Congratulations to Our Facebook Contest Winner!

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

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

Superhero comics have come a long way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December: Avengers Academy, by Christos Gage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Jennifer Margret Smith

How to Draw off Jogger Jeans in the Office

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

Establish Articulate Act

Remember that little letter-writing campaign I proposed a few days back?
It’s grown.
I’m proud to announce a new, ongoing part of Girl-Wonder’s work: CAHP, the Con Anti-Harassment Project. The CAHP’s goal is to help make conventions safer, more fun, and more accessible by encouraging organizers to establish, articulate, and act upon clear anti-harassment policies. We’ve got a letter-writing guide complete with templates; a database of conventions, policies, and contact information; resources for organizers; and a comprehensive faq; and a moderated safe-space forum!
You can discuss this column, and CAHP’s future, here.

Establish Articulate Act

Remember that little letter-writing campaign I proposed a few days back?
It’s grown.
I’m proud to announce a new, ongoing part of Girl-Wonder’s work: CAHP, the Con Anti-Harassment Project. The CAHP’s goal is to help make conventions safer, more fun, and more accessible by encouraging organizers to establish, articulate, and act upon clear anti-harassment policies. We’ve got a letter-writing guide complete with templates; a database of conventions, policies, and contact information; resources for organizers; and a comprehensive faq; and a moderated safe-space forum!
You can discuss this column, and CAHP’s future, here.

Blogging Isn’t Enough

In the last week, a plethora of bloggers have linked to and/or mirrored this post, which discusses the issue of harassment at ComiCon International. Many have shared personal stories; others have expressed their general problems with the general indifference they’ve seen toward harassment and assault at conventions.
Let me make one thing abundantly clear: by harassment, I am not just talking about wolf whistles, ‘Nice costume’ comments, or accidental touch. ComiCon is crowdedREALLY crowded. It is pretty much impossible to navigate without coming into physical contact with another person. What I’m talking about is people deliberately touching, stalking, demanding sexual favors from, or actively harassing other congoersfans and professionalswithout consent. These things are not only rude, they’re illegal.
Which may go a fair way to explain why ComiCon international doesn’t have a clear policy against them in their programs or do much in the way of briefing their security staff. It makes a certain amount of senseafter all, they don’t, say, explicitly tell you not to shoot heroin on the floor, but it’s pretty well taken as read that that’s not appropriate at a convention. I’d like to think that’s because most con organizers are decent people and therefore assume that this stuff should be a matter of common sense.
But apparently, in the case of physical and sexual harassment and assault, common sense isn’t enough. There are still people who treat these things as a default part of con culture, who don’t get that there’s one hell of a difference between telling someone that you like her costume and adding that it would look better on your hotel room floor; or that not everyone wants to be hugged; or that ‘woman working at a booth’ does not equal ‘booth babe’; or that ‘booth babe’ does not equal ‘petting zoo’or, from another angle, that ‘favorite and/or famous creator’ does not equal ‘fan property.’
I am not suggesting that ComiCon install propriety police, or that congoers should walk around with their hands in their pockets at all times, or that it’s anything short of ridiculous to expect to have a three-foot (or one-foot, or six-inch) radius of personal space on a crowded con floor. What I am saying is that ComiCon desperately needs a clear, public policy against personal harassment.
In light of their quick response to the fake SDCC MySpace page (you rememberthe one with the ‘Girls Who Like Comics & Geeks’ section), I’m inclined to believe that the folks behind ComiCon International are open and responsive to attendees feedback. In fact, they post their contact information right on their front page.
You can probably guess where this is heading.
If you think that ComiCon International needs to articulate a clear policy against personal harassment in their programs, please drop them a line and say so. (And when you do, please be polite, patient, and respectful. As I wrote above, this doesn’t look like malevolence to mejust omission.)
You can reach them via the following means:
EMAIL:
cci-info@comic-con.org
SNAIL MAIL:
Comic-Con International
P.O. Box 128458
San Diego, CA 92112-8458
San Diego, CA
HOTLINE: 619-491-2475
FAX: 619-414-1022
And, while you’re at it, check other conslocal or otherwise, comics or gaming or scifi or whatever you’re intoand if they don’t have clear personal harassment policies, float them a line, too.

