Ma, Can I Be a Feminist and Still Like Men?*

*With apologies to Nicole Hollander.
Yes. You can even be a queer feminist who likes, loves, and fucks men, because being a feminist and queer activist is all about fighting for the right to be who you are and love whom you love without apology or shame. On the same premise, you can be a queer feminist geek who spends her queer feminist comics column writing about her very favorite straight guy in the whole world.
Which is what I’m going to do right now. I was going to write about the whole mess with the Buffy PDF, but I’ve already ranted my rants about that, and I’d kind of like to take a break from righteous indignation and write about something that makes me happy. So, today, I’m going to write about Miles.
Miles is going to turn twenty-five on Wednesday. He looks a whole lot like the prayer-card-style illustrations of Jesus, but with darker hair. He’s a radical feminist, a die-hard gamer, and a big damn geek. He’s also indirectly responsible for my career, because he’s the guy who got me into comics.
It’s not so much that Miles got me into comics as that he got me into superheroes. I had grown up reading Tintin and Sylvia (I love my liberal academic parents); by the time I was sixteen, I had worked my way through half of the Vertigo lineup (one of the advantages of being a teenage geek in the nineties was that it was all relatively newI read Sandman before they sold Death shirts at Hot Topic and then got to feel smug when it became a fad). But I was also a pretentious, artsy bitch, and superhero comics were well outside the very narrow scope of my fandom.
Miles had grown up reading his father’s collection of silver-age Marvel: Alpha Flight, X-Men, The Mighty Thor. His mom’s refrigerator was papered with drawings of Cyclops and Iceman. In junior high, we had bonded over Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper; early in high school, we had done the awkward-kids-dating thing, which mostly involved holding hands in movies and carefully ignoring my boobs. In the following years, we awkwardly split, became friends again, and eventually tumbled first into bed, and then into another, more nebulous relationship. By our second semester of college, we were living together, and the next summer, he brought his longboxes back from Florida.
Miles got me into superheroes by being into superheroes (people wondering how to get your partners into comicshere’s where you’ll want to take some notes). The comics he lent me weren’t the ones he thought would be most girl-friendly; they were the ones he loved most. I broke my teeth on Walt Simonson’s run of Thor; on The Age of Apocalypse and The Raven Banner and the Sienkewicz era of The New Mutants. We chased down backissues of Excalibur and the Longshot special. And even if superheroes weren’t my first love, Miles’s enthusiasm was contagious. By the end of college, I could recite the Summers/Grey continuity and genealogy and had occasionally been known to yell ‘KRACKADOOM!’ upon completing a particularly sticky term paper.
So, dude, this one’s for you. Because it’s your birthday this week, and because you were okay with putting a picture of Rogue and Gambit’s first kiss on the fronts of our wedding programs and because you are proud to be married to a dykey punk chick and moved cross-country so I could make comics for a living, and most of all because you know better than to fuck with my action figures.
Click here to discuss my love life.
March 5th, 2007
Categories: Uncategorized . Author: Rachel Edidin

Be Vewwy, Vewwy QuietWe’re Hunting Wimmins!

I didn’t go to New York Comicon, so I didn’t get to see the panel on ‘Capturing the Female Reader.’ It’s probably just as well that I wasn’t there: it would have been awfully hard to resist making a loud, snarky comment about bear traps (I mean, seriouslycould they have given it a sillier title if they’d tried?).
But I did read the synopsis on Newsarama, and I have to admit that it leaves me a little cold.
According to the Comicon panel, what women want are comics with pretty pictures and sympathetic characters. Stories should focus on character interaction and relationships. We’re more interested in story than in action, and we like stories with male casts because it eliminates the competition (other girls) and allows us to focus on the details of friendships. Wendy Pini observed that ‘Girls don’t just like cotton candy or foo-foo or fluff.’ How insightful.
Yes, it’s nice to see the industry acknowledge female readers. And I agree with many of the points the panelists made. But with all their generalizations about what women and girls read and why, I have to wonder how many of them have bothered to listen to what actual female readers are saying.
Of the panelists, I think that Karen Berger came closest to the point when she noted that most teenage girls ‘read up’that is, they seek out fiction that’s written for older readers. It’s true, and there’s a reason: the stuff written for teen girls is often the worst sort of contentless tripe focused on shopping or fashion, with characters who are scarcely shy of stereotypes.
And that’s where I see one of the biggest holes in the net these companies are casting. They’re relying on the same set of stereotypes that prevented them from focusing on women before.
Here’s my advice on Capturing Female Readers:

