Frank Miller’s All Star Batman And Robin, the Boy Wonder is generally so very bad that pointing out just how terrible it is in respect to the portrayal of women feels a little unsporting.
“Oh, FRANK,” I want to sigh, much as if a puppy had shit on my doorstep or a two-year old had drawn on the walls. “Batman doesn’t say “cool”. Alfred never addresses women to whom he has just introduced himself as “love”. Your characterisation is a mess, your dialogue is laughable, and repeating things over and over again in captioned internal monologue isn’t hard-hitting drama; it’s just dull. Clean this mess up, and don’t do it again.”
But Frank Miller isn’t a puppy, and neither, regardless of the issues in his issues, is he a two-year-old boy. He is a grown man hired by DC to create the “most anticipated title of the year.” Miller is a comics writer with a towering reputation, good circulation numbers, and a painfully apparent contempt for anyone with a vagina.
So, even though pointing out the misogyny in ASBAR (pronounced “ASS-bah”) is easier than beating ducks in a barrel to death with a crowbar, I’m going to do it anyway.
Here is the original Vicki Vale, introduced in Batman #49 in 1948*:

And here is Frank Miller’s Vicki Vale:

You may have noticed that her butt is talking.
In Miller’s hands, photographer Vicki Vale becomes a gossip columnist “gadfly” who struts around her apartment in lacy lingerie and fluffy heels, sipping a martini, and dictating to herself while Gotham City gleams in the huge, uncurtained, picture windows behind her.

Ah, how far things have come for women in comics!
The rightly renowned Bechdel’s Law refers to movies, but could equally well apply to comics or at least arcs. A character in Bechdel’s Dykes To Watch Out For states that she won’t watch a movie unless:

  • There is more than one women in it, and;
  • they talk to each other, and;
  • about something other than a man.
    Well, of course ASBAR doesn’t pass, but what I find totally amazing is that Vicki (who can’t talk to another woman, since the only other woman in this issue is about to get shot in the head) is actually talking to herself, and it’s still about a man.
    Actually, it’s three men! Superman (hot; possible penis of steel) Batman (crazy man who will never get the girls) and Bruce Wayne (rich; hot). Men she wants; the man she doesn’t want. All about the mens! The only thing that will stop Vicki Vale from thinking and talking about men is witnessing a brutal double murder.
    But let’s not blame Frank right away! Maybe it was the artist who’s responsible for this soft-porn adolescent fantasy. Maybe the cheesecake poses and buttshots were totally Jim Lee’s idea!
    Oh, how I adore the days of director’s editions.
    Here, in Miller’s own words, is how he wanted Vicki Vale to be portrayed:

Frank wants you to drool over Vicki Vale. She’s hot! She knows what she’s got! She’s strutting around her own apartment technically alone but you, dear reader, you are allowed in to watch. She’s stripped down for you.
She doesn’t actually have a personality, other than being “restless”. But that’s okay! Lacy panties, gorgeous face who needs to pay attention to characterisation when you can spend paragraphs describing her body?
And she won’t do anything vulgar. Vulgarity, apparently, is reserved for Frank.
Oh, FRANK, you misogynistic slimeball. Whyfor the steaming pile of crap on my doorstep?
There’s more to be said about poor Vicki, including her eagerness to drop everything in favour of a spur of the moment date with Bruce (so much for having to work), but really? Ducks in a barrel.
Tune in tomorrow, true believers, when I suppress my gag reflex and press on to ASBAR #3. In a shocking turn of events, Miller’s Black Canary spends all her time thinking about a man.

  • This picture has those awful white boxes because the only copy of it I could find had photoshopped captions added from ASBAR. It’s here, and it’s hilarious.
    ETA: Better scans here and another excellent demonstration of forties Vicki here. Thanks to Marionette.

[Interview] Cecil Castellucci and the Janes.

Cecil Castellucci, author of two titles in the Minx lines of DC Young Adult comics for girls – The PLAIN Janes and the forthcoming Janes in Love graciously gave up some post-jury-duty time to answer a few questions. In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll say that Cecil and I have the same literary agent, but I hadn’t any contact with her before this interview.

KH: The PLAIN Janes has been listed on the Amelia Bloomer Project list for young readers, which lists feminist books for young readers. How do you feel about that?

CC: I feel most excellent about that.
I’ve known about the list for a few years and always thought that it was super cool. I never thought that I would have a book on the list, because even though I feel my books have positive feminist values in them, I kind of thought it went to books about Amelia Earhart and stuff. So when I found out that The PLAIN Janes made the list, it was like the coolest thing ever.
I’m a staunch feminist. I am proud to say I’m a feminist. And it always bums me out when I hear young girls saying that they aren’t feminists. If they can read a book like mine and the others on the list, the ones that are fiction and sort of not ‘scary’ to them, but are totally feminist, I think it’s all good. It makes that word less charged and it also lets the ladies sing out

KH: One of the criticisms leveled at The PLAIN Janes was that all the Janes are flat characters adhering too closely to high school stereotypes jock, geek, drama queen. Do you have any response?

CC: Glad you asked. Yes. I did that on purpose.
The point was to have all the characters be radically different and have different ideas of what cool would be and then come together with this one thing: Art. By accenting their differences, I felt that it was easier to talk about their strengths and uniqueness.
Also, those ‘cliches’ are a shorthand. We all know what a typical jock, drama girl, nerd, etc. are. Or at least we think we do. In The PLAIN Janes, if you look closely, they are all those things on the surface, but they are more than that. Even Cindy, the mean girl is more than just mean. Even James is more than just the Queer kid.
So I am very glad that everyone noticed that they were those stereotypes. I just wish that they saw the bigger picture of what I was trying to do.
I learned a lot from those comments though, and put a lot of thought into trying to make the characters still totally themselves, and their ‘stereotype’, but also a little more fleshed out in book two. I hope that people will see that.

KH: Another criticism actually came mostly regarding the preview that DC released of the first few pages, where Jane rejects the ‘cool kids’ table on the grounds that they look too cool. People saw this as hypocritical of her would you agree?

CC: Well, the preview pages don’t tell the whole story. For example, it didn’t show that Jane used to be a blonde popular girl like Cindy. And that after the bombing, she makes a conscious decision to change her world view. I mean, it does say that a little on that page, ‘I used to be her.’
And once again, Cindy and Jane form a kind of friendship, or a truce. Jane doesn’t totally reject Cindy and Cindy doesn’t totally reject Jane. They coexist. And cool is redefined.
I don’t know! This is a hard question! Maybe I don’t fully understand it! I never even knew that people were upset about the preview pages!

KH: You just don’t obsessively Google yourself enough.

CC: Drats! I fail!
Anyway, the other thing is that maybe people were reacting to it seeming like a ‘typical’ high school story. There are certain tropes that are a short hand. And then there is room to play. I think that I played with it.
And like I said, previews don’t tell the whole story. I don’t like it when I see a preview of a movie and then I’m like, ‘Damn, now I don’t even have to see the movie.’

