Posts Tagged ‘Superwomen’


It’s been a long, long time since I’ve updated my blog – and there’s been so much that’s happened over the past year!

Highlights include:

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines – which drew research from Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors (and in which I appear!) – screened on PBS Independent Lens.

(Image Credit: Andy Mangels)

I’ve been speaking about Ink-Stained Amazons, Cinematic Warriors, and Superwomen in Modern Mythology through Humanities Washington at libraries, wineries, and schools across the state – and am bookable for 2014!

I had a blast working in Festival Publications for SIFF 2013 – and loved being a minion for a very special secret Whedonverse screening during the Festival, as well as participating in the forum Sheroes in the Media: From Guerrilla Girls to Women in Film.

Spike, Buffy, and Yummy Sushi PJs

First rule of Secret Screening: We don't talk about secret screenings, only about how they make us feel.

Dr. Amy Peloff, Jo Jo Stiletto, and I talked about Geek Feminism at Western Washington’s VikingCon – and we got to meet the Cigarette Smoking Man.

Geek Feminism

With William B. Davis - aka "The Cigarette Smoking Man"

I contributed a chapter on Lost Girl called, “Choosing Her ‘Fae’te: Subversive Sexuality and Lost Girl’s Re/evolutionary Female Hero” for the forthcoming anthology, Heroines of Film and Television (Edited by Norma Jones; Maja Bajac-Carter and Bob Batchelor).

The anthology I edited and contributed to, Fan Phenomena: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Intellect) was published.

Fan Phenomena: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

And was celebrated with an epic launch party!

Scoobies FTW (Photo: Guy Eats Octopus)

With the help of my friends, there was a Handsy Puppet Joss Whedon, a Naughty Fan Fic Reading, Trivia, Rupert Giles singing “Behind Blue Eyes”, an Author Signing, Band Candy, and Snoopy Dancing. Drink Specials included “The Class Protector” and “Boinking the Undead.” We had music, limited edition GeekGirlCon buttons, squee-tastic photo ops, costumes, Scoobies and Slayerettes galore!!! Grr. Argh!

More Photos of A Night at The Bronze Here.

I got to talk about comics and gender with some of my favorite people at a Velocity Dance Center Speakeasy Conversation – BOOM! POW! COMICS, GENDER + MOVEMENT.

Boom Pow + Red Boots (Photo: Amy Peloff)

And of course, GeekGirlCon had its third annual convention! We had between 4300 and 4700 attendees – and sold out of passes before we even opened our doors on Saturday. Huzzah!

Plus, I got to make moments like this happen.

Something to Sing About (Photo: AltaStation)

And this – Where I experience Pure Joy.

Red, Karen, and Jen! (Photo by Josh Weiner: GeekGirlCon)

Most recently, Dr. Amy Peloff, Jo Jo Stiletto, and I took our Geek Feminism presentations to the National Women Studies Association Conference in Cincinnati. We were thrilled to have an enthusiastic and engaged audience – especially as we were scheduled at the very end of the conference!

What’s next for The Ink-Stained Amazon? There are a few projects on the table, but unless anything extraordinary presents itself I’ll be taking it easy for the rest of the year. (Though I’m always amenable to extraordinary. So if you think of me for something, let me know.)

Haywire

“I don’t wear The Dress.”

I hadn’t heard anything about the new Steven Soderbergh film, Haywire, until about a month before its release. The trailer played at theaters over the holidays and began to show up on television but it didn’t tell me much other than “this is a female led action film.” But it was intriguing enough to put on my must-see list – especially as star, and MMA fighter, Gina Carano , doesn’t look like your average Hollywood action heroine. She actually looks like she could kick ass.

So over the weekend Hubby and I huddled up with some champagne and popcorn at Seattle’s Big Picture theater with the following questions:

Would Mallory Kane be:

a) a ground-breaking female character?
b) a stereotyped female character?
c) a potential icon to serve as reference for future female action protagonists?

The theater was packed, and while waiting, we were treated to these choice words from the drunk assholes behind us:

“I like Girls with Guns! . . . . And Mothra!”

Le Sigh . . . . Yes, I like action heroines and kaiju movies too. But “Girls with Guns?” Women action heroines marketed as titillation for the male gaze, rather than potentially empowering, or even entertaining, pop culture icons for women is part of why their success has been so elusive. (The drunk assholes also hated Hanna – who actually was a “girl” with a gun, and was filmed using firearms more than Kane.)

Carano’s Kane is a woman, and she does have guns. (Her idea of relaxing includes a glass of wine and gun maintenance.) But, thankfully, nowhere in Haywire do we see guns OR Carano fetishized the way we have with say . . . any Angelina Jolie action film.

She’s neither a “female James Bond” or a “female Jason Bourne” as so many reviewers have already stated. (And are descriptives I despise – I hope one day we have enough women action heroes that we can describe them by referencing each other, instead of the iconic male norm).

The plot is fairly non-existent. A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission. The betrayal is a MacGuffin that provides an excuse for 90 minutes of a bad-ass in action. (And, as The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald brilliantly notes, with a phrase I wish I’d coined, an opportunity for “Revenge Cornrows.”)

