New Year’s resolution: Read a bazillion comic books

I was looking some old posts from an earlier incarnation of this blog and found this New Year’s resolution post from January 23, 2018. This is basically my resolution every year, so? Still relevant. Today is not a great day for me, so instead of writing something new, here’s what I was reading in 2013!

Drawing of Sonic the Hedgehog

Witness my awesome drawing skills circa 1998.

I started 2013 out by reading a comic book every day for the first seven days. After that I dug into some thicker comics and broke my streak, but I’m still pretty much reading comics every day.

And it is freaking awesome.

Not to get all nostalgic, but when I was a kid my brother and I had a ton of Sonic the Hedgehog comics, and we read them over and over again. I still have all of them, but some of them are so well read the covers are falling off. Others are a little stained.

Those marks aren’t a sign of carelessness, but a sign of love. I took issues into school with me and “perfected” my Sonic drawing abilities (as you can well see!). My friend A. and I would play Sonic and Knuckles at recess and during sleepovers (where we also made it our missions to make as big a mess as possible and perhaps get into some minor trouble along the way).

I was never one of those kids who grew out of reading comics, I just switched from Sonic to Star Wars and a few select superhero titles (Batman and Catwoman, mostly), and then eventually to DC Vertigo titles like Sandman and Hellblazer. I read lots of manga as a teenager, too (and yes, I still do read lots of manga).

My current favorite series is far and away Bill Willingham’s Fables. I’m waiting for the next trades to come out, and in the meantime, sinking my eyeballs into Hellboy, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Frank Miller’s the Life and Times of Martha Washington, and more. (Note from 2018: Fables is over now and I AM SO SO SAD, but now D.J. is reading it which is so exciting because I know things that he doesn’t yet! And his guesses are so very wrong! I am a mean partner!)

Despite my nearly paralyzing fear of zombies (seriously, no joke, I am fucking terrified of zombies), I think I’m even going to try reading The Walking Dead. I keep hearing such great things about it, but we’ll see if I can read it. Ugh. Zombies. (Note from 2018: I tried. I lasted ten pages. NOPE NOPE NOPE)

But Hellboy? The Deadenders? Kill Shakespear? The Unwritten? Now those are some titles I can get behind (as in my face behind the book, reading it) without running away screaming or having awful nightmares as a consequence of a single glimpse. (Like, don’t even ask me how I reacted to reading a few pages of Marvel Zombies. Just don’t even.)

#FridayReads July 1, 2016

fridayreads16.07.01

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley: A bittersweet novel that avoids all the “man’s best friend” cliches and reminds why we love dogs so much, even though we outlive them.

Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino: An informative, no-nonsense book about the how, what, where, and when of getting seen online and, to a lesser degree, in print.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson: A quirky comic about a girl who wants to become a sidekick to her favorite villain.

Morning Glories Volume 9 by Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma, and Rodin Esquejo: The continuing adventures of a group of students held prisoner by their teachers and their efforts to figure out exactly what the school is and what their teachers are up to, and to escape.

What’s on your currently reading shelf this week?

#FridayReads: Bitch Planet

BitchPlanet_vol1-1Title: Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
Author: Kelly Sue Deconnick (script), Valentine De Landro (covers/art), Robert Wilson IV (art on issue 3), Cris Peter (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2015
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 136
ISBN: 978-1632153661
List Price: $9.99

As a card-carrying, ardent feminist, Bitch Planet is the best thing since sliced bread (and I do love me some bread). The entire comic is a giant fuck you to the patriarchy. In fact, every time someone reads Bitch Planet, a misogynist gets permanent erectile dysfunction.

Are you non-compliant? Do you fit in your box? Are you too fat, too thin, too loud, too shy, too religious, too secular, too prudish, too sexual, too queer, too black, too brown, too whatever-it-is-they’ll-judge-you-for-today?

You just may belong on… BITCH PLANET.

That’s the back copy, and it’s a great summary of what’s inside. Women of all colors, shapes, and sizes who stand up for themselves and fight the system, even though it’s grinding them into the ground.

