comics

Alt.Fiction 2012

So, Alt.Fiction happened. 

And it was good. No, seriously good.

While some worried about the unfortunate sandwich effect created by Eastercon and the start of the LBF, it didn’t seem to have caused too many problems: there was a great atmosphere and a good attendance (a little too good, in some cases – but more of that later).

I got to Leicester on Friday night, having met up with Will Hill, Tom Pollock and Lizzie Barrett on the way, and we collectively endured the most stressful train journey I think I’ve ever had… (a big “nul points” to the grumpy woman who caused a big fuss about her seat in our carriage) but it was fine. Honestly. Fine.

Friday evening saw a bit of socialising and an impromptu cinema trip, and then it was all about Alt.Fiction.

The 10am SFF non-fiction panel which I was on along with Tom, and Anne Perry of Pornokitsch, had a slight hiccup when our moderator was delayed – but Jared Shurin heroically stepped in with only a few minutes’ warning. It ended up being a very interesting discussion covering everything from the importance of research in fiction (and whether there’s such a thing as too much of it), to reviews and the responsibility of reviewers in how they handle issues like subtext, via steampunk, Jules Verne, hard SF, Werner Herzog and alternate histories.

As an aside, if anyone who was there wants to read the Michael Marshall Smith story I mentioned towards the end, it’s called “The Good Listener”, and you can find it here. There’s also a podcast of it here.

My next panel was “New Writers”, along with Tom Pollock (again. I like panels with him, because he uses big words and says terribly clever insightful things, so as long as he always speaks first I can just nod and sagely say, “Yeah. What Tom said….”) and Emma Newman and Vincent Holland-Keen. We were ably wrangled by Jon Weir, who was fantastic and made us all look like we knew what we were doing. No small feat, in my case.

The panels I went to were interesting: by far and away my favourite was the panel on comics which was as engaging as it was entertaining, and very good indeed. I was particularly impressed by Emma Vieceli – and even more so by her art! Her book is absolutely gorgeous, and although I’ve only just had time to flip through it I’m very much looking forward to reading it properly. You should all go out and buy it immediately.

The genre television panel was slightly frustrating in that it got very caught up in the technical aspects of programming, as opposed to discussion as viewers. I would have liked to see more debate about solid, long-running genre shows like Buffy or BSG or Supernatural or Dark Shadows (particularly the latter, given that Adam Christopher was on the panel) but was very taken with Alasdair Stuart’s ideas about “parachuting” cast members of existing shows into franchised versions in different countries.

Saturday evening involved an absolutely lovely dinner where I laughed so hard I actually cried and had a huge amount of fun, then drinks in the hotel bar, which were just the right level of noisy and silly. Sunday was a quieter day, with people drifting off to panels or towards home with the usual resolutions to do nothing but sleep for a week.

Everyone always says it’s the people who make conventions a good or bad experience, and this one doubly proved that. The whole atmosphere was so easy-going that everyone relaxed. The layout of the venue also meant that everyone was (largely) in the same space – although arguably some of the panels were in the wrong rooms: the smallest room always had more people trying to get in than could, while several of the panels in the larger rooms had relatively few attendees. Name tags would have been nice, too, as would some more volunteers to keep participants organised – but these are minor niggles and easily corrected next time around.

And yes: there will be a next time around. Alt.Fiction 2013 has already been announced; tentatively scheduled for the third weekend in May next year. It’s already in my diary…

Huge thanks, of course, go to everyone involved in organising the weekend: it was a big success, and rightly so.

And thanks to the people who made the weekend so memorable for me – in no particular order: Tom Pollock, Lizzie Barrett, Will Hill, Andrew Reid, Paul Cornell, Tom Hunter, Adam Christopher, Alasdair Stuart, Jon Weir, Nadine Holmes, Tom Fletcher, Anne Lyle, Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane and a lot more people I just know I’ve left out….

Wonders & Marvels

I spent New Year’s Eve with a superhero. No, really. And try not to make comments about Other Half–you’ll only encourage him.

No, I finally got round to seeing Captain America: The First Avenger. And it was good.

 

 

So good, in fact, that I think it’s just edged out Iron Man as my second-favourite of the Marvel superhero movies. (The latter lost the top spot to Thor pretty much as soon as I realised Thor is essentially Henry V with +1 added hero-muscles and less mud… Although now I think about it, there is actually some mud going on in there, isn’t there?)

 

 

Anyway. Yes. Captain America good.

The most interesting thing about all this is that of all the comic-book heroes, these were probably the three I’ve always been the least interested in. Thor’s appeal generally only went as far as the use of Viking mythology, and I really wasn’t fussed about Captain America at all. Dude with shield, right? Big whoop.

