Sunday, April 28, 2013

Busy Weekend

After some friendly nagging and a nudge from my husband, I bought a Saturday pass for C2E2. Why would such a glorious geek gathering require nagging? I hate crowds and I hate constant noise. And I had no one to share the experience with, since all of my really geeky friends are in Ontario. We couldn't go as a family because our daughter isn't into any of that, and hates noisy crowds more than I do, so I was going to be on my own.

The instructor for the MOOC* I'm taking on gender and comic books was going to be there, but it didn't work out that we were able to meet up. Another person from the class was there with his wife, but again, it didn't work out. A friend I hadn't seen in years was going to be there, not for the content but for the scenery -- he was taking pictures of the cosplayers. I did meet up with him, which was cool, but he fails to share my enthusiasm for action figures and hasn't read comics in years. To needle me, he referred to them as dolls at one point, and (giving him the reaction he wanted) I protested that they were action figures... much to the amusement of some guy riffling through a box of comic books.

I made it to one of two panels I'd picked out from the program, Comix Chix with Kate Kotler (who hosts a weekly podcast on GeekNation) and some awesome guests.
Left to right: Kate Kotler, Amy Reeder, Jen Aprahamian, Heidi MacDonald, Jill Pantozzi, Jenny Frison and Ashley Eckstein.
I was sitting in the back row. It was a small room.
It was great to hear from women in the industry about what they perceive the state of women in comics to be. (Short answer, it is getting better.)

After the panel, I resigned myself to going back down into the fray. The line to get in looked like this:

This was before the panel started, about 10:30am (30 min. after the floor opened).

After the panel, about noon. Two hours after the show floor opened, the line was still
solid people. It moved fast, but it was still a ton of people.
I made it back inside, and tried to see... anything... but because of my height and the number of people in there, I'm sure I missed a lot. I was pretty excited to see in person for the first time ever, the Butterfly Woman† figures (2 of them anyway) by Olmec. He wanted $50 apiece for them, and that was more than I wanted to spend. (Not that they aren't worth it, but not worth that much to me at this time.) I told him -- and meant it -- that just seeing them made my day. He was pretty excited that I knew who they were.

I did pick up Sorceress and Teela (from the '80s He-Man line), a vintage Zarana with earrings and a current Cover Girl (G.I. Joe), Galadriel, Éowyn and Arwen (Lord of the Rings trilogy), and some really awesome art from Ant Lucia, Michael Dooney and photographer Adam Jay. I covered pretty much the entire floor, walking up and down, ducking into booths where I could, taking only about a five minute break to sit before my impatient companion wanted to get back to his photography. (He had an awesome hand strap for his camera; have got to get one of those. WAY more convenient than a neck strap -- his camera was pretty much always ready to go.) Because of the inconvenience of my camera, I only took a few photos.

Plenty of Star Wars happening. (Taken before the floor opened, with my phone.)

This was just funny. :) When he walked away from this photo, he was kinda boppin' along,
but I couldn't tell if he had to walk that way because of the costume or not.
Or maybe he's just a happy guy -- who knows?

Harley Quinn and a clever Up costume.
I spent about 6 hours on the floor. I was tired, my feet were killing me, and the crowd was just about more than I could stand. My friend had plans for the evening, so we parted company, and I got the heck outta Dodge. (Only to find more crowds; Saturday afternoon traffic on a beautiful spring day in Chicago...)

Sunday was the semiannual Kane County toy show, that I haven't been to in a number of years. I talked my husband into going with me, bringing The Kid. I was hoping to find some Yummy Donut keychains for her, but I didn't see anything like that there (much to her disappointment). I found Trinity (The Matrix), Isis (52), Connie (Coneheads), Hellen (Attack of the Living Dead), Red She-Hulk (Marvel Legends), Ann O'Brien (Monkeyman and O'Brien), Queen Gorgo (300) and a creepy broken figure that I'm 99% certain is a McFarlane toy, but I can't ID it. I think she's missing 2 of her 4 arms, but even with that, or maybe because of it, she looks sick and cool. (Update: Yes, she is a McFarlane toy, and yes, she is missing 2 arms. Szaltax is her name.)

Creepy-cool mystery fig. Update: She is Szaltax from Clive Barker's
Twisted Souls 2 line by McFarlane.
It's been a really long weekend. My feet hurt. I'm tired. But I scored some awesome things, and I got to hook up with someone I haven't seen in a long time. Long weekend...

This was C2E2's 4th year. Next year (April 25-27, 2014) it's moving to the South Building of McCormick Place; going from 460,000 square feet of exhibition space to 840,000... I'd say that this con is growing.