  1. We’re not a hive mind. Your best bet isn’t going to be chasing an ethereal Platonic Ideal of the Female Reader; it’s going to be publishing a range of material that we can choose from. Sort of like you do now, only with higher BMIs and a little less rape.
  2. Avoid the trap of making comics specifically for women. This further stigmatizes and separates them from male readers, and it reinforces the message that mainstream comics aren’t for girls. Instead, try making comics universally good: hold them to the same standards as literary fiction and art. An awful lot of women read Richard Russo, not because he writes ‘for women,’ but because he’s really damn good. Take a cue from successful independent publishers like Dark Horse, Image, and Top Shelf, and shift away from tired clichés; don’t be afraid of change and evolution.
  3. Instead of marginalizing women further by creating a comics-line ghetto of ‘girls’ books,’ try making mainstream comics more female-friendly. Maybe if rape wasn’t a universal part of superheroines’ backstories, or if you treated female characters as more than a superficially scripted set of tits, women would be more interested in your books.
  4. Same goes for comics shops. Yeah, a lot of women avoid comics shops because a lot of comics shops are really damn creepy, and owners and patrons can be really, really misogynistic. But wait! I’ve seen some comics shops* with great selections and staffs that weren’t creepy and misogynistic, and guess what? They had a lot of female customers!
  5. LISTEN. For fuck’s sake, people, there are a lot of female comics fans who are GIVING you their ideas, requests, and preferences. You don’t even have to organize a focus group: you can just do a few Google searches! These are intelligent women and girls who are already comics fans; they can give you a really damn clear overview of what they feel does and doesn’t work for women in mainstream comics and what they’d like to see publishers do to address female readers. You may be surprised.
  6. Find existing comics with large female readerships and figure out what they’re doing right. Let’s try a case study:
    I don’t know about the actual stats, but based on both the letters we get and the discussion at the official message board, Hellboy and B.P.R.D. have a whole lot of female fans. Why? Well, they have really, really good stories, with a good balance of action, exposition, and character development. The art style is interesting and fits the story well, and the characters are well-realized. In general, it’s a really damn good book.
    The protagonist of Hellboy isn’t female (thus, y’know, Hellboy), and while B.P.R.D. is a team book, the majority of the main characters are male. But it’s not a big deal, because gender isn’t a defining characteristic of any of those characters: they’re people first, and men and women second. The female characters are strong, smart and well-realized; they’re neither tokens nor cheesecake. And while neither Mike Mignola or Guy Davis is notorious for his sexxxy babes or pinup art, both are great at drawing women who look like people: Liz and Kate are hot because they’re competent and interesting (I couldand probably willwrite a whole column about how much I adore Mike and Guy, and how they make awesome, feminist books, but that’s not really the topic at hand).
    There are other, similar books out there: Vertigo books get a lot of female readers because they’re good comics. Transmetropolitan, which has a male protagonist, is outrageously and quite graphically violent and obscene. It also has a huge female fanbase, because it’s a fucking brilliant comic.
  7. Bear traps.
    *I want to take this opportunity to send a shout-out to the awesome folks at The Sword and the Grail, my now-and-forever favorite comics shopI miss you guys like crazy. Check ‘em out if you’re ever in the Asheville area, and be sure to give Alex a hug for me.
    Capture some discussion!
    February 25th, 2007
    Categories: Uncategorized . Author: Rachel Edidin