KH: The bombing of Metro City bears obvious parallels to the WTC attacks, and dealing with the fear of knowing that ‘nowhere is safe’ is a constant theme of the comic. As a former New Yorker, was this a case of drawing from experience?

CC: It was drawing from experience, but I was not in NY on 9/11. I was in an IRA bombing when I was a young girl and that was where the personal part of it came from. I wanted to write a story that dealt with that fear that I had as a little girl and also the fear that came collectively from 9/11. I wanted to write a story that deal with the idea that the world can be mad and that we need to find hope and beauty in it. I purposely did not make it the WTC attacks, nor did I make it any specific city in America because I wanted the story to be free from the specifics of those events, while still dealing with the basic ideas.

KH: The book’s most emphasised theme is the redeeming quality of art and the way that beauty can combat fear (while, paradoxically, also cause it!). Is that something that’s personally important to you?

CC: Absolutely. I do believe that art can save.
I think that art, all types of art, whether professional or amateur have a way of reaching right down to the core of our humanity. And while art has the power to heal and to give voice to our fears, to connect us in this lonely world, it also has the power to cause it. Or to rally Think of Gurenica.
Art has the power to make us see the world in a new way. A play, a book, a painting, a dance. Anything. I believe in art as being one of the most human things that we can do. I believe that is the secret to our ability to come up with new ideas, invent things, make new technology, reach for the stars.
Pretty much all of my characters in all of my books are saved by art or find their fundamental self through art.

KH: You’ve mentioned that it was important to you that the Janes have different body types. The dramatic Jane is distinctly solid, and sports lover Polly Jane is tall and thin, for example. However, though there are several characters of colour in the crowd scenes, the main characters all seem to read as white. Was this intentional?

CC: Well, Polly Jane is Latina and Theater Jane is Asian.

KH: Wow, I totally didn’t read that at all.

CC: Yep. That’s why PJ has the Frida Kahlo look. And Theater Jane, totally Asian.
In book two, Janes in Love there is a lot more diversity. (It is something that is equally important to me as body types)

KH: The reason I ask the question is because a friend of mine pointed this out to me and she was upset, because to her the art read white white white.

CC: That’s a total bummer! Not white at all. Even Cindy is Latina Cindy Sanchez.
In book two, we see more of PJ’s crush, Isaac, who is African American and there is a new character named Rizwan.
I think it’s one of those things, too, where the more time you have with a series, and hopefully I’ll get to do a book three, the more time you get to really fill your world up in an organic way.

KH: Well, I’m glad, but honestly, looking at these pages right now, I would never have seen it if you hadn’t just said.

CC: That’s so sad! Another thing I worked really hard on! Maybe had it been color it would have been easier to spot.
[Note: The artist for The PLAIN Janes is Jim Rugg, not Ms Castellucci, in case this interview erroneously gives that perception.]

KH: Possibly it’s a result of reading so many comics where you may just as well assume everyone’s white unless it’s totally obvious.

CC: Yes.

KH: (Or, in the case of Connor Hawke, isn’t obvious enough.)

CC: laughs
Like I said, something that I am totally on! I’m all over it like a jam on bread!
In all of my books, I have a lot of diversity. (For example, another thing, just fyi, is that Brain Jayne holds her books in front of her chest because her boobs are too big and that upsets her. That’s a body thing.)
While it’s true that my main characters are white, their worlds are not.

KH: What flavour jam?

CC: Grape.

KH: Speaking of book two, Janes in Love! Would you like to tell us about that?

CC: Yes! Janes in Love follows the girls right after book one ends. So we see what happens with Damon and with John Doe and the repercussions of that.
There is also a dance. And crushes. And of course art attacks, despite the trouble that it caused. I really think that book one and two make one big story.

  • * * Janes in Love SPOILER WARNING! If you avoid that sort of thing, scroll down until I tell you it’s safe. * * *

KH: Does James find love?

CC: He does not find a boy to go to the dance with. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t try. (ie. go to a queer cafe and sit there.) And it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t find love one day, even if it’s not in this book.
If you are asking because of queer content, I can tell you that one of the Janes has two dads, and that a girl in the book may be questioning her orientation.

KH: No, I’m asking because I think he’s adorable and I want him happy.

  • * * SPOILERS OVER! * * * Go about your day. CC: Oh, I love James! LOVE LOVE LOVE James! He is so funny and makes me so happy. If I get to do a book three, I’ve got mad plans for him.

KH: And he’s so brave!

CC: Yes, he really is. Totally himself.

KH: He sits there with his Queer Club notice every day.

CC: I know. I love him!
People criticized me for that, too. As unrealistic.

KH: No, some kids are really that brave.

CC: But you know, I went to an arts high school, and everyone was out. Yeah.
And also, I think that James is just totally self assured. He has a great sense of self. That’s why he’s the only one who is brave enough to sing at noon that day. He just is that cool.

KH: Uh, I seem to be abandoning all my journalistic objectivity. So, finally. Did you really spend six weeks in line for The Phantom Menace?

CC: laughs Yes.
I slept on Lou Rawls’ star every night in a tent. And I thought the movie was terrible. However, it was a wonderful adventure to do that. And I wear my Queen Amidala tattoo with pride now.
[Do you] have any more questions about that, which I am happy to answer?

KH: I am privately wondering how you peed.

CC: You can publish my peeing answer!
I went across the street to the Roosevelt Hotel and peed and did my business and brushed my teeth. There was also a guy on the line who lived two blocks away from the line. Him and I became buds. So we would march people over to his house (he gave me the spare key) and let people take showers.

Not A Doormat.

