feminist

Steam Wars FCBD Edition

Review: Steam Wars FCBD Edition

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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.

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Forbes, Sexism, Booth Babes, and Preparing for Cons

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Recently, Forbes.com 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.

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 from Child’s Play or Barbara Dunkelman from RoosterTeeth 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!
UPDATE:
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)
mensbatman
Some various neckwear for men:
neckwear
Additionally
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:
batshoes
Thank you, Rachel!
romero_blaise

Comics Review: Modesty Blaise

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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.

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

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BALTIMORE:
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.

EMPOWERED:
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.

The Love Space Gives Is as Deep as the Oceans

Tara McPherson’s Bunny In The Moon (NSFW)

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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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GeekGirlCon 2011

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I used to go to WonderCon every year when I was younger. Anyone who goes to Cons regularly, knows you have your “Con Posse” (not to be confused with “clown posse” like Harley Quinn will now have with her new ICP-esqu costume… but I digress). When I was younger I was the one girl in a group of many dudes. After I had my son I stopped going, in the past year I have been back to attending. And have added more cons to my list of must see. In the time that I was away a major change happened. The con posse I’ve joined is 99% GIRLS! This is pretty phenomenal for a gal who has grown up getting the stink eye from the dudes (and gals) behind the counters at comic shops.

It’s not too surprising that we now have our own convention. GeekGirlCon –located at the Seattle Center and EMP– was a slightly bittersweet event for me. I was on the staff, one of the original members, first person to buy a pass, etc. I was the Vice President and Operations Director, filed the incorporation paperwork opened the bank account, yada yada. No one ever really cares about “Operations,” it’s the department that does all the behind the scenes work that allows the more creative types to do the shiny stuff. I had to leave the organization because of the huge amount of time it required. Since the staff is 100% unpaid volunteers I was essentially working a second full time job for no pay; and I have a husband and child. So it finally got to the point of having to choose, GGC or child. Obviously my child had to win. So the sweet part was how AWESOME of a time I had, and how amazing it was to see that both days sold out. The bitter part was that I was seeing it from the outside.

I do have to say it was a bit nice to not have to be working this weekend and was able to just enjoy the convention as a panelist/attendee. I got to romp around with a posse of amazingly talented and fun folks. I stayed out too late, drank too much (though oddly didn’t once get drunk) and was introduced to the most amazing alcohol I have ever tasted by the lovely Stephanie Thorpe.

I drove up Friday night with my “fake niece”, who is the 16 year old anime obsessed, blue haired daughter of a friend. Stopped by the airport to pick up a few friends then checked into our AH-MAY-ZING hotel the Marqueen, on Queen Ann St in Seattle. After that I met up with friends for drinks, a walk up a monstrosity of a hill and dinner with more friends.

"Token Dudes Panel"

Saturday morning I got up, had breakfast at Mecca Café, if you go to Seattle you MUST try this place. They have awesome bacon, great waffles; you get a mini pitcher when you order iced tea and the receipt showed that our server’s name was “BAT GIRL”. I attended the very fun “token dudes” panel. That night I attended the unofficial CheeseCon at The Melting Pot – go to twitter, look up the hashtag #CheeseCon to see the hilarity—which was one of the most fun dinners I have ever been to.

Every panel I attended had one common theme; Women need to support one another and act as the “elders of the internet” to support the younger generation. The vendor room, while small was diversely filled thanks to the hard work of Dixie Cochran. I only peeked my head into the gaming room but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

It was nice to see so many little girls dressed in cosplay. There was one family who had I think 3 daughters, all dressed up as different versions of Princess Leia. Most people I saw were smiling and having a good time. Sunday I was the assistant for Miss Bonnie Burton’s craft panel. The creativity of the attendees was awesome. We had Yoda, Tardis, Doctor Who and even… GASP… Star Trek puppets made.