The fighting itself isn’t over the top or stylized, but actually fairly accurate in its brutality and reminiscent of Daniel Craig’s gut-wrenching hand-to-hand combat in Casino Royale. Carano moves fast, I mean really fast, and I couldn’t help thinking about how the fight sequence between Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game of Death had to be slowed down in order for the movements to be seen and appreciated. Carano’s speed made me wonder if something similar had to be done here.

It’s been pointed out that Carano is not yet as charismatic as she could be, but it should also be said that the dialogue in general is pretty goofy. Choice examples include:

“There’s some water in my backpack. Have some.”

“Turn around, punk.”

“Hey, Wonder Woman. You said your piece. Now shut up.”

“Hold up a sec, Mal. Let’s analyze your options.”

I do want to note, and even applaud, Haywire for actually being a somewhat progressive action movie. Here, as with Kill Bill’s The Bride, we have a female action star who is not hypersexualized. Sure, Kane takes what she wants sexually (namely, Beefcake Channing Tatum), but the story never depends on her sexuality and the camera never reduces her to an object of the male gaze. Even as she scoffs about having to play the “eye candy” (Cinnamon Carter she is not) when she does, it’s a tasteful evening gown rather than an excuse to put her in something as revealing as possible.

As a bonus, she’s generally not laden with some of the stereotypical narrative motivations given to other women action heroes: a literal or metaphorical child in danger (Ripley, Conner, Baltimore, Kiddo) or a rape to avenge (Sonja, Salander, Snowblood).

That said, we’re also never given any real reason to care about Mallory Kane – or whether she succeeds. It’s not that she’s unlikeable, but she’s also neither relatable or compelling.

Haywire is a spy/crime/mystery/revenge flick with an early 1970s-era genre feel, right down to the funky groove of the soundtrack. It’s little more than a tried and true tale of a covert agent betrayed by a greedy ex-lover.

Before the movie Hubby had asked me, “So it’s a female action heroine. But does she have a daddy who trained her, supports her, and is the only man she trusts?”

Why yes, in fact, she does. However could this have been predicted!?!? This ex-Marine is the daughter of what we presume to also be an ex-Marine and who now writes military based fiction. He sends her a signed copy of his latest, Desert Assault, that reads “Semper Fi, always – Love, Dad.” He IS in fact, the only man she can ever trust – a man she “could never lie to.” He says tender Daddy things like, “I haven’t shut my eyes since you were born.”

And would you believe her mother is never ever mentioned?

(So, will everyone who ever wants to write a tough female character please read my book? The daddy/daughter trope is played.)

Kane is the only woman in the film and it’s unclear whether this reinforces her status as a relative anomaly or, as we’re reminded by her former contractor and lover, we’re not meant “to think of her as a woman.” Does not considering her femininity save her from stereotyping, or does it undermine her potential as a progressive female action hero?

I feel it’s a bit of both.

Director Steven Soderbegh told Vulture of Carano that, “I wanted to build something around her, and I was looking to do something immediately, to get my head clear. I wanted to do a spy movie, like a throwback to the sixties, and I thought, Instead of a guy, why not her? I can tell you that this exact sentiment was actually expressed in the 1960s.

The Avengers’ co-producer Sydney Newman recalled that at the time they were replacing an actor on the series he thought the role should be played by a woman. He’s quoted in The Avengers: The Inside Story as saying:

“Why shouldn’t Hendry’s role be played by a woman, I thought. God knows, women were, in life, doing incredible things. . . . A woman [on television] actively physical, attractive and demonstrating intelligence would certainly be fresh and different. Now, thinking about it, it was years ahead of the women’s lib movement as recognized by the media today.”

Keep in mind this was 50 years ago. Is a “throwback to the sixties” moving forward? Perhaps. In the film, Kane [SPOILER] kills an MI6 agent. It could be argued that that Mallory Kane is meant to be a action icon capable of killing Bond. I don’t believe this is the message meant to be sent, but as no other government agency is mentioned by name, MI6 is mentioned repeatedly, and Bond solidified notions about the secret agent in our cultural imagination, it does give one something to ponder.

Regardless, while Haywire is essentially a revenge film with no emotional stakes, it’s also female action film that along with another two other action films, Underworld: Awakening (also with a female lead), and Red Tails, led the weekend box office. When two films with woman protagonists in a typically male genre, and another with an all-black cast, none of which are superhero films, can do that, something right is happening for the greater good of our culture.

*********************************************************************************************
The first five minutes of Haywire are available online.

Heroine Content, which otherwise praised the film, notes that this first scene could be triggering for some, as it initially may look like a domestic violence assault. Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly says of this initial scene that “The brutality is sickening, intensified by the shock of seeing a man whale on a woman with an ugliness that, in the grammar of movies, is traditionally reserved for men on men with the expectation of a fair fight. As it happens, the lady — a covert-ops specialist with the pulp-fiction name of Mallory Kane — can take care of herself.”

This is the most phenomenal review of my book yet. It’s an honor and a compliment from someone I’ve only recently *met* online, but someone that I deeply respect.

And, wow, she completely groked my intent. Thank you, Tricia.

‎”The message of the book comes through loud and clear: This is where we were, this is where we are, and here’s my knowledge-base and the brain-trust of a lot of other smart, strong women – now go use it to make things better for all of us. . . .[T]hroughout the course of the book she doesn’t judge women for their tastes or their preferences, or insist that anyone agree with her point by point. Stuller simply lays out her own experiences as a geek girl, ambassador, and historian, then has the bravery to let the reader decide things for herself.”

