Posts Tagged ‘Women in Comics’

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.

More wonderful articles, posts, and podcasts featuring GeekGirlCon!

Portrait of an Adoption
“You Have To Hand it to the Geeks,” By Carrie Goldman
“Katie and I just returned from Seattle, where we attended the first-everGeekGirlCon. In case anyone doubts the need for a con devoted solely to the female population, consider the fact that the con was sold out and there were people lined up outside each room before panels began.”

Ape in a Cape
“Everything felt a little different. Lest you think this con didn’t have geek cred, let me assure you, the superhero/genre panels were absolutely as hardcore nerdy as any I have attended, but it was from a female and safe perspective. As a whole, the con felt more like a festival at times than a con…it was much less aggressive and without that odd hostility that some big cons have acquired. You would walk out of a panel, and there would be female musicians playing awesome acoustic sets. There were artists EVERYWHERE, women doing crafts and cosplay and drawings and paintings and mirror art and stained glass, and just on and on, everywhere you looked was something beautiful.”

Just Jenn
Geek Girl Con 2011, Just Jenn
“More than any other con I came away with a renewed desire to create, to become a better person. For the first time at a con – every single panel topic appealed to me and pertained to my interests. It was small enough to be able to walk and talk with my heroes and my peers and it really felt like the things that I did mattered.”

Critical Hits
I Was a Manchild at Geek Girl Con, by Logan Bonner
“After the concert, I checked out “Ink-Stained Amazons & Cinematic Warriors,” a panel about the book by Jennifer K. Stuller. She appeared multiple times in the Wonder Woman documentary, and I was interested in hearing more from her. Her presentation was great, with a slideshow and video to supplement her lecture/discussion. She broke down the traits typical of heroes, the ways female characters match or defy those expectations, what that says about how female characters are viewed, and the ways their roles have changed over time. This and the Wonder Woman panel were both great, and it seems like this book and that movie could serve as great companion pieces.”

Fangirl Blog
Geek Girl Con Sunday Roundup, by Tricia
“Cattiness has been a hot topic in geek girl circles recently, and the Killing Cattiness and Creating Community panel dove right into it. Just like the SDCC panel, Oh, You Sexy Geek!, this topic was addressed as part of the discussion, and two of the panelists from that discussion were on the dais again – Bonnie Burton and Jennifer Stuller. I think it’s important for geek girls to see all different types of women interacting in a positive manner, even if they don’t like the same things or they hold contrasting beliefs. I’ve witnessed it at two separate cons now, and it’s so uplifting and empowering to watch.”

Gender Focus
Geek Girl Con: Feminism, Race, and Geek Culture, by Jarrah Hodge
“[T]he panel addressed how geek communities, especially online, can exclude women and people of colour. The panelists said they felt like when they or others raised objections to sexist or racist language or behaviour guys would rally to defend the sexist and racist games, attempting to make the argument that somehow criticizing the language or behaviour was against their geek allegiance.”

Geek Wire
What geek guys missed at GeekGirlCon, by Mónica Guzmán
“It was liberating to be one of many women at session after session, if only because you knew you could say out loud some of the things women whisper to each other at other geek events.

That doesn’t mean you always did.

In some ways, the geek gender gap had to be part of the conversation, if only to assert the reasons why GGC exists in the first place. But talking about the gender gap alone won’t close it. And to organizers’ credit, their convention was in no mood to whine, ruminate or despair.”

Comics Bulletin
Geeking Out at Geek Girl Con, By Kyrax2
“At Geek Girl Con, women and men came together on an equal playing field. Geeks of all stripes were in attendance. I saw Trekkies and Twihards, Star Wars fans and Harry Potter enthusiasts, coders and gamers and mathletes and science geeks and otaku and yes, even comics geeks. Everyone was welcome. Everyone was treated with respect, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, weight, height, or any other factor.”

A mí, mis comics
Geek Girl Con: primeras impresiones, Alejandra Espino
“It was my first convention of this kind, and I could not have chosen better.”

Lotus Girl Films
“The prospect of attending a full-on geek fest devoted to all things SHE was exciting to ponder. The reality has gone so far beyond the expectations, that it all feels a tad surreal.”

Chicks With Crossbows
Geek Girl Con Panels: Steampunk!
“This panel was so popular, they actually had to switch rooms and put it in the larger space. The line wrapped all the way around the hallway.”

Stranger SLOG
Geek Girl Con, by MARY TRAVERSE
“And most importantly there were the nerds themselves: it filled my heart with joy to see women in their 60s as well as teen and tween girls all gleefully letting their geek flag fly. It made me wish I’d had a con like this when I was all awkward and 14 and hiding my obsession with dinosaurs. (Note to teen me: it gets better!)”

Paper Napkins on the Edge of Insanity
Geek Girl Con: Reflections
“I still can’t believe how my girls opened up at Geek Girl Con. I can’t believe how welcome I felt, and I usually am uncomfortable in high female ratio environments. I was so nervous, yet excited before it started, and now I hope next year will bring the same feeling, but more than that. I hope the self confidence that was some how given, inspired, drawn-out of my precious little geeks stays a gift from Geek Girl Con for their lives, making them strong women of the future (whether they stay on the paths of the geeks or not!)”

GeekGirlCon Reflections (a guys perspective.)
“GeekGirlCon benefited from being focused on GeekGirls, but also on the broader geek culture as a whole. It worked very well and there was an amazing amount of content. In addition to the geeky topics I mentioned above, there were panels on ethics, sexism, and gender issues to be sure, but also a refreshing look at academic, science, and STEM careers, geek parenting, working as a coder, game design, and geek crafting (cosplay, craft, and mask making among others). There were often four panels running at once along with signings and craft and game workshops. One person could only see maybe 25% of the Con even if they ran full steam all day long.”

The Inferno
“Reblogging to get the word out. Geek girls are not a small target audience. How long can the media and society ignore that? If GeekGirlCon is any indication, not much longer.”

Optimystical Studios
GeekGirlCon Round-Up
“First let me give some major props and thank you’s to the astounding crew of GeekGirlCon. These ladies worked their collective butts off to make sure everyone had a good weekend. And it showed. Zaph & I spent some time discussing the con on the drive home, and we both agree that everyone on the crew both knew what their job was and knew to ask (instead of making up an answer) if something wasn’t part of their specialty.”

Look! It’s Julia
GeekGirlCon Links!
“I’ve been reading some of the wonderful things that people are writing about GeekGirlCon online, so I’d thought I’d share some links.”

Defective Geeks
Geek Girl Con 2011: Not Just for Girls: by Space Pirate Queen
“Most of all, a shout out to the women who put the entire convention together. The convention sold out! The entire thing ran smoothly. More so than a lot of conventions that has been around for many years. These girls worked their butts off and I am proud of all of them for following their visions and sticking to what they believed in. They’ve created a platform where we can discuss important topics without fear of getting attacked or misunderstood. I believe that it will change our community for the better.”

GeekGirlCon: The Squee-port
“The staff was extremely helpful, the design of the show was great, and all of the programming was actually substantive. There wasn’t a “fluff” panel on the entire schedule. Each one either taught you how to do something, or brought together panelists who were truly knowledgeable and articulate about the topic being addressed. “
. . . and . . .
“[T]he fact that I was sitting on a panel with these ridiculously talented women, and afterwards was treated as if I deserved to be there? Well, that made me feel rather good.”