Really the only negative thing I can think of was the fact that it was spread out between the Northwest rooms and the EMP. This would have been fine if panelists weren’t scheduled for back-to-back panels on opposite sides of each other. It is about a 10 minute walk between The NW Rooms and the EMP so if your panel ends at 4 and the next one starts at 4 there is no way to make it on time. But being a first year con I am sure they will keep that in mind for next year. There are some doubts as to whether the NW rooms will be available for 2012 but I am sure they will announce the location when it is secured.

All in all I am happy with the changes to convention culture that have occurred since I first started attending them. Girls are having more and more panels aimed at them, and hopefully, sometime soon, we won’t NEED to have a GeekGirlCon because all cons will be equally targeted for all audiences. And I look forward to seeing my Con Posse as soon as I possibly can. They are a group of individuals who inspire me to push myself and go for my dreams and I love them all in special and different ways.

Pierce - COVER FINAL.indd

Book Review: She, a Blueprint

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Book review:     She, a Blueprint

words by Michelle Naka Pierce, images by Sue Hammond West

Review by Jenn Zuko Boughn

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In any creative-writing class I’ve taught recently, I’ve instructed students, when doing daily creative journaling, to make sure they include both image and text in each entry. I do this because of several reasons (some of which can be found in Diehn’s The Decorated Page) but the strongest reason I have for this discipline is that it seems all writing these days has an imagistic aspect to it. From blog posts to graphic novels to novels like Like Water For Chocolate with long image or sound-only chapters, to interactive, new-media presentations, it’s rare to sit down with a (short, especially) piece of writing without a visual.

Pierce and West’s volume of poetry uses this image/text interdependence with the artistry and care of a good picture book, yet for an adult audience. Pierce’s Gertrude-Stein-esque musical repetition and richness of word choice work in tandem with West’s urban/organic paintings to good effect. The best entries in this volume are the ones in which the text is arranged in an unusual visual way, and the image incorporates text, thereby adding more layers to the text/image dance. This multi-layering of literary and visual art gives the reader more and more to sit with before turning each page.

Another engaging aspect to She is the map-like, film-like titles to each chunk of text. The poems are called “Lot”s or “Cut”s and the different-fonted titles to the images are called “Legend”s. These bring to mind auctions, film clips, map keys, and other images to the entries, and again are onion-layers of meaning.

She is a book one can spend time with—absorbing each page-spread before continuing. It does what good poetry (and visual art) should do: it builds imagery in the reader’s mind, so that the book changes with the reader each time she comes back to it.   ~Prof. Jenn

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My First Year At San Diego Comic-Con

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Before last month I had never been to San Diego Comic-Con. I have been to WonderCon many times over the years but never made the trek down south. That has all changed. No longer am I a SDCC virgin. I had a general idea of what to expect from it, having attended WonderCon, only not really. The crowds are bigger, the panels more surprising and the after-parties more insane.

Long lines

I had a general plan of which panels I HAD to see and those I would like to. I didn’t realize that Ballroom 20 meant a line outside, down the stairs “you better get there at 5am” kind of situation. I didn’t do that, but did find a friend who had so, yes, I got into the Game of Thrones panel. AWESOME! I was far far faaaar in the back but that doesn’t matter I got to hear the answers and dialogue before those of you who saw it online. SWEET!

I wanted to make sure I supported my friends who were on panels more so than see celebrities, because I am of the opinion that Friends are better than celebrities. In waiting for the Archaia Immortals panel I saw on the schedule that Dark Horse had something going on in the same room, and the door guards were letting people in mid-session. So I popped in with my friend Dina and, oh look, Guillermo Del Torro was on the panel; in a room with maybe 60 people in it. I was blown away; I didn’t see his name on the schedule he was just… there. He was, by the way, cracking jokes and cursing up a storm. That was probably my biggest, “HOLY CRAP” moment; mostly because it was so unexpected.