An Open Letter to the Asshole with the ‘Free Hugs’ Sign at SDCC

Dear Asshole,
This is not an apology. I’m not sorry for yelling at you or swearing at you or for threatening to call security if you didn’t fuck off. In fact, I think you should feel damn lucky that you didn’t get a boot to your squishy sensitive bits, because I would have been damn well justified in planting one there.
If you ask someoneparticularly someone much smaller than you, and particularly someone female in a context where a lot of women already feel on-edge because of the way they’re treated, and particularly if she’s in a fairly isolated areafor a hug, and that person says no, it is NEVER appropriate to whine and wheedle and move closer. If they say ‘no’ a second time and ask you to leave, and you keep approaching them and keep insisting? YOU ARE PHYSICALLY THREATENING THEM.
It doesn’t matter if ‘all’ you want is a hug. It doesn’t matter if you’d hug me if our positions were reversed. What matters is that I said ‘no,’ and you kept pushing.
There is nothing wrong with wandering around ComiCon with a sign advertising free hugs; in fact, until you approached me, I thought the ideas was kind of cool, and I’m sure there are people who carry those signs and respect others’ physical boundaries (and if you, Dear Reader, are one such person, I suggest that you let this douche know in no uncertain terms that he is making you look very bad and you do not appreciate it). But what you did? That’s not free. And it’s not okay.
You can discuss this columnand the politics and etiquette of touch at conventionshere.

Why It Still Matters

I spent last weekend at the Emerald City ComiCon (which is awesome, by the way, and which I heartily recommend to anyone who hangs out in the Pacific Northwest or is interested in heading in that direction for a few days), mostly working at the Dark Horse table. It was pretty low-keywe weren’t doing any in-booth signings or sales, just giveawayswhich meant we had time to chat with a lot of the people who came by.
One of the people I talked to was a guy in his thirties or forties. He had stopped reading comics decades ago but had returned recently; when I asked him why, he said it was because of Young Avengers, specifically Hulkling and Wiccan: for the first time in his life, there were gay characters in superhero comics who were more than stereotypes, with whom he could actually identify.
This stuff matters more than most of us will ever realize, because we are more or less privileged enough to see ourselvesor at least facets of ourselvesreflected in almost everything we read. Our paper mirrors are everywhere. We have a lot of representations to choose from. This is why it matters when there areand when there aren’tcharacters of color, queer characters, non-Christian characters, disabled characters. This isn’t just about demographics, or representation. It’s about identification and validation: the day you finally get to open a book and discover that it’s not just lip service, that comics really are for you, too. That someone gets it.
Think about what that means for a minute. And when you choose comics, and read comics, and make comics, keep thinking about it. We need more mirrors, and we need mirrors that reflect a wider range of faces, because there is NO ONE who does not craveor does not deservethat moment of genuine identification.

