some of those more and more readers might actually want to see characters that speak to their lives, their desires, their hopes and their dreams. When I was in high school, having Oliver Queen and Dick Grayson was to have characters who I could identify with, and to use to pin my fantasied reality of an ideal world to my reality. I wanted to be Oliver Queen, muckraking journalist by day, costumed crime fighter by night. I had that character, and the white male middle class entitled and privileged costumed hero to call my own.
For me, Ollie Queen wasn’t about being deniably ambiguous. He was about being identifiable and unambiguous.What’s wrong with wanting the rest of the place to have characters they can call their own without having to permanently wear a shadow of deniability?

Designated Sidekick: Wrapping up 2006

In summary, I wish to say this… My trolls are lame. Where am I going to get the XP if I can’t get a decent set of trolls to vanquish? GRC practically levels every second post, and I’ve been farming for months without a hint of something koboldian. Stupid orcs.
Slightly More Serious Note: Success or Failure?
So, it’s the end of 2006, and there’s no Robin-in-jar for Stephanie in the Batcave does this mean Girl-Wonder has failed?
No.
One of the things I realised when I signed onto this gig is that my day job as a marketer meant that I was rather useful for the cause, if nothing else, for the fact that I really don’t expect to see name recognition achieved inside 18 months, and substantive shifts in marketshare inside of 10 years. Girl-Wonder’s name recognition alone is fabulous success.
Girl-Wonder isn’t a year old yet. That people know of the existence of the site, that the first letter campaign was met with letter writing and letter responses is a success. This roadshow is on track for the timelines that commercial marketers use for judging success. Y’all can have variable mileage on what you expect by what date I’m just going to cheer on the success that we’ve had in the short time frame we’ve been operating.
Bumps in the Road: Looking forwards
At some point in the next 10 years, several of the crew at G-W are going to leave. This is because 10 years is a long time, and any organisation will turn staff over in that ten year period. My prediction of G-W is that one staff writer/blogger/contributor/hard-core poster to the board will leave in a manner akin to a slam-the-door-I-quit! resignation. This to me is par for the course. Every organisation has these moments. In the world o’ privilege where I operate, this is so par for the course that you worry if you hit year five of ten without a stomping of the feet from someone on the squad. When it happens here, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief. It’s life as usual.
That said, it’ll be taken as an omen of dark times and gloom, spawn countless OMG!TheEnd! posts, and it’ll be a bit like finding out the drummer is leaving Matchbox20 tragic at the time, but later we’ll wonder why we thought it was the end times.
Things I can pretty much expect to happen next year
Somebody will say there’s no point to the Girl-Wonder.org mission.
Failure to deliver radical and long lasting change in comics will be deemed to be the fault of Girls Who Dare To Suggest Things Could Be Different (ps: That title free for a blog)
Some male comic book readers will defend their comics with impassioned outbursts against feminists who want comics to be decently written, well drawn and not traced from porn
Some female comic book readers will defend the same comic books for different reasons
Somebody will notice that not every woman is agreeing with the female bloggers and declare this to be proof of something. The fact that I’m around as a guy disagreeing with other men will be ignored for being inconvenient .
At least one person who’s working hard for our side of the argument (ie the argument you, the reader, cares about) will have some self reflection and doubt. At least one person on the other side of the argument will do likewise. Blog posts from both parties will be treated in diametrically opposite statements of ‘The cause has failed’ and ‘The cause has succeeded’.
Greg Land will draw Sue Storm with a porn face.
Greg Land will draw Black Canary as Sue Storm as Black Canary as Sue Storm.
Transformers:The Movie will lack any decent female characters, spark a rift in the fandom between those who saw their childhood trashed by the new movie, those wishing it was possible for a Transformers franchise in 2007 to include positive portrayals of women, and those people who wrote massive tracts of Optimus/Megatron.All claims on ruination of childhoods will be met with ‘We called dibs on that issue’ by Star Wars fans. In conclusion, another fandom will feel the pain that is X-men3.
Marvel, DC and Dark Horse will produce one or more ‘For Women’ comics special events. Marvel will make it pink, DC will sell special issues with a refrigerator on the front cover, and nobody will notice Dark Horse.
At least one male character (deceased) will return to life. To redress the balance in the force, six female characters will be killed. Two of those characters will be created for the express purpose of being killed. One of those characters will be killed onscreen at the end of Marvel’s Crossover-a-thon, and one will die at the end of DC’s next crossover arc.
DC will admit that OYL was a bad idea. Plans for One Really Long Year (ORLY) will be launched.
Dan Didio will hate the player (Dick Grayson) not the game (Crossoverarama).
Designated Sidekick will be fined by the Internet Bureau of Blogging for excessive word counts and sentenced to actually pay attention to his day job.
On reflection: Playing with the Full Privilege Deck
One thing that I have encountered over the past few months being involved in G-W, and then by extension feminist blogging has been the issue of privilege. Thanks to Karen (GRC) and the remarkable patience of arielladrake, I’ve been working on dealing with the fact that a lot of my responses are privilege based because I’m playing with the damn near full deck of privilege cards. I am middle class, highly qualified, work in an elite end of an elite industry, live in a nice suburb in the national capital and I went to a nice elite all male school. In theory, I’m one of the poster boys for the patriarchy on paper. In reality, I’m blogging for Girl-Wonder.org.
Along the way, I’ve noticed various things that I freely admit confuse me, and then when I start unpacking the whole thing, it quite often ‘Okay, so that’s the non privilege position’ which is followed often by me saying ‘The privilege position of going ‘Yeah, and?’ seems a bit easier’. The longer I stay in this role, the more I think I’ll come to terms with the difficulties faced by those operating from a non privileged position. It’ll take time, and it’ll take effort, and I’ll get it wrong on the way. But that’s just reason to try again, not reason to give up (and that my friends, is an interesting statement I assume I have a right to succeed through trial error and effort. Not everyone feels that way do they?)
I came into the DS role because I also knew that having one of the bloggers operating from a white male privilege position gives the G-W squad a set of options that wouldn’t be available without my presence. In 2007, if there’s any time anyone on the G-W (or comics feminism) extended allies network thinks that a message coming from the Designated Sidekick would hit harder than from the other members, drop me a line. At the risk of going Boromir here, it’s an option, let’s use it if we need it.
Why I still want the Memorial Case
It’s been a while since Stephanie Brown died through editorial mandate. I have many reasons for wanting her recognition in the Batcave, but for now, I want to focus on one reason. As a young boy reading comics, I believed in what the characters stood for, believed in the notions of heroism, and the acceptance of personal risk for the greater good. Robin was an iconic role model for me, and I found myself identifying with him (and with Green Arrow).
I want the future young male readers of the Batman comics to know that there was once a female character, a girl of their age who believed in the things they believe in, who fought for the things they would want to fight for, and who was killed because she stood for what they believe in. I want them to know that when faced with the choice of owning the mistake, Stephanie Brown stood her ground and didn’t walk away.
I want the young male readers of the future generations to have the chance to honour Stephanie Brown because she was a Robin, and she stood for those things I believed in when I read those comics, that they believe in when they read those comics, and to know that yes, being willing to sacrifice safety, security and self for the greater good isn’t just what boys would do -it’s what heroes do. Heroes like Stephanie Brown.
I want them to have a chance to know firsthand that capes aren’t just for boys.