Well, we edit stuff, I guess…

Last week, I asked you, my four or five loyal readers, to tell me what you wanted to know. In addition to those of you who wrote to express your doubt that there’s actually more than one queer woman working in comics or your disappointment that I do not, in fact, look just like my forum avatar, several people asked what, exactly, a comics editor does.
I know for a fact that the answer to the first question is ‘Yeah, there is,’ and the discrepancy between myself and my avatar should be pretty obvious, in that my avatar is ‘Girl’ of Cat and Girl (one of my favorite webcomics), and I have a nose (Ha! Take that, Roald Dahl!).
As for the third question, I’ll do my best to answer it here. I would guess that the details of this stuff vary from editor to editor and publisher to publisher, so please don’t make major career decisions based on the information below. I’m going to go into some of these in more detail in weeks to come, but for now, here’s an overview of what comics editors do while the rest of you are earning your money the old-fashioned way:
Editors choose projects.
They don’t choose projects unilaterally, and they don’t choose all of the projects they work on, but editors have a lot of say in what projects publishers pick up. As a rule, the more experience and seniority an editor has, the more influence she will have on whether a book makes it to press.
Editors choose creators.
On ongoing series, editors are often responsible for selecting, soliciting, and hiring the creative team. Again, they rarely act unilaterally here; often, licensors or series creators will have approval rights. But it’s generally up to the editor to assemble a comic’s creative team, and even when licensors and series creators have input, the editors are often the ones who make the final decisions.
Editors maintain continuity.
This is probably a bigger deal at publishers with shared universes, but it’s up to editors to be intimately familiar with the world and continuity of their comics and to make sure that those remain consistent from issue to issue and story to story. Sometimes, this is as prosaic as double-checking dates; sometimes, it’s as abstract as requesting a script rewrite because a character is presented in a way that the editor believes conflicts with a previous portrayal of the character. For licensed comics and comics based on other media, the editors also need to be conversant with the original material.
Editors are also responsible for making sure that creators have all of the visual and factual reference material they need, from backissues of a given series, to photo references, to factual material.
Editors organize and coordinate.
Editors connect and balance creative and practical concerns. They coordinate creation, marketing, production, and design; they’re responsible for generating and maintaining the creative budgets and creative and publication schedules. They track and maintain licensor approvals, supervise creator contracts, and make sure that vouchers are submitted and paid. They create and maintain comp lists, write work orders and indicia, and request reference material. On books with more than one creator, editors are responsible for coordinating and maintaining communication with the creative team.
Editors listen.
It’s the responsibility of an editor to pay close attention to media and fan responses to the comics she edits and to track sales. She gauges public reaction, which in turn influences her editorial decisions. Depending on the publisher for which she works, she may also interact more directly with her audience, via both private correspondence and public forums such as letter columns and online communities.
Editors write.
Most editors have some creative experience, and those who don’t when they begin to edit will likely accumulate creative credits before their careers end. If an editor can’t find a writer for a series, he will often step in and provide fill-in issues or even ongoing scripts himself. Even when they’re not credited as writers, editors can have tremendous impact on story decisions. On a more pragmatic front, they also write credits, indicia, ‘story so far’ blurbs, and solicitation copy.
And finally, editors edit.
When material comes in, from pitches, to scripts, to artwork, the editor is the first one who sees it. She is responsible for evaluating and responding to material: requesting revisions, making corrections, and communicating constantly with creators. Editors fix grammar and tweak syntax; they make sure that the artwork and the script mesh, and that the dialogue fits in each panel. The editor’s desk is often the first point of intersection between word and image.
A bonus fact about editors:
Editors are fans.
The comics industry is not a glamorous place to work. The hours are long, they pay is notoriously low, and outside of the comics community, we don’t have much standing or prestige. Many of the people I work with have advanced degrees; many are skilled writers and artists in their own rights. We work in comics because we love comics; because we know how lucky we are to be part of the process of creating them. Even the most knuckleheaded editorial decisions are usually made with genuinely good intentions.
Of course, that’s no reason not to take us to task when we screw up. We may be fans ourselves, but we know we have to answer to the rest of you, too.
Speaking of taking editors to task, please keep the questions and feedback coming. I’m still finding my footing here, and hearing what you’d like to get out of thiswhat questions you have, what you’d like me to address, and what you think of what you’ve seen so faris a huge help!
February 19th, 2007
Categories: Editing, Questions . Author: Rachel Edidin

