Stumptown Miscellany

Today, I got up way the hell too early in the morning (after staying up way the hell too late) to table for Girl-Wonder at Stumptown Comics Fest. Now, I am utterly exhausted, and I have to be at the awards ceremony / Saturday afterparty in a bit under an hour, so I’m just gonna […]

Oh, Blow Me… Away

For your amusement and enlightenment, I’d like to take this opportunity to present an honest-to-fuck panel description from the good folks at NYCC:
‘Girls Who Kick Ass: How do the ladies creating comics do it? They’re constantly blowing us away with the most outrageous and provocative titles. Jenna Jameson (Shadow Hunter), Colleen Doran (Distant Soil, Reign of the Zodiac), Amanda Connor (Birds of Prey, Painkiller Jane, Lois Lane ), Louise Simonson (New Mutants, X-Factor, Superman) and special guests reveal why they know what Fan-Boys want.’
Heidi sums it up nicely over at THE BEAT:
I would love to hear Colleen Doran’s thoughts on art history and freelancing… Amanda Connor’s ideas on design and the current state of superheroes… Louise Simonson’s unsurpassed viewpoint on storytelling and creating lasting characters… and sure, what the hell, even Jenna Jameson’s ideas on why celebrities are flocking to comics to get their next optionable property. But when all these people are grouped together solely on the basis of gender it’s dumb, patronizing and, frankly, sexist.
What Heidi doesn’t mention is that Girls Who Kick Ass is only one of THREE panels focused on those exotic girl-birds: two on women in comics, and a third on women in animation. And that’s not including the MINX panel, the general panel on comics for girls, which bring the total up to five.
‘But wait,’ cry you, my six loyal readers, ‘Isn’t this a good thing? Haven’t you been campaigning for more awareness of women in comics, as industry professionals and fans? Shouldn’t you be celebrating the fact that there’s enough interest—and enough women—for not one but FIVE female-focused panels?’
Yeah, well, you’re all fired.
No, I didn’t mean that. Come back, it’s okay. Rachel’s just a little grumpy. Maybe her womb’s been wandering, or maybe it’s that time of the month. You know how girls can be.
Seriously, though, lean in, ’cause Momma’s gonna let you in on a secret about being a woman in comics:
It’s a hell of a lot easier to be a woman in comics than it is to be a female comics professional anywhere else.
You doubt? Let me explain.
Despite what the magazines would have you believe, there are an awful lot of women working in the comics industry. I believe Friends of Lulu has a couple lists, which I highly recommend checking outthey’re never quite up to date, because this industry has a crazy turnover rate, and they misspell my last name, but they’ll give you an idea of the scale we’re discussing.
And guess what? This is not a new phenomenon! Gail Simone was not the first woman to pen a superhero title; I know women who’ve been working in this industry since before I was born. We are not exotic birds or tokens. We are writers, artists, letterers, editors, designers, pre-press technicians, scheduling coordinators, vice presidents, publicists, printers, and everything else you can imagine.
What these panels mean to me is the systematic othering and marginalization of the many, many women who work in the comics industry. To call out sexism, to honor the accomplishments of individual women—these are important and necessary, and there is a lot of ingrained misogyny that still needs to be pried loose. But each article that reinforces that familiar mirage—the lone woman making her way in a man’s industry—washes the rest of us a few shades closer to invisibility.
And by the way—the description of that panel is sexist, demeaning, juvenile, and generally fucking awful, and I’m disgusted and ashamed that a convention that’s supposed to be representative of the industry I work in and love not only buys into but spews back out this kind of bullshit.
Want to know how the ladies creating comics do it? THEY WORK THEIR ASSES OFF—just like the guys. The biggest difference is that we have to deal with this shit.
I won’t be at New York Comic-Con, but if you are, and should you happen to wander past this panel, I’d like to suggest a few questions:
-How do you feel about being invited to participate in a panel based on your sex—rather than the projects you’ve contributed to, your experience in the comics industry, and your accomplishments as a writer and/or artist?
-Do you think that ‘What Fan-Boys want’ might include reassurance that comics remains a boys’ club, and that women in comics are anomalies? How might the title and description of this panel reinforce that idea?
-What is a total neophyte doing on a panel with three seasoned comics creators who are industry legends in their own right?
-What role does your vagina play in your creative process?
You can discuss this column here.