As anyone who knows me is aware I’m a huge Star Wars fan so of course I attended the Star Wars Lego panel. Where they showed clips from the new Lego Star Wars cartoon that aired that night (thank you Xfinity iPhone app! I was able to set my DVR to record it at home, from the panel; WE ARE IN THE FUTURE!). They also revealed a few new toys and a Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar. This is probably the coolest thing ever. Every year I get Seth an advent calendar, and every year it has crappy old chocolate. This year we will have the Star Wars Lego one for sure. They go on sale in October if you were unable to purchase it at the Con.

I also attended Bonnie Burton’s Star Wars craft panel on Sunday instead of waiting in the crazy person line for the Doctor Who panel (see again Friends are better than Celebrities, but I still love you crazy people I call friends who stood in that line!). She was hilarious as usual and entertained the crowd with stories about condiment googly eye murder scenes in the fridge and sparkly doggie poop with eyes. We made felt Yoda puppets from her Star Wars Craft Book. I own the book and it was on my list of projects so getting to make it with a bunch of other people was a lot of fun!

Cosplay Fun: Daenerys (aka The Nerdy Bird) and the Tardis (aka me)

On Thursday morning I attended the much talked about “Oh, You Sexy Geek” panel. Kristen McHugh goes into the panel in detail here, so I will only touch on a few of my own personal observations and thoughts.

The fact that I am friends with and/or know ½ of the panelists and where they stand on the issue of sexy cosplay I was expecting a good back-and-forth. I was a little disappointed that the self-described “humorless feminists” did not make a larger effort to speak and get their points across. And I was even more disappointed when one panelist said to another “Well would you wear a Slave Leia costume?” This was said to someone who has never been seen in a Slave Leia costume, so from an audience member’s point-of-view it appeared to be an attack on her personally and not a legitimate attempt at furthering the conversation. On the specific topic of “Slave Leia” there is a post over at FanGirlBlog that makes the points I would love to, in a much more eloquent way than I ever could.

I have never identified as a “feminist” mostly because the feminists I had been exposed to were very much of the “This penis party’s got to go hey-HEY ho-HO” ilk and that is not a world view I agree with or wish to spread. I am also not one who enjoys looking at the world though one very specifically colored pair of glasses, always looking for a reason to get angry about things. However, recently I have been exposed to a much different flavor of feminism that falls more in line with my personal beliefs and view on things.

Which, in a much condensed and quickie version, are this: We are responsible for our actions and how we react to and feel about ourselves and the world we live in. We have no right to dictate what another individual does, says, wears, etc. unless that person is causing direct harm to us or another individual whose care is our responsibility. I do not believe that a girl walking around in a metal bikini is causing anyone any harm, so let her have her fun and who gives a damn if she is doing it to be “empowered” or just to be “sexy” or “cute” what matters is if she is having fun while doing it. And if she isn’t having fun doing it, then it is on her to make the necessary change.

One more thing I would like to talk about before we resume our regularly scheduled programming is the Chris Gore comment and subsequent fall out. Yes, Chris was late to the panel, bad on him; yes he made a bad joke, some of us speak before thinking perhaps he should look into that. I personally was not offended by it, mostly because it was not directed AT me, but also because I tend to have the sense of humor of a teenage boy (farts are HILARIOUS, so are poop jokes). The only individuals who truly have a right to be offended are the ladies on the panel; the comment was directed AT THEM and no one else. If they have a problem with it, it is their responsibility to address it with Chris. People seem to be forgetting that Kat asked him immediately after he said it if he was trying to get kicked off the panel, the moderator DID address it immediately. I was horrified when I saw this post online. It is one thing to be upset by a comment someone makes on a panel, to blog about it and discuss it with the person who said it if possible; it is another thing entirely to try and negatively impact their livelihood because of your upset feelings. That is taking your personal beliefs and feelings too far. It wasn’t as if he said he was GOING TO, or would do so against their will. He simply said he would be willing to. It was in poor taste, especially considering the content of the panel, but it certainly wasn’t a punishable offense to the extent of his livelihood being threatened.