Ramblings of a Prodigal Goddess
GeekGirlCon review, etc.
“I am writing this review from the point of view as a staff member. I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to see and therefore cannot give an opinion. The review also serves as a reflection on my feelings and thoughts toward the experience that forced me to come out of my shell.”

Possible Impossibilities
It’s the Geek Girls’ World
“GeekGirl Con‘s time had come. Women have had panels thrown to them here and there — with, for the most part, the same topics, the same panelists, and, alas, the same problematic moments — at behemoth geek convergences like Comic-Con International for years. Could they have a convention of their own? Would it be a success?

After the past weekend’s GeekGirl Con, we now know: Yes and yes!”

“The first-ever GeekGirlCon was a huge success! The con sold out on both Saturday and Sunday. We saw approximately 2,000 people come through the doors over two days to celebrate the contribution of women in geek culture. Attendees, panelists, guests, volunteers, vendors, artists, exhibitors, sponsors, media, parents, kids, and staff came together to create a safe place for everyone and anyone identifying themselves as geeks this past weekend. We should all be very proud of making this ambitious idea a reality.”

Sliver of Ice
GeekGirlCon 2011: Some Presidential Thoughts and Other Things
“I am pretty much beyond biased about how awesome GeekGirlCon was. Along with my staff, I’d worked since August 2010 to make the dream of GeekGirlCon a reality, and I believe that it truly happened. I fought back happy tears all weekend; only to finally cry Sunday evening after reading what Greg Rucka wrote in my Batwoman trade. (Don’t worry, at that point, I was surrounded by people who care and love me and hugged me.)”

‘Geek Girls’ gather at Seattle Center
“GeekGirlCon is drawing hundreds of women and girls to an event centered on gaming, fantasy, technology and science fiction. KING 5 Photojournalist Ron Sanford has the story.”

Chicks with Crossbows
Geek Girl Con Panels: Batgirls! (Or, Women in Comics)
“If you haven’t heard of Kyrax2, aka San Diego’s Batgirl, here’s the deal: She’s a fan of comics. This year at San Diego Comic Con, Kyrax2 went to many of the DC panels and asked questions about the lack of women both in the comics and on the panels themselves. This got various responses although she was booed at least once. Thus, at Geek Girl Con, she hosted a panel, along with DC Comics Writer Gail Simone, to address these issues and discuss the state of women in comics.”

CNN: Geek Out Blog
‘Dammit Liz’ went to Geek Girl Con (and it was worth it)
“It was a panel-centric convention, with panelists like Jane Espenson, Gail Simone, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Amy Berg and Bonnie Burton emphasizing strong, capable female characters in science fiction, comics, games and pop culture. Over-sexed, stripper-clad female characters were barely mentioned, Smith said.”

Sarah Darkmagic
Geek Girl Con Recap
“Why go? . . .To hear a diversity of viewpoints . . . To see women presented as experts and leaders . . . To learn about some pretty awesome books, movies, and projects I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of Ink-Stained Amazon before the con. I went to the panel by Jennifer Kate Stuller and it was really good and I can’t wait to buy her book, Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology. Womanthology also presented at the con. . . . Building networks . . .”

Fleeing Indecision
Safety; or a lesson in geekery from GeekGirlCon.
“Well, how was it? In a word: unbelievable. The atmosphere was warm, welcoming and safe. Every single volunteer had a smile on their face the entire weekend. The panels were informative, varied and fun. The cosplay was some of the best I’ve ever seen. But I’ll repeat myself here and say that the most important thing about GeekGirlCon was its safe and welcoming environment.”

Back That Elf Up
GeekGirlCon 2011 Report
“Basically, I got to see something awesome and be a part of something where I FELT like I belonged. In a lot of settings I can feel left out because there is usually something about me that does not quite fit. Sometimes it’s my gender, sometimes it’s my introversion, sometimes it’s my pastimes and interests and sometimes it’s my race. But I didn’t feel like that GeekGirlCon. Even though I was hawking books I still felt…at home. Which is kind of strange because the types of geeks that were there spanned the universe (almost literally, heh).”

Closet Nerd Network
Geek Ladies in the House: Reflections on GeekGirlCon 2011
“At GeekGirlCon, like many others, I felt like FINALLY here are my people: accepting, joyous, smart and vibrant geeks who are going to be the future of nerdom. We care about issues, we want to make things better, we question what media we’re fed and we want to show the world how awesome being a nerd is instead of closeting our community away! GeekGirlCon has become the exception to the rule of geeks who turn the tables on what they consider to not be “true fans” and have created a safe place where we can get down to brass tacks about how to change fandom.”

Good Game Media
GGM Visits Geek Girl Con 2011
“Last weekend the Good Game crew piled into the GGM Mobile and drove down to Seattle Washington to check out the first ever Geek Girl Con. While we were down there I had a chance to talk to some of the female con goers and ask what they thought of a con just for them.”

Sailor St. Claire
GeekGirlCon 2011
” Lots of great conversation arose about a variety of topics relating to female fandom: objectification of “booth babes,” women in webseries, women in tech, race and technology, and other practical and craft-based panels on steampunk costuming, cosplay, and gaming. “

Stern-Rake Studio
GeekGirlCon at Night
“As the autumn sun set and the younglings were sent off to their suppers, the gears of GeekGirlCon shifted to more adult-themed topics.”

The Girl in Row B
GeekGirlCon:Life on the other side of the registration table
“Thank you to all of our panelists, vendors, special guests and attendees. And a special thank you to all of the people who gave money, time, and/or support to make this convention happen. It was a success and without all of you it would never have happened.”

Archive Six
“In the past, I had wasted so much time and energy trying to conform to society’s expectations that I lost sight of who I really am. GeekGirlCon not only gave me an opportunity to design for a cause I could stand behind, but also welcomed me into a safe community where I could finally let my geek flag fly without having to prove or justify my geekiness, or be judged for my gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, size, or Doctor preference (4th and 11th, for the record). It amazes me how much personal growth I have achieved in this past year alone. It is through GeekGirlCon that I was able to meet and form meaningful and long-lasting relationships with people who I greatly respect and admire, and who inspire me more and more with each passing day. These people have helped me find my voice in this world, and gain the courage to finally speak up for myself and my beliefs.”

Chicks With Crossbows
Geek Girl Con: General Con Report
“The Con Was Organized by Meticulous OCD Ninjas [and] The Panels ROCKED.”

Gender Focus
Geek Girl Con: Media Literacy, Criticism, and Production
“I was particularly excited about this panel because it featured the awesome Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency as well as Kelsey Wallace and Kjerstin Johnson, who were my editors when I was writing the Revenge of the Feminerd series for Bitch Magazine blogs. The other panelists were Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, director of The History of the World as Told by Wonder Woman as well as Wilson, editor of Smart Pop Books. The panel was moderated by Maile Martinez, programming director at Reel Grrls.”

Comics Needs Women: Why Marvel and DC Should Have Been at Geek Girl Con
“[T]he publishers need girls and women more than girls and women need Marvel and DC.”