LFG Quest for Missed Point. PST.

Oh sigh. Good post, great stuff, then a ‘Ooh err missus!’ moment to derail the train of thought.
From the subset titled ‘Gee, Can Even I Get Away With Saying This’ (answer: Yes. You appear not to be dead, retconned or drawn by Greg Land subject to a Marvel Comics Shipping Schedule)
Every time I see a fanboy or fangirl entitlement rant disguised as a serious discussion of gender issues, I cringe, because all those false accusations of sexism confuse the signal to noise ratio to the point where genuine issues of sexism and misogyny get lost, or dismissed out of hand.
Okay, now that you all hate me…
Dorian.
Memo. This picture is the borg.
Borg
We’re not them. Any of us. Even the collective type ones. That thing about the internet? It’s full of people who won’t argue with you, won’t agree with you, will agree with you, will blog or not blog about what you said/didn’t say.
Baseline pal: It’s the internet, not the Borg collective.
Why did you have to assume you’d be hated?
Actually, now I come to think of it how’d you even work up a sweat about writing that part of your post?. Blogging a ‘I can’t believe I’m getting away with writing this’ is to giggle at your self proclaimed OMGNAUGHTY stance and leave me looking slightly baffled at where I was meant to be offended by a difference of opinion, since you’ve flagged this play as ‘Here! Something controversial this way blogs’.
Unless, y’know, you think we (the rest of the internet) are a collective borg hive mind. In which case, pass the talcum powder because these leather body suits chafe a bit.

