When Silence Is Self-Care In Comics Culture

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Carrie Mae Weems: Roaming, 2006

I. Self-Care in Silence

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve grown quieter about comics over the last few months. After my speech this past November at UNLV, I felt empty. But even when I regained strength I remained quiet. Was I uninspired? Was I being lazy? Whether I couldn’t really tell, or I wasn’t being honest with myself, it took reading Kim O’Connor’s Don’t Be a Dick: Tips and Tricks for How to Talk About Comics piece on Comics and Cola for the reason to become clear to me:

I’m writing today because I think I know the answer to a question that comics types revisit every so often: Why aren’t there more people writing comics crit?

Some of the reasons are universal. (There’s no money in it. There’s no real audience.) Others are huge, but not universal, like systemic racism and sexism. On top of all that there’s another, more nebulous obstacle that some of us experience, and that’s the fact that comics promotes a culture in which people feel way too comfortable acting like total dicks to complete strangers.

When I read those words from Kim, it felt as if she knew what I’ve been fearing all this time. Like she was speaking directly to me. I know I’m not alone. It hurts to see people get harassed for calling out problematic elements in comics. I love comic books. There’s no doubt about that. But it pains me watch the harassment perpetuate – to use bell hooks’ phrase – an
imperialist
white-supremacist
capitalist
patriarchal ideology.

I haven’t experienced a lot of this bullying myself. But the thought of it happening scares me. It scares me to the point where I’m apprehensive of writing, or even just tweeting, about the many issues that bother me. It’s exhausting to simply exist as a woman of color in a society that suffocates me with sexism and racism every day. Right now my spirit can’t manage even more of it in comics culture.

At this moment, I feel the spirit to speak up. I just don’t I have the energy to fight back. But I’m glad others have that strength. I love them for it. So much. They’re a beacon of hope and an inspiration.

Maybe my energy will continue to come and go in batches, though I always fear that it will run out for good. Maybe one day I’ll find my own everlasting strength. For now, my silence is a form of self-care. And if I can’t fight back myself, I’ll continue to support those who can.

 

II. Celebrations

A dear friend of mine shared a poem with me. I shared it with another friend. I’ll now share it with you.

won’t you celebrate with me
By Lucille Clifton, 1936–2010
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

To me, this poem reflects what marginalized people, specifically women of color, experience not only as members of society, but as fans within comics culture as well. What happens out there, happens in here, too. What I like most about this poem is that it doesn’t offer any false hope. It doesn’t make a promise that things will get better, but it doesn’t forebode that things will get worse either.

The poem, instead, gracefully welcomes us to celebrate in the now, that we had the incredible strength to merely survive. Reading a comic, critiquing a comic, creating a comic, all take strength in a world where you are constantly told your voice, your body
or your life
don’t matter.

So won’t you celebrate with me? Celebrate that you made it through another day. Celebrate that you’re still you despite everything and anyone trying to change that. Celebrate that you still managed to be passionate about comics when its culture makes you feel as if you don’t belong. Let’s celebrate with our middle fingers up in the air. Smiling, perhaps through tears. But smiling just the same.

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New York Comic Con 2015: Gimmie The Loot

Here are all of the goodies that I got from NYCC. This post was half done a month ago but life has been kinda crazy so better late than never as they say!

The Divine 
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The Divine is a fast-paced, brutal, and breathlessly beautiful portrait of a world where ancient powers vie with modern warfare and nobody escapes unscathed. (via Amazon)” This is a perfect example of why you should judge a book by its cover. (I bought this from the Kinokuniya booth along with Virgil.)

Eliza Frye 

Her art made me stop in my tracks!

Virgil

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“Betrayed, beaten, and banished by his own, an outed cop fights his way across Jamaica for revenge! (via Image)” Virgil was a thrill ride. Buy this!

Jordie Bellaire is GREAT & They’re Not Like Us 

Jordie Bellaire is my favorite colorist. If you read (good) comics, chances are Bellaire is the colorist on one of them. She’s crazy talented, hardworking and to top it all off she’s a super nice person.

About two years ago I was tweeting sweet nothings to @whoajordie about her coloring and she said she was going to the upcoming New York Comic Con and she’d give me a little something. I promptly melted. Sadly, she couldn’t make it to NYCC that year. But she didn’t forget that convo. This year she tweeted at me that she wasn’t going, but Declan Shalvey (another talented artist) was going and she would give him something for me to pick up. I was just beside myself. I didn’t think she remembered a few tweets she exchanged with a fan two years ago, let alone decide to give little old me something.

