Moving to!

The title says it all…we’ve finally got a domain! We’ll be leaving this blog up so any old links can still find their way here, but from now on we’ll be posting at Please remember to update your RSS feeds, then come on over and say hello.

Girls Read Comics

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Female Friendships: Image Not Found?

I like to read comics about girl friendships. I’ll admit that as a blanket statement that sounds both absurd and really broad, but it’s the truth. I like to see my favourite female characters, hanging out, being friends or colleagues and pretty much having a good time. I was reading the first issue of Captain America and the Secret Avengers, which featured Natalia Romanova and Sharon Carter being their fabulous selves. There was banter and saving the day and getting dressed up and having just a normal (or as normal as it could be) friendship.

And you know what? I loved it.

I almost didn’t want to finish it because I didn’t know when there might be another chance. It seems like the women in comics (as well as in a lot of other media) are put there for romantic relationships first, everything else second. Female friendships seem to suffer when put next to a romantic relationship (regardless of what sort of romantic pairing it is).

Before I get too deep into this, I suppose that I should state for the record that I am mostly talking about Marvel. My knowledge of DC is largely limited in its scope and so I don’t know enough about it to really say anything other than from my perspective is that it doesn’t seem to be as lacking over there as it is in Marvel. However I am more than willing to be proven wrong which is why I want to state that I view this post as a start of a discussion.

I wonder, am I alone in my wanting for this? I can’t be the only one who gets excited over the prospect of an all-girl team that proves that they are as bad-ass (if not more so) than the boys? I can name a few books that feature such set ups in DC, but when I go to look for something in Marvel I tend to come up wanting. Of course there was Marvel Divas which seemed like an attempt to have Female Heroes (or Antiheroes) join together and bond, but it got sappy and ridiculous in a hurry. It was struck me as less about their friendship and more about their broken love lives with a side of girl bonding. There was the short run of Women of Marvel, which I enjoyed greatly but even that had less to do with friendship and more to do with women doing their own thing. I loved it because I got to see some of my favourite ladies in action, but didn’t really feature that witty-banter-while-we-save-the-day sort of thing that I also love.

Is it too much to ask for? Am I looking in all the wrong places or missing something obvious? I hope I am, but after finishing Captain America and the Secret Avengers #1 all I wanted to do was hunt down Sharon and Natalia hanging out, being fabulous and not worrying what their boyfriends might be up to. I want a title that has Sharon, Natalia and Bobbie Morse hanging out, being the spies and using their sarcasm as weapons.

But I am just one woman, so what do the rest of you think? Is there some insane gap in my knowledge (likely yes there is). What do you all say?

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Teenage Satan!

There’s been a lot of buzz on the internet about Teenage Satan lately.  From their surprise announcement at Boston Comic Con (and the party of the year, from what I hear), to coverage on Newsarama and iFanboy, there are a lot of people interested in this all-female creator-owned project.  I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Marsha Cooke and Stephanie Buscema, two thirds of the creative team behind Teenage Satan.

Who is Teenage Satan? 

MC: Teenage Satan, real name Luc Satan, is the 14 year old son of Lucifer and Jezebel Satan. He had been homeschooled up until this point, but it’s time he got some real world experience and start real school in September. He’s a freshman (grade 9).

He’s a mama’s boy, sensitive and caring, and not prepared at all for the trials of high school life.

SB: Teenage Satan (Luc), is a rockin’ little demon, son of Lucifer and Jezebel and the next in line to take over the family business, which is running things down in hell. He’s just starting his new life in public school, after being home schooled by his mom for years. He’s adorable, creepy, awkward and a bit geeky. He’s someone we can all relate to in one way or another.

Who came up the idea?  Was it collaborative or was it one of you, and how did you approach the others?

MC: I came up with the initial premise, fleshed it out with Candis, and then we approached Stephanie.  Once the three of us were a set team, we put the world together.

SB: Marsha came to me with the idea last year, she gave me a list of characters, settings, and a description of the project. I fell in love with it! I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a project that would allow me endless creative freedom so this was the perfect opportunity. I started sketching and painting what came into my head and the rest is history.

What made you decide on the style?  It’s beautiful and retro, and I love it, but was it just a natural fit or did you have other ideas before settling on this? 

