Archive for August, 2010


Yes, Virginia. Women Do Read Comics!

Piggybacking on the International Read Comics in Public Day was Women Read Comics in Public – a photo tumblr created by DC Women Kicking Ass. The site had this to say about the overwhelming turnout:

What a day! So many women have sent in pictures of them reading comics in public, I am not sure I’ve gotten all of them. So if you submitted one and haven’t seen it email me. I am so pleased so many of you took the time to do this. I was scrolling through and I saw such a wide variety of women who all love comics. It kinda got me verklempt. You all rock, you are all awesome and you are the the force needed to keep pushing to make women respected and paid attention to by the comic industry.

DC Women Kicking Ass rocks too for seeing this as an opportunity to show that women actually do read comics – - a fact that the industry increasingly can no longer refute. My hope though is that this isn’t interpreted as “well, women are reading comics so we’ve done our job” but that efforts are made to reach, and more importantly understand, the diverse tastes of female fans and readers.

Like DCWKA, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed when scrolling through the Women Read Comics in Public tumblr. Seeing so many women, of various ages, from all over the world, reading so many different titles and making a statement, I admit, I got a bit verklempt too.

So what did you read in public yesterday?

The Ink-Stained Amazon reads tales of her favorite female hero, Modesty Blaise.

Saturday is International “Read Comics in Public Day” a day designed to show off the number of comics readers ‘round the globe. The writer of DC Women Kicking Ass has taken the idea one step further and encourages women to make a statement with a wonderful “Women Read Comics in Public” project.

This Saturday, if you are a woman who reads comics take your love to the street and show it off by participating in this event. But I had a thought, what if we showed off lots of images of women reading comics in public? . . .To facilitate this I have created a Tumblr “Women Read Comics in Public”. Help me fill it with images of women reading comics from this Saturday’s event. What do to do? Grab a comic, go somwhere public on Saturday, take a picture of you reading it and and send it to me. If you’re not a woman send me a picture of your girlfriend, sister, wife, mom, daughter, or co-worker reading. If you want privacy hold the comic in front of your face. You can send me the pictures by using the submit button on the blog, over Twitter or email it to dcwomenkickingass@yahoo.com.

You can count on me participating! Now . . . what am I going to read?!?!? ;-)

Private eyeful Honey West debuted in 1957’s This Girl for Hire – a novel co-written by husband and wife team Gloria and Forrest Fickling under the pseudonym “G.G. Fickling.”

In addition to the 10 novels Honey appeared in, she was the star of an eponymous television series in the mid-1960s.

Honey West (1965-6)

Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet, The Twilight Zone) featured as the va va voom, tough-cookie, private investigator – and one of the first female action heroes to headline a TV show in the United States.

Va-Va-Voom!

Honey ran her own detective agency. Her arsenal of undercover gadgets included a lipstick microphone, radio transmitters disguised as martini olives, teargas earrings and an exploding compact. She was skilled in martial arts, and in an all-too-rare reversal of gender roles, she had a male sidekick who deferred to her authority. The show only lasted one season – though Francis won a Golden Globe for her role.

Honey is revisited in a new comic series out this month from Moonstone Books. The first two issues are written by comics legend and herstorian, Trina Robbins, and drawn by the extremely talented Cynthia Martin.

Honey West from Moonstone

Issue number one sees Honey (modeled here after the extraordinary Francis) hired by performer Mimi Malloy to investigate who at the sunset strip nightclub she owns is trying to kill her. This means Honey must go undercover as a go-go dancer at . . . The Purple Pussy.

I’m grateful to Trina Robbins for taking the time for an interview!

I know you’ve always been fascinated by strong female protagonists, but how did you come to be involved in creating a Honey West comic?

When Lori Gentile told me that Moonstone had gotten the rights to publish Honey West comic books, and asked me to be one of the writers, I was thrilled. I had loved Honey West when I watched her played so perfectly by Anne Francis on TV in the 60s. At last, a beautiful but tough female private eye! Heaven for this girl raised on Nancy Drew! (And it wasn’t until years later that I knew about the books!)

What inspired you, artist Cynthia Martin, and publisher Moonstone to model the Honey West of the comic after Anne Francis’ appearance instead of an original interpretation?

To me, Anne Francis IS Honey, just the way Lynda Carter IS Wonder Woman. (And the way Irish McCalla IS Sheena!)

Francis, Carter, McCalla

How many issues of the title can we expect to see?