* Massive Open Online Course

† Butterfly Woman and her small line was made as a knockoff of She-Ra (Mattel). Olmec was a business founded by Black entrepreneur Yla Eason. Her lines of toys, including Butterfly Woman, featured Black heroes and heroines, with differing skin tones, and more ethnic features. Photos here:

Monday, April 15, 2013

All You Need Is the Right Outfit

Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel
From left to right: incarnations from 1977 (cover by John Buscema), 2006 (cover by Frank Cho),
and 2012 (cover by Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, and Javier Rodriguez).
For the online class I'm taking on gender and comic books, this week's assigned reading was Captain Marvel #1-7 (2012-), Ms. Marvel #1 (vol. 1, 1977) and Ms. Marvel #1 (vol. 2, 2006).*

Gerry Conway wrote in the "Ms. Prints" introduction at the end of the first Ms. Marvel #1:
Like anyone who's been alive in the past decade or so, I'm aware of the tremendous changes occurring in society; and like anyone who's lived with those changes, I've changed myself. Only a fathead would call himself a reformed male chauvinist and expect people to take him seriously; that's not the sort of judgement a man can make about himself. One lacks perspective. Still of not totally liberated, I know enough to be aware that a problem exists, and to understand that we're all susceptible to chauvinism at times. Thus, approaching the character of Ms. Marvel, I bent over backward to put myself in her point of view, and because I'm a writer (and because injecting oneself into a character is the writer's craft), I believe I succeeded. Like I said, not so simple...
He goes on to state that there aren't any "thoroughly trained and qualified women writers working in the super-hero comics field" and acknowledges that he's "alienated half a dozen talented women" by saying that. "There should be, no denying it, but there aren't."

It's an interesting snapshot of the comic book industry in 1977. I give him tremendous props for saying what he did. So if he was so mindful of what he was doing with this character, why, then, the peekaboo costume? He was the writer, so I can't lay the blame at his feet for that... but he was also the editor, so doesn't that mean the stuff was run past him first? So if John Buscema designed that getup, it had to be approved by Conway, the editor, right?

All of those women on the covers above are Carol Danvers. All of them are super-powered. But the 1977 version has the belly-baring (also back-baring, but you can't see it in that illustration) costume -- why was that necessary?

The 2006 version is cut high on the hips, has a bright yellow lightning bolt across her boobs ("hey, look at these!") and thigh-high boots -- why? This costume incarnation would be as suitable to a dominatrix as a superheroine. I love the way Cho drew the musculature, she looks strong and tight, but why is it necessary to bare her upper arms and upper thighs (and frankly, a fair amount of gluteus maximus)? She's got curves to identify her sex, why is it necessary to expose skin like that? For that matter, why is it necessary to so clearly identify her sex at all? (I feel compelled to point out that most women with very little body fat, as the heroines usually have, don't typically have ample breasts -- which are fatty tissue. How many chesty gymnasts have you seen?)

Only is Captain Marvel, from 2012, sensibly clad. The outfit is much more military in its styling, which is appropriate, since she was in the military. Still, she has a sash around her hips -- why? Because boobs weren't enough to let us know she's a woman? Don't get me wrong, I love the art and costume redesign for Carol/Captain Marvel, but why did we need the sash?

I am finding it very interesting to take a hard critical look at gender portrayals in comics. Some of the things we're discussing are things I'm familiar with already, having been exposed to some of the ideas before, but it's nice to hear other people doing it, too. Having a dialogue, not just me, muttering to myself.

* We were also assigned Daredevil #1 (vol. 3, 2011), but that book doesn't figure into this post.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wonder Women on PBS

PBS is airing a film about "Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines." It's scheduled for me on Monday the 15th, but check your local listings!

I've been looking forward to this since I first saw the preview (above). I marked it on my calendar. I set up an email reminder from PBS. I will hurt anyone who interrupts me watching the broadcast. (Is it a comment on the show's perceived popularity that it airs when a lot of people are going to bed? It's on at 10pm for me, too late for any school-aged girls to be watching, which is a damned shame.)

It's awesome that it's also fitting in nicely with the MOOC* I'm taking about Gender Through Comic Books, but I was planning on watching it before I even knew about the class.

*Massive Open Online Course

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Class Assignment: Create a Comic About Gender

At the beginning of this month, an online class I signed up for started. It's a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, on Gender Through Comic Books, offered through Ball State University, and taught by doctoral candidate Christina Whalen Blanch. It's a six-week class, and we're assigned various comic books to read and discuss them in the context of gender. It's not for a grade, not suitable for inclusion on a transcript, but damn is it interesting! Blanch is clearly enthusiastic about comic books, and her excitement is reflected in a number of the participating students.