So consider me corrected. And here’s a question: which of the recent Marvel heroes has surprised you the most? Have there been any that you really weren’t too interested in, but came away loving? What about the way their stories were handled, and how do you think they’ll fit together once the Avengers movie rolls around?

And while you’re thinking about that, I’m going to let the boys go ahead and fight it out for the top spot.

Good boys.

I’ll fetch my popcorn…

 

Moar Wimmin

Comics. Women. Again.

I promise this’ll be the last time I beat this drum for, ooh, at least a week. Honest. Well, honest-ish.

Anyone spot that article in the Guardian about DC and female comics-creators? What does this tell us that we don’t already know? The really fascinating part is the article tucked away on the CBR site, with the audio of the exchange between a fan attending SDCC & Dan DiDio. What I love here is the comments, where everyone is chipping in with names of women DC should hire… big lists of big names.

I’m particularly gratified, too, to see a mention for Womanthology on there (you’ll remember me mentioning that a little while back. If you want to become one of the backers, there’s still time – but not much. They’ve more than reached their target and are now hoping to get enough copies printed to get them into libraries and schools across the US. It’s money well spent).

And, seeing as we’re on the subject, now seems as good a time as any to congratulate the amazing Lauren Beukes, award-strewn author & sloth-wearer extraordinaire, who will write for the Fables spin-off, Fairest. Highly, highly awesome. If it’s anything like her prose, it may just turn out to be the fairest comic of them all.

You see what I did there? Yep. Sorry about that. Still: go Lauren, right?

“Womanthology” all-female comics anthology

I saw this mentioned on Twitter this morning: an anthology “showcasing the works of women in comics. It is created entirely by over 140 women of all experience levels, including top industry professionals.”

The Graphic Novel will majorly consist of many short stories interpreting our theme for this volume; “Heroic”. We’ll also have interviews and how-to’s with some of the industry’s top female pros, as well as talks with young girls who someday want a career in comics.

As I’ve banged on in the past about women in the comics industry, this seems like a perfect opportunity to do something about it. So I’ve backed it. And you should too.

The full list of contributors can be found here.

There’s more information on the website here, and you can get involved in funding it on the Kickstarter site. You can pledge anything from $1… so please, please do. The backing page went live yesterday, and as of this lunchtime, they’re already 65% funded.

So get involved, support the anthology and show the world just what women in comics can really do.

Kill Shakespeare

The cast of "Kill Shakespeare" (c/o Bleedingcool.com)

I didn’t get round to this last night (it’s been a long week…) but I stumbled across a comic “inspired by” Shakespeare’s work: Kill Shakespeare.

The closest thing I can think of to it is Fables: it’s all a bit meta, with Shakespeare being sought out by his several of his characters in an attempt to defeat the forces of evil led by Richard III…

Exactly.

What intrigues me about this is not so much that it’s a straight adaptation, but one which takes Shakespeare as a jumping-off point for the kind of story we more often associate with comics–the website bills it as full of:

action, romance, comedy, lust, drama and bloody violence.

You had me at “Shakespeare”.

Obviously, I’m a little sad that the creative team looks to be an all-male one, (plus ca change, right?) but I’m curious as to what they do with their main female characters: Lady Macbeth and Juliet… who survives the events of “Romeo & Juliet” and apparently turns ninja-rebel-warrior-badass. Fingers crossed.

Read more about it here, and here.

Comics for Girls II (or: We Are Woman. See Us Draw)

I threatened, didn’t I? And I do make good on my threats (even the ones involving sledgehammers. Especially the ones involving sledgehammers). So here’s a round-up of a few things I’ve come across re: women and comics.

Eden, who writes the Comicsgirl blog, left me this link in her comment on my earlier post: an interview with Hope Larson & Raina Telgemeier, the authors of “Mercury” and “Smile” respectively. Incidentally, I’ve seen both of these being talked about as great examples of both female-written comics (with female protagonists) and as very well-written comics, regardless of the gender involved… ticking plenty of boxes.

Hope also conducted her own survey on girls & comics (bearing in mind she’s a YA author, the results are probably slightly skewed towards the mid-teens) which bears out a lot of what we all suspected anyway: that girls care about characters (but not to the exclusion of art), that they want to see more strong, female protagonists, that they need to feel welcome in the comics community–and that the extreme attitude towards women in mainstream comics needs to change. Interestingly, the survey also picked up that a lot of teen girls don’t really have anything more than a peripheral awareness of comics. The full thing–complete with Hope’s caveats–is here.