Girl Hack
Geek Girl Con 2011 Review
“I am still new to the geek- convention circuit, but Geek Girl Con delivered the most fulfilling con experience I’ve had, as both a geek and a woman.”

Defective Geeks
Geek Girl Con 2011: Feminism, Race & Geek Culture Panel
“I am glad I went to this panel. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was rewarded with a great discussion with well-spoken women. They touched on quite a few interesting points about female and Asian culture in geek media. What I really appreciated about the way these women approached sensitive issues without having to be defensive or threatening to other people. They even gave great advice on how to deal with negative internet interactions.”

Journal of J
Geek Girl Con Reactions
“Overall this con was a great jolt of inspiration for me, not only as a girl gamer but as someone who hopes to make games. The camaraderie and heartfelt support was palpable, and the issues discussed were thought provoking and important. It was a great start to an awesome new tradition, and I don’t have any doubt that it will be continuing next year.”

Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether
NYCC and Geek Girl
“GGC felt practically like a family gathering, and I suppose, in a way, it was just that. The fact is, women remain under-represented and poorly served in so many realms of geek culture; having a convention that speaks to that lack, that attempts to address it, is more than a worthy goal; it may well be a holy one.”

Comics Bulletin: The Squeaky Wheel
Geeking Out at Geek Girl Con: Part Two
“I *got* it. We women subsume our own tastes for fear of being thought ‘too feminine’. We are limited by what people think will appeal to us. We are seen as an amalgamation, as though what appeals to one woman will appeal to all. We push our children to be like us, to like the things we like, never realizing that we are repeating the same mistakes our parents made. We’re told that we have to ‘vote with our dollars’, but when we do choose not to buy something, the action is often ignored or misinterpreted.

And yet, we do have power. We have the power to speak, the power to buy, the power to teach and share and give. We don’t need to listen to those who say that we don’t have any power, that it isn’t ours, that it doesn’t ‘belong’ to use, that we shouldn’t speak, that we should ‘sit down and shut up’. Because they have no power over us…but what we give them.

And that’s what I learned at Geek Girl Con.”

The GeekMoms Podcast #6 GeekGirlCon, Women of Wonder Day
“Women of Wonder Day, an annual auction and in-store event where you can bid on beautiful art and collectibles in support of domestic violence charity programs. Later I’m joined by fellow GeekMom Cathe Post to talk about her weekend with her husband and daughter at the first ever GeekGirlCon in Seattle, Washington. This new entry on the convention scene drew some big Geek Girl names to help promote a positive attitude toward all geeks, men, women and especially kids. And you’ll also hear how the GeekMoms took a stab at the Google+ Hangout feature and ended up having a chat with Felicia Day.”

Defective Geeks
Geek Girl Con 2011: Arts & Crafts with the GeekGirlCon Design Team
“[T]his was a cute arts and crafts panel hosted by Tammy Vince Cruz and Rachelle Abellar from the Geek Girl Con’s design team. Not only were these two ladies busy churning out all the design collateral for the convention; they also organized a successful, interactive panel that encouraged attendees to drop by and make sock puppets.”

Nerd Appropriate
Geek Girl Con: No I Am Not a Booth Babe : Panel Coverage
“[U]ltimately the message that was delivered by the panelists was that we, as fans, need to play nice and work together towards better representation of women in video games. The trolling on message boards, the flame wars are all counterproductive and detract from the end goal: working to see women presented in games in a positive light. Behind the user names, Twitter handles, there are people. It’s one thing to be critical, to express dissatisfaction over a feature/presentation of a character/level, but making a personal attack does more harm than good and inhibits bringing about the desired change.”

The Intersection of Dykedom and Dorkdom
Geek Girl Con 2011 Report
“The programming had something for everyone – a variety of topics, genres and media, both academic and non-academic discussion, films, science [and] was accessible for younger and older audiences”
“The Ink Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology panel: Jennifer Stuller gave a presentation that hit the highlights of her book, discussing female heroes in modern popular culture from the 40’s to the 21st century and their impact during their time and on future heroes. One of the trends she noted was the lack of women training women: in most cases the women are mentored by their father or a father-figure. That’s a trend I hadn’t noticed before, but see frequently now that I’m aware of it –definitely food for thought. Booboo enjoyed the panel enough to buy the book immediately after the panel ended.”

Jewish Book Council Blog
Their (Our) Time Has Come
“GeekGirlCon is for the Rest of Us; maybe not 99%, but definitely 52%, the women who have for so long been shut out of a male-dominated comics industry, and all the related male-dominated industries, like computers and gaming. It’s for us geeky girls who spent our high school years as outsiders, never cheerleaders, never dating the football team (often never dating at all!), but with our noses buried in science fiction or fantasy books or comics. All those geeky girls have grown up into enthusiastic and talented young women who are making great clothes and jewelry, creating wonderful new comics — and with not a superhero in the bunch. The energy level in the rooms was high and optimistic.”

The Official Website of Nancy Holder
Geek Girls are Here to Stay
“One of the best cons so far this year was GeekGirlCon. Girls and boys enjoyed panels on webseries, Science, Math, Technology, Engineering, vampires, and of course, all things Joss Whedon! I am very happy to say that Geek Girls are thriving! And DEFINITELY here to stay!”

Defective Geeks
Geek Girl Con 2011: Women Running Geeky Businesses
“I admire anyone who are smart enough to be able to turn their own passion and interests into a self-sustaining career… but it’s just that much more cool to have these geek girls talk about their own success. It was also a unique panel where the audience heard different success stories from women of all ages and very different career and life choices.”

Last week I attended my fourth Comic Con as a professional. For those who don’t know me, I’m a feminist media critic, pop culture historian, comics scholar, member of the Whedon Studies Association, public speaker, freelance writer, author, and programming director for GeekGirlCon.

One of my passions is making critical thinking fun and accessible. I believe it’s important to ask questions about the media we consume, as well as enjoy, because we are shaped by culture, just as we shape it.

I also believe that criticism does not automatically mean condemnation. (For example, I love the entirely problematic television series, True Blood.)

I was asked to participate on the “Oh, You Sexy Geek” panel by moderator and organizer, Kat Hill (aka Action Flick Chick) along with Bonnie Burton ( and Star Wars Craft Book), 
Adrianne Curry (America’s Next Top Model), Clare Grant (Team Unicorn, “G33k & G4m3r Girls”), 
Kiala Kazebee (, 
Clare Kramer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), 
Nerdy Bird – Jill Pantozzi (“Has Boobs, Reads Comics”), and
 Chris Gore (G4).

I almost didn’t. I respect the women involved, but my main concern was that any criticism about sexuality and gender in the Geek Girl community is immediately interpreted as an “attack” and a decree that “women should not be allowed to do that” rather than the suggestion that when we present ourselves as sexual, we’re interpreted as sexual objects. Or that anyone who suggests that empowerment for the one is not empowerment for the many is just a mean, feminist/not-feminist, jealous, prude who doesn’t like other women. When really, these conversations are so much more complicated – or to my mind they should be.

I also debated whether I wanted to use this opportunity to promote (or destroy) my career. Certainly, more people would know about my work after the session, but I wasn’t sure this was the venue I wanted to use to gain exposure. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to participate in a conversation. Different people have different ideas about whether or not it was an actual discussion and I’ll let readers peruse those responses via the attached links themselves. It’s important to me to present several different ways of considering something, so that you can draw your own conclusions. I’ll also update this post if a video recording of the panel is posted. (I was told it was to be professionally recorded, and apparently, it wasn’t – boo.)