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: Guest Column, characters . Author: admin


Burning Questions

This week, I answer your questions! Because I know stuff! Some, anyway…
Linkara asks: What do you feel Dark Horse’s primary market is? I.E. Marvel and DC are primarily superhero stories, Image is a mixture of superheroes plus various other genres usually related to scifi or crime.
One of my favorite things about Dark Horse is how hard our books are to pigeonhole as a group. They cover a tremendous range of genres, styles, and formats, and I’d be hard-pressed to choose a single one that defines us in the way that DC or Marvel is identified with superheroes. So, our primary markets vary widely from line to line and title to title.
I do think our market is widened substantially by the volume of cross-medium and licensed material we’re involve in: for example, titles like Buffy bring people to comicsand, by extension, other Dark Horse comicswho wouldn’t otherwise seek them out. So, we both rely on and practice a lot of cross-fertilization between comics, movies, prose fiction, art, video games, toys, and other mediums I’m probably forgetting.
The other area Dark Horse has always focused on in both publication and marketing is creator-owned properties (i.e. Hellboy, Concrete, The Goon, Sock Monkey, etc.). And creators’ rights are a pretty big deal in terms of how we market ourselves to writers and artists whose work we want to publish.
amyreads asks: If you could put together a Dream Team of Writer(s) and Artist(s) on a Dream Superhero Title, who would your Dream Team be, and what would the Dream Storyline be?
Can I have more than one?
I would love to see an Arkham Asylum story with script and covers by David Mack and painted interiors by Bill Sienkewicz.
A Li’l Avengers story, Little Endless Storybook style, written and painted by Jill Thompson. MADE OF CUTE AND WONDERFUL!
Speaking of cute, I want more X-Men backup stories by Colleen Coover.
And I would kill small, defenseless…well, anyway, I’d pay a lot of money to see a Starman miniseries written by Joshua Dysart and drawn by Mike Mignola.
CEOIII says: 3 words: REWRITE CIVIL WAR. Any way you wish, any ending you wish. Cap just giving up is still jammed deep in my craw.
Ever seen the movie Baseketball? Remember when they have the big fight, and then they finally make up, and—
Oh, C’mon! You know Iron Man + Cap = OTP! And I’m not even into slash!
Okay, sorry. I’ll give it a serious try. Bear in mind, however, that I haven’t actually read much of Civil War, so I may be breaking continuity pretty hard.
First of all, I’d frame it such that Iron Man wasn’t set up as the villain. Instead, it’d be clear that he and Cap are both basically right: each has a different, totally defensible stance on a really loaded, subjective issue. So, while the conflict would escalate, it would be a case of conflicting beliefs, not Evil Authoritarian Iron Man beating down on Sympathetic, Freedom-Loving Cap.
I would retcon such that Iron Man and Cap had worked together to fake Cap’s death so that Cap could continue to operate clandestinely and help some anti-registration heroes and people whom registration would actively harm get to Canada / protect their identities. Which I think Tony Stark would be willing to leave to Cap’s judgment, because Tony’s always been all about bending the rules for the greater good.
And then they’d make out.
Fox In The Stars says: Maybe like ‘what can a male character do’, talk about ways of handling male characters that would be woman-friendly and feminist.
I’m gonna hold off on this, ’cause it could be a column by itself…
Hazel says: A feature on male writers and artists who do good stuff with female characters would be nice. Also, novels or other media who you think would make good comics spin-offs.
Y’know what? Most of the well-writen and well-drawn women in comics are coming from male creators, simply because the field is so dramatically gender-imbalanced. For now, though, I’ll just rattle off a short list of male comics creators who I’ve seen portray women particularly well (in my highly subjective opinion):
Kyle Baker
Matt Bayne
Ross Campbell
Guy Davis
Frank Frazetta
Neil Gaiman
Renato Guedes
Brian Maruca
Lawrence Marvit
Dave McKean
Mike Mignola
Alan Moore
Jim Rugg
Greg Ruth
Stephen Seagle
Dean Trippe
Joss Whedon
Tad Williams
Bryan Vaughn
I’m iffy on the reworking of other media as comics, for many of the same reasons that I’m uncertain about the adaptation of most comics and books into movies. Spinoffs, on the other hand, could be fair game if doing them as comics would genuinely add something to them.
Here are a couple characters and properties that I think could rock the comics:

