Archive for October, 2014

Follow up to “(Not So) Strange Appetites: Women and the Horror Fandom” at GeekGirlCon ‘14

Posted in conventions, horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2014 by Adrienne

Read my GeekGirlCon ’14 con report at WatchPlayRead and follow-up to “Curious about Comics? panel at Arkham Aeronautic.

Who knew that fifty minutes would go by so fast! Panel discussions need a chance to breathe and sometimes take on a life of their own. At the “(Not So) Strange Appetites: Women and the Horror Fandom” (#NotsoStrange #GGC14) panel at GeekGirlCon ’14, there were a couple of topics related to the subject matter that I had prepared for, but didn’t think they fit in the flow of the conversation. I wanted to post them here.

A big thank you to Tanya at Geekquality for inviting me to participate on this panel. It was wonderful meeting Ashlee of Graveyard Shift Sisters, Christina of Geekquality, and and Grace of Mythcreants and All Things Trek.

Not So Strange Appetites Panel (2)

My #NotSoStrange co-panelists: Ashlee Blackwell, Tanya Feldman, Christine Yu, and Grace Moore.

Regarding women behind the camera: American Psycho

There seems to be a bit about the film American Pyscho (2000) going around recently, possibly because of the proposed musical, and because of that I have been revisiting my own relationship with the Bret Easton Ellis novel and the Mary Harron film.

I read the novel soon after its release. I was in college at the time and in all honesty this book scared the crap out of me. I had been consuming a lot of horror in movies, TV, and books. Yet, there was something in Ellis’ novel that drove home the fact that women are too often victims and that misogyny was a real threat. I missed any sort of satire that Ellis states is represented in the novel, and that Mary Harron and Gunivere Turner brought forward in the the film. I did not find this a feminist book. There are passages were so horrifying to me that they remain with me to this day—and still turn my stomach.

I had avoided the movie for a very long time. While I enjoy the horror genre, in spite of the problematic tropes and content, I felt no need to see this film. However, motivations change. Mine certainly did after learning more about the creative team behind the film and the reviews that claimed the film brought out the satire of the novel. And now, I watch the film every now and again, especially if it is on cable. Christian Bale’s performance is excellent, really.

Mary Harron, director, and Gunivere Turner, screenwriter, managed to use the satire that I missed in the book to create a hyper-real world where women are present as objects and not valued nearly as much as an elegant business card or a designer suit. American Psycho isn’t really a slasher flick for me. I’m not sure it fits in my box for the horror genre generally either. There is a chainsaw and LOTS of blood. However, the film and its execution exposes the excess of male privilege and vanity–it makes its own brand of terror. One that points out that I’m not at all valued because I am not male.

American Psycho has an interesting legacy. After thinking about this through its creators–a novel written by a gay male, screenplay crafted by a lesbian, and directed by a hetero-married woman–does that make up of creators satirizing this state of male privilege make this a feminist film? Does only showing that women are a commodity in a hyper-real world of men work to convey a message of feminism? It is a film without any well-rounded and complete female characters. The satire certainly could be feminist, but I don’t find it empowering.

Gunivere Turner believes she and Mary Harron created feminist film. Watch Turner in an American Psycho Q & A at the Citizen Jane Film Series to hear what she has to say about the making of the film. The video is 45 minutes, but filled with interesting stories and insight into making the film.

Male privilege continues to extend over the same entities that Bateman’s does–women’s bodies, homeless people, and prostitutes. How much of Patrick Bateman remains in our culture to satirize today? Is American Psycho just a movie of 1980s excess? (Bateman worked on Wall Street and that entity has not seemed to have changed.) And how does the depiction of male privilege in American Psycho differ from shows today like Mad Men? Maybe it’s just the chainsaw.

At the time of the film release, Ellis was positive about the film and seemed happy with the outcome according to Turner. It appears his opinion has changed in the interceding years. He has said the book never should have been made into a film. And, he’s stated that he’s not a fan of women directors. The female-directed movies are not as good as those directed by men because film is a visual medium better suited to men. It’s all in this Movieline interview from 2010.

The film of American Psycho has more fans and a cult status that the novel never achieved. That has got to sting for Ellis. No matter what you think about the novel or the film (or eventually the musical), the controversial content has a interesting history.