Additionally, I want to stress that I really admire, Kat, for continuing to present and consider an array of opinions, but regardless of her intentions that doesn’t mean that everyone adheres to the idea that we can be supporters of each other even if we have different opinions. And that saddens me as someone who works to create female community. I’m not speaking about any of the panelists – who have been supportive – but to some of the responses online.

This particular discussion went as I expected it to. Most everyone maintained a degree of respect, though there were times when I definitely felt that some voices dominated the conversation. Now, sometimes conversations steer in certain directions; things move quickly, and occasionally erratically, on a panel – especially in front of a GIANT audience. Conversation can be difficult, and understanding takes both time, and learning not just how to listen, but how to listen to what the other is saying. What is their perspective? Where is it coming from and why? Are you saying the same thing but with words so different that it sounds like you are arguing? Is this why suggesting asking questions about why we do what we do, and what the real-world effects are is interpreted as an attack?

I’m glad I got to say a few things that were important to me – and from the response I’ve gotten, important to many of you as well. Thank you for speaking up – it’s incredibly difficult when you know your voice is in the minority. But I also want to stress that I feel it’s important to respect difference of opinion, as well as those who express it. All I can hope for is that I receive the same courtesy.

Because there isn’t video, I wanted to just recap some of the questions that were posed in the session.

Does displaying the sexiness of fangirls benefit or demean them? When geek girls show off, are they liberating themselves or pandering to men? Do some “fake fangirls” blend sex appeal with nerdiness just to appeal to the growing geek/nerd market, or is that question itself unfair? How about sexy fanboys? And what’s up with all the Slave Leias?

And to be honest, I can’t remember all we covered.

But questions I wanted to include in the discussion were:

What IS sexy? (And when we say something is sexy – are we only talking about a specific type of sexy?)

What is the benefit of women making media vs. participating in media that’s being made?

How, or in what ways, are heteronormative depictions of “sexy” damaging?

If geek girls, especially prominent geek girls, are willing to show themselves as objects of male fantasy, why would male-dominated industries such as comics, film, or even television, bother to represent women as anything else? (Additionally, there is a post-feminist idea that if a woman does something, and is okay with it, then that somehow automatically makes it feminist. If something is empowering for the one, is it necessarily empowering for the many?)

Where is the line between exploitation and empowerment?

How can we disagree with each other and still move forward as a community?

I didn’t really want to talk about the “Slave Leia” outfit because that’s one of those issues where people aren’t going to be amenable to critical discussion surrounding it. As I said in my book: Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology:

The “Slave Leia” outfit—as it has come to be known—ensures her status not as an icon of female empowerment and political influence (as she was in the first, and arguably second, film installments) but as an object of heterosexual male fantasy. The pervasive, and perverse, popularity of the outfit is seen throughout popular culture––from parades of “Slave Leias” at Comic Con International to Ross Gellar of the television series Friends admitting it’s one of his sexual fantasies. Admittedly, Leia’s bikini is memorable precisely because it ignited a generation of young boys’ first “funny feelings” and thus serves as nostalgia for sexual awakening. But it’s also troublesome that an outfit a powerful woman was forced to wear in a tactic meant to demean and objectify her, and in which she may have been sexually assaulted (her captor, Jabba, does feel her up with his suggestive tail), has become one of the dominant images of Leia.

In my opinion it’s not hot – it’s demeaning. And that’s because it’s intended to be demeaning. It’s not an outfit that Leia chose as an expression of empowerment or sexuality. The “Slave ” outfit was was forced upon Leia because she was being held as a slave. (And didn’t Carrie Fisher admittedly have an eating disorder – the kind that such exploitative outfits contribute to?) And if it were truly empowering, wouldn’t Leia have freed the other slaves on Jabba’s sail barge?!?!?

Feminism is about changing social and political systems of oppression – not about saving yourself.

(Don’t get me started on the problematic and unexamined use of the word “slave” in reference to sexual arousal.)

Kat brought up the subject of a photo someone sent her of her seven year old daughter in the notorious “Slave Leia” outfit and asked what we thought about that. One panelist’s response to was to joke, “Was she hot?” Another noted that Europe has less Puritanical views regarding the human body, and when I suggested that was different from sexualizing a child, I was asked what I would tell my daughter if she said that was her favorite character? (I never got a chance to answer, but a conversation would definitely be involved. I also came home and read this post on Jezebel about Dance Moms and why it’s important for little girls to be “hot” – to be clear, not what the panelist was saying, just a suggestion that what we say does matter.)

I’m not jealous. I’m not a prude. And I don’t have a problem with skimpy outfits per se. I haven’t put anyone “down” for wearing a costume – or questioned their personal empowerment – and I certainly support women’s right to wear what they want. Especially to wear what they want without being sexually harassed.

What I have a problem with is the emphasis on conventional expressions of sexuality in cosplay being the dominant option. I have a problem with women’s bodies being used to sell product (as in booth babes). And I have a problem with the idea that those options are all we have because that’s the only way women are drawn or portrayed in popular entertainment media. One of the comments I heard on the panel was along the lines of “What are we supposed to do when that’s how the characters we love are drawn or dressed?” [Head. Desk.]

It was also suggested that we simply ignore media we don’t like. Ignoring it won’t make it go away, and it won’t change the status quo. Only talking about it will.

I agree with this assertion from “Feminist in Wonderland: The Women of Comic Con” on The WIP via Ms. that:

“What matters is not whether we wear the seven-inch heels. What matters is whether we have asked ourselves—why do we wear them? If we have not addressed that question, then this is objectification, and it holds all of us back.”

I haven’t heard any feminists assert that feminism is about telling other women what to do, or wear, so don’t know where that response is coming from (see Twitter). But I believe we do need to examine the cultural messages marketed and received by media. We need to teach our children how to read entertainment. And we need to open up our definitions of what is sexy by representing diverse body types, races, ethnicities and sexualities as sexy – as well as emphasizing that sexuality is something to be explored, but not everything has to be “sexy.”

If people are going to make hyperbolic statements about how “if feminism is this or that then count me out” (also, see Twitter) – I’ll play along and say that if feminism is about accepting the status quo and never challenging oppressive systems or asking questions, then I’d like to be counted out of that definition of feminist politics.

I’m also continually frustrated by the post-feminist attitude that cries “If it’s empowering for me, then it’s feminist.” That’s an individualistic and privileged perception that does nothing for feminist activism or social justice.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one. (Yeah. I quoted Spock.)

I also don’t believe that either asking critical questions or difference of opinion is girl-on-girl hate. It was suggested by panelists that women are just bitches and that we are hard-wired to hate each other. I absolutely do not believe this.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate to be part of female community and have female mentors. Each year at both Wondercon and Comic Con, cartoonist and herstorian, Trina Robbins and I get together with other women comics scholars for lunch and conversation. Trina has been a wonderful mentor, and is always gracious and available whenever I need research advice, an introduction, or a pull quote. I look to her, and women like her, for inspiration about the kind of woman I’d like to be.