  • V.I. Warshawski, who could rock her own ongoing series. Badass, practical female PIs are FAR too rare. Bonus: female creator, too!
  • Otherland, which also has the dual advantages of tremendously rich imagery and an author who we know can write some damn fine comics.
    A straight adaptation that I think would be really damn cool would be Davita’s Harp, by Chaim Potok. It’s a bit unlikely for a comic, and it would have to be the right creative team, but it could be pretty rad.
    knastymike asks: Any chance of a comic book based on the life of Anne Bonny?
    As it just so happens, my good friend Noah is hard at work on just such a series. It’s still in an embryonic stage, but when it’s done, it’s gonna rock you so hard your whole family will feel it.
    Caribou23 asks: In your opinion, who is the most awesome comics creator working in the field today who doesn’t get acknowledged as often as you think that they deserve? And where I can I find their work?
    Ooh, hard one. Really hard one, because what if it’s someone I haven’t heard of because they don’t get that acknowledgement, andOH, NOES!
    So, instead, I’m just going to write about one awesome comics creator out of many who aren’t getting acknowledged as much as I’d like.
    And that’s Matt Bayne (whose name you can also find in the above list of men who write / draw women particularly well). You can find his comic, Knights of the Shroud, here. In a just world, this would be getting about ten times the press it has thus far, and Matt would be . It’s quirky and not without its flaws, but it’s also really, really, really, really awesome and promises to grow even more so.
    Discuss this column here.
    August 28th, 2007
    Categories: Books, characters, Creators, fandom, Personal, Publishing, Questions . Author: Rachel Edidin

Notes from the Underground

I am writing this communiqué from deep inside enemy territory. I have scaled barbed wire fences and tunneled under stone walls. My hands are raw, my glasses are cracked, and I can’t feel my toes.
I am, as they say, ‘in the industry.’ I make comic books for a living.
Okay, I edit comic books for a living. Assistant edit, if you want to be picky. But I do get paid for it. I even have health insurance.
I’m one of those people whose names you skim over on the inside front cover of your comic books. I tug balloons into place and fix syntax and call creators on their birthdays; I sneak between borders and leave my invisible footprints all over the panels. I’m in the know. I’m in on the secrets. I’ve got the door code.
If you couldn’t see my name, you’d never even guess that I was a girl. And even then, you’d miss the part where I’m queer. The purple hair, tattoos, and facial piercings are just icing on the cupcake.
Poe’s ‘I’m Not A Virgin Anymore’ just came on the stereo. How appropriate.
I’m out of the closet, out of the longbox, and out of the mainstream. And I’m putting my voice out here because as I stand on one side of comics with my nose pressed against the newsprint, I have to believe that someone’s out there on the other side, pressing right back.
Go here to discuss this column.
February 5th, 2007
Categories: Uncategorized . Author: Rachel Edidin