SAAM 2008

Today is April Fool’s Day.
It’s also the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Last year, I recognized this month with a series of semiweekly posts about sexual violence in comics and real life. I’m not going to drag myself back over that ground this year: it is tremendously difficult and draining, and I don’t have the energy right now.
What I am going to do is offer the Inside Out forum as a safe space to discuss issues of sexual violence in and out of comics. Like last year, I will be moderating those discussions closely.
And I really am going to start posting regularly again, probably starting this weekend. =)
If you’re interested, you can find my April 2007 Sexual Assault Awareness Month series here:
Rape in the Gutters
Writing Sexual Violence, Part 1
Writing Sexual Violence, Part 2
The Widowmaker
Is It Too Much to Ask?
Rape Is Rape Is Rape
Same-Sex Assault
The Morning After
Coda: The Widowmaker Revisited

Thoughts on Wonder Woman Link Roundup

This is the final post of a series on Wonder Woman, in context of her recent appearance on the cover of the February 2008 issue of Playboy magazine. You can find the first three posts here:
There’s Something About Wonder Woman Introduction
There’s Something About Lynda Carter / Blogging for Choice
Less than Wonderful
In all of the preceding posts, I’ve argued that Wonder Woman as she appeared on Playboy represented an idea, not just a character. I think I’ve pretty well covered the bases in terms of what Wonder Woman means to me, so today’s going to be a roundup of links on Wonder Woman’s significance as a character and an icon.
The Legacy of Wonder Woman
Wonder-Working Power
Wonder Woman Strong as Ever Even at 65
Dignity in Satin: Part One
Dignity in Satin: Part Two
Dignity in Satin: Part Three
Dignity in Satin: Part Four
Wonder Woman Museum
The Inheritance of Same-and-Other, Human-and-Amazon: A Brief Review of Wonder Woman #14
Loving Wonder Woman
Diana Prince: Wonder Woman
The Significance of Gail Simone
The Right and Wrong Way to Write Wonder Woman
That’s Not Power
Post more links and share your thoughtshere.

Less Than Wonderful

This is the third post in a series looking at the cultural and personal significance of Wonder Woman as a character and a symbol.
I’ve spent the previous two posts introducing a few perspectives on Wonder Woman, but thus far, I’ve skirted fairly clear of both my own attitude toward the character and how it relates to the cover of the February 2008 issue of Playboy. So, that’s where we’re going today.
Much of the following is copied and pasted from something I posted in a forum discussion last week, because it’s the best I’ve managed so far to articulate my thoughts on this issue:
I don’t find the pretty girl-in-body-paint offensive. I’m basically in favor of pretty girls in body paint.
I don’t even find the girl-in-body-paint-as-Wonder Woman offensive. As others have commented, it’s no more revealing than her costume has been in the comics.
I don’t find the idea of Wonder Woman as sexy offensive.
I don’t find the idea of a centerfold dressing as, pretending to be, acting in the role of, or identifying with Wonder Woman offensive.
I do object to the fact that Playboy, which should really know better after all, they go out of their way to come off as culturally savvy coopted THE feminist icon, removed all the strength and spirit (which is part of what’s so sexy about Wonder Woman in the first place) and reduced her to nothing but a limp smexxx object.
I object to their claims that they were dressing Tiffany Fallon as Wonder Woman in homage to Lynda Carter an outspoken feminist who has made it very, very clear that to her, Wonder Woman is all about feminism and strength.
I object to the fact that they chose to use that particular image in the heat of the first presidential election with a viable female and feminist candidate, who has likewise been reduced in popular media to nothing but a characature of feminine weakness.
I object to the fact that DC / TimeWarner, which is notoriously overprotective of their trademarks, has refused to comment on this in the process, awarding it their implicit approval.
I object to DC / TimeWarner effectively pimping out the most powerful female character in comics and the most enduring feminist icon of the twentieth century.
And this makes me a million times angrier than the WonderThong and SexySexyDanger of the WW comics, because this ISN’T limited to the comics. It’s Playboy, which is a whole other scale of exposure and cultural impact. This is not misuse of Wonder Woman the character it’s misuse of Wonder Woman the symbol, which, in my book, is a hell of a lot more important.
Yes, Wonder Woman is sexy. Yes, the early WW comics do cheerfully display a good number of William Moulton Marston’s kinks. But at the same time, Wonder Woman is maybe the ONLY superhero created explicitly for girls, to be a visibly strong woman at a time when there really weren’t any of that stripe in popular culture: Marston wrote about her creation, ‘’Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.’ She still represented that in 1971, when she made what until now was her best-known magazine cover appearance, and in the mid-seventies, when Lynda Carter played her on television.
And she still represents that today.