SB: It just kind of happened. I had a list of the characters from the girls with brief descriptions for each, I just took it and ran with it. Whatever came into my head went right on the paper.

MC: Stephanie’s art has a timeless quality – her monsters are both terrifying and cute at the same time. Her imagination is a natural match for anything Hell themed, which I think (hope) was part of the reason she chose to jump on board.

One of the things I love about this, is that is going to be available as an app and the many facets of it.  Was that something you always wanted, or was that something that happened secondarily?

SB:  This was all Marsha’s genius! She has some amazing ideas as far as the app goes, I was just blown away when she initially approached me about it. It’s not only a comic, it’s a whole experience. I feel that delivering the content digitally is a great way to get the content in to everyone’s hands. More importantly, it’s a great way to get comics into the hands of teens!

MC: Digital with games was always the goal. I was addicted to Angry Birds, I’ve seen everyone fight for rankings on Bejeweled Blitz. Everyone wants to escape into something fun, even for 2 minutes. With 666oduko, a word jumble or a jigsaw puzzle, you are taken away from your private hell, for a minute of escapist fun. Everything is so serious now, we really want to reinforce the concept of fun – it’s been gone for so long no one remembers fun anymore

Who is your favourite character within in the comic?  And who do you think will surprise us?

MC:  My favourite character is Jezebel – I love that she’s always happy and helpful. Nick and Nicki’s twisted relationship is going to develop through out the run into something special, but only in a few creepy ways.

For updates, check out the website or follow TeenageSatan666 on twitter!  Otherwise, you’ll have to wait with the rest of us until September for this awesome new project to come to fruition.  Or, if you’re at Heroes Con go by and say hi, I have it on good authority that they’ll be there.

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Question of the Month: Who is your favorite sidekick?

It’s the second of our nearly monthly questions that we pose to the GRCT crew.  We’d love to hear what you think, or your thoughts on what we think too!

Question: Sidekicks form an important part of the comic world.  Who is your favourite sidekick and why?

Dee: I had a really hard time with this one.  My two favourite sidekicks — one an old favourite and one new — are both amazing.  So, because I’m a bit frustrating that way, I’m going to cover them both.

Lockheed, sidekick of Kitty Pryde

I don’t know how much more dedicated a companion can get than following them back from space. Lockheed does just this, and the relationship he develops with Kitty is a deep and complex one.  He’s more than a pet, his empathic nature meaning they understand each other.  His ability to speak and knowledge of languages is something that was debated for a long time, and while he can speak he rarely does.  More importantly, he’s a friend to Kitty.  Even when it’s shown that he’s been working for SWORD, it’s Kitty that’s the most important thing to him, and her loss changes him completely. He regrets his mistakes, and shows remorse, working with Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers.

Lockheed is powerful, extremely so.  His fire breathing is very powerful, he’s unable to be read by telepaths, and his knowledge of languages and empathy means he can communicate with nearly any species should he want to.  But, with all of that power, he chose to stay with Kitty.  He stayed with his friend, and when she’s gone, regrets her loss.

Atlee, the third Terra, friend of Power Girl

A teenaged girl with the power to control the earth, and yet no experience in dealing with those that live on the surface of it.  At first it seems a strange person to team with Power Girl who’s experienced so much.  But Terra’s naivete doesn’t mean she’s an idealist, and she’s worked hard to get the whole superhero thing down.  If anything, she reminds Power Girl just what is great about being on earth as she discovers it herself, and her optimism is infectious.  The two make a great team, and whilst neither of them truly needs a partner power-wise, they both need a friend.  

Emma: These days I’m not really much of a fan of the idea of “sidekicks” because it implies that their narrative is secondary to someone else’s and so it suggests a denial of their agency (although that is not always the case). With that said, I feel like there is only one honest answer I could give; Robin. Conceived of as a viewpoint character for young readers, the role has gone on to do just that for several generations of readers who not only got to imagine themselves alongside Batman, but watched as their particular Robin grew up to take on their own independent identity and become stars in their own right.

Dick Grayson went on to become Nightwing and eventually Batman only to have to babysit for Bruce. Jason Todd shoots people and wears layered masks or a bucket on his head, typically doing flips and shit as the Red Hood when he isn’t sleeping with Bruce’s baby mama. Tim Drake became the third Dr. Midnite, did not get an owl as part of the deal, and continues to be a popular target for bricks and severed heads (with grenades stuffed in their mouths). Stephanie Brown went on to not be dead, became Batgirl, continues to rep the eggplant and use Tim’s head for target practice. She is currently inexplicably estranged from her significant other- Blackbat- and may be seeing Supergirl on the side. Damian Wayne is just Robin so far, but whatever he goes on to do will probably have something to do with kittens.

