So, I am guessing we all survived Thanksgiving? Perhaps a little over-indulging occurred, but hopefully we all had a generally nice time? That said, as we look down the barrel to the December holidays, it’s a reminder that one of the more stressful parts of the holidays can be getting folks with different political leanings together and having them share a prolonged meal or gathering. You can only talk about how good the yams were for so long (I made the yams and they were good). It’s never a bad idea to have a stash of safe conversational topics that you can use when talk starts to shift from “crazy weather we’re having” to “here are my thoughts about climate change.” There are still a lot of potential gatherings to get through, so perhaps consider a discussion on what super power you would like to have.
I know the usual question about powers is flight or invisibility. And while that can spark an interesting conversation as well as give you a look into your companions’ inner psyche, neither of those powers really appeal to me. I’m not a risk taker nor do I really care about sneaking around places. My fave superpower and the one I would want is the power to manipulate probability. There are several representations of this power out there, and many genre shows do an episode featuring a “luck” power. Some examples of this power are Longshot (Marvel Comics), Domino (Marvel Comics) Luck Virus (Red Dwarf), Felix Felicis (Harry Potter), Lucky Rabbit’s Foot (Supernatural).
I’ll be the first to admit on that if you were to look at this choice on a deeper level, this is the power a control freak would want. The ability to have incidents of chance come out the way you want them, for better or for worse? Yeah, that’s one of those abilities that has a good chance of turning the user into a super villain, fast. That’s why much of the time this power has a shadow side or time limit. For example, Longshot’s ability to use his probability powers is tied to positive usage. Should he use his powers to hurt people or with ill intent, it reverses and has a negative effect on him. Or in Supernatural, once the user loses the lucky rabbit’s foot, her luck turns bad to such a degree that it usually results in imminent death.
As much as I love this power I was disappointed in its recent portrayal in The Flash episode Luck be a Lady. At one point Barry gets stuck in his own power-negating handcuffs asking “how did this even happen?!” Indeed. There has to be some reasonable probability of a thing happening in the first place in order for the portrayal of this power to be effective, believable, and fun. In another scene, while being an unloaded from a truck, a barrel of marbles is dropped, spilling marbles all over the street…the street that The Flash is running down. Maybe this was some kind of homage to Home Alone but if you find yourself asking, why does a barrel of marbles even exist, then I’m not sure the writers are working with probability, so much as a series of unrelated bummers.
So, what power would you want? If you aren’t sure, start thinking now so that next time someone shows up for dinner in a MAGA hat, you will be armed with the ability to avoid the impending screaming match, which is perhaps a super power in itself.
PS- Our once a year snowglobe workshop is in a few days. Get your tickets now!
I once had a teacher in grade school who told me that she loved to read my essays because she could tell that I was enthusiastic about learning and the subjects I would choose to write about. There was just one problem though. If everything I wrote about was “the absolute worst” or the “absolute best” that wasn’t going to give me a lot of space or freedom to really make careful and thoughtful comparisons. So why is this little anecdote important to my recap of LadiesCon 2017? Because I’m about to throw that advice out the window and use superlatives like crazy. Wanna know why? Because LadiesCon 2017 was THE. ABSOLUTE. BEST.
For those of you familiar with our event last year, the first LadiesCon was essentially a testing ground to see if our vision of an inclusive Con would even be something that the community wanted to see. In a donated office space, we managed to catch lightning in a bottle and learned just how dedicated the Boston comics community was to making an event that was for everyone.
This year, we took that to a whole new level. We tripled the number of panels and doubled our space, guests, and vendors. We reached out to artists and creators who were making things that were original, beautiful, and even a little terrifying. The response from the community was once again warm and enthusiastic, and together we created a colorful and vibrant Con.
Friends, I’m going to be honest – this isn’t the post I want to write this week. I was planning to tell you all about the delightful manga series I’ve been reading lately, but it will have to wait, because once again, Twitter went insane over women in the comics industry, and it feels necessary to unpack that a bit.
If you haven’t been following the story, you can read all about it here, but the gist is that Marvel editor Heather Antos posted a selfie with a bunch of her fellow Marvel lady friends, holding milkshakes. The caption was “The Marvel Milkshake Crew #fabulousflo.” (More on that hashtag in a minute.) What she got in return were a bunch of nasty tweets and direct messages, complaining that the women were fake geek girls (yawn), who are responsible for Marvel’s flagging sales because of their “SJW agenda.”
Now, there were plenty of folks who jumped to Antos’s defense, creating the #makeminemilkshake tag to show solidarity with Antos and women in comics in general. I think the supporters vastly outnumber the haters, and that’s a wonderful thing. What troubles me with this whole foolish business is that it keeps happening, and I can’t help but ponder the series of bizarre conclusions the haters need to have drawn in order to make the comments they did; the crazy leaps of logic that lead someone to speak with abject cruelty to strangers. It does no good to attempt to understand internet trolls, but I can’t help it – I strive for understanding.