I also believe in fomenting sisterhood through community – something wonderful that is happening through GeekGirlCon.

All in all, I got to name check some of my favorite feminist (and feminist influenced) organizations including Reel Grrls, Bitch Media, Girl Scouts, and GeekGirlCon. I also got to mention Whedonesque Burlesque, where sexy and geeky – the topics we were exploring on the panel – had come together in a creative expression of wonderfully diverse representations of sexuality.

I’m glad I had the chance to try to say something about women and body image, the sexualization of our daughters, understanding media images, and the necessity of creating media making opportunities for women. In trying to expand our definitions of what is beauty and what is sexy, I tried to ask why people who are adamant that the “Slave Leia” outfit is empowering say that they would wear it “if” they had the body. If it’s so empowering, why must you be denied such empowerment?

All of that said, I am horrified that some of my co-panelists found Chris Gore’s comment that he’d like to stick his “penis into every woman on the panel” amusing. His behavior was reprehensible and his comment (which he alternately joked was a “compliment” and “satire”) was completely and totally out of line. It was inappropriate given the context of panel, and not knowing sexual history/orientation of his co-panelists. It felt like street harassment in which someone yells “nice ass” and then calls me a “bitch” for not smiling/lightening up. A couple of people have asked why “the feminists” didn’t say anything. I can’t speak for Kiala – but I can say that it wasn’t my panel, and that it was the moderator’s job to address it. Any comment from me would validate his “humor,” and reinforce the “humorless feminist” label I had tried to joke about – and which was later suggested as the problem of anyone who didn’t get the joke via Gore’s Twitter feed, along with accusations of sexual repression.

Finally, a lot of people have been praising Seth Green as the best part of the panel. I’m also very appreciative of what Seth got the chance to say (even though he admittedly hijacked our panel for several minutes – Oh, Oz . . .) but want to note that:

– The most memorable and praised part of a panel of women is something a dude said.

– Seth said many things I’d been attempting to say through the entire session. Thing is, many of my comments were talked over, and suggestions deflected with humor, but Seth was listened to and respected because he’s a celebrity. Once the conversation got away from him, I brought up the Girl Scouts PSA as a way of attempting to steer the conversation back to the issues at hand.

I’m glad people are talking about various issues involved, and hope the conversations remain civil and enlightening. In fact, I’m going to say here and now, that with the exception of Gore, I respect my co-panelists on the Oh, You Sexy Geek panel and their opinions, no matter how much I might disagree with, or perhaps simply misunderstand, them. If you plan to comment on this post, I ask that you remain civil. I’m the moderator in this space, and I don’t mind if you disagree with me, but if you aren’t being thoughtful, or are being negative rather than critical, I will not approve your comment.

I also would like to say that I’m sure I’m not the only one that didn’t get to say everything they wanted to in our limited time together. What I would like to conclude with is two documentary trailers that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

The first is for a film called Miss Representation (the tagline is, “You can’t be what you can’t see).


Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection) from on Vimeo.

The second is for History of the Universe as told by Wonder Woman (full disclosure, yeah, I’m in it).

I invite you to watch these and think about the idea that we can’t be what we can’t see, what it is that we are seeing, and how it affects American culture and politics.

Recaps/Reports/Related Reading on the Oh, You Sexy Geek Panel

Oh You Sexy Geek: Live Blog event #SDCC

Feminist Fatale: Comic-Con Recap: Oh, You Sexy Geek!

Jennifer de Guzman: Comic-Con 2011: Oh, You Sexy Geek Recap

Jennifer de Guzman: Oh, You Sexy Geek: The Responses

Angel-Headed Hipster: Hey, You Sexy Geek

It’s not just atheists with a diversity problem…

Stellar Four: The Origins of the Slave Leia Costume

San Diego Comic-Con 2011 Recap (Episode II: Attack of the Princess Naked)

ifanboy SDCC 2011: Panel Report

Costume Drama: Cosplay or Can’t Play, by Bonnie Burton

MTV Geek (Quoted every panelist but me and Clare Kramer – and misspelled Kiala’s name. Thanks, MTV Geek!)

NBC San Diego: Get Your Hands Off My Spandex! (completely misquoted/misunderstood me)

CLARE-ified: Oh, You Sexy Geek! – Comic-Con 2011

Ladies Rule the Day at Comic-Con Thursday

Re-Orientation: Sex and Gender in the Modern World: Oh, You Sexy Geek: SDCC Panel, Gender, Sexuality, And Feminist Waves

Racialicious: On Geekdom and Privilege: Sympathy For The ‘Pretty’?

Ms. Magazine: A Feminist Visits Comic Con

Seattle City Arts: Game Changers

#FFF Fake Fangirl Friday Follow-Up: Oh, You Sexy Geek! San Diego Comic-Con Panel Reactions and Controversies

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.”

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 ( 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

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 (, 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

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

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!

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?”

Other panelists include: “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.

From the Comic-Con Online Magazine

For more on what the Comic Arts Conference has to offer at this year’s CCI, see the Official Comic-Con Online Magazine for Summer of 2010.

In 1960s Britain, even before the Bond Phenomenon was
ignited by film adaptations
of Ian Fleming’s novels about a rakish secret government agent, a spy-fi woman was kicking ass in a daily news strip. She dealt in espionage, but never worked in an official capacity, preferring instead to handle matters on her own terms.

This woman was the extraordinary Modesty Blaise.*

At the same time the producers of the then-fledging British television series, The Avengers, recognized that the time was ripe for a female adventurer of complexity, independence and sexual sophistication – which we saw in Honor Blackman’s Dr. Catherine Gale – O’Donnell was thinking on a serendipitous wavelength. His spy-fi creation, Modesty Blaise, debuted in England in 1963 and appeared in newspaper strips and novels for over 40 years; all written by O’Donnell himself.

Modesty is a survivor, a force of nature, an ex-crime boss, and a loyal friend. She was born out of glamour girl news strips and British espionage stories—but Modesty is neither a nearly-naked ditz, nor, as she has often been called, a “female Bond.” She is one of the great literary characters of the 20th Century. And yet, though she has both subtly infiltrated—and overtly influenced—European and American popular culture, and was a groundbreaking and progressive character that rivaled the other spy-fi icons she was so often compared to, the name, Modesty Blaise, remains practically unknown to an American audience; and is increasingly distanced from a British one.

Prior to her debut, O’Donnell wrote other newspaper strips, as well as romantic serials for women’s magazines. In the mid-1950’s, he was hired alongside Jim Holdaway—a former advertising illustrator, to take over work on Romeo Brown—a detective strip that frequently featured women in various states of undress and who were much in the tradition ofNorman Pett’s, Jane (1932-1959). O’Donnell and Holdaway collaborated on the title for seven years, and became close friends in the process.

In 1962, O’Donnell was asked by the Daily Express to create an original strip for their paper. For the project he was interested in bringing the two genres he had been working in together; “big superhero types” like Garth and Tug Transom, combined with the stories he wrote for the women’s market. Like William Moulton Marston before him, who created the character of Wonder Woman to counter the preponderance of “big,” “male,” “superheroes,” O’Donnell observed that the time was ripe for an audience to be receptive to a feminine woman who would be as good in combat as any male—often better—though unlike Marston his creative choice seems to have been made out of playful ingenuity rather than a sociopolitical agenda.