Haunted San Diego: Ghost Tours

I had an excellent time all around, my cosplays were well received, and I got to see friends old and new. Met some of my twitter friends in person for the first time and got some awesome graphic novels from the Archaia booth. Wednesday night I went on a Haunted Tour of San Diego with my friends Matt & AJ and had a BLAST! We didn’t see any ghosts but that’s ok, it was still fun and I found the “haunted” hotel where I hope to be able to stay next year. All in all it was an awesome 5 day vacation. It had its ups and downs, I had a few moments where my anxiety kicked into high gear and I needed time to myself. But the good far outweighed the bad and I cannot wait till next time!

Copyright © 2011 JennKL Photography (www.JennKL.com)

Oh You Sexy Geeks, the Takeaway: We need to Reject the Premise

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Copyright © 2011 JennKL Photography (www.JennKL.com)

Going into the Oh, You Sexy Geek panel on Thursday morning, I was excited by the prospect of seeing some of the latest attacks on the concept of women as geeks dissected. The panelists were knowledgeable and varied: Bonnie Burton, Adrianne Curry, Jill Pantozzi, Clare Grant, Kiala Kazebee, Clare Kramer and Jennifer K. Stuller are steeped in geek cred.

Unfortunately, there are two things that soured some of the discussion for me: Ms. Stuller (ironically or not,) referring to herself as a, “Humorless feminist,” and late arrival to the panel, Chris Gore, talking about being willing to stick his penis in any member of the panel.

I can take a joke, but that summed up the problem for me pretty succintly. The misogyny and pre/proscriptivism that we get from external media sources is driving the continued marginalization of women as geeks. I also felt that Ms. Stuller’s inference wasn’t simply that she was there as the academic, legitimate voice of, “Humorless,” i.e., “Serious,” feminism, but that the rest of the women on the panel somehow weren’t. I don’t know Mr. Gore or Ms. Stuller, and I’d like to think these were simply bad jokes gone awry, but if they aren’t. . . these extremes are exactly why this panel exists.

So I’m rejecting the premise. Can women be geeks and be sexy? Let’s ask Nathan Fillion how being a sexy geek is working out for him. Are hot starlets pandering to a geek audience? Oh, hey, John Barrowman says he’s a lifelong sci-fi geek, let’s ask him if he’s pandering. My rule is this: unless it is a direct biological function, asking someone of any gender whether they’re capable of being x, y, or z is unacceptable.

The panel was too short, and Chris Gore’s flippant comments felt like they derailed a conversation that was turning over at least a few of the issues faced by women in the geek community. I’ve never met Mr. Gore and I’m not ascribing a motive, but tacky doesn’t begin to describe that remark.

If a man looks at a woman while thinking he’d like to screw her and simultaneously thinks that she can’t possibly be an authentic geek, there’s the breakdown in a nutshell. If women look at other women and think that because men will want to screw them, or because women look like they don’t mind men thinking they want to screw them, they can’t possibly be an authentic geek, are two sides of the same coin. There’s no one way to geek, or be a woman, but I’ll be damned if people don’t keep trying to say there is.

I found most of the discussion productive, but the fact is: there are so many intersections when it comes to simply being women, that when we’re talking about being geeky women, let alone sexy, geeky women, it’s the big red button of overload. There’s not enough time to cover everything in a meaningful way. I also felt that with so many panelists, it was hard to ensure that everyone got equal time. Bonnie and Adrianne were obviously the most extroverted members of the panel, and addressed the questions asked by both moderator Katrina Hill and the audience, with blunt aplomb.

Some women just identify as geeks, without the qualifier. This is no more or less valid than my choice to identify specifically as a geek girl, because I want recognition that I’m both. That we see repetitious questioning of women’s geek credibility, and then see the marginalizing of attractive women who claim to be geeks, is and will always be absurd.

