gender issues

Book Review: Chicks Dig Gaming

Book Review: Chicks Dig Gaming ed. by Brozek, Pearson, Smith?, & Rabe

Review by Prof. Jenn


Books of this nature can easily fall into the trap of redundancy. Witness my review for Queers Dig Timelords, another anthology of this ilk, and indeed in this series. Chicks Dig Gaming does not, however, fall prey to the trap. The collection of essays span from wicked satire to sweet nostalgic memoir, to a celebration of gaming in general or certain games, a recounting of a particular gaming event, to analysis of a game or game trope, a recounting of the history of video games, to the ever-important discussion of the unfair and even dangerous treatment of women in the gaming world. This collection doesn’t only discuss video games, but board games, LARPing and pen-and-paper RPGs are discussed as well.

My problem with Queers…, as you recall, was that the essays all had the same tone and even the same subject matter (Doctor Who changed my life because…). This, especially read in big sections in one sitting, started to grate on the nerves, or at least became repetitive fawning. Chicks...doesn’t do this, as each essay has an author voice distinct from every other, and the topics at hand vary widely. I commend the editors for this, as it’s an entertaining as well as an informative read throughout.

Highlights of this collection include: a satirical look at the lack of boys in video gaming and what we can do about it, a paralleling of Mario to a bodhisattva and the Mario games to Buddhism, how one author who didn’t like video games at all tried Portal, and a delightfully written description of how another author learned to get cutthroat in Eve Online.

Bottom Line: this collection is highly recommended for anyone who loves any games.





Project Greenlight: Sexy Superhero

IMG_1248Superheroes are larger than life and mythic in scope. Their clothes play an essential role in conveying their power. The dark silhouette of an armored Batman strikes fear in the hearts evildoers. The red cape and yellow shield of Superman brings hope to the hopeless. Wonder Woman’s bustier gives a great view of her breasts. Well, maybe that last one doesn’t have the same “effect” as the first two.

There’s long been a double standard in superhero comics, dating back to the very first female heroes. This isn’t news to anyone who’s been a fan of comic books. The hero is dressed to inspire, and the female heroine is dressed (or undressed) to titillate. Powergirl may be stronger and faster than Batman, able to shrug off bullets and lift tanks, but her clothes (which literally have a cleavage window) have all the subtext of eye candy, not hero.

It’s a problem that comic books still struggle with despite a century of progress in gender equality. You only have to look at the recent kerfuffle with Spider-Woman #1’s cover with a “painted on” costume to know we haven’t moved that far from Wonder Woman being tied up and fired at by phallic objects in the 1940’s. The move to mass commercial success with Marvel’s films has only exacerbated the problems. Black Widow’s representation in the Avengers proved fertile ground for the Internet meme machine, with her impractical cleavage and ludicrous posing.

Sexy Superhero is my addition to the ongoing conversation on this subject. It’s a short film that pokes fun of the impracticality of accepted female costuming in superhero fiction. I’m a big fan of superhero comics and movies. I wanted to create something that showed my love for the subject matter and share it with a larger audience. There’s a reason why comic fans are so passionate–Superheroes are great fun, and can be monumentally inspiring. I think everyone should be able to identify with his or her favorite hero without a cleavage window shutting them out.


IMG_1218Luke Patton is a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Sexy Superhero, a short film he wrote and directed, is one of the top 20 finalists in the Project Greenlight competition. To watch Sexy Superhero and place your vote in the competition please follow the link below.

Review: Steam Wars FCBD Edition

I don’t like to write negative reviews, I really don’t. Typically if I do not like something to the point that I cannot find something positive I will elect to just not review it. I know that some people think all press is good press, but I don’t like to tear people down especially since a number of the things I read for review are from small indie publishers..


Steam Wars FCBD Edition

Steam Wars FCBD Edition


That being said, I could not in good conscience not share my thoughts on the Free Comic Book Day issue of Steam Wars. I was so excited for this title, a parody of something that I LOVE (Star Wars) combined with something else that I love (Steampunk). I had really high hopes, sadly what I got was beyond disappointing.


For starters, I was unimpressed by the artwork, it wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t what I would consider good. I did enjoy the anime style art for the Princess Leia character, Duchess Imoen. Unfortunately, that’s where the good stops with the Duchess. The source character, Princess Leia is a strong, confident and capable woman. She has been one of my heroes since I was a child and what was done with her in this comic was beyond unacceptable.