These Things Are Fun, and Fun Is Good

I like porn comics.
But how? You (my imaginary antagonist) ask, How can a feminist, a writer, someone who has fought for the legitimacy of comics, be so fond of such undignified smut?
Well, Virginia, as one of my heroes, the inimitable Tom Lehrer, once said, ‘Dirty books are fun.’ And, in the words of that literary luminary Theodore Geisel, ‘Fun is good.’
I was talking with a friend about Jenna Jameson’s upcoming comic series. ‘I’m looking forward to it,’ she said. ‘It looks really fun. And I like fun comics.’ I do, too. I like knock-down, drag-out fight scenes where the combatants take time to spout off witty one-liners. I like over-the-top characters, dark deco architecture, pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo, and technology that’s cooler than it is practical. I like self-narrating private dicks in trench coats and slouchy fedoras, heroes who yell their own sound effects, self-consciously bad puns, purple prose, little girls with heavy artillery, and the occasional panty shot. I will read almost any comic that features a superhero in aviator goggles. I like pirates. I like the Wolverine series where he bums around Madripoor and fights vampires. Speaking of which, I also like sexy, brooding vampires.
I recently purchased a page of original art. It is a beautifully drawn splash of a wrestling ring in which a muscular man in a unitard is pinning a giant squid from outer space. It is awesome.
I’m extremely fond of Adam Hughes’s pinup art, because it’s both fun and sexy, and because the women in it look like they’re wise to you. I like pretty girls. I also like pretty boys. I like deliberately silly bikini pinups of characters who generally wouldn’t be caught dead in bikinis.
Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to find comics that are both fun and good. Walt Simonson’s run on The Mighty Thor is brilliant; it includes the most sweepingly epic, heart wrenchingly human stories I’ve read (not to mention really awesome use of sound effects). It also includes several issues in which Thor is a giant frog and a scene in which he solemnly tells a punk kid that he cannot wear his hair in a Mohawk because ‘Mine helmet would fall off.’ Hellboy spans a similar range, as do James Robinson’s Starman series and Gail Simone’s run on Birds of Prey. In none of these do the slapstick and the silly negate or diminish the quality. ‘Pancakes’ does not detract from Mike Mignola’s masterful use of mythology. That Misfit’s battle cry is ‘Dark Vengance!’ makes her poignant origin story even more effective.
Sometimes, comics are just fun. And that’s okay, too.
Discuss this column here.
August 6th, 2007
Categories: Birds of Prey, Hellboy, porn, pulp, Starman, Thor . Author: Rachel Edidin