And it’s accompanied by a thoughtful companion post.

“What Ink-Stained Amazons provides is deep knowledge about past portrayals of women, effective (and not-so-effective) characterization, and the ruts that storytellers get stuck in.

Self-awareness grows as you read the book. Jennifer is very effective at demonstrating the ways that we truly do write what we know in terms of tropes, relationships with our family, and our own internal biases from a lifetime of experience. Once a writer recognizes his or her own bias – yet another form of rut that can trap our storytelling – that is the path to breaking new ground, making the stories better.

Finally, Jennifer’s book reminds everyone that writers must have empathy, for their characters and for their audience. This book should be a must-read for any writer working in genre storytelling. As a resource for women in fantasy and science fiction who are still searching for that sense of who they are, this book will be a big help as well.”

As always – Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology is available at Amazon, or your local independent book seller.

Day 11 of the gift guide is for the fan of female super and action heroes! It’s the Superwoman edition!

I’ve already gushed about my favorite superwoman, Modesty Blaise, on Day 1 of this gift guide.

So be sure to look there if your Superwoman Geek is a fan of British Spy-fi!

Jaime Sommers

Fans of Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers, are in luck – The Bionic Woman has finally been released on DVD in the U.S.!

Na-na-na-na-na-na . . .

And for those wanting to know more about the show there’s Bionic Book Reconstructed – a history of both Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man. (With interviews!)

Wonder Woman

Anyone who knows me, or is familiar with my work, knows how influential Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman was on me as a child and on the woman I’ve become.

For those that want to revisit their childhoods, pop culture research junkies like myself, and parents wanting to introduce their children to the Amazon Princess, Wonder Woman The Complete Collection is the perfect gift.

Wonder Woman: The Animated Feature is more for adults than children. (Get the 2-disc special edition for great features! )

The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia by Phil Jimenez and John Wells (and which I reviewed for Bitch) is truly THE guide to the character.

Wonder Woman: The Complete History by Les Daniels is a well-researched and thorough history of the character. And while I don’t care for Daniels’ weird dislike of Gloria Steinem I would still recommend this book for Wonder Woman fans.

Buffy Summers

Buffy Summers is another of my personal favorites when it comes to Superwomen. Get me started talking about the emotional resonance and feminist message of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I’ll never stop. I’ll also probably say things like, “I’m a Slayer. Ask me how.”

As mentioned in Day 5′s post, if your Geek doesn’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer The Complete Series they’ll need it so they can participate in the upcoming Great Buffy Rewatch. Organized by Nikki Stafford and taking place on Tuesday nights throughout 2011, the rewatch will feature a variety of amazing contributors.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 will get your Geek caught up in the world of Buffy and the Scoobies as they lead an army of Slayers against the latest Big Bad.

And Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Panel to Panel from Dark Horse will provide reference to all the non-canonical Buffy comics in a coffee table book format.

Sydney Bristow

I miss Sydney Bristow. From the very first episode of Alias I was hooked on this Superwoman and spy-fi shero. Your Geek can get hooked too, or just revisit the adventures of Sydney and her family of spies with Alias: The Complete Collection.

For context, reference, and those that can’t get enough of the show, its characters, and its mythology, Uncovering Alias: An Unofficial Guide to the Show and Alias Assumed: Sex, Lies And SD-6 make for great reading.

Honey West

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. (I wrote about her for the Noir Issue of Bitch.)

Fans of Superwomen would enjoy Honey West: This Girl for Hire – the novel that introduces us to the busty blonde detective.

Honey West: The Complete Series – as one of the first American television series to star an action heroine is an absolute joy.

Honey West by John C. Fredriksen provides a guide to the series with episode synopses and interviews.

The Honey West Comic Book from Moonstone – the first two issues of which are written by the great Trina Robbins! (I interviewed Trina about the project here.)

Dr. Catherine Gale and Mrs. Emma Peel

Cathy and Mrs. Peel are two of the first action heroines of television period. Played by Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg respectfully, they were not only beautiful, stylish, and sexy, but smart, talented, fearless and perhaps more capable than their male colleague, John Steed.

Fans of Superwomen will love the The Avengers – The Complete Emma Peel Megaset as well as early episodes featuring Cathy.

Get Christie Love

Get Christie Love started out as a made-for-television movie loosely based on a novel called The Ledger, written by Dorothy Uhnak, who herself had worked with the NYPD. Teresa Graves (Laugh-In) starred as Christie Love – a sassy, skilled, take-no-shit, undercover cop.

Get Christie Love aired as a series during the 1974–5 season making Graves one of the first Black women to headline her own television show. Only the pilot is available on DVD.

The character was modeled after New York Police Detective, Olga Ford, one of the first African American women on the force. Ford served as a consultant on an early episode.

Varla

Tura Satana once said that “You can still be feminine and have balls” and those words describe her just as well as the famous line in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! where her character, Varla, is told “You’re like a velvet glove cast in iron.”

With it’s brash delivery of one-liners, cinematography as stunning as the cleavage on display, and sexually confident, if amoral, women, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a classic film for the Superwoman Geek.