Designated Sidekick: OFL*

One Fortnight Later( for a given definition of fortnight equalling the gap since the last post. Hey! Look! Comic book time! It’s squishy!) So I’ve been off in my day job, doing things that are a lot like what I do here, except with longer reference lists and slightly less snark (only slightly less though). In my absense, a) Greg Land is still alive. This strikes me as a sign that I need to break more wishbones. b) Creepy comic book related stuff continues to happen on the internet. Check the results of a meme… Super Hero Comic You are SUPER HERO COMICS! You’re everything that’s good and slightly old fasioned! You’re honorable, fair, and attractive, though at times you can be predictable. You have a strong moral code that you abide by at all times. You may also have problems connecting with the opposite sex. But don’t worry, you’ll get the girl in the end! If by ‘get’ you mean ‘stuff into a refrigerator’ umm……CROWBAR THWACK*
If by ‘get’ you mean the conquest of women through some form of conquest thing. CROWBAR BEATING
If by ‘get’ you mean accepting that you are currently perpetuating sexist through to misogynist attitudes through the storylines, porn still trace art work, utterly stupid costumes, and you will attempt, and succeed despite the occassional setback, mistake or other problem to create an industry welcoming to both genders, then yeah, you might ‘get’ the girl. By ‘get the girl’ I mean ‘understand the girl’.
In the interim…
a)what’s the protocol for referencing relatively recent comics for making points. What’s the time delay for it to still be a spoiler?
b) I have several megatons of coolant with a delivery address of ‘Hell’. They’re planning to annoy DC editorial for Christmas by bringing the time line of ‘DC Getting It Right’ forward.
This entry was posted on Sunday, December 10th, 2006 at 10:55 pm and is filed under Post Response. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
2 Responses to ‘Designated Sidekick: OFL*’

Announcing the Girl-Wonder.Org Membership Drive

Girl-Wonder.org is pleased to announce that it is holding elections for the Board of Directors for its governing body, Gworg.
Gworg is an incorporated non-profit feminist organization dedicated to fostering an attentive, empowered comics fan community, to encouraging respect and high-quality character depiction, and to assisting the professional development of women working in the field of comics. Anyone who supports these aims is eligible to become a member, and all members are able to vote, stand for office, and nominate others to the Board.
Becoming a Director is an excellent opportunity to support and direct the progress of Girl-Wonder.org! Moreover, since Gworg is a registered non-profit organization, this also makes a great entry of volunteer work on your resume.
We will be accepting new members and Board nominations from Monday, January 9th through Monday, January 30th. Elections will be announced on Monday, February 6th. Members will then have until Monday, February 13th to vote for this year’s Gworg Board of Directors.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member and/or joining the Board!

September: Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy by Fumi Yoshinaga

I’ve got a weakness for foodie manga. Yes, it’s a genre of Japanese comics about eating, and by all accounts it should be boring stuff. Typically, foodie manga meshes food facts (the cultural history of a dish, how it’s best prepared) with characters over-reacting to the deliciousness of said food, all within a candy-coated semblance of a plot that only exists to get the characters to eat more and talk more about food. It sounds boring, but it’s not. Trust me on this.
Enter Fumi Yoshinaga’s Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy, which, despite having a mouthful for a title (GROAN), is one of the better foodie manga I’ve read. Perhaps it’s the form. Not Love is a series of 15 vignettes that take place at 15 real restaurants in Tokyo. It’s heavier on plot than typical foodie manga, and follows a year or so in the lives of manga artist Y-Naga and her friends as they enjoy phenomenal meals and stumble through careers and relationships. It is very loosely based on Yoshinaga’s life (see the similarity in names and careers between Y-Naga and the author), and features a great cast of rotating characters.
I was particularly impressed with a chapter in which Y-Naga takes her friend A-Dou out for sushi. Y-Naga has written comics about gay characters, but never realized that A-Dou was gay. Throughout the dinner, the two bond over an incredibly illustrated meal, and Y-Naga explores her own prejudices and assumptions about gay culture. It’s a little heavy-handed at times, but nice to see such a subject addressed with some nuance.
Not Love is a travelogue of sorts, but also serves as a cultural document. It works well in translation, providing an inside peek into contemporary Japanese food culture. It occurred to me more than once while reading that I needed to take this book with me as a restaurant guide when I go to Tokyo.
Yoshinaga’s other works that have been translated into English include Ooku and All My Darling Daughters. Both are worth a read as well.