Copyright © 2011 JennKL Photography (www.JennKL.com)

A high point for me, among all the discussion of cosplay, comic book characters’ costumes, and the what is sexy/is sexy okay for female geeks, was some discussion of why there aren’t more sexualized male characters in geek media. I loved that the panel, most prominently Bonnie Burton and Adrianne Curry acknowledged how underserved the female gaze is. Yes, we do need more scantily-clad men in comics and cosplay. The female presence at SDCC is growing, and if we’re not at least half the attendance numbers already, then that day is coming soon. Again, it’s time to reject the premise that we’re in the minority. We’re not. We’re half the audience. Some of us consider ourselves sexy, some of us don’t. Some of us want to be, some of us don’t. Some of us are more introverted, some are extroverted. None of those things determine our value as people, as women, or as geeks.

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Disney Princesses Come of Age

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Guest post written by T. Johnson. T. Johnson is a blogger, au pair, and part-time tutor who has been obsessed with science fiction and comics since roughly first grade. One of her life`s big revelations was discovering Wonder Woman comics-another milestone was starting to read the works of Heinlein and Aldous Huxley. She has always been convinced that girls can be as truly nerdy as any fanboy.

 

Recent re-screenings of several Disney films has got me thinkng about the “Disney princess” phenomenon. As animation fanatics and a majority of parents know, Disney Studios made a bunch of movies with female heroines over a fifty-odd year time span. Most of them were based on fairy or folk tales, so the heroine was usually a “princess,” even if she started out disguised as something else. The “princess” movies remain hugely popular with audiences. They were re-mastered in handsome DVD and Blu-ray box sets, inspired hundreds of Halloween costumes and were responsible for the “princess party,” that staple of little girl birthday celebrations.

The films have their detractors, however. Most of the critical vollies aimed at them have come from feminist thought. Critics complain that Disney has placed images of women in a time capsule, portraying them as passive victims waiting to be rescued, as debutantes dreaming only of their prince. They cite the 1950 film Cinderella as a prime offender: sweet-natured girl is pushed around by her stepsisters, remains sweet despite doing all the housework, then is rewarded for being a doormat by a fairy godmother who enables her to attend a ball and meet a prince.

Admittedly, Cinderella is not big on my list either. I don`t really agree, though, that all of these films present terrible images of women. I think there are some redeeming qualities in the princess film canon. I`ll discuss just a few of the movies in this post, specifically those which present heroines who are fully fleshed out as people. Quick note: I`d love to include the warrior-princess film Mulan here, but I don`t feel justified in talking about it since it`s one of the few Disney animation flicks I have not seen.

Image Courtesy of coloringweb.com

Consider Snow White of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). As she scrubs the palace steps in a tattered dress and wooden shoes, SW sings a song about wishing and hoping for the one she loves. But there`s a lot more to her than waiting around. When her wicked stepmother/queen decides to have her killed, she must fend for herself in a dark forest. She`s obviously scared, but doesn`t give up, pressing onward despite mysterious sounds and logs that resemble alligators. Snow White shows similiar courage when she meets the dwarves. This is a girl who`s never been away from home before, but she readily adapts to a group whose culture she`s totally unfamiliar with.

Instead of judging or mocking the dwarves, she befriends them. And yes, she does the housework. But one should keep in mind that the original Snow White story was told in the 1400s, a time when housework involved a lot of manual labor and the skills needed for tasks like spinning and washing clothing by hand. The dwarf fraternity respects her for pitching in, and she respects and likes them (I remember thinking as a child that they were way more interesting as people than the Prince)! Snow White displays a lot of sense and independent thinking, not to mention a genuine kindness for both animals and people.