Hereville: A Review

I’ve been working on this review for a while, and it’s been giving me a lot of trouble, because when I try to express my thoughts on Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, I usually end up bouncing up and down and making enthusiastic noises of inarticulate glee. These are behaviors that are generally frowned upon in critical circles, and they translate poorly to text, so I’m going to try my damnedest to use actual here.
Hereville is good. It’s really good.
It’s the kind of good that makes me want to carry a copy with me at all times, just so that I can look at it every few minutes as a reminder that any world that produces books like this one is probably worth the benefit of the doubt.
Comics that can honestly be described as all-ages are few and far between. Knitting a narrative that appeals to adults and remains accessible to and appropriate for kids is no easy feat. Imbuing that story with layers of rich culture and tradition without overwhelming readers, and doing so while slyly subverting both form and trope take serious skill.
Barry Deutsch is seriously skilled.
In many ways, Hereville is a classic coming-of-age story, the first adventure of a fledgling hero. It’s also a cultural narrative, steeped in the language and traditions of Orthodox Judaism. But at the same time, it’s full of contradictions and quirks that turn heroic convention topsy-turvy. It’s telling that the story begins with a friendly argument, as Mirka (the eleven-year-old heroine) and her stepmother Fruma discuss the theology of knitting.
Fruma herself is perhaps Deutsch’s most visible wink at tradition: as the heroine’s stepmother, a woman with ‘odd looks’ (including ‘the longest nose of anyone in Aherville’) and a stubborn fondness for argument-for-argument’s-sake, Fruma could easily have turned into a tired misogynist sterotype. But even though—or perhaps because—she forces Mirka to knit and plays devil’s advocate in every argument, Fruma is cast as Mirka’s mentor and ally. She’s challenging rather than vindictive, and we are led to believe that wisdom and experience inform her cheerful antagonism. And role in Mirka’s story is more empowering than authoritative: Fruma’s lessons, both subtle and direct, are what ultimately allow Mirka to defeat a troll and take the first steps toward her destiny as a dragonslayer.
Fruma’s complexity is characteristic of Deutsch’s approach to storytelling: he excels at simultaneously celebrating and questioning the tradition that saturates his narrative. The Orthodox Jewish rituals and traditions are no less warm and beautiful because of the limitations they impose on Mirka, nor does that beauty render her frustration any less acute or her ensnarement in the rigid roles of her culture less unfair. In the world of Hereville, nothing is simple—and its complexity makes it all the more accessible to readers used to the intricate tangles and contradictions of real life.
Deutsch is an experienced editorial cartoonist, but Hereville is (to the best of my knowledge) his first attempt at a full-length comic, and that inexperience shows through a handful of rough spots. Both designs and style develop and refine over the course of the comic, and the difference between the art at the beginning and the end is a bit jarring—a difficulty common to webcomics when they make the transition to print form. And while Deutsch’s sepia-toned palette looks beautiful by day, it becomes a good deal less discernable in nighttime scenes, where muddy coloring comes close to obscuring the art; Deutsch’s narrative (and readers’ eyesight) would be better served by more emphasis on shadow and less on general darkness.
But if there’s any lesson to be learned from Hereville, it’s that the quality of craftwork is determined not by snagged yarn or adherence to patterns, but by innovation, intent, and intricacy—and despite a few dropped stitches, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword is an exquisite piece of work by any standard.
You can read Hereville a bit at a time starting hereas of this post, twenty-four pages are available onlineor get the whole first story in either digital or paper form (which I heartily recommend) via the links in the sidebar.
And while you’re waiting for your copy to arrive, you can discuss this column here.

Stumptown Miscellany – Day Two

Phew–that was a lot of con. Today was more intense at the table, and I hardly had any time to wander. Now, I am entirely braindead, so again, just a handful of notes before I crash. Proper write-up and forum thread tomorrow.
-No matter how cool you are, Sky McCloud is probably way cooler than you.
-It always kind of blows my mind to discover that people other than my parents read Inside Out.
-Colleen Coover drew a pirate with a strap-on in my sketchbook! How awesome is that? PRETTY DAMN AWESOME!
-One of the fun things about cons is meeting friends of friends. I had long conversations with Raina Telgemeier and Dylan Meconis about how much we all love Dean Trippe (and you should, too).
-I met a wonderful woman named Maria who’s starting a geekspace-for-women website called .51 (Premiering May 1, 2008 at http://www.dotfiveone.com/). She is ridiculously neat, and we are going to interview each other once her site is up and running!
-Have I mentioned that I adore Barry Deutsch? Not only does he write a fuckin’ brilliant feminist blog and make splendid comics, he also loves Baker Street, one of my all-time favorite comics.
-My favorite artist-I-just-discovered-at-this-con is probably Maxine Frank (actually, she found us).

Stumptown Miscellany

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

Oh, Blow Me… Away

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

SAAM 2008

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