There’s Something About Lynda Carter / Blogging for Choice

This is the second post in a series looking at the cultural and personal significance of Wonder Woman as a character and a symbol.
Today, it just so happens that this Wonder Woman series is intersecting with Blog for Choice day. Make of that what you will.
I have never watched Lynda Carter on TV. Never saw the show only the few stills I’ve stumbled past online, usually on the way to something else.
The first time I saw Lynda Carter was on April 25, 2004, at the March for Women’s Lives. I knew who she was, of course name and face but not much more.
She was not the most famous speaker at that rally, nor the most important, nor the most qualified. She was not someone for whom I was waiting with bated breath.
But she was Wonder Woman.
If there had ever been any question in my mind of who Wonder Woman was, of what she meant, it was resolved the moment Lynda Carter stood at the microphone and began to speak.
Lynda Carter is equal measures self-possessed and passionate, sweetness and steel. She’s smart, and she’s got this incredible strength and resolve and dignity and humor she’s real, yes, but there’s something to her that seems like more.
And I remember thinking, crystal-clear, Yes. This is Wonder Woman.
‘I knew that she was, and is, a character that had the potential of being very influential in terms of how women see themselves, and how men see a woman being. Yes she can be beautiful, and she can be all that stuff, but she’s smart and she can kick my butt.
‘It was a very conscious decision on my part to play against what was expected. I never played sexuality. I never tried to ‘play’ Wonder Woman. She didn’t think she was all that! She’s not all full of herself, and certainly not against men…but for women! It was just about being who she was, and trying to connect to that secret self that we have.’
-Lynda Carter
You can discuss this column and the rest of the Something About Wonder Woman series here.

There’s Something About Wonder Woman Introduction

For the last week, I’ve been struggling to articulate my feelings about the cover of the February 2008 Playboy (Link probably NSFW). I know that I am very, very upset; I know that I feel deeply violated and profoundly hurt. I am angry appalled and disgusted.
It’s taken me longer to figure out why.
It’s not the nudity. It has nothing to do with comics, or with the general sexualization of female superheroes the Valerie Perrine Supergirl cover doesn’t push any of those buttons. And while I have the utmost respect for Lynda Carter, and the comparison between her and Fallon seems tenuous at best, that’s not it, either.
It’s because it’s Wonder Woman.
And I don’t even follow her comic.
But the, for me, this isn’t about comics or comics culture. My sexism-in-comics radar is pretty highly honed Hell, it’s part of my job. But this hit me from a completely different angle, in a totally separate and much deeper part of my gut.
There’s no denying that Wonder Woman has been the subject of some pretty horrid sexism in comics just check out the magical disappearing wonder thong.
This is different. This is bigger.
This is the first in a multi-part series in response to the February 2008 Playboy cover, because in the process of trying to articulate my own reaction, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s far too complex an issue to cover in one column. In the following posts, I’m going examine the cultural and personal significance of Wonder Woman and look at a lot of issues and perspectives associated with Wonder Woman, pornography, and feminism.
Bonus Question: What does Wonder Woman mean to you, and why?


