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.
LadiesCon is just over a month away and we thought it was be a good time to start sharing some information about our awesome guests. As you will soon see, our guest list ended up being a bit of a blog wish list come to life. Many of these folks we have already written about so we want to be sure to direct you back to those posts first.
First off, we have repeat LadiesCon guest Ming Doyle. This is Ming’s second year with us and we could not be more delighted to have such a talented and kind person to showcase. Her beautiful, flowing art style is always such a joy. Seriously, try to look at Ming’s work and not smile. Check out our previous write-up on Ming, and her Marvel Quickdraw episode featuring America Chavez.
Next, for the first time at LadiesCon we have Gwenda Bond! The Red Menace has shared her love for Gwenda’s Lois Lane: Fallout novels before. So when it came time to reach out to potential LadiesCon guests, of course Gwenda was on the list, and you know what? She said yes! Our hearts! Even more exciting, Gwenda will be doing a panel at LadiesCon too. Wanna talk more about shipping, OTPs, and romance comics? Come to LadiesCon.
Mildred Louis, creator of the webcomic Agents of the Realm has the distinction of being the guest on the first Ladies Of Comicazi Podcast and she was a total delight! If you aren’t familiar with Mildred’s work you can also read The Red Menace’s review and then, come to LadiesCon and talk with Mildred about magical girls, being an independent creator (Mildred both writes and illustrates Agents of the Realm), and diversity.
And now, here’s a guest that was haven’t written about yet….Artist Joe Quinones! Maybe you are thinking, but Joe is not a lady, what’s he’s doing at LadiesCon? Well that’s easy enough to answer, LadiesCon is called that because we are the Ladies, and because we have a strong focus on women and other folks who’ve been traditionally marginalized in the industry. But LadiesCon is not limited in who we feature as guests or who is welcome at the Con. It’s for everyone regardless of gender identity, and we are excited and proud to have such a mega talented local artist joining us.
As you can see Joe has done amazing work for Marvel, working on America, Captain Marvel, and Howard the Duck. He also recently did a cover for Sex Criminals, but that’s NSFW, so if you want to see it you’ll have to buy it. I am super excited to have Joe at LadiesCon. His Captain Marvel covers are some of my absolute favorites, capturing Carol’s strength and power. In fact that’s one of the things I love the most about Joe’s work, he draws women with substance. They have muscles and curves, and gravitas. And that hair! Gorgeous! Joe art straddles photo realism and an almost deco style. Seriously, come to LadiesCon and check out more of his work.
For more information on LadiesCon and our guest, check out our website!
LadiesCon 2016 may be over, but we’re still thinking about what made it such a great time. One of the things that I was really excited about was the opportunity to speak directly to so many creators and artists about their original works. One of the creators I was most excited about was Mildred Louis, who writes and draws a comic called Agents of the Realm. I hadn’t heard of her work before the con, but when she contacted us about having a table, I looked at her work and knew I’d be paying her a visit. I had the supreme good fortune (thanks to a huge assist from Smalerie) of snagging the last copy of her book, which collects the first volume of an ambitious work which, luckily for me, continues online.
The premise is a twist on the classic magical girl genre of manga (see Crystal Cadets for a more standard version): five young women discover that they are the protectors of our world, which is being threatened by strange beasts entering our realm from a sister dimension. In the classic magical girl style, Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige, and Jordan have special brooches that transform them into uniform-wearing warriors, each with her own weapon, powers, and attendant element. Through the magic of the brooches, they find each other and begin to learn about their powers, the other realm, and why and how they were chosen to protect the world.
The twist comes in from the fact that in standard magical girl stories, there is an emphasis on girl – the protagonists are typically tweens or young teenagers, and part of the transformation is that they become an adult version of themselves. They’re all Mary Marvel, if her posse were other girls instead of two boys and talking tiger. The Agents are all adults already – young adults, to be fair, but in college and of legal age. This immediately has different implications about how they make the choice to accept their roles and for how Louis is able to explore the relationships between the characters and the problems that they face. When you’re watching or reading Sailor Moon, you know that while Sailor Moon is presented as an adult, Usagi Tsukino is really still a kid, and her concerns when she isn’t saving the planet are appropriately childish. The Agents, on the other hand, are young adults, and they have concerns that an adult can relate to, in addition to fighting off giant spirit birds.
Another thing that makes the series great is the level of representation of both people of color and of LBGTQ folks. Most of the characters, including 4 of the 5 Agents, are not white. They also have a wide range of body types – and they keep them after they transform. They do not become “idealized” versions of themselves. This is a powerful message delivered with subtlety – that they are already good enough, already powerful just as they are. They are also beautiful, and feminine, without needing to all fit into the white, western ideal shape.
The orientations of the various characters are handled with that same grace – we’re shown characters who have loving relationships of all types, completely integrated into the story. It doesn’t feel like anything that’s being called attention to, a lesson we’re meant to learn – these are just people, and people have many different approaches to sex and love and romance.
Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige, and Jordan feel like real people – they have strengths, but also flaws – and not just “oh, she’s such a klutz.” It’s apparent even in the first issue that Norah struggles with social anxiety. Paige is driven and ambitious to the point of being rude at times. Kendall is a peacemaker. It’s refreshing to see the trope of the “chosen ones” applied to characters who feel like more than a cardboard cutout.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the art. As you can see from the pictures here, it’s gorgeous and dynamic. There’s a clear progression as Louis’ style evolves – I think that she continually improves her panel layout and visual storytelling – but the technical excellence is on display from the beginning.
Do you read Agents of the Realm? Tell me what you think in the comments!
Recommended age: Teen to adult. The content is far from racy, but the website does have a trigger warning that suggests that not all of it might be suitable for younger readers.
You might like it if: You like realistic ladies kicking fantastical butt.
Bonus features: If you’re local, Mildred Louis will be at MICE! So if you missed getting a physical book at LadiesCon, you might have another shot.