See also the great interview with Hope on the topic here: She Has No Head!

Onwards.

Geekmom’s post on women in comics looks at the template for the comic-book princess. Her theory is that they’re hard to find unless you adjust the pattern slightly, and stop looking for stereotypical fairy-tale princess figures, and instead look for superhero princesses. In other words, take Wonder Woman as your exemplar and you’re away:

Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince is actually Princess Diana of Themyscira. But wasn’t her status as a princess that made Diana the ambassador to the outside world. It’s her physical and mental toughness in a tournament that leads to her becoming a hero for all the world.

In other words, while she’s a princess, she’s also a warrior woman.

And this seems to be the template followed by most other superhero princesses.

They come from all over the Earth, from galactic kingdoms, and from far-flung fantasy worlds but none of them seem to be waiting for Prince Charming.

Instead, they’re all fierce defenders of their friends and their countries.

What I learned about super heroine princesses is that they will kick your butt, especially if you happen to be an evil overlord.

Gin & Comics comes at it from an altogether different angle, but nonetheless raises a valid point–that of merch. And he’s right: why should I be stuck with baby-pink tees with characters I don’t care about as my only options? (I should point out that I’m not above nicking my husband’s Silver Surfer t-shirt, but wouldn’t it be nice if I could get a shirt that featured Deadpool, or Gambit, or any of the other characters that apparently Girls Don’t Like)

An interesting blog post over here, on the “5 Worst Things to Happen to Women in Comics in 2010” (as well as, to be a little less doomy, the 5 Best). It’s a little more character-focused, maybe, but there’s some valid points.

A quick shout-out to the Ladies Making Comics Tumblr site as well as to the Laydeez Do Comics graphic-novel reading group (London-based). And I can’t miss out Selina Lock’s Girly Comic while we’re here, nor can I pass on the brilliant blog & website of Susie Cagle, which has just made me smile bigly.

It’s not entirely related, but it ties in with a different post I made on here a couple of days ago about The Vampire Diaries (and specifically the contrast between the female characters in the TV show compared to the books): yesterday, Alex Bell did her own post, and it’s a very good one indeed.

Thanks to everyone who commented and left me links: if I’ve missed something relevant, nudge me and I’ll update. I should add that I found several of these articles via the Fridge Dispatch site, which has been invaluable and comes highly recommended by moi (like that counts for anything…)

And yes, I know I’ve posted the Danger Maiden “Geek & Gamer Girls” video before, (and I accept it doesn’t exactly bring any sensible discussion to the table) but I like it, and you can’t be serious all the time…

fe

Sister-Stories

First of all, I want to say thanks to everyone who commented on the rambling musings about women in the comics industry I posted yesterday. There were some really interesting points raised: things I hadn’t necessarily ever thought about and things I’ve thought about plenty of times and still can’t get my head around.

One idea I have been batting around is something that came out of Comicsgirl‘s comment, which I sort of got going on in my reply. It was a question of whether women are possibly more noticeable on the indie side of the comics industry because of the relative narrative (or artistic) freedom afforded by a smaller press environment, away from the juggernauts of DC or Marvel or Dark Horse. Are women drawn to different stories and different ways of telling them from those offered by the big players?

This isn’t just a comics question either: you can expand it to encompass all literature… all art. I remember discussing a couple of Kathryn Bigelow‘s films with a (female) friend a while back–probably just after The Hurt Locker won the Oscar–and her reaction surprised me. She said she didn’t understand why a woman would want to tell stories which were so fundamentally rooted in violence, because that’s not what we’re about. I’m still not quite sure what the right response to that is, but it feels somehow relevant to the discussion of women in the comics industry–particularly the mainstream.

Is it true, I wonder, or–accepting it’s a monstrous generalisation aside–is this a question we even need to think about? Ever seen that shelf in a bookshop: “Women’s Literature”? What is that, exactly? Books for, by or about women–or all three? What differentiates it from just plain old bog-standard “Literature”?

Amanda over at Floor to Ceiling Books covered the idea of sexism in publishing in a post yesterday, and brought up a recent online discussion of women in SF which opens the debate up even further: if we go back to the question of whether women want to tell different stories, is this simply a case of SF being less appealing to women–or, like Margaret Atwood, do they see their stories as being “beyond” the genre? As a card-carrying Friend of Geek, I can’t help but think this is going to twist my noodle round another half-inch–so much so that I’m probably going to take a day or two to think about it, and work out whether I should be activating the Fem-Rage.

In the meantime, I’m going to go read a comic. Well, it’s either that or a bit of Germaine Greer….