Whew, what a week! What a month, really. Or couple of months. This week’s post is going to be a series of short newsbits while I play catch-up from two operations, the death of a good friend, three family visits, and the convention season; and get ready to go to a friend’s wedding across the country next week, while putting the final touches on the Girl-Wonder Art Et Cetera Auction (which starts in gulp three days), writing a series of articles for Sequential Tart, preparing the abstract for a conference paper, and looking into putting a deposit on a studio space with two friends. Oh, and I have a birthday coming up. And no, I won’t tell you how old I’m going to beyou’ll tease.
This past weekend, I joined Girl-Wonder members Livia Penn and Noah Brand at Girl-Wonder’s first-ever convention table, at Stumptown Comics Fest. To say that it rocked would be an understatementwe were totally bowled over by the tremendously positive reactions we got from both fans and professionals, and from the number of both who were familiar with and fond of Girl-Wonder. Next week, I’ll be teaming up with Noah and Livia to take over the world post a detailed con report, complete with photos of our booth and scans of the awesome sketchbook we had there.
If you just can’t get enough of my witty, incisive commentary, you can get a double dose this week by stopping by Project Rooftop, where I’m a guest reviewer on the current feature, Spoiler Warning: A Stephanie Brown Special. The designs are awesome (I WANT KNEE-HIGH RED SPATS SO BAD!), and we have long philosophical discussions about superhero footwear.
And, a bit of mixed news: after next week’s Stumptown Con Report, Inside Out is going to go biweekly. I have way too much on my plate right now, and I’d rather post half as many good, polished columns on time than twice as many rushed, late jumbles. I’ll try to make up for the schedule change with more, better contentand maybe on off-weeks I’ll do some brief linkblogging or post fan art. Who knows? Not I…