Duchess Imoen is a classic, helpless “damsel in distress” who has to rely on Captain Hansel Lowe to save her time and time again. The two times that she picks up a weapon her skill is attributed to “beginner’s luck”. She is treated horribly by Hansel, and just takes it like the good little girl she is written to be. I wanted to scream.


The other character imitations included were Darth Vader, C3P0, Han Solo, Chewbacca & Luke. The aforementioned Hansel Lowe is a disgraceful and disrespectful imitation of Han Solo down to calling Imoen “Highness” and the like, but he treats her in a way that I could never envision Han treating Leia.


The Chewbacca character is a bear called Smokey who has these strange mechanical attachments on his arms that might be cool if used differently. The Darth Vader character is called Lord Baron, which I found to be the laziest character name I’ve come across in a long time.



Luke is never named. Instead of being a Jedi he is a Quantum Dragoon and has an electric sword called a Storm Foil. The artwork on him is pretty good as it is on Duchess Imoen.


The C3P0 character is somewhat odd, he’s a snarky, pipe smoking, wine drinking Victorian gentleman named CL-335, but he doesn’t add much to the story.


I could have looked past all the cheese of the other characters and been ok with the comic, perhaps even have liked it. However, the fact that they made the decision to take a strong, self saving princess and turn her into a simpering helpless girl is unforgivable to me. Princess Leia deserves to be treated so much better in any incarnation parody or not.


This treatment of a character based on Princess Leia is perfect example of the the larger issues facing women in comics. There is only one female character in the story and she is entirely reliant on the men around her to survive. The fact that she is based on such an amazingly strong and competent character just adds insult to injury. We need more strong females in comics, not more damsels in distress.

Northwest Press Announces: Anything That Loves

Northwest Press is pleased to unveil its new comics anthology Anything That Loves, which features comics creators telling stories about romance and sexuality outside of the categories of “gay” and “straight.”  Even though the book hasn’t been released yet, it is already set to be one of Northwest Press’ most popular releases, garnering 1000 backers during its Kickstarter funding drive in May.

The anthology features contributions both long-established and new creators, with brand-new work from MariNaomi, Amy T. Falcone, Jason Thompson, Kevin Boze, Roberta Gregory, Tara Madison Avery, and Nick Leonard and a full roster that includes Erika Moen, Maurice Vellekoop, Ellen Forney, Leanne Franson… more than 30 contributors in all.

Anything That Loves

Anything That Loves

Anything That Loves features an introduction from editor Charles “Zan” Christensen, explaining the origins of the project and the reason he felt it was important, as a gay man, to tackle the topic of prejudice against bisexuality.

“Could repression of same-sex attraction by bisexual people,” writes Christensen, “be the major contributor to the myth that gay people can ‘choose’ heterosexuality? They aren’t ‘gay’ and hiding it, and being ‘bisexual’ really isn’t something that straight or gay culture puts much stock in. It’s all-or-nothing, and people cram themselves into the box that seems to chafe the least. Could the refusal to accept the existence of bisexuality, then, be a root cause of homophobia itself?”

“Every reader will resonate with some of these tales; others will surprise,” writes PoMoSexuals author Carol Queen, PhD, in her foreword to Anything That Loves. “That’s just how it ought to be! We’re all the same and different, all at once. Between this book and The Rocky Horror Picture Show you ought to be equipped to meet, enjoy, love—and possibly sleep with—just about anybody.”

Northwest Press is a book publisher dedicated to publishing the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender comics collections and graphic novels. The company has published eight full-length print graphic novels and over three dozen digital books since its inception in 2010. Its first book, Jon Macy’s Teleny and Camille, received a Lambda Literary Award, and Northwest’s publisher Charles “Zan” Christensen has been recognized as one of OUT magazine’s “OUT 100” and by as one of “13 to Watch in 2013“.

Anything That Loves is 216 pages and retails for $29.99. The book made its debut at Comic-Con International in San Diego this month, and will be in Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalog in September for sale in comics shops in November. It will also be available through Apple’s iTunes for reading on the iPad, iPod touch or iPhone, as well as Gumroad and other digital outlets, and direct from the publisher.