Violence: Next to none, unless you’re a vegetarian.
Sexualized Violence: None
Gender: There are several solid women characters. Y-Naga is a single career woman who, though she would like to settle down someday, is in no hurry.
The Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass! Y-Naga and her male and female friends do discuss their romantic lives, but also discuss food and personal values.
Minorities: This is a Japanese comic about urban Japanese life. There isn’t much room for other cultures here.
Parents May Wish to Be Aware: Characters do discuss sex and homosexuality, but nothing is overly offensive, lewd, or condemning of other lifestyles.
Review by Erin Polgreen

August: Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics by Stan Lee

Stan Lee’s writings on comics–and indeed, his early comics–have the kind of enthusiasm about making comics that I did when I was nine and first decided to learn how to do it. Since then, my enthusiasm has been tempered by the frustration and effort involved trying to understand the production and theory in greater depth.
Books like this are a shot in the arm!
It starts with a little history of the field–as one might expect, Stan’s own experience is recalled in more detail. I’m not weeping over the brevity of the section on the Nineties, though.
Chapters two, three and four talk about drawing, specifically materials and anatomy. Really, this is too large a part of the process to rely on this book alone unless the art part is not going to be on your plate–but, fortunately, there’s a list of recommended reading included, and I can vouch for the ten of the fourteen on the list that I own. Books, I haz them.
Chapter five and six have some of the great rarer stuff. Five talks about design choices, as they apply to character acting and panel action; six gets into character naming and costumes. Anecdotes!
Chapter seven is dear to my heart. Environments, or backgrounds as they are often dismissively called, are discussed, yes, but there’s more! The book discusses how to use Google’s SketchUp to help with perspective for objects like houses–and in some detail. So, for you who are desperately terrified of complex perspective, this one’s for you. (I don’t blame you.)
Chapter eight is worth the price of the book alone.
Why? Because it deals with one of the most difficult and technical parts of comics–and the part of the mix that makes comics what they are.
Layouts, people! Stan discusses eye path, cinematic continuity, camera angles, clarity… and then there’s the true chewy gold centre for aspiring comic makers.
Mistakes. Oh yeah, that’s the good stuff. Jezreel Morales produces a four-page layout of an action scene with specific problems, which Stan then discusses–not only what’s gone awry, but why. It includes my pet peeve, rampant abuse of panel break-out!
Another useful element is a sample 3-age breakdown/layout by Wilson Tortosa, which is designed to be worked up to completion or expanded upon in new ways by a developing artist. How cool is that?
Developing artists may enjoy chapter nine especially. It discusses pencilling styles, and showcases some very different, but quite effective, pencillers and discusses the development of style over time–Al Rio starting out as a clone of J. Scott Campbell? Having only become familiar with Rio fairly recently, it’s heartening to see how much a style can grow. But then, I can barely picture the stark differences between early Deodato and modern Deodato, and I own a good chunk of his Wonder Woman run. Does not compute!
Speaking of Deodato, there’s some process pages where the book demonstrates how to use photoreference properly–that is, as to support your carefully-considered layout design, not as a replacement for purveyors of pornface. Derivative pornface at that.
Chapters ten, eleven, and twelve deal with inking, lettering, and colouring, and covers are discussed in good detail. The final chapter is concerned with portfolios and getting work in the industry. The indexes include, as mentioned, the reading list, some schools offering courses in comics (all American), and even places to find art supplies.
As a primer on the many and varied aspects of production, I haven’t found a better one. Some of the content is similar to How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, but unlike that book, this has quite a breadth of artists in it and has a broader focus.
It’s not without problems–there’s a section on representing ethnicities that’s not really worth listening to. This is a standard, pervasive problem with almost every drawing book I ever encountered–everybody’s got that European body and face. Blah. Hunt ye down Joumana Medlej’s resources for ethnotypes instead. Also, there’s some of the usual stuff about female characters needing to remain sensual without heavy emphasis on muscle… of course, the last full illustration in the book is Frank Cho’s physically powerful Red Sonja with a big axe on her shoulder, so take that as you will. There’s a few issues like that, but nothing that makes me want to kill-kill-never-stop.
It’s a big field, and Stan’s experience is put to good use discussing not just the practises but also the reasoning behind them. And call me a keener, but I’d rather have a slab of a book that gives a more complete picture than a dozen skinny ones–and this book isn’t even a slab. For real facility, you will need to supplement this book with others in the field in question. But the reading list has some excellent material, and I do encourage checking out some of the titles listed.
Seriously, this is at the top of my list on technical grounds alone, but it’s also served by Stan himself–you know he loves comics, and that comes through. That kind of spirit is a tonic for me when I’m banging my head against the latest production problem, and makes me remember why I love comics in the first place.
Violence: Present, and varies–because it’s not a narrative, the art jumps all over the place in style and content.
Sexualized Violence: None.
Gender: Inherent problem of anatomy discussion–plus the usual silliness about drawing women. Not egregious.
The Bechdel-Wallace Test: Not really applicable.
Minorities: Just ignore everything on pages 70-71 that discuss ethnicity in particular and looking for Joumana Medlej’s series on ethnotypes.
Parents May Wish to Be Aware: There’s comic book violence and more than a little cleavage.
Review by Winterbourne.