Or, in this case, sending them to an entirely different planet, where they are imprisoned for their non-compliance. Things like “seduction and disappointment” and “patrilineal dishonor” and “unpermitted birth” and being a “bad mother.”

You’ll notice, though, that these are all things women have gotten into trouble for in reality, whether they’ve been jailed, assaulted, or outright murdered for their “crimes,” which amount to having a uterus and not feeling bad about it.

There’s so much social commentary in this comic, I’m not even sure where to start, so, let’s start with the future dystopian world we’re dealing with here.

In Bitch Planet, the political system has institutionalized patriarchy to the extent that those in power are called “Fathers,” and they exert total control over the world (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Any friend or family member can report a woman for non-compliance, and there aren’t any trials.

Citizens are required to watch the Feed, which is essentially the Fathers’ propaganda channel. Instead of looking at ratings or the number of people watching, they measure “engagement,” which is how many people are actually interested in what they’re watching.

And that’s where the story picks up. Engagement is down, and the Fathers want to bring it back up. One man has a possible solution—getting a female team of prisoners from Bitch Planet to play in the Megaton, a brutal sport that’s similar to football.

The catch, of course, is that no one expects the women to win. Indeed, the way the Fathers hope to get engagement up is from the actual deaths of the athletes.

And our main character, Kamau Kogo, knows it. Kamau is a kick-ass black lady with a giant Afro who knows her way around martial arts and doesn’t know the meaning of compliance. She befriends other women on Bitch Planet who feel the same way she does, and together they decide to take on the challenge not because they want to win, but because it will give them a chance to take down some of the Fathers directly.

Volume one ends before the actual sporting event begins, but there’s still plenty of intrigue and action. And that brings us back to the social commentary.

Bitch Planet is essentially an allegory for what women deal with today. We are judged on everything, especially our physical appearances, and always found lacking. If we are bold and assertive at work we get called bitches. If we aren’t assertive we get called hyper-sensitive and overly emotional. If we don’t look like porn stars with perfectly shaved snatches and giant perky tits, we get teased for being fat, flat-chested, and worse.

In Deconnick and De Landro’s world, these “failings” are actual crimes, and women go to jail for them. It’s no different than reality, really. No, we aren’t all in a physical prison, but there’s that pesky glass ceiling and all of those societal expectations keeping us in line (well, some of us).

But this book isn’t just RAWR WOMEN. The characters are fully-developed, three-dimensional people, and their relationships with each other are complex. It’s not just women vs. men, either. One of the primary antagonists is a woman, and while we don’t learn too much about her in this first volume, there’s definitely a story there, and I can’t wait to read it.

The men running Bitch Planet get a running commentary throughout, in the form of little panels off to the side. Their asides mirror the way men (and other women) feel the need to comment on women’s appearances, either positively or negatively. These men aren’t evil—they definitely show some compunctions over their jobs, but they are doing what they feel is “right.”

The back matter at the end of each issue is also full of commentary, and this time the target is the comics industry itself. The back matter features “ads” for junk products similar to the muscle-building programs and spy kits you see in comics from the 1960s and 70s.

Surprise insight! Scientific obfuscation really works. Imagine—you put on the “X Ray” Specs and hold his hand in front of you. You SEEM to be able to look right through him and see the truth! That guy in the black Taurus who followed you home? Is that really insecurity you “see” beneath his clothes? Or is it a gun? Is he probably going to murder you?

LOADS OF LAUGHS AND FUN AT PARTIES.

The fake ad is so depressingly true, it blows by funny and lands squarely in the land of irony. All to often, women are followed, and parties are one of the prime places women are sexually assaulted (and then blamed for it).

And, of course, there’s the whole “comic books are for boys” thing that is, unfortunately, still an issue today.

Thankfully, Deconnick and De Landro are here to say, “Fuck that shit.”

So, if you have lady parts, or you like people who have lady parts, read Bitch Planet.

Down with the patriarchy!