Forbes, Sexism, Booth Babes, and Preparing for Cons

Recently, published an article about what to wear to E3 This article was was only aimed toward women, and was amazingly offensive. Now, if you click that link you’ll see that there’s a disclaimer at the top of the article. Hilariously, after the backlash they received, they removed the offending points. While I have to applaud them for listening to the feedback, I also find it appalling that they clearly didn’t do any research on the demographic they were trying to reach with that article to begin with – and the fact that they don’t stand by their opinions. Let’s see a quote from that original article before the edit:

If you’ve been to E3 before, you know the challenge.  How do you convey credibility in promoting your game, your studio and yourself at the convention in a room full of guys gawking at larger-than-life, theme-park-like attractions and scantily clad ‘booth babes’?

Many women prefer to keep a low profile with “non booth babe” wear – like a baggy t-shirt and jeans.  But in an industry trying to attract more female gamers, its worthwhile to spend some time thinking about how what you wear can help you stand out as the savvy gaming industry expert that you are.

Looks like someone just learned the term “booth babe.”

E3 may have come and gone, but there are still plenty of conventions planned for the rest of the year, and the fact that a company as prominent as Forbes would post something like this at all is important.

Women: your credibility is not defined by your wardrobe. Your credibility should be dependent on your merits, not your appearance. Of course specific situations will require a specific dress-code; in general, if you are good at what you do, it doesn’t matter if you have green hair and cleavage. People will listen when you speak. Do not allow anyone to treat you differently based purely on what you’re wearing. Especially at a convention.

Men (and woman, in fact): you should be treating people you encounter with equal respect, no matter what they’re wearing. All people. If you judge her by her t-shirt, you could be missing out on your new favorite artist. If you judge him by his facial piercings, who knows, you may lose the chance to meet to best programmer in the room. You do not get to slut-shame women or men for their bare skin or for cosplaying. Making snap judgments about someone based on their appearance will only make you lose out on that person’s best qualities. If you want to improve your sexual act make sure you try hyper male force.

On “Booth Babes”:  it’s true that the gaming industry has a history of employing attractive women, dressing them scantily, and using them to bait young men into visiting their booths at cons. However, this is 2013, and these companies aren’t stupid. You will see a dramatic shift in the coming years of these companies hiring knowledgeable, personable people to represent their products. Do not assume that just because you see an attractive woman is at a booth at a convention means she’s only there to look pretty, and knows nothing about the brand she’s representing. After all, you wouldn’t see Jamie Dillion at a convention, and assume they’re know-nothing booth babes, would you? No. They’re professional women who are integral parts of the companies they represent, and obtained their positions by being the best at what they do. Don’t let an antiquated gender idea sully your idea of how you want to present yourself, and certainly don’t let any silly slut-shaming prevent you from cosplaying your favorite character.

I think it’s time we start thinking more about having a good time at the conventions we attend, and worry less about being mistaken for booth babes. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some tips that might actually help you while you attend a convention. Don’t worry, fashion geeks, I’ll still include a couple of outfits for inspiration.

Tips for Attending a Con:

  1. Wear Comfy Shoes. Throughout any convention, you will be on your feet for hours a day, usually multiple days in a row. Bring a pair of shoes that you won’t worry about getting scuffed up, stepped on by other people, or getting dirty. It’s also a good idea to carry a back-up just in case.
  2. Drink Plenty of Water and Don’t Forget to Eat. There is a ton of excitement involved in going to a con, and sticking to panel and presentation schedules can make for very little free time. Plan ahead, and take a look at what food options will be near you, set alarm reminders for mealtimes on your cell phone, and carry a bottle of water with you everywhere. You don’t want to wind up dizzy and tired by 4pm just because you forgot to eat lunch.
  3. Carry Business Cards. If you’re in the industry, or hoping to network in any way, bring plenty of business cards. Don’t be pushy about giving them out, but do be creative. Conventions can be the absolutely best place to hob-knob with fellow industry workers, and make some helpful friends. Make sure you have something to give them, and make it impressive.
  4. Bring A Bag. Hitting the booths, you’ll encounter a ton of fliers, cards, posters, and prints. This doesn’t even include the various memorabilia and items you may purchase while you’re there, or the personal items you may need to bring with you. Be smart, and bring something to carry those things in. A tote bag is a cheap, easy way to address this issue, but a messenger bag might be more durable and have more handy pockets.
  5. Things to Carry in That Bag: band-aids, snacks, water, cell phone, charger/extra battery, extra pair of shoes, light jacket, camera, deodorant, mini sewing kit. You’d be surprised how often these items might come in handy. It’s possible you’ll never need any of them, but when you do, you’ll be glad you have them. Sidenote about the camera: not all venues will let you bring in a camera, so check the rules of the event before attending (this actually goes for all items), but you never know when you might run into a photo op – either an amazing cosplay of your favorite video game character, or maybe your favorite actor. Come prepared, you may never get that opportunity again!
  6. Plan and Check in with Your Buddy. The buddy system isn’t just for elementary school. It’s easy to lose your group in a large crowd, and people can easily go missing. If you’re with a friend or a group of friends, plan ahead to meet at certain places at certain times. Make sure everyone gets where they’re going safely, and be sure everyone has everyone else’s phone numbers in case of emergencies.
  7. Plot Your Course. There’s a lot to see at a convention, and you don’t want to miss out on some key opportunities. Figure out what panels you want to attend, and buy any applicable tickets early. Plot out which booths you absolutely want to visit, and find them on the floor map. Allow for plenty of time in line – it could very well be hours. You don’t need to be militant about your planning, but if you have a general plan in place, you’ll be more likely to see everything that you want to.
  8. Bring a Book. You may have to sit in line for a very long time at a busy con. Bring something to keep yourself occupied – whether it’s a good novel, a thick graphic novel, or a Sudoku book, make sure you won’t be bored. Or, you could always make new friends around you!
  9. Shower and Deodorant are Your Best Friends!  Personal hygiene should be common sense, but you’d be surprised. If you’ve ever been to a packed convention, you truly know the stink of body odor. Try to be considerate of those around you, and boost your own confidence by showering every day, and wearing deodorant and clean clothes.

Tips for Dressing at a Con:

Now, we’re not going to tell you that you shouldn’t show skin, dress provocatively, or really dress any way beyond how you want to in public. That’s nobody’s place but yours. However, we can give you some words of wisdom about being prepared for an event in how you dress. This tips go for both men and women.

  • Check the Weather. Look at the forecast for the days and locations that you’ll be out at a con. Even if it’s an indoor convention, keep travel and after-events in mind. If it’s going to rain, bring a small umbrella just in case. If it’s going to be cold later in the evening, bring a light jacket to be on the safe side.
  • Wear Layers. A packed convention hall can get gross and sweaty in an instant. If you wear a couple thin layers, you can add or remove them to adjust to your comfort level at any moment.
  • Flexible Clothing is Key. You’ll be moving around a lot, and don’t want your clothes to be restrictive. Wear something you’ll be comfortable in either sitting in a convention hall for a couple hours, or running to catch a bus.
  • Keep Your Items Close. Just like tips for visiting new cities, keep your personal belonging close to your body. While we hope everyone we come in contact with will be honest, you still need to account for the possibility that you might drop or lose something. If you have a bag that closes, or pockets that zip, use them.
  • Plan Ahead with Costumes. If you’re wearing a costume, make sure it’s something you’re not going to get hot, sweaty, or uncomfortable after a few hours. Also make sure you build yourselves some pockets or a clever carrying case (for example: if you’re cosplaying Chell from Portal, maybe make yourself a purse in the shape of a companion cube). Also, make sure any items you intend to bring to enhance your costume don’t go against the convention rules. If you’re cosplaying Gordon Freeman, it’s probably best not to bring a crowbar. You may also want to bring a change of clothes in case of emergency or if you want to change for after parties.

Any way you go, let your geek flag fly. As promised, here are a couple con-inspired outfits that might help you build your own ensemble.

Batman Inspired Con Outfit (note the tennis shoes for running around, the bag for collecting items, and the simple accessories):


con style - batman

Or for something a little more feminine, try this subtle Green Lantern Style get up (note the easy-to-move-in ballet flats, and the light, comfy dress that’s easy to pair with a jacket):
con style - green lantern
Sorry, fellas, I don’t have any guy outfit suggestions at this time, but feel free to list any below!
The number one rule at a convention is to have fun. You spent the money, and probably traveled to get there, so enjoy yourself! Whether you’re networking with some industry execs, or showing off your creative costuming skills, just be yourself, and have a blast.
If you have any convention wisdom you’d like to share, please leave a comment, and let others learn from your experiences!
We received wonderful contribution from Rachel Steiner in the comments below, I’d love to include her suggestions here.
I can think of some amazing yet geeky men’s style that I’ve seen on people such as Chris Hardwick and even Kevin Pereira that looks put together but still allows them to show their geekiness without fear. I’ve put together a few men’s geek inspired looks on Polyvore:
A complete Batman look (Yes I know the button down costs $100+ but you can find similar items for under $20)
Some various neckwear for men:
Converse has the licensing for Batman: Arkham City. So you can customize your own pair of shoes and even have different graphics and color schemes to each shoe. For example:
Thank you, Rachel!