Fast-forward to the con and I pick up my gift from Bellaire via Shalvey and it’s volume one of They’re Not Like Us written by Eric Stephenson art by Simon Gane and colors by Jordie Bellaire. Now I’m already reading this comic because duh, why wouldn’t I be? But I didn’t have the first volume which I was excited to get. And then to have it blessed by Jordie Bellaire herself was one of the highlights of New York Comic Con. She did a cute little sketch and wrote, “Thanks Jamila”. Thank YOU, Jordie. For real. Thank you. It never gets old when you realize someone you’re a fan of is a really nice person.

Tephlon Funk

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Tephlon Funk is an anime/manga and hip hop inspired comic with plans to come out as an anime as well. TF is one of those projects that I could just throw my money at without knowing much about the story because the art is so dope. This post was supposed to go out when the Tephlon Funk Kickstarter was live so y’all could fund it. But alas, life did its thing, and now the Kickstarter has ended but thankfully it was funded!

Alitha Martinez

Alitha Martinez is a talented artist who has worked for DC and Marvel and we’ve been on two panels together about Women of Color in Comics. Martinez had a booth in artist alley and I HAD to cop her art. I picked up two postcards and a beautiful erotic comic called Foreign: Gifts and Curses: Pillow Book.

Wayward

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My friend Roshi is reading Wayward and told me she loved it and I should read it, too, so I stopped by writer Jim Zub’s booth in artist alley and picked it up. The cover is filled with cats so I’m already a fan.

Markus Prime

I’ve been a fan of Markus Prime for a while now. I love his creative, race swapped characters. He was at NYCC supporting Amandla Stenberg and Ashley A. Woods’ new comic Niobe (see below). He also did a variant cover for the series. He didn’t have a booth but he was nice enough to bring two prints for me to buy from him the next day!

Ego Rehab by Dave Crosland

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While in artist alley, I did my usual “scan for artists of color and women to buy from” and came across Dave Crosland’s booth. I bought his comic Ego Rehab, which is an autobiographical story where Crosland is rescued from lack of inspiration by his adventurous inner child. It sounded like fun so I picked it up!

Niobe: She is Life Print & The Untamed

I stopped by the Stranger Comics booth to support the new series, Niobe: She is Life. It’s written by Sebastian A. Jones, and Hunger Games star and activist Amandla Stenberg with art by Ashley A. Woods based on layouts by Stranger’s Art Director Darrell May. Unfortunately, issue one was sold out but I managed to snag a gorgeous print and and the hardcover of The Untamed. Niobe seems to be sold out pretty much everywhere so lucky you if you managed to get a copy!

Nowhere Men

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My love for Nowhere Men runs deep, y’all. Very rarely do I fall in love with every bit of a comic but I did with NM. It was young love, but just as we were getting to know one another, my heart was broken when it went on a hiatus with no mention of a return. I felt like I was left at the alter. Despite its abrupt stop, I continued to tell anyone who would listen to read Nowhere Men. But as they say it’s always darkest before the dawn and it was announced that Nowhere Men was returning.

When is it returning? Not sure exactly, sometime next year. But just like Nana, I’ll wait forever for its return. This announcement, however, came with upsetting news. The original artist, Nate Bellegarde, won’t be returning with it. I’m really sad about this and will probably never get over it, but I understand. For a minute or two, I tried to figure out how to describe the way Bellegarde’s art made me feel, but I can’t. I’m speechless… Or rather wordless. I wish him all the best. He is talented beyond words. I’m looking forward to Dave Taylor joining the Nowhere Men team as the new artist. (Oh, and shout out to David Brothers for being awesome!)

Flamecon – NYC’s First LGBTQ Comic Con

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I was beyond excited to attend NYC’s first LGBTQ Comic Con, FlameCon! It took place during Pride Month on June 13th at the fancy Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. Geeks OUT presented the con, which is a NYC based nonprofit dedicated to building a better community for LGBTQ geeks.

True Gender Equality

FlameCon had preferred pronoun stickers for attendees to wear which included “Ask Me” and “Them/Their/They”. They also had gender neutral bathrooms. Just two simple additions to a comic con made the 2,200 attendees feel comfortable and welcome.