What it seems like is that there are three major issues at play here:
1. These people believe that women making comics is a recent phenomenon.
2. They equate these “new” women with story lines that promote a social justice agenda at the expense of storytelling, art, and the beliefs of the readers.
3. They believe that Marvel as a company is complicit in actively promoting said agenda.
So let’s break these down in order.
1. Women in comics is a new thing: Remember that hashtag, #fabulousflo? It’s a reference to Flo Steinberg, who passed away at the end of July from an aneurysm. Flo was one of the earliest members of the Marvel bullpen, hired by Stan Lee as a secretary, but taking on so much more in running the Marvel fan club, wrangling temperamental artists, and sending artwork to be approved by the Comics Code authority. After she left Marvel, she published Big Apple Comix, one of the earliest examples of “indie comics” – a bridge between the underground work that preceded it and the glossy mainstream work. She returned to Marvel in the 1990s, and worked as a proofreader until this year. Flo was truly a comics industry legend – and she was there from the beginning of the publisher that these trolls are lamenting is being ruined by women. And she’s just one example – women at Marvel and DC are not a new thing, even if they’ve been more behind the scenes than they are today.
Which leads us to:
2. The trolls believe women (and pretty much everyone who isn’t a white man) are promoting a liberal agenda. Spiderman’s a black kid sometimes! Iceman is gay! They made Thor a lady! What’s weird about these accusations is that writers on all of the stories are white men. Perhaps the women in the milkshake picture are manipulating everything behind the scenes! Hmm, that doesn’t seem super likely, does it? What makes more sense is the fact that you have characters who are, on average, 50-100 years old, with whom you’ve been telling stories continuously for most of that time. It seems inevitable that changing up who wears the mantle will happen sometimes, and if that change is a dud, they’ll either change back or into something entirely different yet again. Yes, you can make NEW characters who are women or Muslim or gay or trans, but that doesn’t entirely give you a new direction for your old characters. So it goes.
And here we come to:
3. They think Marvel will ruin the company in order to promote a liberal agenda.
Publishing is a business. The trolls point to these character changes, and point to Marvel’s dropping direct market sales, and then lament that if only the publisher saw the error of its terrible liberal ways, they could FIX this! But because Marvel is so dedicated to this SJW message, they say, the company just won’t do it.
There are two main problems with this thought-train. One simple one is that it doesn’t really take into account how comic sales have changed. While direct market sales are still really important, they don’t track digital sales on things like Comixology. So a book might not be doing well physically, but we don’t really know its total reach.
But the part that puzzles me even more than that is the idea that people believe that a corporation would ever put beliefs over profit. For me, a liberal who IS invested in social justice, that’s a really nice thought. It’s also utter horseshit. Marvel cancels books with flagging sales all the time, without ceremony. They don’t exist to promote an agenda, they’re here to sell you comics, and if the troll-dollars matter as much as they seem to think they do, then the stories will change again in due time. We shall see.
In the meantime, this makes me feel that projects like LadiesCon are more important than ever, not because women, non-binary folks, people of color, and LGBT folks are a new thing, but because we’ve all always been here. We make comics. We read comics. We buy comics. And we drink milkshakes and take selfies, and we don’t need to apologize for it.
Enough time has passed that if you were going to watch Iron Fist and care about spoilers, you have probably done that…but, you know, if you do care, maybe read this later.
Does Iron Fist really deserve the panning it’s getting? Ehhhhhh, maybe, maybe not. But with the bar set so high from the other Marvel Netflix series, Iron First comes off as a master class of missed opportunities and poor choices. Much has already been written about Danny Rand’s casting. Yes, Iron First is white in the comics. Could that have been changed? Absolutely. Would the show have been better served by having an actual martial artist as the title character? Heck yes, but that’s not the missed opportunity that I’ll be talking about. Rather, Marvel had a chance to turn the tables on a privileged white male protagonist, and they let that opportunity wane. Continue reading
I’ve been writing a lot about zombies lately, so I was going to change it up this month and write about some great comics I’ve been reading. But then I read this strange review of the new Netflix Original Series, Santa Clarita Diet, (SCD) from Esquire by a woman named Katie Van Brunt, and frankly, it demanded a response.