I actually don’t know! Mine is a 2 issue series, and then there will be other writers and artists. Not even sure who all of the writers are, but I know one of them is Elaine Lee, and I LOVED the Galactic Girl Scouts she wrote for DC! I hope the title goes on forever. I for one would like to write more of Honey’s adventures!

Gloria Fickling contributes a personal essay to the back of the issue – how did she come to be involved in the comic? Did she have any say over the story? Is she as cool as she comes across?

Ms Fickling had to approve every story, so I’m so glad she liked mine enough to contribute that essay. I haven’t met her yet, but I am dying to meet her!

What sort of research did you have to do for these issues?

I watched the entire run of TV shows, and read about 4 or 5 Honey West books, including the first one, This Girl for Hire.

Did you watch Honey West when it was first on television? Or read the books when they were first in print?

See above. I gobbled up the TV series, didn’t know about the books at the time.

Why do you think Honey is so appealing? What about her will captivate modern audiences?

I like everything about Honey: her noirish Private Eye toughness is so unique — you never see a woman private eye in those old noir films — and the period during which the TV shows took place, the mid 60s. You can do so much with that period! I think people today are very much into retro (I sure am!), and that’s what Honey is. Also, I tried to capture the sexiness, which is a charming pinuppy retro sexiness, rather than the raw “bad girl” stuff you see in so many comics today. And of course I adore the real hero, Bruce the Ocelot!

Here, Kitty Kitty!

What has been your favorite part of this project?

I really loved scripting it, and then seeing how Cynthia Martin turned my script into a gorgeously drawn comic. Cynthia is one of the best artists in comics today, her work is so luscious I almost can’t stand it! I am so lucky to be able to work with her.

Thanks, Trina!

***

Need more Honey? Here’s an excerpt from Bitch Magazine’s Noir Issue on Honey — written by yours truly.

Goodies from Amazon

Here are some photos of my book signing at this past weekend’s first Ladies Night at the Comics Dungeon in Wallingford. As you’ll notice I’m appropriately dressed in a t-shirt that says “Ladies Night” and has superhero characters on it!

The Ink-Stained Amazon at Ladies Night!

Female Characters & Creators

Chicks, Comics and Cookies is a recipe for Awesome Sauce!

It was great to meet and hang out with so many geeky women! Much thanks to everyone involved, especially owners Scott and Lainie Tomlin and manager Chris Casos.

More photos can be found at the Dungeon’s Facebook Page

If anyone has video or photos of the Where are the Action Chicks? panel I’d love to see it!

Here is the first hour of the Action Chicks panel – hopefully someone has the last 30 minutes! If you do, please let me know! Please keep in mind that this was recorded with a flip, so the sound isn’t great. And the camera is a little shaky – but props to the Hubby for holding it up for an hour!!!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Hello my Geek Peeps! The Amazon is still recovering/meeting deadlines (and yes, unpacking and finding the perfect places for new toys) post Comic-Con. So until I can get my own recaps up of great panels, girl geeks you should know, con swag, and most embarrassing geek moments, here is a round-up to keep you informed and satisfied in the meantime!

The Geek Girls Network reports on their Geek Girls Exist panel. This was a standing room only event – held on a Thursday, no less. Good news for those of us seeking more female-driven content at Cons. As I recently wrote, “Us Grrrl Geeks have to stick together – – especially if we want to make sure that there continues to be content at the Con, and within popular culture and entertainment media, that reflects OUR desires, interests, and fantasies.”

The Beat provides a thorough recap of True Blood at Comic-Con. They suggest that True Blood is a massive scale fan fic take on the Sookie Stackhouse series. Great observation – totally agree. (Plus love the Godric costume!)

Geek Girl on the Street, friend of The Amazon, has a round-up of interviews and photos from their weekend – including an exclusive chat with yours truly!

The completely adorable Discriminating Fangirl lets us know why we should crush on Ryan Reynolds.

From EW’s Pop Watch, Pacey-Con. I never watched “Dawson’s Creek” but I’m bummed I missed Pacey-Con. If Fringe wasn’t already enough to inspire a crush on Josh Jackson, this would do it.

Bonnie Burton recaps the Her Universe Comic-Con Panel: Focus on Female Fans.

Additionally, photos will continue to be posted to the Ink-Stained Amazon Facebook Page!

One of the many highlights of my trip to Comic-Con 2010 was getting to sit on the Where are the Action Chicks? panel for the Comic Arts Conference.