Lina: So I am theoretically meant to follow Emma, who might’ve just given the best answer to the question. Oh well, I’ll try my hardest to follow that up and we can see where it goes. I have the hardest time discerning what exactly a “sidekick” is. I blame this thoroughly on my overactive imagination and my tendency to gravitate towards characters who (at least at the start) are tertiary. Does not being the title character or the main villain make them a sidekick? I have no idea, but I’ll say who I think best fits into this mould.

After a lot of thought I’m going to have to say that one of my favourite sidekicks would be Lockjaw of the Inhumans. He’s more than just a pet, he’s royalty and managed to head-up one of my favourite (if not utterly absurd) short-run series of the past year (re: Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers). He’s a psychic dog and is totally amazing, even if he sometimes bumbles into things that he shouldn’t. Like when he told the rest of the world about Attilan. Probably not the best PR move, but it happened. He tracked down Black Bolt, he saves the day and is every bit a character in his own right (the dog has super-strength AND psychic powers).

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Review: Thor

Chris Hemsworth as ThorI managed to catch a screening of Thor at my local theater this past weekend. To be honest, back when they first started promoting Thor (way back before Iron Man 2, if my memory serves), I figured that it’d be the movie out of Marvel’s whole Avengers line-up that I really only saw to complete the set. You’ve got to see all of the movies leading up to Avengers to get the full picture, so I’d be forking over $10 for the greater good. I’ve never read a Thor comic, and the closest I’ve even come is reading bits of New Avengers, and he’s not even around for most of that. Admittedly, I went in knowing absolutely nothing about Thor, except he’s got a hammer, he’s a god of some type and that Chris Hemsworth is a very, very pretty man.

Hey, I’m allowed to be at least a little superficial here.

Spoilers for Thor, and for the post-credits scene, after the jump.
Continue reading

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The Anatomy of a Geek Girl: Dicks and False Dichotomies

When I wrote “Do You,” I wanted to specifically avoid centering my voice and experiences in fandom since it was meant as a response to specific attacks against women who are not me, but with that done I can get back to talking about myself. Am I kidding? Who knows! But let’s get down to brass tacks. “Boobs” was a big word the other day and I’m sure that some genital based slang got thrown around too somewhere. Which is a perfectly fine word to self identify with if you’ve got a pair whether they’re the ones you were born with, added later, or are detachable.

What isn’t fine is defining women as the owners of breasts and vaginas, whatever clever euphemism you’re using. Not all women have both or either (and not all who do identify as female), for any of a number of different reasons. I- for example- am a trans woman who does not particularly enjoy being erased, even as part of a misogynistic diatribe. When I hinted at there being other intersections of privilege and oppression at work in female geek circles, that was one of the herd of elephants. Just like how the vast majority of cisgender female geeks would prefer to be accepted and included as equal participants, so to do trans* geeks of the full spectrum of gender identities.

The other part I wanted to bring up is that I really want to make it as clear as possible that there is no “debate” or “other side” to the issue of women lashing out at other women as a consequence of internalized misogyny. It’s not a valid question to ask if and how women should self identify in geek circles. It’s not up for discussion. What is up for discussion is dismantling the attitudes and behaviors that lead to this kind of incident. Any time that you set out to police another woman’s identity or choices that are not doing demonstrable harm to anyone else, you are immediately in the wrong. I really am not trying to hear anything about allegedly obnoxious behavior by this or that group of female geeks. There are Buffys and Cordelias, Rainbow Dashes and Raritys. Neither one is inherently better than the other.

The point of the “Do You” philosophy is that you let other people self determinate to the same degree that you expect from them. I was on the bus a few hours after posting up “Do You and Other Words of Wisdom” flipping through the comments from my phone while on the bus to work and several girls got on the bus chattering away about pokemon, anime, and about a dozen other topics in the span of about five minutes. They certainly weren’t operating at my frequency, but they were engaging with each other in a positive way and that’s really all that mattered. So the next time you see something that irks you in fandom, take a second to really examine where that feeling comes from. Are they actually taking away from your (or anyone else’s) ability to engage respectfully, or are they just operating on a different frequency?