Book Review: Queers Dig Time Lords

Review: Queers Dig Time Lords, ed. by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas

Review by: Prof. Jenn


Now, when I get a book to review, I always make an effort to read it in its entirety before composing my review. This is because a) I’m thankfully a fast reader, and b) I feel that if I don’t read the entire book, I can’t really make a fair judgment on the book. So I read these in as close to one sitting as I possibly can. Maybe this habit stems from acting school, where my professors insisted we read the entire play from which we took our scenes and monologues. But I digress.

Queers Dig Time Lords is not the kind of book you want to read like this. It’s a collection of essays by various and sundry authors, spanning topics from how Doctor Who is gay-friendly, to how its fan-base is gay-friendly, to memoir-like musing on how the show helped the author through coming out, through queer character-analysis (especially a repeated celebration of Jack Harkness) and comparisons of the geek closet to the homosexual closet. But if you sit down with this book and read all the essays one after the other, it does start to get too repetitive for maximum enjoyment.

But that’s okay–this is the kind of book to come back to in short bursts time and time again, for scholarly reference, warm and fuzzy memoir enjoyment, and geek celebration. It’s a stellar collection, and anyone who’s interested in social studies, sexuality/gender studies, or just loves Doctor Who will welcome this book on their school or geek-themed book shelf.

Bottom Line: Highly recommended.

Comics Review: Modesty Blaise

Comics Review: Modesty Blaise–the Girl in the Iron Mask by O’Donnell and Romero

Review by: Prof. Jenn

romero_blaiseThe good folks at Titan Press have released another volume in their re-release series of Modesty Blaise comic strips. This one includes three story-arcs, complete with introductions for each.

This collection is a lot of fun–it has an old-school James Bond or Avengers flavor, complete with sexy, daring, whip-smart heroes and colorful, twisted villains. The art is stylized and lovely in a ‘60s sort of way, black-and-white, very high quality in a large format so a reader can hunker down to longer strings of the storylines without feeling interrupted.

It occurred to me as I read through these, that modern comic heroines can learn a thing or two from Modesty. She’s super-badass (one of my favorite panels is from Fiona, where Modesty is engaged in kicking butt in a staff fight), unabashedly sexy, yet is drawn without all the weird contortion-y stuff to add unwarranted sex appeal (see blog Escher Girls to see the kind of thing I mean). She’s got a knockout figure, and can knock dudes out with it. Her friends are as smart and kick-ass as she is, and their adventures would make Indiana Jones sweat.

Bottom Line: I highly recommend Modesty Blaise in general, this collection in particular is worth it just for the title arc: The Girl in the Iron Mask.



Why I’m Angry at The Big Bang Theory

Yeah, I’m a little late to the Big Bang party, I know. Once a show gets that much hype, especially within a particular social circle, I tend to write it off quickly. ~I couldn’t possibly like something that so many other people like!~ After seeing Jim Parsons appear on a few talk shows and finding him intriguing and charming, I finally decided to give the show a shot.

I gave it 4 episodes then declared it a waste of my time and informed my husband that we would no longer be watching the show. Specifically I said “I’m done, let’s stop watching now’. As we are prone to do, we immediately launched into a critique of the show, bouncing pros and cons off each other as if an audience of anxious viewers were waiting to hear our opinions. Recently, it’s been fun to acknowledge how we digest some of our favorite shows differently, often due to our gender biased viewpoints. Shows like Mad Men, Modern Family, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire are a few that we sometimes have differing interpretations of, all of which rely heavily on relationships and events that put a spotlight on the gender specific ideals of that time period, family or social environment.