Moderator and organizer, Katrina Hill asked me to provide a 10 minute history of action heroines in film and television (which I pushed to 13 minutes to include a short video). The script and slides are here for your pleasure, sans special effects, of course. If you’d like to know more, may I suggest a copy of Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology?

A Brief History of Action Heroines in Film and Television for the “Where Are The Action Chicks?” Panel Comic-Con 2010, CAC.

Katrina asked me to provide a 10 minute presentation on the History of Action Heroines in film and television. So keeping in mind that this will be brief, brief, VERY brief, buckle up, and hold on to your hats for “From Helen to Hit-Girl!”

Audiences love Ass-kicking Babes and Gun-toting Warrior Women. And yet, action heroines are O-Ver-Whelm-ing-ly outnumbered by action men.

We know popular culture both reflects and influences social mores. That American women’s roles have evolved, and in fact, female and male roles have changed. Yet many modern hero stories, like those of classic world myth, continue to privilege male experience and fantasy; while women in these stories, regardless of how kick-ass, capable, smart, or skilled they may be, are typically limited to the supporting roles of love interests, temptresses, and sidekicks.

Women, of course, can be these things, but we can also be more.

As the title of this panel rightly asks, “Where are the Action Chicks?”

There were few action heroines in American film and television until the mid-twentieth century. An early example, however, is stuntwoman Helen Holmes, who starred as the eponymous daredevil in the long-running silent film serial The Hazards of Helen. Though the latter films starred Helen Gibson, she was just as noted for her daring as her predecessor.

Jumping forward a few decades – and across the pond – to 1960s era Britain, where Dr. Catherine Gale & Mrs. Emma Peel of the television series, The Avengers, and the unparalleled, Modesty Blaise, proved that popular culture was primed for female adventurers of independence and sexual sophistication.

Honor Blackman starred as Cathy Gale, and at the time, noted that she was a first for television – a feminist academic anthropologist in black boots, leather suits, and who’d kick your ass with judo.

When Blackman left the series to star in the James Bond film, Goldfinger, Diana Rigg was brought in to portray Mrs. Emma Peel. Fashionable, witty, and charming, Mrs. Peel was a delightful intellectual, and could more than hold her own in a fight.

Even when upside down in gravity boots.

She was also the model for the Diana Prince era of Wonder Woman.

Modesty Blaise, was the star of a daily comic strip that ran for nearly forty years, as well as the heroine of 13 books. She was also the subject of one terrible movie and one mediocre one – the less said about these the better. Regardless, Modesty – highly trained, resourceful, compassionate – and the leader of a global crime syndicate before retiring in her mid-20s, remains one of the coolest, most complex, and intriguing characters of all time.

And she has been influential on subsequent action and super heroines.

Honey West was the first female action hero on American television. Anne Francis starred as Honey – a sexy, tough-cookie private investigator that ran her own detective agency and in an all-too-rare reversal of gender roles, had a male sidekick who deferred to her authority.

In the United States, action heroines’ popularity in the late 1960s and through the 1970s was facilitated by second-wave feminism, and the momentum of the political movement afforded kick-ass female characters a timely marketability.

But it was Lynda Carter’s lovely and graceful embodiment of the iconic Wonder Woman that inspired so many of us, to get up out of our seats and twirl along with her as she magically transformed from her alias to her true Amazonian identity.

Joining Wonder Woman were Police Woman, the Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels. Though these action heroines were awesome, television series in the 1970s walked a slippery line between embracing real women’s changing roles and maintaining normative ideas about femininity. Female leads presented conventional notions of beauty: white, athletic, and more often than not, blonde.

In fact, in the 1970s the only action heroine of color in a leading role on television was Teresa Graves’ Christie Love in Get Christie Love.

Some of the most influential, and at the very least memorable, action heroines can be found in unconventional genres. Low-budget and exploitation films in the 1960s and 1970s presented a paradoxical combination of exploitation and empowerment with results that are as repressive as they are subversive.

Tura Satana’s Varla in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the leader of a girl gang, drives fast, knows karate, is empowered sexually, but is essentially a villainess.

Jane Fonda’s Barbarella, is an independent space traveler as secure in exploring the final frontier as she is her sexuality. But our nearly-naked heroine frequently requires rescue.

Mary Woronov starred as bad-ass race car driver Calamity Jane in the cult classic, Death Race 2000. But she dies.

And The Doll Squad – about a group of awesome female commandos – is totally ridiculous.

Blaxploitation films, particularly those of Pam Grier, presented a type of warrior woman never seen before. Her tough, independent heroines protected their communities, with brains as well as guns, and exacted vengeance against those who wronged them or their loved ones.