Belted, Buckled, and Booted

For more on Ms. Satana your Geek might enjoy Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film by Jimmy McDonough.

Gina Torres (Or, the Gina Torres Collection.)

Okay, so Gina Torres is not a super or action hero per se – but she’s an Amazon Warrior nevertheless!

Cleopatra 2525

Guilty Pleasure? Feminist message? Exploitation? Let your Geek decide! I, for one love Cleopatra 2525 in all it’s awesome awfulness as well as the teamwork of Hel, Cleo and Sarge. And Torres sings the theme song.

Okay, every Geek already owns Firefly: The Complete Series and Serenity- but since they star Torres as the badass, Zoe Washburne, they need to be listed.

Superwomen Geeks can also catch Torres in Season Four of Angel – or you can go ahead and get the entire series.

Hit-Girl

One of the most fascinating Superwomen to come out of the past year is Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass.

She was more than just a pint-sized, foul-mouthed assassin (and more than a gimmick). She was the most capable, talented, forceful, and driven person in both the movie version of Kick Ass and the comic book version of Kick Ass.

For more on both, Geeks will appreciate a copy of Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie.

Recommended Reading for Superwomen Geeks: Criticism and History

Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology

Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture

The Modern Amazons : Warrior Women on Screen

Athena’s Daughters: Television’s New Women Warriors

Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks

A Very Short List of Recommended Reading for the fan of Superwomen in Comics

Birds of Prey Vols 1-7 by Gail Simone.

Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone.

Elektra & Wolverine: The Redeemer by Greg Rucka.

Queen & Country by Greg Rucka.

Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka. (See Erica McGillivray’s lovely review from Day 9 of this list.)

Promethea by Alan Moore. (Find out more about Promethea here.)

GoGirl! by Trina Robbins and Anne Timmons.

Huntress: Year One by Ivory Madison.

I couldn’t be happier about the increase in female-driven content at this year’s Comic-Con International, particularly since it isn’t limited to one token panel. In fact, there are several sessions specifically dedicated to Geek Grrrls, as well as many that will appeal to both female and male audiences.

While I’m not yet ready to proclaim this “The Year of the Woman” at Comic-Con (especially since I hope we’d get more than a year) I am glad that Con programmers have recognized not every girl is there because her boyfriend dragged her, or there to parade around as a sexual object, but that women are Geeks too, that we have discretionary income, know how to utilize the Power of the Internets to create buzz, and we should definitely be marketed to. I love what GeekaChicas has to say about the idea that women aren’t really Geeks, or that their Geekiness somehow isn’t valid, in their VERY thorough, and must peruse, guide to the Con:

“Handy tips for men (or, How To Not Be One Of THOSE Guys)

• Do not assume she’s being dragged along under duress. See Goddess of All’s post last year on what this feels like.
• Do not assume that she’s new to geekdom. Maybe she is, but then again maybe she’s been at it longer than you.
• Female geeks are under no obligation to date you. They’re there for their own reasons, and they are emphatically not there so that the male geeks can fish from a stocked pool.
• Refrain from classifying other attendees as trufen or posers. Here I am thinking specifically of Twilight fans, the pariahs of last year’s Comic-Con. Twifans aren’t interlopers in your convention; it’s their convention too. Besides–remember when you were an awkward teenager who’d discovered something you thought was wonderful but that everyone else viewed with contempt?
Do not assume that she’s only interested in paranormal romance / Twilight / manga / kawaii / other stereotypically girly things. She’s a geek, just like you.”

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. So if you see me, be sure to say “Hi,” and if you happen to have a copy of Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors with you, I’d be honored to sign it.

Here’s a list of Ink-Stained Amazon picks for Geek Grrrls, that are sure to induce the “Squee.”

Thursday
10:30-11:30 Divas and Golden Lassoes: The LGBT Obsession with Super Heroines— Why do LGBT comic book fans, especially gay men, worship female superheroes? Going beyond just collecting the comics of Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Donna Troy, Saturn Girl, and many more, LGBT fans intensely identify with and take great inspiration from these iconic heroines. To discuss this phenomenon, moderator Charles “Zan” Christensen (Mark of Aeacus) has assembled an esteemed panel featuring Marc Andreyko (Manhunter), Phil Jimenez (The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia), Andy Mangels (founder, “Wonder Woman Day”), and Michael Troy (The Blonde Squad). Room 8

1:00-2:00 Spotlight on Charlaine Harris— Author and Comic-Con special guest Charlaine Harris gathered a huge fan base with her novels and stories featuring her characters mystery-solving librarian Aurora Teagarden; Shakespeare, Arkansas resident Lily Bard; and the telepathic barmaid who befriends vampires, werewolves, and various other odd creatures, Sookie Stackhouse. Once Sookie and company moved to the small screen with HBO’s True Blood, Harris entered the superstar realm. Be a part of the very first Spotlight panel devoted to Charlaine and hear what she has to say about what comes next for Sookie and everyone else! Room 6BCF

1:00-2:00 Sony Pictures Entertainment: Battle: Los Angeles and Salt— Two great new films from Sony Pictures Entertainment are showcased in this Hall H presentation!
Battle: Los Angeles — When unknown forces suddenly and mercilessly attack the City of Angels out of nowhere, it’s up to a local Marine staff sergeant (Aaron Eckhart) and a new platoon of unseasoned soldiers to meet the threat. As the invasion hits the streets of LA, these Marines become our first and last line of defense in an intense battle against an enemy unlike any they’ve ever encountered before. Appearing in person are Michelle Rodriguez, Aaron Eckhart, Neal Moritz, and director Jonathan Liebesman.