O’Donnell scripted the first 8 weeks of a story arc for his female adventurer and artist Frank Hampson, of Dan Dare fame, was hired to draw the strip. Though talented, Hampson thoroughly misinterpreted the character. Modesty looked like a grown-up girl sleuth, when she needed to be naughtier, more exotic, and less British. O’Donnell convinced the Express that Holdaway would be a more appropriate artist. He was, and his work has long since been praised by writers, artists, and critics for his masterful and cinematographic use of black and white.

When the strip was ready to print, the Express backed out at the last minute when someone came to the conclusion that the exploits of a “woman of the underworld” wasn’t appropriate material for a family oriented newspaper. Fortunately, Charles Wintour, an editor at the Evening Standard, picked up Modesty Blaise for his paper, where the strip stayed for 38 years.

O’Donnell believed that Modesty’s character had to be ingrained in her bone; that she would have experienced a childhood of struggle, yet had an innate will to survive. Her backstory was inspired by an encounter O’Donnell had with a young female refugee while he was stationed in Persia during World War II. His unit had shared some food with what appeared to be an orphaned child, and even provided rations for her tiny traveling bundle. She gave thanks and went on her way, all of age twelve, and all alone. O’Donnell never forgot her, and it was this girl’s brave spirit he channeled into Modesty’s fictional past.

Modesty Blaise, then, is a refugee from Hungary, whose parents were killed—a tragedy that resulted in amnesia for the homeless child. She traveled alone for over a year until she met a Jewish man in his fifties named Lob at a displaced persons camp. Lob had been a professor in Bucharest prior to the war and though intellectually brilliant, he wasn’t equipped to protect himself from the threat of other, more desperate refugees. The wild child took him under her protection, and they traveled the Middle East together. She provided food and safety. He gave her an education, and her name, Modesty; which was given in irony to a girl who held no shame about her body, naked or clothed. Her last name she gave herself, Blaise, after Merlin’s tutor from the Arthurian legends. Lob died when Modesty was 17. She buried him in the desert and moved on, once again alone, to the city of Tangiers.

For two years she worked the roulette table at a casino in Tangiers owned by a man named Henri Louche, who also ran a crime gang. On the night of Louche’s murder by a rival gang, a 19-year-old Modesty took over his organization. She rallied Louche’s employees and built up the small time gang into a global syndicate called, “The Network.” But while the underworld was their playground, Modesty had her own sense of morality, which governed their dealings. She made sure The Network never dealt in vice; those who disobeyed this rule through the sale of drugs, women, or children were either delivered to the authorities or their graves.

While in Saigon on Network business, Modesty came across a man named Willie Garvin who became Modesty’s right arm in The Network, and her closest companion. “Princess” was what he, and he alone, would always call her.

On a side note, O’Donnell’s introduction to Titan’s 2004 reprint of his first Modesty Blaise strip story, “La Machine,” tells how he was looking for somebody to give Jim Holdaway as a model for the physical appearance of Willie Garvin. One evening he was watching a televised performance of the play, “Hobson’s Choice” and thought of one of the actors, “[T]his bloke would do good for looks.” The next morning O’Donnell called the BBC and asked for the agent of the man he’d seen, hoping he could sit in as a model. The actor was Michael Caine.

The response from the operator at the BBC was, “Michael who, was that?”

O’Donnell has said that “Modesty and Willie aren’t superheroes, they don’t always get things right and they can end up in a hopeless situation.” But, as any reader can see, they are “fantastic”—especially when you start to add up their varied talents. Modesty is adept in both armed and unarmed combat, often employing obscure and concealed weapons. She is compassionate, yet has a capacity for ruthlessness that is tempered only by her sense of justice. She will kill anyone who hurts a friend. She is a self-proclaimed “compulsive payer of debts,” and has a progressive attitude towards race, class, and spiritual beliefs. And Modesty rewards loyalty; upon dissolution of The Network in order to retire at age 26, she made sure each of her employees would receive either a pension or a branch of the organization.

Modesty is completely comfortable in her skin, whether she’s fighting, nude, or fighting while nude. She is fully present in her body, recognizing it as a source of pleasure, a weapon, and a gift to give. The most infamous way that Modesty’s body, sexuality, and confidence come together as perfect weapon is in a technique she calls, “The Nailer” –a particularly action femme move. (Though it should be noted that seduction is only one of many of Modesty & Willie’s tools. They both do it, but it’s not their only skill, as is often the case with vixens, femme fatales, vamps, and lotharios.)

The Nailer involves Modesty stripping to her waist to reveal her lovely, bare breasts, while Willie sneaks around back of whomever it is they’re set to take down. Modesty walks into the room, the men are stunned, a few extra seconds are bought that enable Willie to chill them—the villains are Nailed.

Willie Garvin is an expert with knives, crafting them himself, along with all of the pair’s requisite spy gadgets. He always wins at cards, can bend steel with his bare hands, and is mildly precognitive. He can quote at length from the Bible, having spent a year in prison with only a Psalter to read. He also speaks Pidgin English and can mimic voices to perfection.

Modesty and Willie have one of the most unique relationships in popular culture, and their humanity and friendship are the foundation of their adventures. They’re soul mates; inseparable and symbiotic. They trust and know one another completely, but they aren’t lovers. They’ve never indulged in a sexual relationship—never will. And unlike Steed and Peel, or Mulder and Scully, we want it that way. Their friendship is a large part of what makes them compelling.

The deadly duo work hard, taking out dangerous criminals, drug dealers, and diabolical masterminds through a combination of martial arts, money, connection & influence, ingenuity and verve. But they also play hard—a tough caper might be alleviated by a turtle race in the ocean, or perhaps a go-cart ride at dawn. Few have the skills to live so confidently—and the world truly is the oyster of Blaise and Garvin.

The pair have been called “criminals with hearts of gold,” a description which is only partly true, as when we first meet them, Modesty and Willie are retired from crime. More accurately, they’ve always walked a fine line between criminality and heroism—always leaning towards the moral side, if not necessarily the legal one.

Sir Gerald Tarrant, of the British Secret Service, was savvy enough to recognize that the pair wouldn’t be content to remain idle, and that they could be an asset to Her Majesty’s government. But Modesty is no one’s agent, and where she goes Willie follows. They do help Sir Tarrant out, personally and professionally, but never in an official capacity. And they are grateful to him for helping them realize they need adventure every now and then; they crave danger, intrigue, problem-solving, and hand-to-hand combat. It’s who they are.

As mentioned already, Modesty has frequently, and erroneously, been referred to as “the feminine answer to James Bond.” The Evening Standard once wrote that “Comparisons of Modesty with James Bond are irresistible. The similarities are marked—the restless changing scenes, the ingenuity of both sides, the violence, the surging confidence in telling.” But these are superficial similarities; part and parcel of the genre, and those who claim that Modesty is a female James Bond—which O’Donnell has firmly stated is “the last thing she is” thoroughly misunderstand his creation. Modesty is the antithesis of Bond.