The Pro is an Image comic by Garth Ennis, drawn by Amanda Conner and inked by Jimmy Palmiotti. It’s about a female prostitute who’s given superpowers by a horny alien, pees on the face of a vanquished foe in full view of the UN general assembly, gives a Superman stand-in a blow-job and ultimately saves New York.
It’s one of my favourite stand-alone comics.
In the introduction, Ennis explains that: ‘We realized we weren’t going to be taking any shit for sexism or misogyny on a book drawn by a woman.’ Yeeeeeah, right, because no critic has ever pointed out the misogynistic elements of a work by women before.
I’m not going to give Ennis a hard time for sexism and misogyny, because I think what he manages to pull off here is a nasty, really funny story about a woman who is upfront about the disgusting society that has economically coerced her into prostitution. With bonus superheroes, because continually pointing out that superheroes in real life would either be brutal fascists or naïve and useless morons is just how Ennis rolls. Fortunately, this time, it’s not boring or gross for gross’ sake there’s some fantastic social commentary going on at the same time.
The thing about prostitution and here and henceforth I’m referring specifically to female prostitutes is that the culture of the West goes on and on about sexy being great and empowering for women I’m totally empowered to take pole-dancing lessons, how freeing! and then the worst thing you can say to a woman is to call her a whore.
Because god forbid the sex that’s constantly commodified actually be a commodity offered by real women (often but not always economically disadvantaged, often criminalized, often raped and beaten and murdered by the same people that seek their services) instead of fantasy constructs. God forbid prostitution be viewed as just another sometimes unpleasant, dangerous job people do for the money to pay their bills. God forbid it ever be a viable career choice. It can’t be, because sex is involved, and humans can never, ever be rational about sex, especially when it involves women, because you’ve got to control women and their awful female bodies or they’ll invite sin into the world via apples.
Be sexy, girls! Sex sells! But don’t sell sex, or you’re a dirty wretch who doesn’t deserve basic human rights or dignity. P.S. If you’re physically or economically forced into being a prostitute and it’s not a free or fair choice, don’t worry! You’re still filth.
The Pro is not the story of all prostitutes, for which, points, but the story of one woman. For her, prostitution is neither a glamorous career, nor demonized as the province of women fallen from puritan ideals. The Pro freely acknowledges that she hates her job (in fact, she has two the other is waitressing at Denny’s, which is not enough to pay the bills). But she refuses to feel even slightly guilty for being a prostitute, and stays foul-mouthed and cynically contemptuous of attempts to ‘reform’ her. Superheroing, she says ‘sounds better than sucking cock for a living’, but the hypocrisy of the superhero game makes you wonder:
Speedo: ‘We’re the League of Honour; the security of the planet rests in our hands! I mean do you know how many supervillain team-ups we’ve defeated? How often we’ve saved the world from some unspeakable cosmic menace?
The Pro: Shame you could never fix things so I didn’t have to suck dick to feed my kid, isn’t it?
Ennis is not quite fair, of course concentrating on one aspect of social justice doesn’t mean you’re necessarily blind to others but within the context of the story his League of Honour is so monumentally unaware of the mundane and awful real-world horrors the Pro has to cope with that her dismissal of their ‘games’ is entirely justified.
There are other possibly-problematic elements. I read the jive-speaking Lime as not so much mocking the inclusion of Black characters in superhero teams as sardonic comment on the clumsiness of writers engaging in tokenism rather than characterization. The Lady who speaks in the exaggerated rhetoric of sisterhood is picked out by name and by manner as the overly-perfect, pedastaled one-girl-on-the-team: not a satire of Wonder Woman, but on the pitfalls of making her stand for all ‘womanly’ virtues. Your mileage, however, may vary.
I’m not enthused by the portrayal of explicitly Muslim terrorists, nor overly happy about the Knight paying the Pro to dress as his sidekick the Squire and masturbate. (Batman’s a potential pedophile! How never-been-done-before!) Ultimately, though, there’s only the one scene I cannot stand: a john who began the book by shooting at our soon-to-be-superheroine is later discovered to have mistreated and assualted several women, including ‘ass-raping them in the backseat’. He’s accosted by the Pro and many other prostitutes, and gang-raped. Presumably this is supposed to be a scene of totally hilarious revenge, but when it comes to rape, I have absolutely no sense of humour.
Conner’s cartoonishly vibrant, humanely expressive art for once dehumanizes the situation: depicting women lined up with rape implements including a fire hydrant, a weed-whacker and a Christmas tree while their victim screams off-panel trivializes rape to the level of wacky cartoonish violence. It’s a ‘the biter bit!’ punchline that fails to engage with the issues of power and control the book otherwise doesn’t shy from.
Incidentally since it comes up later in the story someone in the aftermath of rape-by-chainsaw wouldn’t merely be missing a sphincter and requiring 30 operations to reconstruct their asshole. They’d be dead. If you’re shooting for superheroes in a context of real-world consequences, then keep it real.
But all in all, I like The Pro a lot. It’s not a book I’d recommend to everyone, but if you’re into brutal, funny stories about mass destruction, naïve superheroes and super-realist, unrepentant women doing a job the world loves to hate them for, then The Pro may be for you.

[Interview] Hot Mamas In The Big(time) City: Jennifer Estep

You may remember my reviews of superhero romance novel Karma Girl and its sequel Hot Mama, and my previous interview with their author, Jennifer Estep. Hot Mama prompted more questions! If you have questions of your own, good news Jennifer has volunteered to answer them, and offers two copies of Hot Mama and one of Karma Girl as an incentive. All you have to do is ask a question to be in to win.

Hot Mama‘s Fiona ‘Fiera’ Fine is a very different character from the more mild-mannered Carmen, the star of your first book. Was writing from her perspective a different experience? Who do you like best?

It was a different experience because Fiona Fine is a lot more confidant and outspoken than Carmen Cole. I hate books (especially first-person ones) where it feels like you’re reading the exact same character again, just with a different name. So, I tried to make Fiona completely different and distinct from Carmen. I gave her a different personality, different powers, different quirks, likes, dislikes, etc.

I also gave Fiona a completely different perspective on superheroes. Fiona loves being a superhero she loves the perks, the attention, the superpowers. She likes being able to cook a pizza with her bare hands. Sure, it can be a drag having to run out on your date to save the city, but Fiona realizes it’s a small price to pay when people’s lives are on the line. Being a superhero is her job, and she enjoys it. That was a lot of fun for me to write.

Honestly, there are things I like about both characters Carmen’s attention to detail, her dogged determination, her bravery in the face of impossible odds, her massive T-shirt collection.

Then, there’s Fiona. I like a lot of things about her, too. She says and does exactly what she wants to, no matter what the consequences are. She’s not afraid of anything, and she’s not going to let anybody get the best of her. She’s Fiera, for crying out loud. The best superhero around. J
I found the way you engaged with body image in Hot Mama to be really interesting. Fiera, unlike other superheroes, doesn’t have to work on her body to keep model-fit, because her fiery metabolism burns off the massive amounts she has to eat every day so, of course, everyone in her civilian assumes she’s bulimic. Was this inspired by anything in particular?

I think we’ve all struggled with our weight and fitness at one point or another. Letting Fiera eat whatever she wanted to and never gain a pound was my own sort of wish fulfillment. Who wouldn’t love to be able to pig out on pizzas and burgers and fries without any consequences? Cheese fries are a particular weakness of mine. Sigh.

Except I started thinking there would be consequences. Instead of ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ my thinking is ‘with great power comes great annoyance.’ Having superpowers would be really cool, but they’d also impact your life in good and bad ways. For my characters, I try to think about some of the bad consequences. Plus, it’s just fun to torture my characters. J

Fiona doesn’t eat so much because she loves food she eats because she has to in order to keep up her strength and, ahem, firepower. And there are plenty of downsides like her hefty grocery and restaurant bills. She spends thousands of dollars a week just on food. And Fiona says more than once that her eating so much grosses people out and puts a damper on her dates. So, there are social consequences as well.