When you think of industries where ladies are underrepresented, the ones that spring to mind are likely the tech industry, or the comics industry, airline pilots, STEM, construction….anyway. One area that might not be at the forefront of your mind is the tattoo industry. Getting tattoos in Massachusetts (where the Ladies are based) was illegal until 2000, and since then shops have popped up fast and furious. On my less than 2 mile walk to work, I pass four! So while tattoos have become fairly mainstream, the make-up of those who do the work still skews heavily male. However there are ladies out there, working hard, pushing their way in, and doing amazing work. Last year I met one of them and while she did a lovely piece for me, she was cool enough to tell me a little about her experience. This past December, I decided to visit her again to get an old piece reworked, and this time I was prepared, with Smalerie in tow to take notes. I combined getting a tattoo reworked with learning more about my artist, the industry, and even some best practices around getting a tattoo.
Soon it will be the new year, and several of us will find ourselves in that dark stretch of cold and unpredictable weather that seems to last much longer than the three months that make up the winter season. And while there are a lot of people out there who love winter activities, I thought it might be nice to dedicate a post to the importance of taking care of yourself and having fun as we both finish a rough year and do our best to make better of the next one.
Happy Dinovember, advice-seekers! This is our favorite month of the year. Besides being a 30-day celebration of our glorious selves, it’s the month in which we celebrate our favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. It’s the one day of the year you humans take in the right number of calories. This year, the feasting starts early – we and the Ladies are kicking off our celebration on Saturday, November 5th with our buddy Kyle Coston’s Gut-Bustin’ Thanksgiving special. The Ladies will be feeding Kyle a special treat, so don’t miss the fun!
If you’re more into dinosaurs than turkey, be sure to follow the adventures of our pal TR Henri and his friends at the Henrietta Public Library. These guys get up to all kinds of hijinks!
And now, without further ado, we solve your problems. These questions come from some of our friends who attended LadiesCon 2016! If you don’t see your question, fear not – we will address it in a later installment.
The end of last month brought news of the coming end of an era. Cartoon Network’s critically acclaimed and much loved series Adventure Time with Finn and Jake will be ending in 2018. I’ve seen a lot of the early stages of mourning for the show around the Internet and I certainly sympathize as a longtime viewer myself. But even though I will miss having new episodes of the groundbreaking show to look forward to, I’m ready to see it reach its conclusion. Because endings aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Continue reading
This week, I am adding another name to our roster of Kickass Fictional Ladies. Click here if you are interested in checking out our past inductees into this prestigious group.
I realize this is a no-brainer for those of us who have been watching Game of Thrones this season, but let’s be honest, she’s been getting a lot of buzz lately. Why? Because she is just so great for so many reasons. And here are just a few of them:
She is honorable: I know that some of the most intriguing characters are villians or of questionable morality, but I love Brienne because she just wants to do good in the world. I have really been won over by her desire to be a great knight and truly devote her life to one of honor. Sansa Stark turns down her first offer of protection and yet Brienne is so good to her word and the promise she gave to Lady Stark that she simply doubles down on her efforts and waits to find Sansa so she can offer her protection a second time. And yet, during this chase after Sansa, Brienne never oversteps her boundaries. She is never unnecessarily threatening and strives to make her behavior a model for others. Brienne has a lot to prove and that drive and earnestness make her just wonderful to watch. You want great things to happen for her because she has worked hard enough to deserve them. Also, thanks to some recent info from Martin, I dare say that her noble spirit is even in her blood.
She is a complete character: In my travels, I have run across the misconception that in order for a female character to be considered “good” (translation: feminist) she must be strong and perfect. The thing is that while there are many versions of women characters out there who are strong, they can’t hold a candle to Brienne for the simple reason that when a character’s only trait is that she is strong, she is also flat. I love Brienne because mixed in with her strength is a believable vulnerability. She makes mistakes, she worries about doing the right thing, and she cares so much more than she is probably willing to admit. A strong female character is great and gives us ladies something to enjoy and in some ways look up to. But a strong female character who can also be seen as human, is not only someone we can look up to, but also relate to. And trust me, it is much more powerful to be inspired by someone who has overcome a lot of the same challenges you have yourself. It’s OK if you need to work at it, because so does Brienne.
Positive body image: Brienne of Tarth is played by the charming and gorgeous Gwendoline Christie. This is important because Brienne’s body is the real body of Christie. Christie has found herself experiencing a lot of the same hardships that Brienne does when she encounters other’s expectations of conventional beauty and feminism. Christie is naturally 6’3″ and has openly discussed her own body image issues and how she has been able to use her own life experiences to influence her performance as Brienne.
Christie was so inspired by Brienne’s story that she took it upon herself to learn about Brienne’s quest to be a knight by experiencing it herself. This means that she not only trained in sword-fighting and riding before starting her role, but she gained a decent amount of muscle to make her body fit the character even more accurately. Remember what I said about devotion? Seems like Christie was born to play this part.
I realize that I might be preaching to the choir here, but I think it’s ok to just bask in the glow of something you love for a while. And that is what I’ve decided the comments section to sharing the love (or not if you have a reasonable argument). Have at it then!