The Happiest Con

FlameCon is the happiest comic con I’ve ever attended. This all happened because of one simple, but important word, respect. Attendees felt free to be their geeky selves without fear of harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Cosplay

There was A LOT of Steven Universe cosplay so I was basically in heaven.

Special Guests & GaymerX

My favorite special guests were Kevin Wada (artist), Cecil Baldwin (Welcome to Night Vale) and Dylan Marron (Welcome to Night Vale) to name a few! GaymerX had a game room and Nintendo and Atari both had booths.

My Loot

It was pretty hard to not spend all my money, the con was filled with talented creators and vendors. The MC in “Node” by David Rondinelli is basically Sailor Moon if her dad was Batman, so what’s not to love?

I had the chance to meet Hazel Newlevant, editor of “Chainmail Bikini” which is an anthology of comics by and about female gamers. She was super nice and her booth was full of great comics. I picked up her “Poly Glot, Cunning Linguist”. I really loved the honesty and emotional complexity of her short comic.

I couldn’t resist picking up this beautiful Hirsute Heroines postcard set by Hayley Blatte. Just look at the gorgeous purple pit hair!

I’m a big fan of simple black and white art (I blame manga for that). So I knew I couldn’t walk away from Niki Smith’s booth without buying something. “Some Did Rest” was the “depressing” comic as Smith described it. It was inspired by, “the thousands of students killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and the impact of a natural disaster on a society with compulsory population control.” It is pretty sad, but also really beautiful.

Up With The Sun” and “Friends” are Smith’s LGTBQ-friendly erotic comics. “Up With The Sun” is about a polyamorous relationship with a cisgender woman, transgender man and a cisgender man. “Friends” features a threesome with two cisgender men and one cisgender woman. I’ve read smut and ecchi manga before, so it was nice to read a comic where the eroticism of the story is healthy and balanced. You can read and subscribe to “Friends” and “Up with the Sun” on the erotic comic site Filthy Figments. She has more erotic comics as well!

FlameCon plans to have another con next year, hurray! Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Oh, and stay tuned for another FlameCon blog post about the ‘Secret Identities: Transgender Themes In Geek Culture’ panel I attended.

Vintage Comics from Europe

Superman & Batman Comics I got at a German flea market for 1 euro each. Dates range from 1969-1975.

Superman & Batman Comics I got at a German flea market for 1 euro each. Dates range from 1969-1975.

Since I’m living in Germany for a few months (see: Preludes & Predictions) I’m trying to take advantage of my time here by traveling. So far, I’ve spent a few days in Amsterdam and did a day trip to Strasbourg, France and loved it. While there, I visited comic book shops, geeky hobby stores and flea markets filled with old comics. Of course I bought some, even though I can’t read Dutch or French.

 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam never gets old even though this was my fourth time visiting. I actually lived in the Netherlands for a few years when I was young. I got to visit the Van Gogh Museum again which was in that one Doctor Who episode that made everyone cry. There was this awesome geek and gamer store called Popcult which needs to make its way to the states ASAP.

Flevopark & Spuistraat Street Art

Henk Comics & Manga

The one comic book shop I visited in Amsterdam was Henk Comics & Manga which Yelp said was the best. I was expecting some sort of magical foreign comic book experience, it was kind of… normal. Which was still cool. It reminded me of the shops back in the states… Except for those anime boob mouse pads.

Waterlooplein Flea Market

I wandered through the Waterlooplein Flea Market and found a stall that had a bunch of vintage comics. I think I only paid about 5 Euro ($5.75) for 6 comics. SCORE!

 

What I Bought At Waterlooplein Flea Market

Battle of the Planets Gforce In Action (Dutch)

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Fantastic Four Three: Prisoners of the Skrulls (Dutch)

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Fantastic Four Special: Family Reunion (Dutch)

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Fantastic Four Special: Repentance to the Infinite (Dutch)

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Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, France is only 90 minutes from my house in Germany. It’s a cute French city with a lot of Germany history but I didn’t really read about it because I’m a bad tourist. I picked up some old comics and manga at the flea market and a record shop called L’occase De L’oncle Tom. I also bought a brunch of pastries because it felt wrong not to.

Strasbourg Flea Market

There were a lot of flea markets around town filled with comics (and some manga)! Most of them were french comics I had never heard of before. Since I don’t speak French I was just buying the comics I thought looked cool. Many of the comics I saw had a lot of naked women in it and seemed pretty gratuitous.