Penny & the geek squad

When it came to digesting The Big Bang Theory, there was no difference in our opinions. The show is based heavily on some old and tired ‘geek culture’ stereotypes and lacks enough of funny scientist Sheldon to mask how offensive it is. Even leaning on the use of a chunk of the cast of the highly popular Roseanne isn’t enough to carry the comedic weight of a distasteful main artery clogged with bumbling, socially inept, sexually terrified geeks. Yes, the deep cut science, video game and pop culture references are fun and well represented, I admit. The relationships and depth of the characters, however, are not.

Annie (Community), Skully (X-Files), Olivia (Fringe), Rose (Doctor Who)

How sad is it that after so many years of well written, successful, charming and attractive geeky tv characters we find ourselves back to this? The group of friends who congregate in Sheldon and Leonard’s meticulously organized apartment while away their days playing an MMOG, debating scientific theory and the practical uses of it and proudly announcing their career achievements, yet this same group seem to lose half their brain power when faced with the air-headed, blonde waitress who lives across the hall.


Penny doesn’t seem to understand much of what her neighbors say to her, in 4 episodes I never heard the girl mention any career motivation beyond working at Cheesecake Factory and she often asks for favors from the guys but never volunteers to help out in return. Leonard grovels at her feet, doing everything he can to impress her while she casually ignores his crush and unabashedly explains how spending the weekend with some equally attractive and dim witted guy wasn’t that much fun. Meanwhile, we are introduced to smart, frumpy little Leslie who tries in her nerdy way to flirt with Leonard, but just isn’t attractive enough to catch his eye.

It’s an old stereotype of ‘smart girl must dress badly, not be too attractive and struggle to catch the eye of the man she wants, regardless of how much of a dick he is to her’ and ‘super pretty girl must be ditzy, shallow and not notice the nerdy guy who does everything in his power to impress her’. To be completely honest, I’m not so much angry at this cheap shot, but disappointed. I really wanted to like Big Bang Theory but for a show stuffed full of smart characters, with an opening intro that cutely sings the big bang theory, I expected so much more of a smartly written core. I can’t stomach a show based on an insultingly outdated stereotype that I’ve so often found myself having to argue against. Exhibit A: my friend Elliott’s celebration of some accomplished, smart ladies (Top 11 Geek Girls of 2011), which was hotly debated over when a female reader declared that she ‘can’t take any of these woman seriously’. The reader went on to explain that her feelings were based on the ladies being too overtly sexy or attractive in their profiles.

‘nerdy girl stock photo’

I’m also a hairstylist and I’ve encountered numerous intelligent, accomplished women through the years with the feeling that if they try too hard to be sexy or pretty, folks won’t take them seriously. They will lose the credibility they’ve earned simply by wanting to be attractive. This belief is gross, ugly and completely a by product of stereotypes like the one represented in Big Bang. The sooner we stop supporting this idiotic idea that smarts and good looks somehow work against other, the sooner the geeks of the world can stop feeling guilty or ashamed of being sexy. Wouldn’t it be great to win the love interest you yearn for based on both of those blessings? If you read through the Geek Girls article, you’ll see that pretty geek girls really do exist, so why the hell shouldn’t they in tv and film?

Thanks for listening and feel free to offer your own opinions.

*The opinions expressed here are not representative of Nerds in Babeland, but only of the writer herself*

Review of Baltimore & Empowered: Two, two, two Reviews in One

Nuns and vampires and Mignola, oh my!

I am new to the exploits of Lord Baltimore, but I am liking what I see. This is a horror filled frolic filled with nasty demons, nun vampire-sort-of-zombies, and a Shane like hero, who, Fugitive-like, compels us to follow him as he hunts down the vampire villain that killed his family.

Baltimore is another Mignola written gem, and as much as I like Mignola’s art, I have to say I am enjoying his writing nearly as much as his both, and am glad that he is able to be so prolific (give his readers more and more goodies) with the help of other artistic talent.

I am in the middle of a vampire novel (review coming up) at the moment as well, and this was a delightful addition to the hordes of vampires out there in popular culture today.

If you like romantic, sexy, or sparkly vampires, take heed: this is not the series for you. If you like bloodthirsty bloodsuckers that actually scare you, follow Baltimore post haste.

Like, what the f*** is this, and why haven’t you told me about this before?