Salt — Opening in theaters everywhere tomorrow, Columbia Pictures brings an exclusive and surprising look at Salt to Comic-Con today, featuring some very special guests. As a CIA officer, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) swore an oath to duty, honor and country. Her loyalty will be tested when a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy. Salt goes on the run, using all her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture, but her efforts to prove her innocence only serve to cast doubt on her motives as the hunt to uncover the truth behind her identity continues and the question remains: “Who is Salt?”
Hall H

3:00-4:00 Spotlight on Jenette Kahn— For 27 years Comic-Con special guest Jenette Kahn steered the course for DC Comics as its president and publisher, the youngest female executive in Warner Brothers history. Her time at DC resulted in a renaissance of publishing for fans and creators alike. Former DC president and publisher — and fellow Comic-Con special guest — Paul Levitz interviews Jenette about her years at the company and her new career in the movie industry as a producer of such hits as Gran Torino. Room 5AB

3:30-4:30 Entertainment Weekly: The Visionaries— A discussion with geek gods J. J. Abrams (Star Trek) and Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) on the future of pop culture. EW presents an in-depth conversation with these two creative geniuses about how technology, gaming, and global culture are reshaping how we tell and consume stories on television, film and the web. Plus: Is the superhero movie waning, or is it on the cusp of reinvention? And what do they think the pop culture universe will look like a decade from now? Moderated by Jeff “Doc” Jensen. Hall H

5:30-6:30 Geek Girls Exist— Really? Kristin Rielly (Geek Girls Network) leads a discussion about growing up geek, turning passions into careers, and who shot first. Representing the many awesome aspects of the geek culture, panelists Morgan Romine (The Frag Dolls), Bonnie Burton (The Star Wars Craft Book), Marian Call (singer/songwriter), Sarah Kuhn (One Con Glory), Jill Pantozzi (Has Boobs Reads Comics blog), Veronica Belmont (Qore), Kari Byron (MythBusters), and Kiala Kazebee (GeekWeek.com) school you on what it means to be a real geeky girl and even make you LOL IRL. Room 8

6:00-7:00 Writing Queer: Creating and Writing LGBT Characters— Creating genuine and well-rounded LGBT characters is a challenge for writers, as they must give voice to a population whose stories have been kept hidden for so long. How do writers, both queer and straight, as well as mainstream and independent, create narratives that reflect the diversity and humanity of LGBT individuals, as well as the obstacles they face? Moderator Justin Hall (Glamazonia, Prism Comics’ talent chair) leads a spirited conversation with some of the best writers working in comics today: Paige Braddock (Jane’s World), Howard Cruse (Stuck Rubber Baby), Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Greg Rucka (Detective Comics), Gail Simone (Wonder Woman), and Judd Winick (Pedro and Me). Room 32AB

Friday
10:30-11:30 Spotlight on Moto Hagio— Comic-Con special guest Moto Hagio is considered to be the mother of shōjo (young girl) manga. Her large body of work is renowned the world over, and Fantagraphics Books is publishing a new collection of her short stories, Drunken Dreams. Celebrate her first-ever visit to the U.S. at this special Q&A session, moderated by Matt Thorn, associate professor in the department of manga production at Kyoto Seika University in Japan. (Thorn decided to translate shōjo manga into English after reading Thomas no Shinzō by Moto Hagio in the mid-1980s). Room 5AB

2:00-3:30 Comics Arts Conference Session #8: Where Are the Action Chicks?— Katrina Hill (ActionFlickChick.com), Jill Pantozzi (MTV Splash Page), Adrianne Curry (America’s Next Top Model), Cindy Morgan (Tron), Luci Romberg (Zombieland), Jen Stuller (Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors), Gina Misiroglu (Encyclopedia of Women in Popular Culture), Marjorie Liu (Black Widow), and J. Michael Straczynski (Wonder Woman) discuss why comics, television, and movies do not depict more action heroines and look specifically at why movies starring traditional comic book superheroines are nearly nonexistent. Room 26AB

2:00-2:45 Bones— Creator and executive producer Hart Hanson and star David Boreanaz are on hand to discuss what went down in Season 5 of Bones and the cliffhanger finale as well as what’s in store for Booth and Brennan in the exciting new Season 6! The panel will be followed with a Q&A session. Ballroom 20

3:00-3:45 The Joss Whedon Experience— Every year Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and Serenity, comes to Comic-Con to give fans a wide-ranging and digressive look into what’s keeping him busy. Join Joss and a few thousand of his closest friends for the Q&A. Spoiler Alert! Ballroom 20

4:00-5:00 Entertainment Weekly: Girls Who Kick Ass: A New Generation of Heroines— EW moderates this discussion with Jena Malone (Sucker Punch), Anna Torv (Fringe), Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass), Adrianne Palicki (Red Dawn and Friday Night Lights), and Ellen Wong and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) about the next generation of female action heroes and the power and privilege of playing young women who are nobody’s arm candy. Moderated by Nicole Sperling. Ballroom 20