Some recommendations

The panel made a few recommendations. There was a push for Hannibal, one of my favorite TV shows right now. Ashlee Blackwell made some great suggestions for classic blaxsploitation like Sugar Hill, Blackenstein, and Scream Blacula, Scream. She also suggested the short films Goodnight My Love and Small Talk. (Note: Ashlee said mention to not go complaining to her should you choose to watch Blackenstein.)

Christina, who blogs at Geekquality as Lois Payne, a a great knowledge of J-horror and Korean horror movies. If you are curious about recommendations in that genre, reach out to her.

Being a comics reader and a horror fan, I enjoy reading material on the bloody and creepy end of the spectrum. I really love the Creepy and Eerie anthology series from Dark Horse. Here are a few more titles for recommended reading:

  • Locke & Key (IDW) by Joe Hill
  • Nailbiter (Image) by Joshua Williamson
  • October Faction (IDW) by Steve Niles
  • Revival (Image) by Tim Seeley
  • Rachel Rising (Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore
  • Wytches (Image) by Scott Snyder
  • Hack/Slash (Image) by Tim Seely
  • Chew (Image) by John Layman
  • Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight (Dark Horse) by Alex de Campi
  • Severed (Image) by Scott Snyder
  • Baltimore (Dark Horse) by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola
  • Afterlife with Archie (Archie Comics) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

I don’t have many movie recs right now. I do like the classics: the Universal Monsters and Hammer Studios. I revisit those often. I liked the evolution of the final girl trope in You’re Next. The ending was not what I thought it would be in Martyrs. If you’ve any doubt that women can make gruesome films, then go see American Mary from the Jen and Sylvia Soska or Truth or Dare from Jessica Cameron. Just note that Truth or Dare has made folks walk out of screenings. (Yes, some parts are that disturbing.) I dig the vamps. The vampire genre, in my opinion, has been redeemed with Byzantium and Only Lovers Left Alive. Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive isn’t really a horror flick–but it is one of my recent favorite films.

In Seattle, we are having a lovely fall. Soon enough I will be hunkering down with the heater on and a cup of tea streaming as much horror as I can get my hands on. The Pacific Northwest rain has its purpose.

Follow Up to “Curious about Comics? We’ve Got You Covered” Panel at GeekGirlCon ‘14

Posted in books, comics, conventions with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2014 by Adrienne

I’m still kind of in awe after GeekGirlCon ’14. The “Curious about Comics” (#ComicsForAll #GGC) moderated discussion and audience questions went so well, but 50 minutes goes by so fast! A big thank you to all the panelists! If you liked what they had to say be sure to reach out to them through social media: Charles “Zan” Christensen of  Northwest Press (@northwestpress), Jamie Broadnax of BlackGirlNerds (@blackgirlnerds), Kara O’Connor of WatchPlayRead (@kararobot), Sabrina Taylor a Valkyrie at the Comic Stop in the University District (@realafterglow), and Susie Rantz–the coordinator of GeekGirlConnections for GeekGirlCon (@susierants).

I’ve been thinking about the topics that we weren’t able get to during our comics panel. Here are a few topics I wish we’d touched upon and my personal views/opinion/advice. Take it with a grain of salt.

Zan, Adrienne, and Susie laugh it up before the Curious about Comics panel at GeekGirlCon '14.

Zan, Adrienne, and Susie laugh it up before the Curious about Comics panel at GeekGirlCon ’14.

In response to the question about a barriers to reading comics:

At the panel we talked a lot about how to obtain copies and navigating barriers there–like gatekeepers at your local comic shop. Another barrier that I still struggle with at times is the art. Comics have two components: words and pictures in a sequence. What do you do when you don’t like the art but the writing is excellent? And if the cover art is often done by a different artist than the one who draws the interior pages? (The is very common.) What if you pick it up for the cover only to see a style you like less on the interior? Or on the flip side a book might have fantastic art but the story is “meh” or outright bad.