Everything I Know About Diversity, I Learned from Superhero Comics

Africa is basically one large country, split into nation states for reasons of plot convenience. There are few or no cultural or geographic difference between its regions. All Africans practice the same religion, which is ambiguous and animistic and can occasionally produce super powers.
All Jews are deeply observant.
Eastern Europe is almost entirely undeveloped. Its ruggedly traditional and childishly innocent inhabitants are all deeply superstitious, and its landscape is made up of sinister forests, thatched cottages, and arbitrarily placed haystacks.
Everyone in Japan comes from a Yakuza family, is a master of martial arts, and fiercely distrusts foreigners, to whom they refer exclusively as ‘Gaijin.’ They wear traditional apparel at all opportunities. Each baby is issued a magic-endowed Ancestral Sword at birth.
Irish people are quaint and friendly, and they all believe in (and in fact have generally seen or befriended) fairies and leprechauns, which they call ‘the wee folk.’ They all drink constantly but are gentle, comical, and wise when intoxicated. They wear green whenever possible.
Scots are temperamental but fiercely loyal. Due to a production surplus, their speech is littered with excess Rs.
Neither Ireland nor Scotland is industrialized, and neither’s quaintly charming culture has been tainted by the tourist industry.
Wales does not exist.
China is a much smaller and less prominent nation than Japan. All Citizens of China are deeply devoted to the Communist Party, and fashions have not changed since the Cultural Revolution.
Residents of the Southern regions of the United States are all either wealthy plantation owners or sharecroppers. The South has not changed architecturally since the Civil War.
Everyone over the age of sixty is a font of arcane knowledge. Most senior citizens–and all elderly black women–practice magic of some sort.
Most Americans live in New York. All large cities in the United States resemble New York.
Everyone in England lives in London. Everyone in France lives either in Paris or in an idyllic cottage in the countryside.
French people wear striped shirts and berets at every opportunity. They are each issued a baguette at the beginning of the day, which they must carry around with them until dusk.
Everyone in Europe and Australia is white.
Except for the South, which is still bitterly racist, the United States is entirely integrated and colorblind.
No one ever emigrates to a country other than America.
Most black Americans over the age of fifty practice Voodoo.
Everyone in New Orleans is deeply religious, fluent in French, and possessed of some sort of arcane powers.
Everyone not a member of the middle class is intensely connected to their cultural / ethnic background.
Most foreigners speak English very well, although with occasionally stilted grammar, but none of them can ever remember the words for ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
The lower classes are composed entirely of criminals and their long-suffering and usually handicapped or sickly mothers and sisters. They’re all kind of grimy, or at least tactically smudged.
Europe is crawling with Nazis, all of whom wear SS dress uniforms at all times and speak with German accents regardless their nationalities.
Everyone native to the former U.S.S.R. is white.
The former U.S.S.R. is now the nation of Russia. Little has changed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union: Russia’s residents are still all nationalistic, naive farmers with deep affinity for their folklore.
All lesbians are either butch or femme, but there are no butch / femme couples.
All gay men and most lesbians are white. All non-white lesbians are femme and extremely beautiful, and most are ninjas.
There are no homosexuals over the age of thirty-five who are not pedophiles.
Everyone not a white American Protestant will betray their ethnicity and nationality by the oaths they use, which will either be in a language other than English or will contain transparent cultural references.
Canada’s entire landscape is snow-blanketed pine forests. There are no large cities–or even cities at all–in Canada, just secret government compounds, logging camps, and truck stops.
Unattractive people only pair with other unattractive people.
No undeveloped or traditional culture is misogynistic.
South and Central America don’t exist, except during revolutions.
Nationality is not an issue for Arabs, all of whom are Muslims and most of whom dress the same. All non-American Muslim women wear burqua, which can be extremely form fitting and vary in shape, style, and degree of coverage.
All non-Catholic Christians are militant and violently intolerant fundamentalists. The only exceptions to this rule are missionaries, who are warm-hearted and selfless and never engage in cultural colonialism.
All atheists are pompous, pretentious, and dead wrong. Most of them are also conspiracy theorists.
Everyone intelligent is also rich, or at least upper-middle-class.
All Satanists actually worship Satan.
All pimps and most prostitutes are black.
All racists are gleefully so. All racism is deliberate and vindictive.
Cultural appropriation is charming and sweet.
There is no racism in Africa.
People of all ethnicities look like palette-swapped white people. There are no variations in their facial features, hair texture, or statures, except that all Asian women are petite and busty.
All young Asian women, regardless their classes or nationalities, wear cheongsam for all formal occasions.
If not all members of an ethnicity look like palette-swapped white people, then they all look like each other. The only ethnicities are Black, Asian, White, and occasionally Indian (which covers both persons from India and American Indians, as well as most Arabs) and there is little to no variation within these.
All tribes of American Indians are essentially the same. All American Indians are deeply connected to their cultural roots and spiritualities.
Everyone in Israel is white.
Australia’s aboriginal peoples are not oppressed in any way and live according to their cultural traditions, in constant communion with nature.
Most myths are literally true.
All Scandinavians are blonde. Scandinavian culture is culturally amorphous and gratingly cheerful.
There are no Pacific Islands aside from Japan.
Only white people are racist.
Inuit culture is largely intact, and the Inuits live happily, traditionally, and prosperously.
Plains Indians are the only oppressed indigenous people.
Islam is the only inherently sexist religion.
Discuss this column here.