Blaxploitation is also one of the few places where we find women of color in action heroine roles -

- that is, of course, outside of martial arts cinema.

In the 1980s, conservative politics and media resulted in a backlash against the feminist movement and strides women had made in the previous decade. Popular culture, again privileged masculinity – emphasizing it even, as action heroines were overshadowed by muscular action men, and women in film and television were all too often resituated in more gender normative roles by their story’s end.

Notable examples of this include Princess Leia of the Star Wars trilogy, who began her story as a rebel leader but by the end was merely a sister and love interest.

Valeria – the glorious, sinewy warrior-woman played by, Sandahl Bergman, in Conan the Barbarian – is an independent thief and glorious bad-ass turned love interest who sacrifices her life for that of the hero.

Brigitte Nielsen’s Red Sonja is a master swordswoman who through her adventures becomes a mother figure and is repeatedly told to be nicer to men, because, you know, she needs their help or something.

Others include Erin Grey’s Col. Wilma Deering on Buck Rogers. Faye Grant’s Dr. Julie Parrish of the mini and television series, V. And Supergirl. She was played with such conviction and grace by the lovely Helen Slater, but sadly, ultimately, our heroine’s adventure revolved around a catfight with a cougar for the affections of a man.

1984’s B-movie classic, Night of the Comet is a genre mash-up of horror, sci-fi, and comedy, about sisters Sam and Reggie – sassy, smart teenagers who kick zombie ass in a post-apocalyptic SoCal. And, they served as inspiration for Joss Whedon’s Buffy Summers.

Despite the privileging of muscle men one of the most memorable heroines of all time emerged in Sigourney Weaver’s Lt. Ellen Ripley.

Though the character had appeared in 1979’s Alien, it was in the sequel – that Ripley took center stage. As with other action heroines, Ripley adopted and protected a child. But this in no way softened her character, and said child, Carrie Henn’s “Newt,” is an action hero in her own right – having survived alone for weeks on an alien infested planet. Aliens also featured a third action heroine of note in Jenette Goldstein’s Private Vasquez – a butch Latina Marine that is braver and fiercer than her male comrades.

Grrrl Power and adult culture makers influenced by second wave parents, facilitated some of the most complex women of popular culture to date. And in the 1990s, entertainment media once again reflected liberatory ideas about what women were capable of accomplishing.

The first of these was Sarah Connor of 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The character had evolved from her first incarnation as a waitress to a full-fledged warrior. Reinforcing this was the fact that Linda Hamilton’s physical transformation was nothing short of revolutionary.

Aeon Flux – a lawless assassin that first appeared on MTV – remains as startling, subversive, and disturbing as she was 20 years ago.

Xena, a former warlord on a quest for redemption, and her companion Gabrielle, a farm girl turned Warrior Bard, kicked ass and had a playful, loving, and complex partnership that made them LGBTQ icons.

Special Agent Dana Scully of The X-Files proved that an action heroine could be a doctor and a scientist.

Perhaps the most influential action heroine of the decade, and certainly the one with the most lasting influence, is Buffy Summers, of Joss Whedon’s seminal television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

She was embodied by Sarah Michelle Gellar, and created with the intention of being a feminist role model, but since I could go on for hours about her, it is best to move on.

The success of Buffy inspired a wave of action heroines in both film and television – some, like AliasSydney Bristow, were more successful than others.

Quite a few seemed to travel in packs of three.

And only one, Dark Angel, featured a lead protagonist of color in Jessica Alba’s Max Guevara.

Additionally, the current Dr. Who has seen a number of complex action heroines over the past 5 years.

And the revisioned Battlestar Galactica recast two prominent male roles from the original with women.

Most recently, Hit-Girl, a film heroine we’ll be talking about for a good while, received critical responses ranging from the New York Times saying that the character gives the false impression that because she’s a powerful figure she’s also an empowering one. To another critic championing her as “one of cinema’s few female characters who is meant to be admired for being stronger, braver, and more heroic than the male characters around her.”

Finally, a visual representation of action heroines in film and television I didn’t mention today doesn’t quite have the same impact as our earlier slide of male heroes.

And so it’s important to not only ask why there aren’t more, but to evaluate representations and receptions of those that do exist – as well as, celebrate them.

(Then here I show my awesome video of female heroes kicking ass and set to “Battle without Honor or Humility.” If you want to see it, you’ll just have to come see my next book reading!)