As for the bulimic idea, what would you do if you saw a woman eating buckets of fries and dozens of burgers without gaining any weight? You’d think there was something wrong with her. But since this is Bigtime and a superhero send-up, people jump to the wrong conclusion instead of the more obvious one. Fiona must have an eating disorder, instead of being a superhero with a high metabolism. Sort of like Lois Lane always assuming Clark Kent was off polishing his glasses instead of being Superman.
Fiera’s fashions are bright, crazy designs, which read like they were a lot of fun to create. Do you have a favourite Fine fashion?
Hmm … this is a toughie. I suppose my favorite would have to be the ‘short, sleeveless, silver lame number with lots of cowgirl-like fringe in strategic places’ that Fiona wears to meet the Bullucis for dinner. Dazzling that borders on tacky I would so want to find a dress like that in real life!

But all the fashions were a lot of fun to come up with, and let me unleash my own inner designer a la ‘Project Runway,’ but without the judges’ bitchy comments. J
I really love your sex scenes I think they’re fun, hot and not weighted down with tiresome stereotypes about what good girls do and don’t. Author Tate Hallaway once said something along the lines of ‘You can tell it’s a feminist romance when he goes down.’ Would you agree?

Well, I write female characters who are just as strong, smart, self-sufficient, and screwed up as men. I really like to focus on the woman and her journey to find out what makes her strong and smart and special. Self-acceptance and embracing your inner superhero is a theme in my books, along with getting your dream guy. If that makes me a feminist, sign me up.

Women like sex just as much as men do whether they’re so-called ‘good girls’ or not. I’ve always wondered what makes people ‘good girls’ or ‘bad boys.’ What is it exactly? Leather jackets? Motorcycles? Knee socks and pigtails?

I’m not writing the next great American novel, and I don’t want to. I’m writing female-centric comic books campy, superhero fantasies. I want everything about the books, including the sex scenes, to be fun and sexy and entertaining. Writing the same old sex scene is boring for me, and I’m sure it would be boring for readers to slog through on the page. It’s a fantasy so why can’t there be chocolate whipped cream involved? J

You’ve said that you’ve taken care to make the cast of the Bigtime books diverse. Would you like to elaborate on that? Why is diversity important to you?

I do try to make the characters as diverse as possible and not just when it comes to race. I give them different nationalities, ages, jobs, body types, flaws, etc. I think diversity is important because the real world is diverse we don’t all fit into those cookie-cutter demos that advertisers love. We all have our own strengths and hang-ups, and I try to make my characters and world as well-rounded as possible, amid all the brightly colored spandex and over-the-top action. Basically, I want anyone to feel like they can be a hero or villain (or at least relate to them) when they pick up one of my books.

So, I’ve got folks like Henry Harris (African-American technology reporter and superhero); Lulu Lo (Asian computer hacker and information trader); and Piper Perez (Hispanic chief financial officer and superhero fangirl).

There are fashion designers (Fiona Fine and Bella Bulluci); journalists (Carmen Cole); event planners (Abby Appleby); businessmen (Sam Sloane); cops (Chief Sean Newman); and restaurant owners (Kyle Quicke).

There are middle-aged men and women (Berkley Brighton and Joanne James) and seventy-something men (Bobby Bulluci).

Irish folks (Fiona Fine and Chief Newman); Greek folks (the Bullucis); Southern folks (Carmen Cole); and Northern folks (Sam Sloane).

People with money (Sam Sloane) and people who work for a living (Carmen Cole).

Cool, buff superheroes (Fiera and Striker) and geeky, out-of-shape superheroes (Halitosis Hal and Pistol Pete). Smart villains (Frost and Intelligal) and not-so-smart villains (Scorpion and Siren). Aging superheroes (Granny Cane) and young villains (the Tween Terrors).

The one thing I’m pretty consistent about is that everyone has a college education, works, and supports themselves (even the villains). Because I think that’s an important message to send.

I know I’ll never make everybody happy when it comes to diversity or the books in general no writer can do that. But I do my best. That’s all I can do.
The heroes of Bigtime seem almost as concerned about their merchandising as they are about saving the world. If there was to be a collectable made out of the story of your life, what would you like it to be?

Great question! Hmm … all right, I’m going to have to tell you two things because I just can’t decide. I’d love to have my own Pez dispenser, either of me or some of my characters.

The other thing that would be cool would be a bobblehead doll, but with clothes/accessories you could put on it, sort of like a Mr. Potato Head. That would be really great for my superhero characters and show both sides of their personalities.

Now I really want these! A girl can always dream …
You’ve written that you ‘don’t like stories about people, especially women, being victimized’, of which there are sadly a surfeit in superhero stories. What would you like to see more of in superhero fiction in relation to women?

I’d like to see more realistic depictions of women who aren’t superheroes. You don’t have to have the power to shoot lasers out of your eyes to be strong or worthy of being a hero. I’d like to see more women who consistently do normal, rational things, like use their cell phones to call the cops and not walk down dark, deserted alleys by themselves late at night. More smart, professional, college-educated women of all ages, ethnicities, and sizes. And I’d love to see more superheroines who don’t have any powers (a la Green Arrow), but go out and kick ass anyway because they want to make the world a better place.

I’d also like to see a really good female villain. Somebody who is not maniacally crazy or otherwise a head case. A female villain who knows what she wants and is determined to get it no matter what. Someone who is smart and capable and ruthless because she wants to be not because something in her past (abuse, murdered parents, etc.) made her that way.

And the angst. I think everybody, even the male characters, needs to tone down the angst a bit. You guys all have superpowers, cool costumes, and immunity from prosecution for destroying public property. Enjoy it a little!

But maybe the thing I’d like to see the most are more realistic body types, especially when it comes to women. I know I’m banging an old drum here, but most of the women in comic books would put the buffest supermodel to shame. And some of them are scary, especially the ones with the ripped thighs that look like tree trunks. Creepy, not sexy. And I swear Wonder Woman’s costume gets skimpier every time I read a new issue. She’s going to need a Brazilian wax before long!

And the boobs. Can we please get rid of the big, bazooka boobs so many of the women have? Those women would tip over in real life! They’re just boobs. Every other person has them. Get over it, guys.
The third Bigtime book, Jinx, is due to be released in 2008. Would you like to tell us a little about that? What else is on your writing to-do list?

Well, my publisher plans to re-release Karma Girl and Hot Mama in mass market paperback form in July and August, and then Jinx will hit shelves on Sept. 2, also in paperback format. So, folks can catch up on the series all at once.

Jinx is about Bella Bulluci, a fashion designer and wannabe artist. Bella’s superpower is luck, which manifests as a form of static electricity. (Which means Bella has very big, Einstein-like hair). Since luck can be good or bad, for every good thing that happens to Bella, so does something bad or at least awkward and embarrassing. Like finding the last seat in a crowded movie theater, but sitting down in a puddle of soda.