Looking at later Disney movies makes one wonder what became of heroines like Snow White. Maybe, like characters played by Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn in the 30s and early 40s, she was shelved due to cultural reasons. After World War 2, real-life women often had to quit the jobs they obtained while men were away, leading to a quasi-Victorian idealization of the home and traditional femininity. Hollywood seemed to reinforce this by producing few films with strong female leads, and during the fifties, Disney followed suit. After the likable but maudlin Cinderella, we got characters like Wendy of Peter Pan (1953-sweet and bright, but hung up on Peter) and Briar Rose of 1959`s Sleeping Beauty (sweet and hard-working, has to be awakened by a prince). This is not to say that fifties Disney cartoons were total fiascos- they were well animated and ahead of their time- but strong heroines were not a huge priority here.

Gradually, times changed and so did the Disney empire. After several financial upheavals in the 70s, animated films began to emerge from the studio again in the mid-80s. “Princess” characters were beginning to be written in a different way, a prime example being Belle of Beauty and the Beast (1991). Belle, the daughter of a small-town inventor, is sweet-natured and hard-working like many a Disney girl. Unlike them, she seeks knowledge through reading and dreams of leaving her home and having adventures. And she`s not afraid of the ferocious-seeming Beast: when he orders her to come to dinner, she refuses until he issues a civil invitation. They gradually come to know each other as equals. The troubling issue here is the whole conceit of the Beast keeping her captive in his castle. This is how the original story went, but I can also see why some commentators read Belle warming to him as a form of Stockholm syndrome.

On the other hand, she does try to escape at one point in order to check on her father, and this makes Beast realize that he can`t merely keep her as a pet. Belle is a fully realized character who is intriguing as well as pretty. She does change clothes more than other Disney princesses, but hey, she is living in a palace with well-equipped closets-why not? And she has the courage to try and rescue her father from the creepy village folk by herself, not waiting for Beast or any of his servants to accompany her.

The Princess and the Frog (2009) has a female lead who is more than able to carry the film. This princess is merely dressed as one for Mardi Gras-she`s actually an industrious waitress named Tiana, a fine cook who is saving money for her own restaurant. She becomes involved with the lazy and conceited Prince Naveen only because he`s been turned into a frog and requests her help. Kissing him turns her into a frog as well, so the pair must hit a Louisiana swamp in search of a voodoo priestess who can transform them back. Tiana is totally uninterested in Naveen at first, considering him hopelessly hedonistic. But the two bond as they journey through the swamp, and the prince is evantually ready to embrace work and give up his player-like ways for Tiana.

Throughout the film, Tiana`s ditzy friend Lottie epitomizes the stereotypical “princess” viewpoint, in contrast to the former`s practical ways. When read the old Frog Prince story as children, Lottie sighs in contentment, while Tiana exclaims, “No way am I kissin` no frog, no matter what!” You`ve got to love a girl who`s that feisty from childhood up. She also has a strong sense of morality. The evil Dr. Facilier offers to make her human again if she surrenders a charm- trouble is, he`ll use the charm to facilitate his takeover of New Orleans. Tiana refuses, vowing to “stay in the swamp forever”, rather than aid the voodoo dark side. All ends well, but with a twist: though Tiana and Naveen become restored to humanity, they achieve her dream of opening a restaurant, instead of looking for a kingdom to luxuriate in. Good film, great heroine-finally, an action princess! Yes, there`s still a prince, but the relationship dynamic is totally different. We see the pair get to know each other as people, not just become infatuated.

Disney cartoon features have become more progressive in terms of female heroes. It`s certainly true that they lagged behind the women and girls of anime for a few decades- compare any pre-eighties Disney heroine to Millenium Actress or Princess Mononoke- but they`re genuinely losing the passive princess mindset. Now that the studio is supposedly still going to do some hand-drawn animation as well as CGI, why not research some girl power-friendly storylines? How about a remake of The Black Cauldron with more emphasis on feisty heroine Eilonwy? Or a retelling of the Artemis or Amazons myths? Future generations of girls are waiting to see their own adventures in animation- they want to protect the castle, not just clean its courtyard.

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