There is no clear cut answer here. Each of us has a tolerance level for consuming visuals we don’t care for. You need to find your own. Just know that art in comics is so varied. It can be painterly, abstract, cartoonish, Kirby-esque, over-muscled, over-boobed, busy, straight-forward, drawn by hand, or computer generated for a few descriptors. Looking at books in the shop, previewing pages on blogs or through an online retailer, or ComiXology, will help you see what’s out there. Just like with writers, you can find artists you like and follow them on social media to see what projects are coming up next.

It is also worth noting that the art in comic may be distributed among many people: penciler, inker, and colorist. It takes a village to create a comic sometimes.

One example of this art not matching the writing that comes to my mind is Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey. Simone writes the conversation and banter between Oracle and Black Canary that rings true to women talking. I was overjoyed! How refreshing! Then, the Huntress enters the story and she is hanging upside-down with gravity defying boobs. Le sigh. Yet, Simone’s writing is excellent and I kept reading.

Alternatively, Saga is a great match between writer and artist (Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples), as is Rat Queens (Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch). I can’t recommend these titles enough.

I’ve found that with time that the art styles I don’t care for bother me less and less and I can appreciate the various styles for what they are. As for overly sexualized images of women, well, I doubt I will ever be comfortable with that. For me, the story is paramount and my main motivation for reading. However, for both the writing and the art, being able to identify what you don’t like and articulate it will help you come to terms with content across all walks of comics.

Don’t be afraid to be critical of the problematic

When you see that the art in a comic is too sexualized or the female character you’ve been rooting for suddenly loses her agency, what can you do? For titles published in ongoing series you may see changes in tone, retconned stories (looking at you New 52 Wonder Woman), or a wholesale changes in personalities–this happens mostly at Marvel and DC with long running titles. As hard as it is to break-up with a title, you have to do it and put your dollars somewhere else if you don’t like what you are reading. Actual letters to the publisher, not email, expressing your concerns and criticisms are a great way to get your point across to the publisher. I cannot guarantee that you’ll get the changes you want. But voice your opinion! It matters.

If you are writing to a specific title to be included in the letters column, make sure you include “OK to print” if you want it to be considered for publication. And, email is often the best choice if you goal is to get in the letters section. And beware that your letter could be edited for space.

Don’t forget to talk among your friends about what you are reading. Lots of comic readers have started their own blogs dedicated to reviews and content analysis. Your own blog can be a springboard to writing for a larger site if you really want your opinion out there. I’m glad to have WatchPlayRead as a platform for my own reviews. (WPR is always looking for more writers by the way! Not just comics but for TV and gaming too.)

Become a student of the medium

Another thing our panel did not have the chance to talk about was approaching comics as a student of medium, if you are into that sort of thing. Personally, I love learning about the craft and the history of comics. A great place to start your educational journey is Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Much of reading comics is an intuitive process and you don’t realize you mind fills in a lot of gaps automatically. Understanding Comics will answer a lot of questions that you never knew you had.

There are plenty of comic criticism and history books available. Trina Robbins is a great source of comic history that celebrates the contribution of women. Also, there are many insightful how-to books on succeeding in the industry as a writer or artist. I can personally recommend Make Comics Like the Pros by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente. Even if you don’t want to create your own comics, this book gives you an inside look at the creative and pitch process that will add to you understanding of how the industry works.

Don’t forget to mine the Golden Age for great material as well. The format of comics was different then and representations of women were actually more broad than we’ve seen in the recent past. Try Mike Madrid’s series of complied female characters if you want to dip your toe into the Golden Age.

Finding more recommendations

Finally, I really want to underscore what Jamie Broadnax, of Black Girl Nerds, said at the panel about asking the internet for recommendations. In doing so, you will find like-minded folks who you trust for recommendations and commentary.

Looking at award-winning titles can also give you an idea what the industry is says is good. The Eisner Awards are held every July at San Diego Comicon International. The Small Press Expo has its Ignatz Awards. GLAAD Media Awards has a comics category (scroll two-thirds the way down the page). But there are many more out there.

There is a list of a few sources for news and recommendations on the PDF below. It isn’t an exhaustive list by any means.

“Curious about Comics” reading list

Here is a PDF of the reading list handed out at the panel. It has recommendations from all the panelists, but it lots of it comes from looking at my own collection and “to buy” list.

Read my convention report at WatchPlayRead and my follow-up to “(Not So) Strange Appetites: Women and the Horror Fandom” on this blog.