Speak of Strange Adventures

by Samantha Robertson
Rachel Edidin, your regularly scheduled InsideOut blogger, is a hell of a writer and a hell of an editor. At the moment, though, she’s also a woman hopped up on quite an assortment of pharmaceutical-grade painkillers, the kind that pack such a mind-addling punch that they have an appreciable shady-street-corner market value. And that, ladies and gents, is why you are reading my words this afternoon.
As well as being one of Rachel’s friends, I also happen to be one of her coworkers. Yes, I too am a woman working in comics. As a woman involved in this business I do, of course, find myself frustrated by many of the stereotypes that plague my beloved industry. But the stereotypes that bug me the most? I bet they’re not the ones you’d think . . . They’re not any of the stereotypes that have to do with the physical representation of female characters in mainstream comics. My issues have nothing to do with how my gender affects my relationships with others in the industry (honestly, it’s never come up; in this regard, I’ve been blessed to work with wonderful and, above all, professional people). They aren’t actually anything related to gender, sexuality, or the authenticity of fictional representation at all.
So what are the comics industry stereotypes that bug me the most, that set my teeth on edge and never fail to bring out the verbal pugilist in me? They’re the stereotypes so frequently associated with one of my most beloved comics institutions: the comic shop. You know the stereotypes I mean . . . That comic shops are dark, shady little dens of iniquity, boys’ clubs that range from dismissive to downright hostile when faced with anyone of the female persuasion, the concept of dusting, and anything not currently ensconced in one of Wizard Magazine’s ‘top (insert multiple of five here)’ lists. That they are havens for the socially inept. That they’re all populated by people who make you think of that Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
These aggravating stereotypes about comic shops, and the people who work in them, hit very close to home for me because before coming to Dark Horse Comics in October of 2005 I had the privilege of working at a really great comic shop—the Strange Adventures Comic Book Shop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, up on the east coast of Canada. More than anything else, my time at Strange Adventures cemented me not only as someone who loves comics, but as someone who can’t imagine working in any other industry. Granted, I’m biased, but in my mind the place represents everything that a good comic shop can be; it’s well-organized, well-stocked, and family-friendly, a place staffed by men and women who really love what they do.
What I find particularly interesting is that after years of making a point of visiting new comic shops whenever I get the chance, I can say with some authority that I’ve seen an awful lot of comic shops in my day, and I’m ever more convinced that places like Strange Adventures aren’t exceptions to some unwritten rule; they are, in fact, the norm. Sure, I’ve been to a handful of rather less impressive comics retail establishments, but by and large the places I’ve been have each brought a smile to my face. They’re devoted small businesses run by people who really care about what they do, people who came to this industry not because they wanted to create little club houses for themselves but because they really dig comic books. They are places that are very inviting once you get over the initial sensory overload that comes with being suddenly faced with an entire shop’s worth of colorful product (there is, I think, a certain special kind of vertigo that comes with that first moment you stroll into a really packed comics shop). They are places where, in general, as much as budgets allow—and budgets are something you really learn to appreciate after working in a small business for a while—an honest attempt is made to try to be open-minded in stock ordering and satisfying customer requests. They are places where you’ll get by best if you have a sense of humor (just don’t forget to have a sense of humor about yourself, too). They are places that are, in short, fun.
Now I’m not going through all of this with you good folks because I think I need to win you over. To be honest, I rather expect I’m preaching to the choir here. Since you are all comics enthusiasts yourselves, I’m betting you each have at least one comic shop that you frequent and enjoy. The reason I’m bringing this up is because I really think it is important that those of us who love comics become more vocal and encouraging when it comes to praising those places that are getting it right. Don’t forget that when people bring up those stereotypes about comic shops, they are disparaging places that have earned your patronage, and that when people speak with disdain about comic shop customers, they’re talking about you. It’s in our best interests to disperse these myths and fight against these assumptions, so I say unto you, spread the word about your favorite shops! Get your friends and families to check them out! The next time someone rolls their eyes at you when you say you’re heading down to check out this week’s new comics, with that ‘oh, that place’ look in their eyes, drag ’em along with you and help open their eyes! The next time you’re looking for part-time work, why not see if your local shop needs an extra hand? Maybe you can help them out with the next Free Comic Book Day. And if you’re a comic fan wondering what to do with your life, perhaps someone who hasn’t found that special shop in your area, have you considered starting your own? Being a comics shop entrepreneur is a hell of a lot of work, but there is no doubt in my mind that the increasing numbers of informed, intelligent, dedicated comics retailers that I see around the world are one of the best things this industry has going for it.