What I Bought In Strasbourg

Musk (French)

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Musk was the first comic I picked up in Strasbourg. The cover caught my eye because it’s so ’80s! The long, thin legs reminded me of Ai Yazawa’s manga style. The story seems kind of weird, lots of naked women.

Dragon Ball Z (French)

Retropolis (French)

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Star Wars The Dark Empire (French)

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Girl Gone Geek’s Best of 2014

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Best Use of Boobies and Philosophy in an Anime- Space Dandy

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When I first heard about Space Dandy it sounded a lot like Cowboy Bebop, which is my favorite anime series, so I was all for it. To be honest, Shinichiro Watanabe could make an anime that was just a black screen for twelve episodes I would praise the animation and character development. However, when I saw the first episode of Dandy I thought it was ridiculous. Like really ridiculous. And so was the next one and the one after that… “Well, this isn’t very “Bebopy.” I thought to myself. I wasn’t sure if I liked it. Which made me start to lose faith in Watanabe. Which made me question what was even real. Which made me fall into an existential crisis. But then that crisis was averted when I realized I had to stop expecting Space Dandy to be something it wasn’t. Once that happened, everything changed. By the time the series ended, I loved Dandy just as much as he loves Boobies. (Which is a lot.) When watching Space Dandy, you just have to lose all expectations, relax and enjoy the ride, baby.

 

Best Reason to Call Out of Work- Bayonetta 2

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Dat ass, though.

 

Best Creepy Manga- Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano

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My love for Inio Asano grows every time I read one of his messed up coming-of-age stories and Nijigahara Holograph was no different. I dedicated blog posts to Solanin and Nijigahara Holograph because they are that good and I’ll probably do the same for Oyasumi Punpun, which I just finished reading. Asano-sensei is a brilliant storyteller, artist and one of my favorite mangakas. Despite the strangeness and disturbing quality to his stories, there is a unique beauty to them as well. His brutal honesty about humanity forces us to confront things we’re too scared to address. His manga tell us more about ourselves than we may be comfortable with, and with that, he creates a story so beautiful it’s unnerving.

 

Best Love Triangle to Obsess About- Hirunaka no Ryuusei (Daytime Shooting Star) by Mika Yamamori

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I’m a sucker for a shoujo romance love triangle, but throw a sensei up in that triangle and I. CAN’T. EVEN.

 

Smartest Hour On Sunday- True Detective 

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Since time is a flat circle, I can’t wait until my consciousness inevitability experiences True Detective again for the first time.

 

Best Cowboy in Space Movie- Interstellar 

interstellar_2014_movieI was personally offended when I heard some people didn’t like this movie.

 

The Comic That Was So Good It Was Perfect- Saga story by Brian K. Vaughan and art by Fiona Staples

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DUH.

 

Coolest World You Really Like But Don’t Want to Live in Because It’s Pretty Messed Up– East of West story by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Nick Dragotta

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This was a way for me to dedicate a category to East of West because it’s too good not to mention. Seriously, you should be reading this.

 

Best Eyegasm- J.H. Williams III for Sandman Overture story by Neil Gaiman

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So the real reason Sandman Overture comes out every leap year isn’t because of the creators busy schedules, it’s because if JHW3 releases Sandman Overture art once a month it will literally rip a hole in time and space and the universe will collapse in on itself.

 

Best Reason to Judge a Comic Book by Its Cover- The Wicked + The Divine written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jamie McKelvie

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When you first see the cover for WicDiv you’re all like, “Oooh shiny!” So you buy it because you like pretty things and figure if the story is terrible at least it’s pretty to look at. And then you realize you’re a really shallow person and get depressed. To distract yourself from this distressing realization you read WicDiv and everything about it is super cool and yet surprisingly smart. Then you stop feeling sad and shallow and pretend that you didn’t just buy the comic for the pretty cover, you bought it for the smart story. I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine.

 

Best Comic to Read in Public Places- Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Chip Zdarsky

sex-criminals3Fraction and Zdarsky prove as long as your comic is great, you can make as many sex jokes as you want.

 

The Comic That Will Take Over 2015- Bitch Planet written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and art by Valentine De Landro

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Feminism means equal rights for all women, but more often than not, the fight for equality is separated between white women and women of color *cough cough* “separate but equal”. Bitch Planet is a punch in the face to patriarchy and I’m so damn happy that all women are included. Thank you Kelly Sue and Valentine!