I will be honest with you. When I began reading this, I rolled my eyes and thought, oh no what have I gotten myself into? This is how my thoughts went as I reacted to my first reading of Empowered:  I mean, this blonde ditz has a costume that shreds off of her in a fight?? Really? Do we need this kind of…misogyny…oh she seems to be having a meta conversation and…Hm, this is actually pretty funny. Oh wow, it’s totally commenting on sexism and female body image and relationships and…okay this is hilarious, they all know they are fictional comic book characters and are worried they’ll be drawn out of the next issue. Gosh, that was actually quite a profound discussion among friends about self esteem. They have an immortal being that lives on the coffee table? Is…is he rapping “I Like Big Butts” in Victorianesque diction?? I am in love.

Oh, and the art? Is all in black and white. I really, really like that.

Drawbacks? It does get a wee bit teeny bopper for my old lady ears. It does make up for it by being extremely witty and meta, but yeah. A bit teeny bopper. And the multiple f-bombs blacked out do get wearing on the inner voice. I say use the invective or don’t but the censored invective just gets annoying. I guess it’s more of the meta, but still.

Also, this comic had something which annoyed me that I forgot to mention in my Abe Sapien review: its fight scenes are so busy on the page, it’s hard to follow what physically is going on. As a stage combat choreographer and instructor, I have to call it sloppy. Just like in a moving visual medium like a movie, we need to be able to follow the action in order to be able to follow the story fully, and certainly in order to appreciate the sweet moves Ninjette no doubt is executing. I do really like the translated kanji as accompaniments, though.

Bottom (double) line: I highly recommend Baltimore. Empowered was fun and cute, and wryly meta enough to enjoy, especially if you like ninjas.

Tara McPherson’s Bunny In The Moon (NSFW)

The Love Space Gives Is as Deep as the Oceans

Although not a huge follower of ‘pop art’ I’ve always felt a special draw towards the art of Tara McPherson. I own her last book, Lost Constellations, and have her prints on my wall. She has a very distinct style that manages to stand out among a sea of modern pop culture art, a delicate touch of feminine aesthetics mixed with vibrant colors and sharp lines. McPherson has worked on everything an artist can put a pen to including concert posters, circus flyers, art prints, toys, electronics and novelty items; one of my favorites is her coloring book. The bookmarks, sketch books and other fun accessories feel a bit like a grown up, slightly twisted and dark Lisa Frank, the line of super bright, sparkly sticker and coloring kits for tweens.

Safety of Water

Not to understate the gorgeous work that is the foundation of Tara McPherson’s art empire, Bunny in the Moon is yet another well developed collection of colorful, macabre scenes from somewhere deep in her imagination. As Morgan Spurlock says in his doting foreword, “From her first rock poster to her last solo show, Tara has been and remains an uncompromising artist, creating both a body of work and mainstream art-pop success that are unlike anything else in the art scene.”

The book opens with some of McPherson’s trademark beautiful females, surrounded by heavily detailed graphics that express each character in their own world. The artist has a skill for giving the impression of a story being told, one that you are as much the author of as she is, using just one main character, often blanketed by celestial entities, spirit animals or dripping in viscous fluids.

The Bunny in the Moon

She then invites readers to follow her through the creation process from rough sketches to polished, multi-layered oil paintings. I find this quite fun, especially in a world largely dominated by digital art; seeing the hand drawn lines as she creates them feels like a rare peek into McPherson’s personal sketch book.

I’m not a ‘hearts and flowers’ kind of girl, I don’t care for art that uses the female body strictly as a cheap tool of stimulation or shock value. One of the things I appreciate about Tara McPherson is that she manages to portray a definite feminine charm without too much fluff or overt sexualism. Her characters don’t adhere to puritanical boundaries (much of the work is NSFW) but they are entangled in scenes of power, manipulation and dark, sometimes morbid engagements. For long time fans of McPherson she revisits a few classic favorites like the ‘Wiggles’. The artist’s work maintains the same trademarks as it has from the beginning: a perfect blend of sweet girlishness, rock star edge, malicious intent and floaty, surreal fantasy environments.

Cirque Du Soleil - Zarkana

I recommend this book for any level of art lover, but especially those who feel less than satisfied with some of the ‘modern pop art’ available today. Bunny in the Moon is an art collection that will always spark conversation and interest among a variety of casual coffee table perusers.

Bunny in the Moon hits shelves March 14, and is available now for pre-order through Dark Horse Comics.

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