Guest Column: Reflections in a Funhouse Mirror – The Joy of Superheroes

This week’s Inside Out is a guest column by the wildy brilliant Katherine Keller, Editrix in Chief of Sequential Tart. Next week, I’ll be back with the gory details of why I missed Comic-Con–which are nowhere near as cool as what Katherine has to say here:
So, I’m trying to put into words why I like superhero comics so much, explain why I still care when, in the past three years, it seems that Marvel and DC have repeatedly crapped on women characters (and the fanbase that follows them), why I think these issues are worth speaking up about, why I haven’t said ‘Oh, to Hell with it,’ and left the building as so many other readers have.
At the end of the day, as awesome and fulfilling as comics like Wet Moon, Fun Home, and Persepolis are, they aren’t–and never will be–that gloriously cracktacular bastard hybrid amalgamation of science fiction meets fantasy meets crime fiction that the superhero genre is.
Superheroes: the genre where anything can, and frequently does happen. (Hey, there’s a reason for that old fandom joke that ‘the letters DC stand for Delicious Crack.’ The power of Shazam used as a defibrillator. Jaime Reyes’ deep dark dental fantasy. ‘Nuff said.) No other genre is so wonderfully ripe with potential. And sometimes, that potential is even realized.
But that’s not the only reason I love superhero comics.
Before I discovered comics, I hated the token women character in most movies or TV. She existed only as the love interest of the week, would never be seen again, didn’t matter. I hated her for being pasted in. For stealing valuable screen time from my guys who could be doing something useful instead of trying to get up her skirt. And then she’d do something stupid and have to be rescued by the guys. Why even bother having a woman character?
But then I found comics. And I found Jean Grey and Psylocke and Rogue and Polaris … yes, the X-Men were my first big fandom, as they were for a lot of women. (And no, I didn’t have any problems getting up to speed on the plot threads and continuity, despite the fact that I jumped in right in the middle of a crossover event. I loved that there was so much back story for me to discover.) I finally found the women who mattered–and it was much-needed manna from heaven.
Right now (despite all the things I see that irritate the hell out of me), comics are pretty much the only visual mass media in town where one gets images, visuals of women being something other than the sidekick or pasted in love interest of the week, of women putting foot to ass, of women being as big, as bad-ass, and as important as male characters.
Really, as far as current TV is concerned, outside of Heroes and Friday Night Lights, where are the cool, empowered women as important characters with significant screen time? (Note to readers: I don’t do much anime. Invariably there’s a nasal, whiny female voice so insanely irritating that it drives me from the room.)
Looking at current TV, I see there’s Teyla on Stargate: Atlantis, but I could only stand so many plot holes I could fly a fleet of 757s through, not to mention the constant ‘deus ex Rodney’ story lines, before I bailed.
Buffy is gone.
Firefly is gone.
Xena is gone.
Babylon 5 is gone.
Alias is gone.
The less said about–hack! spit!–Lost, the better.
Yes, I am up in arms about the lack of a memorial for Stephanie Brown, and displeased about Power Girl being drawn looking like an inflate-a-date, but at least in comics, I’ve got a Power Girl, a bad-ass chica who’s the head of the JSA and could go to toe with anybody in the DCU.
And I’ve also got a White Tiger, and a Sasha Bordeaux (and the rest of the cast of the severely underrated Checkmate), and a Black Widow (two of those, actually), and the Birds of Prey.
Nowhere else do I see so many repeated images of women who stand up for themselves. Women who make a difference. Women who matter. Which is why all the stupidity and pandering to the lowest denominator I’ve seen in the last few years makes me and a lot of other women (and some men, too) so very angry.
But, I am still finding things to love, which is why I (and a lot of other women) are still here and why we’re not going to quietly slink away anytime soon.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, writing about what I love about superhero comics has gotten me all psyched. So, I’m going to re-read some of my Green Lantern Corps back issues. I love seeing Dr. Soranik Natu outwit her enemies and save the day–again. And only comics gives me that.
Discuss this column here.

Stop, Look, and Listen

The white feminist comics blogosphereme includedhas been ignoring and pussyfooting around the issue of race for way too long. It’s time to stop.
Please take the time you’d normally spend reading my column to read this post by Cheryl Lynn, if you haven’t already. Stay off the defensive. Just sit down, shut up, and listen to what she has to say.
And then, it’s time for us to start talking.
July 8th, 2007
Categories: blogging, race . Author: Rachel Edidin