NYCC 2014: Cosplay Roundup

Every year I attend New York Comic Con more and more fans cosplay. It’s tough picking favorites but the ones that made me squee the most were Death from East of West and Steven Universe and his mom as Garnet. Oh and here’s my post about my Sailor Moon (aka Sailor Goon), Space Dandy and Spike Spiegel cosplay.

Anime/Manga

Comics

Movies & TV & Video Games & Podcasts

 

NYCC 2014: Women of Color in Comics

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I was on a panel at New York Comic Con. I still can’t believe it happened. It has always been a secret dream of mine ever since I did my first panel about Women in Comics last year. Coincidentally enough, the same person who ran my first panel, Regine L. Sawyer, asked me to be on the NYCC panel. So everything has come full circle. I immediately said yes of course because it was the opportunity of a lifetime. But right after I said yes, the nerves hit me. I’m not used to a lot of irl attention because what I do (blog) lives on the Internet. So when I get asked to be on panels I’m always very excited and grateful and extremely nervous. NYCC was the most nervous I’ve ever been. I literally thought I was going to throw up. I tried to calm down by telling myself that it’s just my opinions, there’s no right or wrong answer. I’m not giving a dissertation on metaphysics. I’m talking about what I know, which is comics, women and race.
Sonic Eclectic39 8.43.42 AMThe panel was called Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender and the Comic Book MediumIt was moderated by Regine L. Sawyer of Lockett Down Productions and the panelist included artist Alice Meichi Li, comic book artist Alitha Martinez, writer and cartoonist Barbara Brandon-Croft, cosplayer Geisha Vi, writer Juliana ‘Jewels’ Smith, writer and actor Vanessa Verduga and myself. I didn’t throw up so as far as that goes the panel was a success. But aside from the low bar I set for myself, the panel actually was a huge success. The room was almost filled to capacity, I heard there were over 700 people in attendance.

The description of the panel was, “Diversity. Women in Comics. Both subjects are hot button topics in the comic book industry. However, it isn’t often that both issues collide…” In all of my years attending NYCC, I’ve noticed a lack of people of color focused panels and PoC on panels in general. Despite the fact that NYC is probably the most culturally diverse city on the planet and the NYCC crowd reflects that. As the years went on there were more “The Women of ____” panels, but those panels often lacked women of color. So a panel like ‘Women of Color in Comics’ is something that’s not only necessary but should be regarded as essential.

The very existence of the panel showed two things, the growth of WoC comic fans and creators, but also the need for more representation and accurate representation in comics. Because we all know there’s a lot of misrepresentation of women in comics, but a majority of those women are white. So, we (WoC) are barely in comics to be apart of that misrepresentation. We have not only sexism to fight, but racism as well. This is especially important in regards to science fiction. Sci-fi often depicts worlds that are supposed to be our actual future, and if people of color are not there then they’re writing us out. They wrote us out of the past and now they’re writing us out of the future. I want women and men to understand that equality includes everybody. You can’t ignore the needs of women of color and call it feminism. 

The importance of diversity in comics should be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand its significance. When a person doesn’t see characters that look like them, they begin to feel like they don’t belong. Young girls of color may stop reading comics because they feel like it isn’t for them, which stops them from becoming creators in the future. It’s cyclical. I do believe it’s important for creators of all backgrounds, straight white men included, to be responsible and make sure their stories are as diverse as their readers and the world. However, I think it’s much more important for people of color to create the stories we want to see. We shouldn’t wait for change we should make it.

The most important takeaway was what we can do to make the comic book industry a more diverse one. Coming from a fan’s perspective there are two things that are essential to promoting change and that’s using your voice and your money. Support diverse mainstream creators and comics and diverse indie creators and comics. The fact that there are so many young women who are reading comics now proves that our voice is bigger. We can affect change in the industry because we’re becoming such a large percentage of it. Use your voice to promote these diverse stories, characters and creators whether it’s in person or online. If you’re a creator, don’t be discouraged by the current climate of the industry. It will be tough to break into mainstream comics as a woman of color, but one of the best ways to make sure change in mainstream comics is to be apart it.

Forty-five minutes flew by and it wasn’t nearly enough time to cover everything about women of color in comics, but it was a start. Although the panel was over, the conversation doesn’t have to end. Blog, tweet, post, talk about these issues to help promote diversity.

Shout out to Mass AppealPC Mag (twice) and Flavorwire and Indiewire for covering the Women of Color in Comics panel.