Candy Is Good For You

By Noah Brand
Because Rachel Edidin is unable to post this week, she arranged a guest columnist. Noah Brand generously agreed to help her out. — Ed.
There’s a lot to love about the original William Moulton Marston run on Wonder Woman. Especially if you like bondage and discipline. For me, though, the awesomest part of those strange, didactic old stories isn’t Wonder Woman at all; it’s her sidekick, Etta Candy. Etta, unlike most Golden Age sidekicks, wasn’t a miniature Wonder Woman in looks or personality. She was her own person, more feminist in many ways than Diana herself, and unlike any character before or since.
Etta Candy was a student at the fictitious Holliday College, where she was the leader of the Holliday Girls, a combination sorority/band/commando unit that she would bring in whenever Wonder Woman needed help. How many sidekicks are sufficiently badass to have their own team of sidekicks?
Here’s her first appearance, along with the Holliday Girls (Yes, she later went from being a blonde to a redhead. Lots of girls do that in college.):
ettafirst.jpgLet’s take a moment to look at her body and her attitude about it. Etta is short, and she’s fat. Not a little plump, not fake Hollywood Janeane-Garofalo faux-fat, actually fat. And she’s surrounded by all these girls who are a clear foot taller than her, with figures like Wonder Woman’s. Does Etta look embarrassed to you? Does she look self-conscious, ashamed, any of the things a girl who looks like her is expected to be? Hell no. And it’s not just those five panels; go over every page Etta’s ever appeared on, and look for a single moment when she apologizes for or is ashamed of how she looks. You won’t find one. While you’re at it, find me another female character with the same body and the same attitude about it. Check the 40s, check the present. No, go ahead, keep checking. I’ll wait.
Here’s Etta in a duplicate of Wonder Woman’s body, for the usual plot-related reasons:
Etta likes her body. She’s aware that some other people don’t; the villains are especially prone to calling her rude names. She does not, however, feel obliged to give a damn about anyone else’s opinion.
She’s also frankly sexual; look at her intro panels again. She likes men; likes ‘em plenty, and so do all her friends. Even Wonder Woman was stuck in her chaste-longing deal with Steve Trevor, but Etta and the Holliday Girls got to just plain like men. Indeed, when Etta would get herself in trouble, it was usually over a handsome face. She doesn’t want to land a man, isn’t dreaming of being a housewife or a helpmeet; she just enjoys them. More than any other female character of her time, Etta is able to want men without needing them. She feels as much shame about this attitude as she does about her big round butt. And why? Because Etta Candy is utterly without fear—social or physical.
She throws herself right into whatever kind of trouble is going on without even a second’s hesitation. Fighting Nazis, going to Atlantis, astrally projecting herself to Mars (seriously), whenever Wonder Woman needed backup, Etta was there. Even Robin, second-best sidekick of the era, would occasionally express reservations, lines like ‘But Batman, how can we defeat all of them?’ Etta, never. She would throw down with anyone from Axis agents to actual deities without a moment’s hesitation, and it always worked. Well, usually. Generally speaking. A solid majority of the time, it worked.
Actuallyand again in sharp contrast to her contemporaries like Robin and BuckyEtta didn’t get beaten and captured that often. Indeed, most of the time it was Wonder Woman who was imprisoned (gotta have some reason for her to be tied up, after all) and Etta and the girls who came riding in to help her out.


The manner of the Holliday Girls’ arrival was always memorable. Generally they’d show up playing instruments and singing, as in this scene where they’re busting into a U.S. military base:
Even when they’re captured and ticked-off at Etta, they give her a hard time in song form.
By now the alert reader will have noticed the most common emotional state for Etta and her friends: joie de vivre. They go on these adventures with Wonder Woman not because of some oath of vengeance, not because of an ideology, but just because going on adventures is freakin’ awesome. They’re young and fearless and tough, and they find it enormously fun to go get captured and sing at people and get in fights. This isn’t just subtextual, by the wayit’s explicitly their in-story motivation.
Throughout Marston’s Wonder Woman, there’s constant strong messages of female empowerment. Not in some abstract sense, either; Marston gives us page after page of explicit statements that women can make themselves stronger, take control of their lives, and be their own heroes. Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls are the strongest manifestation of that message. Through nothing more than shaking off societal expectations, Etta made her college cohorts a team of heroines able to take on any challenge and have a hell of a time doing it. Her ethos was also theirs: don’t be afraid of who you are, and do what you can do without stopping to ask permission. Every hero expresses a different philosophy, but Etta’s was better than most, and damn near revolutionary in the context of her time.
Etta’s mostly forgotten now, retconned out decades ago as too silly and fat, retooled as a military officer with a couple extra pounds, made safe and acceptable and nonthreatening. But for me, she will always be the short, fat, crazy-ass college girl diving headfirst into adventure because nobody gets to tell her what she’s not allowed to do.
Discuss this column here.
Noah Brand blogs a bit at
September 10th, 2007
Categories: characters, Guest Column . Author: admin