5:00-6:00 Girls Gone Genre: Movies, TV, Comics, Web— Meet and talk with women who write, read, game, and perform in arenas that are historically and statistically dominated by men. What’s it like to try and get a job in a field where most of your competitors and colleagues are guys? Can women write men, and vice versa? And what happens when traditionally “male” genres are reinvented by female writers and embraced by female fans? Sex and the City it ain’t! Meet the women who like to play with trucks and Barbies…and Wolverine action figures. And flux capacitors. Featuring Felicia Day (writer/producer, The Guild; actress, The Guild, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog), Kathryn Immonen (writer, Patsy Walker: Hellcat, Runaways, Heralds), Laeta Kalogridis (screenwriter/producer, Shutter Island, Ghost in the Shell, Avatar), Marti Noxon (screenwriter/producer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Mad Men), Melissa Rosenberg (screenwriter/producer, Dexter, The Twilight Saga), and Gail Simone (writer, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey). Moderated by Io9′s Annalee Newitz. Room 24ABC

5:15-6:15 True Blood Panel and Q&A session— Mixing romance, suspense, mystery, and humor, True Blood kicked off its 12-episode third season June 13 on HBO. The series, which has earned two Golden Globe nominations for Best Television Series—Drama, follows the romance between waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin, Golden Globe winner for True Blood season one; Oscar-winner for The Piano), who can hear people’s thoughts, and her soulmate, 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Alan Ball (creator of the Emmy-winning HBO series Six Feet Under) created and serves as executive producer of the series, which is based on the best-selling Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. The series also features Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette Reynolds, Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte, Rutina Wesley as Tara Thornton, Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica Hamby, Kristin Bauer van Straten as Pam, Denis O’Hare as Russell Edgington, the Vampire King of Mississippi, and Joe Manganiello as Alcide Herveaux. (Note: names in bold will be appearing on the panel.) Moderated by Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly. Ballroom 20

Saturday
12:00-1:00 Fang Girls and Fang Boys: The Popularity of Vampire Lit— Authors of vampire fiction for young adults and adults discuss the appeal of their worlds and characters. Authors include Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse Series), Heather Brewer (the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod), Rachel Caine (the Morganville Vampires series), Christopher Farnsworth (Blood Oath: The President’s Vampire), Chris Marie Green (the Vampire Babylon series), Richelle Mead (the Vampire Academy series), and Jeanne C. Stein (the Anna Strong series). Moderated by Brian Truitt, associate editor, USA Weekend Magazine/USA Today. Room 7AB

5:15-6:15 Nikita Pilot Screening and Q&A— Comic-Con has gone rogue! International action star Maggie Q (Mission: Impossible III) stars in this sexy and suspenseful series as an agent who has escaped from the ultrasecretive and corrupt government agency that trained her to be an assassin…and then betrayed her. Catch a sneak peek screening of this action-packed thriller, and join Maggie, series stars Shane West (ER) and Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass), and executive producer Craig Silverstein (Bones) for an inside look at one of the most anticipated new shows of the fall season. From Wonderland Sound and Vision in association with Warner Bros. Television, Nikita will air Thursdays at 9pm ET/PT on The CW. Room 6BCF

5:45-7:15 Gays in Comics: Year 23!— This all-star panel examines the rising diversity in the comics world today as the long-running “Gays in Comics” panel continues into its third decade at Comic-Con. As mainstream companies DC and Marvel continue to frontline gay characters such as Batwoman and Northstar and hire top-level gay or gay-friendly creators, independent publishers and creators are publishing unequivocal content spotlighting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered characters, to the cheers of the thousands of fans who are out of the comic book closet. Welcome a top-level panel of GLBT and straight creators, who will give amazing insights and glimpses of surprises to come! Joining founding moderator Andy Mangels, the USA Today best-selling author of Star Trek novels and Iron Man: Beneath The Armor, are Howard Cruse, creator of Stuck Rubber Baby and Barefootz, founder of Gay Comix, and godfather of the gay comic movement; Geoff Johns, writer of Green Lantern, Flash, Brightest Day, and DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer; Marjorie M. Liu, the New York Times bestselling author and writer of Black Widow, X-23, and co-author of Dark Wolverine; Daniel Way, writer of Wolverine and Deadpool and co-writer of Dark Wolverine; Jim McCann, writer of Hawkeye & Mockingbird, Dazzler, and Return of the Dapper Men; Charles “Zan” Christensen, co-creator of Mark of Aeacus, founding member of PRISM Comics, and new publisher of gay-themed Northwest Press; Dan Parent, writer and artist for Archie and Betty & Veronica and creator of Archie’s new gay character, Kevin Keller; and Tim Fish, creator of Cavalcade of Boys and writer/artist for X-Men: Nation X, and Iron Man: Designed Intelligence!
Plus, there’s always a surprise or two! Afterward, stick around for the hour-long gay comics fan mixer/social, hosted by PRISM Comics, with prizes and surprise special guests! Room 6A