One must of course acknowledge, as O’Donnell does, that Bond is a worthy icon, but “he only exists for the period of the mission he’s on—he doesn’t have a home, interests, friends.” Indeed, while Bond has a residence, a housekeeper, silver and china, he’s indifferent to comforts which give others pleasure or a sense of security—the sensations of living. He may play cards, sleep with beautiful women, and indulgently imbibe, but one gets the feeling he couldn’t care less about any of it. Modesty, on the other hand, is capable of truly experiencing the moment. She enjoys her luxuries, as much as she enjoys sharing them. As O’Donnell notes, unlike Bond, “she’s got a small circle of close friends . . . interests and . . . a life that goes on in the background and is interspersed with, not missions, but events that she falls into for one reason or another.”

Over the years Modesty Blaise has branched out into other media. A terrible, terrible movie, directed by Joseph Losey, was released in 1966. O’Donnell claims it makes his nose bleed just to think of it. Indeed, the failures of the 1966 Joseph Losey film are legendary; characters are miscast, misread, and misrepresented. Fight scenes are poorly choreographed; stunt doubles are embarrassingly obvious. The ultimate offense was, the quality of the material O’Donnell created certainly had the potential to rival the Bond franchise. If the movie had stayed true to character, tone, and genre, Modesty Blaise could have been as well known. But the Joseph Losey film single-handedly prevented the property from reaching an American audience—one which was already in the midst of a profitable spy craze.

A good thing did come out of the movie. O’Donnell was able to use the story he had done for the original film script for the first in what would become a series of 11 novels and 2 collections of short stories detailing Modesty and Willie’s capers, exploits, and adventures—even their demise. The final collection of short stories came out in 1996 and was titled, Cobra Trap, which was also the name of what O’Donnell imagined as the final story for Modesty and Willie. He wanted to create a suitable end for the pair, and didn’t want their fate to end up in the hands of another writer. And who can blame him? They had been his companions for forty years. O’Donnell sets the story far in the future and says of his choice, “I concluded that they would want to go out doing something really useful, not saving the world James Bond-style, but something on a small scale that was worth doing, saving lives in way, and together. . . Quite a number of fans haven’t been able to bring themselves to read that last story . . . those who have usually say that it was right; it was the suitable ending for them. It was the kind of ending that they would have wanted.” I can tell you it was.

On a side note, while writing the Modesty strips & novels, O’Donnell was also writing a series of romance novels under the pseudonym, Madeline Brent. The true identity of “Ms. Brent” remained a secret until the mid-1990s.

Since the original Modesty Blaise fiasco, several prominent creators of popular culture have expressed interest in making a filmic adaptation that would remain truer to its source. Sandman creator Neil Gaiman has glowingly said, “I fell in love with Peter O’Donnell’s astonishing heroine, Modesty Blaise, when I was twelve,” adding that as he grew up he “also came to admire the craft with which she was brought to the world, the lunatic skills of her creator, and, last of all, I found the comic strips, where she started, and discovered just how much of what I loved about Modesty was there from the beginning….”

Gaiman wrote a treatment for the novel, I, Lucifer, and apparently even started actual script work. Luc Besson was rumored to direct the picture.

Quentin Tarantino, a long-time fan of Modesty Blaise, was rumored to direct the film version of another novel, A Taste For Death—an intense, emotional, improbable, paranormal, and wicked deadly story that would have been a fitting venture for the frenetic auteur—but unfortunately the project has never come to fruition.

Tarantino, however, was tangentially involved in the B-movie, My Name is Modesty, directed by his occasional cohort, Scott Spiegel. The movie is an original story, which O’Donnell was consulted on, that centers on the night Henri Louche is murdered at his casino and how a young Modesty manages to save a group of hostages from similar demise. Alexandra Staten plays a convincing Modesty by conveying the essential characteristics we’d hope to see in a filmic embodiment; compassion, resolve, wile, bravery, and yes, of course, ass-kicking.

Spiritual Descendents
Once established in their respective media, Cathy Gale and Modesty Blaise no doubt influenced each other—but what’s especially interesting is that they emerged at nearly the same time. It was a cultural moment; a zeitgeist collision of changing social values which were reflected in popular culture. Women’s lib was around the corner, and subsequent representations of extraordinary women in modern mythology would be modeled after Cathy, Mrs. Emma Peel, and Modesty. These women combined intelligence, femininity, independence, and agency with confidence in their sexuality and a sophisticated style.

Their legacy deserves some attention, Modesty’s in particular, because she is so little known, yet has had such a wide influence. Therefore her contribution to a pop culture lineage of spy-fi superwomen will receive special attention in the following paragraphs.

Ms. Diana Prince
Members of the team of writers and artists who worked on Wonder Woman during her Spy-Fi era (Issues 178-204) have acknowledged that Mrs. Peel’s style was inspiration for the mod direction taken with the new Diana Prince, and this is most evident in her hairstyle, her Emmapeelers, and in her partner I Ching’s bowler and brolly.

But the spy era issues show that Diana has a striking amount of Modesty in her as well. Definitive evidence that images, story arcs, or characteristics were borrowed from Modesty Blaise are difficult to come by but those in the American comics industry would likely have had access to reprints of British strips—no matter obscure they may have been in the States. A few examples are in order because while the physical style may be Peel, the attitude can, at times, be very Blaise.

Like Modesty, Diana works outside of the law and will kill if she feels it’s just.
She uses yogic trances to preserve her resources—which is a technique Modesty learned from her guru, Sivaji; and she travels the world much like the globally sophisticated Blaise, while Peel remained in the UK.

Maybe O’Donnell directly influenced Mike Sekowsky and Denny O’Neil—he certainly inspired other mythmakers. But perhaps a definitive answer to the question is irrelevant when popular culture is so porous.

Ororo Munroe (a.k.a Storm)
The influence is much clearer with Ororo Munroe. X-Men writer Chris Claremont has shrugged off his appropriation of Modesty’s origin story for the character of Storm by saying “If you’re going to swipe, swipe from the best.”

In Uncanny X-Men #102, we learn that Ororo, like her spiritual ancestor, was an orphan who traveled alone and by foot, until meeting up with a man who would become her mentor. (But while Lob was a scholar, Achmed el-Gibar was a master thief.)

In an article for Back Issue, Peter Sanderson suggests that “Modesty Blaise is the prototype for today’s female action heroes” and that “it should be no surprise that Modesty Blaise was an important influence on Claremont’s own depictions of independent, capable, heroines.”

Ms. Tree
Ms. Tree ran non-stop for fifteen years, making it the longest running detective comic book of all time. Max Allan Collins based the initial story on the idea that Mickey Spillane’s P.I., Mike Hammer, finally married the gun-packing, tough-as-nails Velda. Collins, who co-created Ms. Tree with artist Terry Beatty explains:

“The central notion was that the tough private eye and his loyal secretary, his unrequited love for years and years, would finally get married, only for the P.I. to be murdered on their wedding night, leaving the secretary to take over the detective agency and step into her late husband’s shoulder holster. The private eye’s murder would be the former secretary’s first case.”

Collins notes that the character of Ms. Tree owes a nod to Modesty as well. He and Beatty were intrigued by the idea of “An American Modesty Blaise” for their detective series, who would be to private eyes what Modesty is to spies.

In Die Another Day (2002) Halle Berry starred as “Jinx,” a role that director, Lee Tamahori, says he modeled on Modesty Blaise in hopes the character would be “as kick-ass as Bond.” Unfortunately, the result was a poor excuse for a Modesty wannabe, rather than a unique, or even intriguing, homage.