Bella hates her power especially since it gets her mixed up with Debonair, a suave art thief. Also, there are two new ubervillains Hangman and Prism, who are determined to steal a priceless sapphire from a museum for their own nefarious purposes. Danger and explosions follow. J

I’m also working on the fourth Bigtime novel, titled Nightingale. That one will be about Abby Appleby, an event planner whose supersenses drive her super-crazy.

And I’ve also finished two new urban fantasy books, which I hope to turn into series.

The first book is called Live & Let Spy, and it’s about Abby Tome, a Druid who’s forced to become a spy to stop a ring of magical terrorists. It’s not quite as over-the-top as my Bigtime novels, but it’s still a bit of a spy spoof and a lot of fun. Think the TV show Charmed crossed with the James Bond movies. In addition to being a superhero fan, I’m probably the biggest James Bond fangirl around. Then again, Bond is really just a different kind of superhero, isn’t he? J

The second urban fantasy book is called Gin on the Rocks. It’s about Gin Snow, a professional assassin who gets double-crossed and framed for a murder she didn’t commit (for a change). But Gin is one cool customer, especially since she’s can control the elements of ice and stone. Gin on the Rocks is darker and grittier than what I usually write and set in the South, so it has sort of a Southern Gothic vibe. But I think fantasy fans will enjoy it, especially folks who like kick-ass heroines.

I’ll be posting more info and some chapters from both books on my Web site soon. So, check out www.jenniferestep.com for more. Until then, happy reading!

Molly And Mindy: An Interview With Mindy Owens.

Student Mindy Owens fulfilled the dream of many a comic fan when, as the webmistress of Runaways The Comic, she was approached to co-write Runaways Saga #1 with comics scribe C. B. Cebulski. Mindy has since gone on to write several other Marvel comics with Cebulski, and braved finals, the holiday season and a giant storm to answer some questions. Thanks, Mindy!


KH: In case any of my readers are tragically ignorant of one of the best superhero comics out there, would you like to inform them why they should be picking up Marvel’s Runaways?
MO: Everyone should be picking up Runaways because it really is a unique title and a breath of fresh air. Back when I first started reading comics, I ended up falling out of love with them as I didn’t find one that really spoke to me. I stumbled across Runaways and became more in love and obsessed with comics than I ever had before. The premise itself was exciting and fun: a somewhat normal group of kids finding out their parents are super villains and then trying to take them down when they are on the run/in hiding. Another aspect that pulled me in was that Runaways is very character driven rather than plot driven. Not to say nothing happens, but I love the down times as much as the action sequences. These were characters that you could enjoy reading sitting in a van waiting for bad guys to show up or having an epic fight with their parents
KH: It’s always exciting when people go from being fans to creators (who are also fans!). How did that play out for you?
MO: It was and still is a surreal experience to think about. I started the fansite as a way to help promote Runaways, which has all had critical acclaim but lacked readers. I knew Runaways could catch on and have a stable fanbase, but it seemed almost impossible to get people to read the title in the first place. I was really worried for a long time that Runaways was about to be canceled at any moment so I spoke about how much I loved the title and why everyone should be reading it.
Going to comic cons, I’ve met a lot of people who’ve all told me that it was my constant pimping of the title that got them to give Runaways a try. While it’s nice that people say that, I never wanted to have comic fan notoriety or become known as the mega-Runaways fan, much less did I ever think that it would get me into writing comics. I just didn’t want Runaways to be canceled. When C.B. sent me an e-mail asking if I could help him with the Runaways Saga, I figured he just needed an answer to a continuity question. Instead it turned out he wanted me to help him co-write it. And it’s all been snowballing from there.
KH: Sadly, Runaways the Comic hasn’t been updated for a while. Any plans to revisit the website?
MO: Runaways the Comic hasn’t been updated due to me now being a freelance writer for Marvel (conflict of interests and all of that). I love the website and I’m actually looking for someone to take it over for me. If anyone is interested please let me know!
KH: For Runaways Saga, you wrote the narrative through the voice of Molly, the youngest Runaway. Was she a hard character to get a grip on?
MO: Molly was extremely tough to write. With an adult or even a teenage you have so much flexibility in what a character would say and also how they would say it. When it comes to writing a twelve year old, it’s easy to write her voice too young or too old. You are constantly writing between those two and also keeping it in Molly’s speaking style where she misuses words and says things that shows that she can easily misinterpret everything that’s going on yet she’s also got a very sharp mind at the same time. Writing forty-four pages of only Molly? Joss Whedon and Brian K Vaughan had it easy
KH: You’ve mentioned before that one of the things that appealed to you about Runaways are the varied and realistic female characters. What else would you like to see more of in comics?
MO: Stuff I wold like to see more of in comics? There was this old X-Men comic with the whole group eating breakfast and the entire scene was funny (I remember Iceman froze Beast’s pancakes and Gambit was talking to himself) and a really nice break from the action, action, action. Don’t get me wrong, I love comics where there are huge fights, stuff blows up and sound effects galore but I also miss the downtime and all of the character interactions.KH: You’ve done some more work for Marvel. Would you like to tell us a little about that?
MO: I’ve also co-written the Ultimates Saga and an issue of Spider-Man Fairy Tales with C.B. We’ve got some other projects lined up that we’re both pumped up for. The Ultimates Saga was a retelling of the events of the first two volumes of the Ultimates as told by Tony Stark. The issue of Spider-Man Fairy Tales I co-wrote involved Spider-Man meets Cinderella with art from Mike Allred. That one was really fun to write and a real treat.
KH: Some critics read the recently-released Ultimates Saga as a sexist work. Among other points raised, the most damned section appears to be the depiction of narrator Tony Stark hiring publicists whose job descriptions apparently include having sex with him. Do you have any response?
MO: The whole issue was written from Tony’s perspective and he was written by Mark Millar to be rather womanizing and a lush. Tony has shown a great deal of love and concern for his female teammates, so I don’t find him anti-women. Are womanizing and sexism the same thing? Both do blur into the other quite a bit. We also have to remember that Tony has six months to five years to live, so that’s also affecting his character to ‘live it up’, hence the heavy drinking and copious amounts casual sex. As far as the publicists, Tony would mix business with pleasure as much as possible. As long as it’s consensual between all parties….
I think there are a lot of ways to analyze all the Ultimate characters as none of them are black and white but varying shades of grey. I love to see people discuss the characters and their actions and Tony’s actions can be read many different ways because he treats lots of different women in lots of different ways. I don’t think anyone is really wrong how they see Tony as there is plenty of evidence to back up any claim.
KH: Do you have any plans for the comics-writing future?
MO: I have some more comics lined up to co-write with C.B. (Avenger Fairy Tales) and I just got an offer to write a self contained story for an anthology from Image Comics. There are also some pitches that I almost have done (let’s keep our fingers crossed) that I think will go over really well. More info to follow!
KH: Finally, Brian K. Vaughan vs Joss Whedon: Cage Fight. Who walks out?
MO: Brian K Vaughan. Fun fact: the K stands for Killer.