6:30-7:30 Her Universe: Shining The Spotlight on Female Fans— Ashley Eckstein (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) brings together some of today’s leading women who are movers and shakers in the various fields of sci-fi and fantasy. Looking at science fiction through female eyes, the panel will discuss what kinds of entertainment female sci-fi fans want to see more of, what strides have been made, what has been missing up to now, what kinds of merchandise female fans want to see, and what female fans can do to encourage more of all of this. Panelists include Jane Espenson (producer/writer, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Melinda Snodgrass (author, The Edge series; story editor Star Trek: The Next Generation), Erika Kennair (director of development and current programming, Syfy Channel), Cat Staggs (artist, Star Wars sketch cards, Marvel card sets), Bonnie Burton (content developer, Lucas Online, official SW Blog), Katie Cook (artist, Star Wars, comics, webcomic Gronk), and Mary Franklin (senior events lead, Lucasfilm Ltd.). Q&A with audience members, too! Room 24ABC

Sunday
11:00-12:00 Marvel: The Women of Marvel— One of the most talked-about panels from last year is back! Forget Storm and She-Hulk; meet the real Ms. Marvels of the comic world! Join women from every discipline in the creative process at Marvel to hear what it’s like working as a woman in comics today and how you can join them. Say goodbye to the so-called “Boy’s Club” — these ladies are busting down the four-color ceiling! Panelists include Marjorie Liu (Black Widow), Kathryn Immonen (Heralds), Christina Strain (Shadowland), and others. Room 7AB

Once again I will be participating as part of the Comic Arts Conference at San Diego Comic-Con International. This year, I’m excited to be sitting on a panel organized by Katrina Hill, aka, the Action Flick Chick, called “Where are the Action Chicks?” where panelists, including: Katrina Hill, “Nerdy Bird,” Jill Pantozzi, The Superhero Book editor, Gina Misiroglu, writer J. Michael Straczynski, stuntwoman, Luci Romberg, writer Marjorie Liu, model Adrienne Curry, and actress Cindy Morgan, will discuss why comics, television, and movies do not depict more action heroines and look specifically at why movies starring traditional comic book superheroines are nearly nonexistent.

The panel, Comics Arts Conference Session #8: Where Are the Action Chicks?, takes place from 2:00-3:30 in Room 26AB.

From the Comic-Con Online Magazine

If it isn’t already obvious, this panel is totally going to rock. The current plan is that Gina Misiroglu and myself will be joining the panel onstage as of 2:30 (when Cindy Morgan and Marjorie Liu leave for other commitments). I’ll be presenting a brief history of action heroines in film and television (I’m calling it “From Helen to Hit-Girl: A Brief, Brief, VERY Brief, History of Action Heroines in Film and Television”). Gina will be presenting a brief history of action heroines in comics. For those of you who’ve seen me present, you know it’s going to be awesome!

It does not seem that an official book signing could be arranged, but please feel free to introduce yourself after the panel, (after the panelists have left the stage area, of course, as it gets quite crowded and panelists for the next session need to set up) or if you see me around the convention. And if you happen to have a copy of Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology with you, I’d be more than happy to sign it!

Hello Readers! I’m working on a project and am curious to know who your favorite action heroines are and why.

Though it’s hard to narrow it down, (I mean, come on, I wrote a whole book about them!) here are but five of mine . . .

The Princess of Spy-fi


Modesty Blaise is likely the most complex, sophisticated, skilled, and intelligent of all action heroines. As lovely as she is deadly, Modesty can be either a great friend or a shrewd adversary.

Buffy Summers


Buffy Summers is another complex action heroine, and in being rooted in previous female heroes and a feminist agenda, she evolved the archetype of the female hero.

Amazon Princess


Wonder Woman’s grace, strength, and compassion taught me about the kind of heroic woman I wanted to grow up to be.

Special Agent


Sydney Bristow is another multi-dimensional female character. She could kick your ass, and do it backwards and in high heels.

Mrs. Emma Peel


Two words: Gravity boots.

Others: Dr. Catherine Gale, Lt. Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Xena, Beatrix Kiddo, Cleopatra Jones, Flowerchild “Coffy” Coffin, Zoe Washburne, Valeria, The Birds of Prey, Hit-Girl, Max Guevara, Pvt. Vasquez and so many more!

I was delighted to be interviewed by my friend, Katherine Keller, for the webzine, Sequential Tart. We talk about pop culture, superwomen, points of view, feminism, love & ass-kicking, women mentoring women, and much more!

Also in this issue – an article on a talk given by Trina Robbins and Mike Madrid about the history of women and comics.

I will be presenting on Modesty Blaise
at this year’s Comic Arts Conference at Wonder Con. I’m scheduled for Sunday.

1:00-2:30 Comic Arts Conference Session 8: Forebearers and Survivors— Doug Highsmith (California Sate University, East Bay) focuses on the changes and revamps made to post-World War II comic books in an effort to reverse flagging sales. Jennifer Stuller (Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors) provides a critical history of spy-fi princess Modesty Blaise, and finds evidence of her inspiration in modern heroines. Room 228/230
Categories: Comic Arts Conference | Comic Books

Several weeks ago I caught a showing of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! on Turner Movie Classics. The cult film that has inspired Todd Oldham’s fashion and John Waters’ movies was something I’d always intended to see, but had never made the effort to.

Shame on me.