The Bride & Kill Bill
Though A Taste for Death never reached production, Tarantino’s love of Modesty was clearly subsumed into the character of Beatrix Kiddo—also known as “The Bride” in Kill Bill. In Kiddo, we see Modesty’s intention, ingenuity, and controversial justice. (Plus, lot’s of killer sword fighting.)

Uma Thurman’s Bride succeeds where Halle Berry’s Jinx failed—Kiddo is a compelling homage. She’s Modesty in her guts; unafraid, undeterred, and always stylish.


The following examples, like Diana Prince, are unconfirmed descendents, but also likely candidates. Regardless of whether or not Modesty directly influenced these superwomen, she certainly influenced the Spy-Fi genre, and is therefore still a spiritual predecessor to them.

When thinking of female orphans who are innate survivors it makes sense to suggest that “Mathilda”—from Luc Besson’s 1994 film Leon (also known as The Professional)—may be a spiritual relative of Modesty.

Observation is the only formal evidence of this. But we do know from Besson’s collaboration with Moebius and Mezieres on The Fifth Element that he is familiar with comics, and as mentioned, the director was rumored to be linked to the I, Lucifer project so he is clearly familiar with Blaise.

Played by a very young, sultry and precocious, Natalie Portman, Mathilda, like Modesty, is fierce, resourceful, cunning, and brave. From the start of their respective quests, both are young girls who don’t just survive –which is a laudable feat unto itself–but seek out and master skills that will make them survivors. They are sexually confident, and combine compassion with the ability to exact just revenge. It’s quite easy to see Mathilda growing up to be a woman very much like Modesty.

Lara Croft
Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft is Modesty incarnate. She’s wicked, rich, beautiful, and shameless. An orphan, a woman of leisure, and a seeker of treasure, Lara, like her spiritual predecessor thrives on danger.

The most obvious Modesty Blaise Moment arrives early in the movie, when we see that Lara, like her spiritual ancestor has an admirably healthy lack of shame. Lara has just taken a shower and her man-servant, Hilary, greats her with a towel and a very feminine sundress.

Lara Croft: Oh… very funny.
Hilary: I’m only trying to turn you into a lady.
Lara Croft: Mm…
(She drops her towel as she walks past him, completely nude, and into her wardrobe)
Hilary: (sighs) And a lady should be modest.

“Yes” replies a mischievous Lara, “a lady should be modest.” (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider)

The two women both exude a combination of sass, confidence, sex and danger.

Sydney Bristow
Sydney Bristow is the daughter of two spies. One is an agent for the CIA, the other worked for the KGB. But she is also the spiritual daughter of Modesty, Cathy, Emma, Honey and Pussy, as the quintesstial feminine spy-fi characteristics established by Bond, The Avengers et. al, have seeped into popular consciousness establishing precedents which have then descended to her.

Sydney, like Modesty and Cinnamon Carter, skillfully uses her body as a tactical distraction. In fact, she frequently used variations on Modesty’s “Nailer” technique. For example, in the series Season Four opener of Alias, “Authorized Personnel Only,” Sydney, who has “accidentally” been booked in the same sleeping cabin as her mark on a train, emerges from the bathroom clad in a white negligee. With a blonde wig and Swedish accent she forces his focus to her, and her alone, as she coos in broken English, “Is dis okay for me? I just got it.” It’s not a full-on bare-breasted stunner, but her physical beauty and hypnotizing sexuality perform the same function. They’re arresting, and her audience is nailed.

Alias plays with the genres that O’Donnell combined to create Modesty Blaise—the concept of a superhero, or at the very least, a superwoman, with romance and high drama. Syd is much more emotionally volatile than the cool, cool Modesty, but they do share a fierceness not to be reckoned with. It was inevitable that Modesty aficionado Tarantino would write and star in a number of episodes. In 2002, he told Rolling Stone that, “Alias delivers what The Man From U.N.C.L.E. always promised. It actually lives up to the coolness of its potential.” The author of the piece, a profile on Jennifer Garner, noted that while the actress has a stunt double (Shauna Duggins) she also does most of Sydney’s fight sequences herself. He writes, this can be much trickier when you’re showing off cleavage and that “it brings to mind the old quote about how Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did, only backward and in high heels. Likewise, Garner is Jackie Chan in a slinky cocktail dress.” (Rather than commending her talents by comparing her to a talented male, let’s just acknowledge that Garner kicks ass—backwards and in heels.)

The rare and admirable accomplishment of Alias was that it could show Sydney in any number of dominatrix wear, school-girl outfits, rubber dresses, wigs, sexy librarian glasses, thigh-high boots, high-heeled shoes, and high-tech catsuits and not have it detract from her power. Sexuality may have been her weapon, but it was never her source. Her aliases were a playful nod to genre conventions, but it was also stressed that Sydney was a well-trained government agent. Athletic, intelligent, skilled in various martial arts and weaponry (which, unlike Rigg, Garner actually trained for) and fluent in at least a dozen different languages, Sydney had friends, was a kick-ass mom, a kick-ass daughter and had an admirable sense of justice, compassion, and integrity. Unlike many of her spiritual predecessors, Sydney Bristow was allowed a multi-dimensionality that made her sexuality just a part of her—rather then the reason for her being.

Admittedly, marketing to a heterosexual male audience could not be completely avoided. When Garner became pregnant, she wanted to go undercover as a “big, fat, man.” Despite her pleas, the producers refused. And as Leigh Adams Wright, points out in her contribution to Alias Assumed: Sex, Lies and SD-6, “there’s a difference in the ways men and women on Alias perform their espionage duties. Vaughn never has to flirt with the door guy; Dixon may have to wear dreads once in a while, but he’s always fully clothed.” She adds that, “It’s only Sydney and her fellow female agents who end up parading around half naked and charming their way past high-tech security systems into top-secret labs . . . feminine wiles are a favorite weapon in the Alias female spy’s arsenal.”


In the interplay of popular culture, of new ideas and borrowed ones, of zeitgeists, cultural trends, swipes, homages, and amalgamations, Modesty is a feminist archetype in the spy genre, as well as a groundbreaking female action hero. In laying out where she’s come from and who she’s linked to, it’s clear that Modesty Blaise has inspired representations of phenomenal, mythic women who’ve come after her. And perhaps she can rightly be seen as a “missing link.” Like other female action heroes who are better known (at least in America; Wonder Woman, Foxy Brown, Ellen Ripley, and Buffy Summers to name a few) who have pushed the boundaries of their respective genres to further enhance the world of pop culture it is important to include Modesty Blaise in a mythical, matriarchal lineage in order to better see how porous and connected modern myth is.
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Peter O’Donnell passed away yesterday, just 2 weeks after his 90th birthday. He died peacefully in his sleep, and is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, and Modesty Blaise fans the world over. I will always be grateful to him for creating the most complex, resilient, kick-ass, yet compassionate, inspirational, and sophisticated female hero of all time.

* The majority of this article was based on a presentation for the Comic Arts Conference called The Princess of Spy-Fi: A Critical and Historical Overview of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise. Please remember and respect that no part of this may be reprinted without express permission of the author.