Farewell To Meat

Ah, summertime, and the living is easy! For you, it may well be a good deal colder, but I hope you enjoyed your own celebrations, secular or religious, and managed to steal yourself some peace and joy from the hectic stresses of the holiday period. For me, it’s a time for food, family, arguments over whether ‘qis’ is an acceptable Scrabble play, and other classic pursuits of the season.
I’ve also come down with a bad case of Holiday Brain, where one’s mind, devoid of its usual stimulus, lazes and settles into considering no thought more complex than whether one should have a glass of chardonnay, or one of riesling.* If you are also afflicted with this crippling condition, I hope that the 19th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans might provide a sovereign specific.
The January edition of women’s gaming magazine Cerise is out and, as ever, is jam-packed with items of interest. My favourite is Richard Pilbeam’s article Choosing Innovation Over Imitation, where he examines the sexist tropes perpetuated in the RPG Maker community:
This generally appalling handling of female characters would be understandable, if no less annoying, were these professional products with money and careers riding on their success; game developers are often pressured into playing it safe and recycling a formula which allegedly been successful in the past. But we’re dealing with amateur productions where the success or failure of the product is quite literally immaterial, yet the creators remain so heavily influenced by the commercial games they play that their approach is often even more conservative than the mainstream commercial industry itself.
Speaking of perpetuating sexist tropes in games, BomberGirl of Girl In The Machine writes A Strictly Female Affliction, which examines that tired old trope of rape as convenient backstory for female characters in the context of a game based on a Harlan Ellison short story:
However, what makes me uncomfortable about the inclusion of rape in a woman’s backstory is that it’s such a go-to motivation for fleshing out female characters. She’s weak because she was raped; she wants revenge because she was raped; etc., etc. We see it so often (admittedly more in written fiction and comics rather than video games) that it’s become cliche.
Mighty Ponygirl reviews BioShock as an end result of objectivism, paying special attention to the philosophy’s disdain for the disenfranchised, and the game’s much-discussed ‘moral choice’ over whether one should kill or rescue the little girls who are being used as incubators for a power source:
There are some interesting analogies you could draw from the Little Sisters. After all, we have problems already with people who want to use women solely for incubation as it is in this world outside of the videogame. I don’t know that BioShock is trying to make some statement about abortionthe removal of Adam could either kill or save the little girl so there’s no clear platform on the matter. But there is a very clear point that what’s happened to these little girls is very wrong, and that it’s wrong to treat a human being as just another resource; no matter what the end result isafter all, Adam is ‘life,’ but it is life that is only possible through the enslavement of another’s body, and that there will be consequences to such an action.
On the topic of real world little girls, Bonnie’s Heroine Sheik writes about the appalling sexism of Ubisoft’s line of ‘games for girls’, but takes a deeper look at the Imagine Babyz game:
Lots of children ‘play mother’ to their dolls, their friends, etc. That in and of itself is nothing new. What’s interesting is to see the role played in a structured, game format with preset gameplay rewards. Rock the cradle well, gain points. Forget to feed your charges, lose them. Oddly enough, what we’re being reminded of here is that motherhood itselflike genderis a role to be played, not an inherent state. For such a sexist game, it’s a strangely feminist message.
In the same vein, Sara M. Grimes connects the Ubisoft games to a more academic analysis of the way adults seek to direct the play of girls towards ‘useful’ (and traditionally feminine) pursuits, and the strategies of resistance girls sometimes adopt in response:
Although dolls are often seen as obvious ‘vehicle[s] of feminine socialization,’ recent ethnographic research, as well as historical analysis of memoirs, diaries and oral histories, reveal a long-standing tradition of gender role subversion and rejection of adult authority within girls’ doll play (Formanek-Brunell, 1998; Gussin Paley, 2004). This emerging research reveals the familiar, but academically neglected, practices of brutal doll torture, doll-body modification, doll bashing and doll funerals.
On a lighter note, Robyn Can’t Jump reviews Mass Effect, and is impressed with its portrayal of female characters, human and alien:
The great variety of characters in the game, including lots of women who do and say lots of different kinds of things, and lots of people of color. I raised my eyebrows at a couple of costuming decisions for some female characters, and I felt that it was unrealistic to have (apparent) female sex workers but no male ones on a planet that’s the center of everything important for many species of aliens, but overall I was exceedingly happy with the representation of women in the game.
The Ormes Society has branched out to a livejournal community, Torchbearers, where links on race and comics/manga may be posted and read. Add it to your list!
Absolutely essential reading is the And We Shall March series on the Golliwog appearing in Alan Moore’s The Black Dossier. A brief snippet from her coda to the series:
Thematically in the League so far, all indications are Moore cares and has thought a lot about sex and gender. His approach to the story so far lends evidence to an argument that he cares and has thought a lot about the sexual liberation of heterosexual white people, particularly white women of a certain level of economic comfort.
It’s a lot of reading, but that’s because there’s an awful lot to say.
Cath Elliot of the Guardian‘s blog Comment Is Free responds to a recent report from Britain’s Department for Children, Schools and Families:
I trawled through the new guidance from the Department for Children, Schools and Families about how to improve educational outcomes for boys, desperately searching for the bit where it says: ‘All boys must be allowed to bring replica guns into the classroom or they will grow up to be serious educational underachievers,’ but I couldn’t find it anywhere. However, one sentence that did leap out at me in the report was:
‘Images and ideas gleaned from the media are common starting points in boys’ play and may involve characters with special powers or weapons.’
Sorry? In what year was this report written?
Lisa Fortuner at Just Past The Horizon writes of the DCU’s gender-swapped Earth-11, as revealed in Countdown, and is disappointed that in a world where, for every other character, only gender has changed, Wonderman is a boorish, warmongering jackass:
Every other Justice League member does just as well as the opposite gender, except for Wonder Woman. The point seems to be that Wonder Woman’s peaceable character traits are incapable of manifesting in a man. The refined level-headed conscientious warrior who always tries the diplomatic route when the option presents itself is a blunt, hairy brute with a simple gender change. … The understanding woman who worked hard to regain the trust of the world after she’d lost it becomes a bitter man who brings an army to attack when that trust is lost — a bitter man who betrays his friend’s reputation where the female version would not. The defining characteristics of Diana, her confidence, her wisdom and her loyalty are not inherent to the character, they’re a side-effect of estrogen and a uterus. Traded in for male parts those characteristics disappear and all that’s left is pride and a thirst for vengeance.
Seeking Avalon discusses ShadowLine’s competition to create your own superheroine, wherein the winner will write three issues drawn by artist Franchesco:
Have you looked at Franchesco’s art? I saw in his gallery a picture of a proud, gritty, Moon Knight. But all his images of female characters are the kind of things that immediately turn me off investigating a comic; overly large breasts, odd body compositions and unnecessary crotch shots. And Franchesco, because he will be defining the character’s look (with input from the writer) will own 50% of the creation. There went any idea, any thought, any possible urge I had of entering the contest.
Brigid Keely discusses the sexism of this portrayal of one comic strip mother in Get Back In The Kitchen:
In a world where women do all the cooking/baking/caretaking, Jeremy is apparently completely unable to do a basic baking task. Instead, this almost-adult manchild turns to his mommy to cook him something sweet, he asks his mommy to do work that he will be graded on, because he is apparently unable to do it himself. And mommy? Seems very willing to give up her time and her sleep to sweep in to his rescue, teaching him that his poorly planned and uncommunicated needs are more important than hers are.
Fortunately, there are comic strips that address gender stereotypes instead of meekly conforming to them. If you haven’t already, check out Something Positive’s take on Women in Refrigerators.
Holidays are definitely a time for curling up with a good book, and appropriately, we’ve got some great sff books links this carnival! Let’s begin with a lament for the decline of the feminist bookstore in the USA by Tacithydra:
In 1993 there were 124 feminist bookstores in the United States. Now only 12 remain. They provided access to feminist books, but more importantly, they offered physical safe spaces and gathering points for like-minded people. Political action groups, support groups, and book clubs flourished in these stores in ways that would be impossible in the modern-day Borders or Barnes and Noble.
Now one of the last remaining independent feminist bookstores in the U.S., and the only one in Texas, is in trouble.
Podblack Cat is concerned by the decline of the feminist science hero (such as that of Carl Sagan’s Contact) in A Girl Called Ellie:
I know that many people who enjoy Contact boldly proclaim Ellie as a role model for any woman considering the sciences. But I also know that I don’t find this novel easy to locate on the shelves anymore. … I worry about the potential death of ‘Ellie’s’ as a sympathetic and iconic figure in fiction. The dearth of science heroines in the same mold.
The Hathor Legacy’s Melpomene ponders Laurell K Hamilton’s mestiza vampire-killer Anita Blake and her troubling implications on issues of ethnicity in her review of The Laughing Corpse:
A curvy trail of rationales leads Anita to the door of Dominga, the ‘grandmother of voodoo,’ a woman who’s feared all over because of her magickal skills. She’s also incredibly evil, and will do anything for money, including some really unscrupulous things involving human sacrifice. She’s everything Anita’s not… including totally Mexican. Anita describes her as ‘the Mexican grandmother of [her] nightmares’ (265), and Anita’s differences from her (Anita’s Christianity, her inability to speak Spanish, and her scruples) are all emphasized as crucial signifiers demarcating the line between a particular type of ‘Latin darkness’ and the deracinated, supernatural cowboy identity Anita performs as the Executioner of the undead.
On a brighter note, Miss Print has a ‘mildly feminist’ review of YA fantasy novel Ella Enchanted:
There are several reasons that I love this novel and recommend it to everyone. The first is that it’s an imaginative retelling of Cinderella which makes the story exciting for readers familiar with the original version without making it too abtruse for readers who have never heard of Cinderella. Also, the book is full of great role models for girls. All of the female characters are strong, self-aware womenthings seen far too rarely in the fairy tale genre.
Femsfaward is a livejournal community for reviews of sci-fi and fantasy fiction by women, with an eye towards well-deserved awards:
This is a place to mention works you’ve read that were published this year by female authors, so that we can all throw in our thoughts in the comments. Thus we will be able to find the best stuff and nominate it for various SF awards, or just enjoy the heck out of it.
And Ben Payne provides a tongue-in-cheek guide to why aspiring writers might want to put more women in their stories:
Check out this example. In sentence one we have one of the ‘foe pars’ of writing: the ‘As you know Bob’.
‘Nice work on that device, Mark,’ said Karlos to his colleague. ‘Thanks Karlos,’ said Mark. ‘I used physics and chemistry and made quantum variables of the connector ribbon.’
Don’t be bamboozled by the science!! Now you’ll notice that Mark is explaining something to his colleague that his colleague should already know!! Incongruous!!
But if we introduce a woman to this scenario, all of a sudden the ‘infodumper’ is less intrusive. Because the woman probably wouldn’t understand what Mark was talking about!!
TV and Film.
The Hathor Legacy’s Scarlett is impressed by the competence of Battlestar Galactica sort-of villain Admiral Kane in Kane is Able:
Yes, Kane was a tyrant. Yes, in some regard, she fitted the stereotype of female leaders being either incompetent or, in this case, heartless. But they also took the time to show the heart she might have had, in different circumstances. They took the time to show us her achievements as a military leader. They took the time to show us her bravery and courage.
Less positive is the news that BBC writers deliberately sought to make black, female Doctor Who Companion Martha second-best to white, female Companion Rose (don’t forget to read the comments!):
Davies is a touch defensive when he explains that Martha was always going to be second best to Rose. ‘That’s how we played it, rather than fight it. It would have been an awful moment if the doctor had said. ‘Oh, you are like a new Rose to me.’
I personally like to play a game called Imagine If Will Smith Was In It, which is where one thinks of a movie, and then imagines Will Smith in it, whereupon the movie is instantly improved. I Am Legend is a movie with nearly the maximum possible level of Will Smith. It is also, according to Feminist SF: The Blog, an excellent example of post-apocalypse done right, including its take on gender:
As far as gender goes, the two main women in this film didn’t get to do as many cool things as Smith’s character. They largely served as maternal figures, but it didn’t seem especially out of place in the film because Neville as much love for his daughter and dog. I did like that fellow survivor Anna never became a romantic partner for Neville, too. She had her own reasons for being in the film.
My own review of Disney’s Enchanted was a row of ascii hearts and smiley faces, but Dana Stevens of Slate.com has a much more in-depth analysis, focusing on one of the more troubling aspects of the movie’s feel-good fantasy:
But there was something that depressed me about Enchanted, a grim reality that occasionally peeped through the whimsy like New York City glimpsed from the animated fields of Andalasia. This sinking feeling had little to do with what could be seen as the movie’s retrograde affirmation of true love and happy endings—after all, if you’re going to start complaining about marriage as a plot resolution device, you have to throw out every comedy from Shakespeare on down. No, that intermittent sense of yuckiness sprang from the movie’s solemn celebration of a ritual even more sacred than holy matrimony: shopping.
Finally, two vastly exciting recent announcements that cross media lines!
YA Fantasy author Tamora Pierce and Julie Holderman have announced that they will work towards the establishment of a Teen & Kids Fantasy & Science Fiction Convention:
[w]e decided it would be a grand thing if we could pull together the talent and funding to organize a convention for the fans and creators of teen and kid fantasy and science fiction.
The organizers are looking for volunteers and supporters, but even if you can’t help right now, the livejournal community is certainly worth watching for anyone with an interest in the field or the eventual con!
And if that wasn’t enough New Year excitement, January also brings the launch of io9.com, a wonderful concoction of links, musings and manifestos exploring the bizarre future we’re living in and the one just around the corner. It’s perfect for all those who are ‘strung out on science fiction’.
Edited by cyberfeminist extraordinaire Annalee Newitz, with the assistance of a keen and smart bunch of others, io9.com has over 700 backdated entries more than enough to completely cure your Holiday Brain. Given the talent behind the site, it’s not unexpected that many entries have feminist content and/or reflect feminist concerns: I went prowling through the archives and am barely able to restrain myself to recommending a mere two gems: Children: A Sinister Threat To The Future (which explores the personal choice of environmentalist women not having babies, and the hilarious, horrified response of the conservative press) and World of Warcraft’s Strange Rules About Cybersex, which ‘[j]ust goes to show that you can move to a new cyber-world packed with an international population of millions, and still be SOL if you want to find a decent tranny bar. ’