Within seconds I was mesmerized; held within the thrall of Ms. Tura Satana.

It’s not just that she’s uniquely beautiful. Her curves are kickin’, her cleavage unparalleled, and her stare arresting; Satana could steal the show simply with her formidable presence. But it’s so much more that makes her role as the vicious Varla iconic.

For those not in the know, F,P!K!K! is a Russ Meyer film from 1965. With taglines like “Meyer’s ode to the violence in women!” and “Filmed in Glorious Black and Blue” you know you’re in for an art trash treat.

The movie begins with a wacky pseudo-beatnik/pseudo-Rod Serling introduction over an Outer Limits-esque screen:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Violence. The word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains – sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn’t only destroy. It creates and moulds as well. Let’s examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female. the surface shiny and silken. The body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don’t drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs. Operating at any level, at any time, anywhere and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor’s receptionist, or a dancer in a go-go club!”

And the go-go dancing commences. Odd-angled camera shots show close-ups of Varla, Rosie, and Billie (Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams, respectively) shimmying with fervor. Satana’s contortions are especially remarkable; but of course, this former burlesque dancer is the woman who claims to have taught Elvis how to gyrate and grind.

After work, entertainment for the grrrls consists of driving Porches at top speeds in the Mojave desert, playing chicken, bisexuality (or as one character calls it, “AM/FM”), skinny dipping, smokes and booze.

Varla is icy-cool and wildly psychotic. She’s the unspoken leader of this gang of go-go dancers, one of whom describes her as being “like a velvet glove cast in iron.” Varla’s sensuality and hard personality are an intimidating intoxication which allows her to easily manipulate others.

Whilst in the desert the women come across a cocky young man named Tommy, and his annoying, bikini-clad girlfriend, Linda (Susan Bernard, apparently Playboy magazine’s first Jewish playmate). Tommy’s a member of a driving club and wants to do some timing out on the flats. Perky Linda is prepared with a stopwatch, but Varla goads Tommy into a race by letting him know that she’s a better driver than he could ever be.

“I don’t beat clocks, just people.”

Varla wins the race and Tommy, feeling emasculated, attempts to physically beat her down. But he chose to mess with a woman could take care of herself.

Varla breaks his back and kidnaps his girlfriend.

And that’s just the first 20 minutes of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

From a contemporary perspective, it’s as if Quentin Tarantino, John Waters, and Ed Wood had made a film together. It’s exploitative to the max, yet also oddly (mildly) empowering—without ever intending to be. The clothes are fabulous, as is the wickedly delivered bad dialogue. All of Varla’s lines are shouted—a ludicrous technique that Waters would incorporate into some of his own work. F,P!K!K! is offensive, and thrilling; a bad grrrl Thelma and Louise meets Kill Bill meets Pricilla Queen of the Desert meets Glen or Glenda. With lot’s of camera angles completely swiped from Orson Well’s Citizen Kane.

As David Schmader has said of Showgirls, another awesomely awful film, and it’s a fitting commentary here too,

“The subtext is staggering until you notice there is no subtext.”

In my research Varla has often been referenced as a proto-action heroine—a complicated, if not problematic, reading to be sure. In a feminist interpretation questions to ask include: What are the criteria for an action heroine? Does Varla fit these in any way? Does being a villain negate her feminist potential? What about the objectification of her body—or is she in control of that? How does “The Kick-Ass Life of Tura Satana” (as is the title of her in-the-works autobiography) play a part?* What about the director’s intentions?

Writer/director Russ “he-who-loves-big-bosoms” Meyer has said, “I personally prefer the aggressive female . . . the superwoman.” As with William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, his desire is not to experience an heroic woman but a dominant one. There’s essentialism in the work of both these men. Their belief that women are the superior sex makes for a difficult feminist interpretation (as I believe in feminism as a philosophy of equality).

But just because Marston and Meyer had fetishistic leanings (bondage and breasts respectively), it doesn’t mean that feminist potential can’t be found (or that sexual play/the female body can’t be celebrated). Many have found inspiration in Wonder Woman’s altruism and empowerment in Varla’s karate chops.

Here, though, in the world of the Pussycats, the deepest message about gender (and female bodies) is that women have just as much potential for selfishness and evil as men. One could suggest that their wild desert antics are a release from their evenings of objectification. That their violence stems from the filthy behavior of men. But as my husband asked upon viewing, “Why, then would they put themselves in that situation to begin with?”

It’s a world of contradiction. Sex and sex work can be empowering, it can also be demeaning. There are no easy answers. What is unique, or at least was in 1965, was to see a woman who was capable of defending herself.

*Varla is heavily infused with Tura, and Satana is spellbinding. How does an actresses’ personal life/embodiment contribute to the experience and/or interpretation of the character? When I met her at Comic Con (at her autograph booth) I told her how exhilarating it was to watch her as Varla—to experience a woman so powerful. She replied, “You know what it is? It’s that I’m just as powerful in person as I am on screen.”

For more on Russ Meyer and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! buy, Big Bosoms and Square Jaws

For more on the multivalence of female action heroes, particularly on negotiating simultaneous feelings of disgust, pleasure, empowerment and embarrassment, buy the fabulous, Super Bitches and Action Babes:

For more on women and violence on screen buy: Reel Knockouts