Our week-two assignment was to
Create a comic based on a story regarding gender you or a close friend/family member has experienced. You can do this alone or with a partner. These experiences could be anything [in] your life that has to do with your gender. It could be going through the drive thru at McDonalds and asking if you want a “boy toy” or a “girl toy” or it could be something about gender stereotypes.
Not gonna lie, this one has me more than a little nervous. My drawing skills are pretty rudimentary, and the requirements made that harder: 4 panels (minimum) have to contain dialogue or narration, 2 panels (minimum) have to contain no dialogue or narration, conveying an idea solely with imagery.

Writers tell people to "write what they know" so I chose to use my quest for female action figures and having a daughter to tell my gender-related story.

Presenting "Where are the girls? Adventures in toy collecting and parenting," written and illustrated by me. It briefly chronicles the beginning of my female action figure collection, how having a daughter made me look at gender representation in other media, and beyond. (Click on an image to embiggen.)

As comics go, this is heavy on the words, and light on the illustration. Yes, there are walls of text. But I don't know how to or cannot illustrate some of the wordier concepts. I am calling this my "style." Heh.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Geek" / Communication Issues, Part II

Now apparently I can't comment ANYwhere. WTF?*

This was supposed to go on Epbot, but it won't post, and since I put my heart into it, it's going up here with a link to what I'm blathering about.

My would-have-been reply:
It's the exclusionary stuff that makes me uncomfortable. There are far too many instances where I could be the "fake geek girl" poster child, because I don't specialize enough. I can't tell you what happened word-for-word in issue #87 on page 3 of whatever comic. I told my husband that I was just a general-purpose geek, because of my breadth - not depth - of knowledge. He was incredulous, and said I probably had one of the largest collections of female action figures anywhere (almost 360, with only a handful of male figures) -- BUT, I can't tell you the origin story of each character, so there ya go...

I like "geek" for a few reasons. I like it because it's become a little more accepted than it once was. I like it because you drop an R and suddenly I am a geek goddess. I like it because it's still not really ok to be a nerd, and that's what I have always been, whereas being a geek isn't quite so socially alienating. (8th grade nick: Wendy Webster, because I read the dictionary and can't stop using $5 words when 5¢ would suffice.)

How do I connect with friends? Online, because I have no nearby geeky OR nerdy friends. Or, when I'm incredibly lucky, driving the 560 miles to see them in Ontario - the only place I have ever felt completely comfortable with who I am, and completely at home... with people I met playing World of Warcraft.

I don't like labels, when they come so close to name-calling. The song Felicia recorded "I'm the One That's Cool" is something I love and hate simultaneously, because it just has not been long enough since those teen years (and I'm 42) to recover from that kind of ridicule. So just when I can call myself a geek and not feel shame for it, I'm justifying my existence to those who'd say I was fake, AND other geeks are trying to take that word away from me. THIS is why I never leave the house and don't socialize.

* The commenting issue appears to be related to the embedded comment window. By switching the comments to Full Screen (from embedded), I am able to comment on my own blog again. Another blogger suggested this was an Apple issue. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ambitious Project

I've been mulling in my brain a way to identify all of the figures in the basement in a way that is unobtrusive but still visible. The first thing I considered is the simplest: little cardstock "table tents," nothing but the name. Alas, my handwriting is wretched, and I'd have to make hundreds of these; the last one would be illegible. So if I printed them with the label maker, they'd be legible and I could make the text narrower to take up less space.

 Options #1 and #2

I would love to include the first appearance info with the name. Maybe with the cover image...

Options #3 and #4 -- Finally! An appropriate use for Comic Sans!

Of the two, I like the one on the right with the cover image the best, but that's getting kinda big. The cover is only 2 inches high and too small to read details, but it is nifty to have that there. Cover only?

Option #5

Sort of minimalist. I reduced the size to an inch and a half, so it's really hard to read. I do like this minimal approach, but it's too hard to see the cover info, even if I took it back up to 2 inches. Plus, not all of the figures are from comic books, so I'd need to find something like DVD covers to use for those, and that still leaves a few out. How would I use this method for the Jungle Girl Bettie Page?

Another issue, possibly the most important is that cardstock is light, and apt to blow around making it really hard to keep the right label with the figures. Using a small base, sort of like I did with the cover above, but longer and flatter, then I could go with the third option which has the cool info even if it doesn't have the cover.

No matter how I decide to do this, it's going to be a fabulous amount of work. There are 359 figures in my collection currently, most of them are displayed. (Six of them were purchased during my Canadian Spring Break. Woo-hoo!) That's a lotta labeling...