  • – –
    And that’s it from me! Be sure to check the Carnival homepage for the date of the next Carnival, and consider signing up to host yourself. And if you’d like to say anything about this Carnival, here is the place!
  • – –
  • Both, obviously.

Charming Rolex Watches with Gilt Dial Explorer

One of the most confusing points is around the condition. In your search, you’ll most likely come across two replica watches that look exactly the same — the same manufacturing, model, reference, and so on — but with a wide price difference. To add to the confusion, the fake rolex watch that seems likely to have had a harder life apparently had some impact on its case, or its face had weathered in the sun and was more expensive.
It all comes down to some of the collectors’ preference for originality. A watch in ‘honest’ condition, i.e. one which has never been polished by a service center to remove any scratches, is incredibly rare and therefore more valuable. While polishing can bring a watch back to its showroom shine, it does so by removing minute layers of metal and, if done enough times, leaves lugs uneven or eradicates those wonderful chamfered edges along the flanks.
A similar philosophy applies to the dial. Any vintage watch will have a dial which signs of age; the question is, what kind? One displaying a nice patina, or those known as ‘tropical’ (where a black dial has faded to an attractive even brown color) is highly sought after. However, one showing signs of water damage, such as staining on the markers, is to be avoided and they can sometimes mean that the replica rolex watches may have internal problems as well. The dial of a vintage timepiece can account for up to 85% of the total value.
The condition should also be consistent. Both dial and handset should display the same level of aging, it is a total sign that one or the other has been replaced at some point. Delicate cases, service dials, or hands-on vintage watches do not cause any transactions to fail, but they need to be identified and priced accordingly compared to those with the correct dial, original watches.

Weather With You.

Huzzah, summer is here!
I’m just about to return to the loving embrace of my family and friends in New Zealand for a month. Sadly, my access to the internets and comic book stores will both be somewhat limited during that period*. I shall doubtless be around from time to time, and I have a couple of interviews lined up, but my loose weekly schedule will become a little looser.
Right now, some housekeeping.
I have shamefully neglected to mention that Girl-Wonder.org has a new comic: The Tower, by Saki Miyamoto and Brendon Bennetts.
The Tower is a wonderful wordless comic about a fairytale princess who refuses to accept the restrictive ‘safety’ her father imposes. Instead, she approaches the world outside the titular tower with joy, courage, and a willingness to improvise in the face of dragons, bee swarms, tree monsters, thunderstorms, and true love.
Saki’s art is beautiful, with characters’ expressions and actions depicted so clearly that no words are needed, and Brendon’s story is an extraordinary tale, delightfully twisty, and with some of the best pacing I’ve ever seen in comic form. Best of all, the whole thing is completed! There’s none of that awful waiting for the next page that you sometimes get with other great longform webcomics, with the even worse horror that maybe the creators will get bored and stop.
You can’t read this comic as I did: sitting in a cafe in Kyoto’s Pontocho district while rain pattered on the roof, turning the pages in a plastic binder with fingers that trembled with delight, and every now and then looking up at the creators and gasping ‘You guys! You guys! You have to submit this to Girl-Wonder. You GUYS!’. But you can read the first six chapters right now, and the other four are coming in whole chapters, one chapter per week.
I like it extremely. Recommended to all humans.
I am delighted that I’ve been given the opportunity to host the next Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival here at GRC. The festival will appear here on January 5th. Please get your submissions and links to me by January 3rd, via email or use this submission form.
The most recent festival was truly excellent. Hosted by Anna, it contained so much awesome commentary and linkage that it had to be divided into three parts: Women, Gaming and You; These Things We Love And How We Interact With Them; and Reviews, Reactions, and Recommended Further Reading. Also recommended to all humans.
And that about does it for now. May you have happy holidays, whether they be unnaturally cold and wintry, or in the entirely appropriate glorious sunshine!

No! Look Over THERE!

And now for more fun adventures with Dolls and So Forth Week at GRC, which I really might just have well called ‘Look! No One Wears Pants.’
An argument often leveled at anyone who protests against the sexual objectification that finds expression in statues where women don’t wear pants for no good reason whatsoever, whereas their male counterparts are fully-panted, is: ‘Whatever! So she’s presenting at the viewer! You know what’s really bad? Figures in JAPAN!’
In JAPAN the breasts thrust outward at more perilous angles, the legs bend ever so more coltishly, the expression conveys either hapless shame or a desire to be instantaneously mounted, and of course, the pantlessness is even more pronounced! Why are you wasting all your precious and finite caring on AMERICAN figures you cultural imperialist when in JAPAN everything is so much worse?
Having visited the Action Figure Museum in Nagahama, I can say that there is some truth to the assertion that some Japanese action figures display truly revolting levels of casual misogyny. I wasn’t in there for ten minutes before I developed the urge to fold my arms over my chest and hunch past the viewers enthusiastically gazing at the tiny facsimiles of enormous-breasted fourteen-year-old girls in tiny scraps of black leather.
Of course, not every Japanese figure is like that something the ‘but-it’s-worse-in-JAPAN’ commentator sometimes appears to conveniently forget any more than every American figure is like the infamous Mary Jane comiquette. There were plenty of female figures that were cute, or tough, or sexy without being objectified in Nagahama; but the collected effect of so many pointed nipples and so much lovingly detailed cameltoe made my stomach roil.
So I’m willing to concede that in Japan, things might be worse. What I fail to see is why that should have any effect on my criticism of American figures. The possibly greater vileness of Japanese figures doesn’t mean I’m obliged to give comparatively -less-digusting-but-still-gross American ones a pass. Gosh, I’m not even American, and I write this whole darn column about American comics every week.
I am perfectly willing and able to criticize the cultural products of any nation whenever I find those products endorsing degrading sexual objectification of the female body.
And I see it way too fucking often.