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Single Ladies [Put A Utility Belt On It] Part 2: Cassandra Cain

Cassandra Cain as Batgirl (II) by James Jean

In considering Cassandra Cain, a significant deviation needs to be made from how I was able to analyze Barbara Gordon. Babs’ life easily conforms to both the conventions of western literature and to the ideals of (white) western feminism so my task was hardly more difficult than stitching together the most significant events of her life and superimposing them against the framework of conventional femininity. For Cassandra to be properly understood, a complete reinterpretation of her is necessary because of a basic lack of understanding of the difference between sex and gender on the part of her original creators.

What gets focused on both in the text and the fandom at large about Cassandra’s childhood is that she was raised in seclusion by her father- David Cain- without being taught to read, write, or speak; she was only taught to fight and kill. The part that gets overlooks is that Cassandra was never assigned a gender at birth, based on her sex or otherwise. While never recognized or expounded on in the text, Cassandra is what queer, trans*, and intersex circles would refer to as UAAB (Unassigned at Birth) in contrast to either MAAB (Male Assigned At Birth) or FAAB (Female Assigned At Birth). From her birth until she was taken in by Bruce and Babs, Cassandra had no concept of gender and thus no fixed gender identity until she was (unknowingly) coercively assigned female by Bruce when he named her Batgirl.

Which doesn’t close the book on Cassandra’s gender identity because it doesn’t account for her self image, a particularly tricky thing to pick out from the incredibly exaggerated depictions of gender in superhero comics. While there’s little to suggest that Cassandra could be transmasculine as she has never challenged or rejected the assumption that she is female beyond the point that she could be reasonably assumed to understand the concept of gender (as discreet from sex), there’s also just as little to suggest that she does in fact internally identify as female. I’m not entirely ruling out the possibility that Cassandra is transmasculine, but my opinion is that her gender identity is non binary or gender neutral.

One of the biggest clues supporting a non binary or neutral gender identity is her original costume. The tendency to draw her with much bigger and more prominent breasts than is realistic or probable notwithstanding, she immediately removed all of the clues to not just her identity but her gender as well from a costume and a legacy that has in every other iteration firmly and intentionally communicated femininity. Cassandra is the only one of the Batgirls or Batwomen who wore no visible make up while in costume nor hair (real or otherwise) spilling out the back of her cowl. The other is that Cassandra has never presented as femme unless directed or coerced into it by a third party. She appears to have absolutely no interest in influencing what gender people read her as.

Interestingly enough, Cassandra’s androgyny seems to expose the sexism of the batfamily; most notably in how differently Bruce, Tim, and Damian treat her relative to Stephanie. Typically, any criticisms or concerns about Cassandra were voiced in terms of her being dangerous, unpredictable, or uncontrollable while the vast majority of criticism leveled at Stephanie as Spoiler, Robin, and Batgirl have been gendered- especially Tim’s brutal manipulations and Damian’s misogynist tirades.

Unfortunately an accurate analysis and extrapolation of Cassandra’s gender identity cannot  progress far beyond a rough sketch because her primary struggle has been for agency, something that she’s rarely been able to achieve and maintain for long. All things considered, I can’t help but think that despite the fact that Tim Drake was in the role at the time, Cassandra was better suited to be the first regular continuity FAAB Robin than to follow in Babs’ footsteps to become the second Batgirl.

What the continued failure to slow down and explore the nuances of Cassandra’s identity beyond her capacity to kill and value as a living weapon exposes is how blind mainstream writers and much of the readership are to the critical difference between sex and gender. Cassandra having been raised without an assigned gender or exposure to socialized gender norms should not lead the reader to the conclusion that gender is purely a social construction, but rather created the potential to explore gender as a pure, innate expression of self that sits at the core of her character like a black hole.

As it currently stands, I believe that no one can honestly say that we know very much of anything about Cassandra’s self identity based on her published appearances alone which is a very strange and troubling thing to say about a character who held a solo series for over 70 issues. Cassandra stands as a testament to the fact that the dialogue about gender in mainstream superhero comics must extend beyond improving female representation to the recognition that gender is neither predicated on sex nor a binary.

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