Thursday, December 27, 2012

So I Entered A Writing Contest

Terror Tortellini, the awesome creepypasta blog and forum that anyone into creating or enjoying short and sweet horror should check out, recently hosted a Christmas writing contest.  The theme was gifts.  And guess whose entry was chosen to be featured on the blog?

(It was mine.  You probably figured that out, just making sure we're all on the same page.)

My entry, now hosted on the blog, is called The Cat's Gifts.  It's very short, with a very simple premise.  Sometimes a cat may bring you unwanted presents.  If you've got a few minutes to spare, check it out!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Which I Make the Joker Talk About Gail Simone

Edit: Gail Simone has been reinstated as the writer of Batgirl!  That renders this video as kind of pointless now, but awesome news nonetheless!

I've talked a lot about DC's dismissal of Gail Simone, a lot of it in anger, so this week the Joker and Batgirl are here to demonstrate appropriate ways to express disgust, and inappropriate ways.  There is also mention of their upcoming marriage and women in refrigerators, but mostly it is the Joker irritating Batgirl over Skype until she loses her temper.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gail Simone Appreciation Day

This is my response to the appalling decision by DC Comics to remove Gail Simone as the writer of Batgirl.

Because I can hold back my tears if I keep typing, because DC clearly didn’t know a great thing when they had it, and because my heart feels like it got slammed with a concussion Batarang.

That’s Gail on the right, and myself as Wonder Woman on the left.  I’m holding a Jacob’s Ladder that I made for her, with the Secret Six on one side and various members of the Birds of Prey on the other.
Some things to know about me in order to underscore what a wonderful experience this was:  I had only been reading monthly comic issues since September, a few months earlier.  This was the third annual C2E2.  The two years I attended before, I had only read the odd trade paperback and watched various cartoons and movies.  This was the first year I really spoke to any creators, and I was nervous as hell, and beating myself up inside for being one of those “fake geeks” the Internet loves to rant about.

This was also before I had actually read Gail’s excellent run on Wonder Woman, which featured the Terry Dodson Wonder Woman I was cosplaying.  The only Wonder Woman books I had read when I attended C2E2 as Wondie were from the Golden Age, and so not only was I terrified of speaking to Gail Simone because she was totally awesome and I was some nerd who barely knew what I was talking about, I was also some nerd who hadn’t even read the work from that author that I was cosplaying.

This was the first year I had ever done a cosplay with my face visible.  You can see in the picture that I had an underbite (it’s since been corrected with surgery), and I was incredibly insecure about that, as well as my face not being that of a perfect DC princess.

Finally and most importantly, I am autistic.  I can communicate verbally and generally I have no problem doing so, but when I am nervous, I begin to have a lot of trouble making myself start speaking, speaking coherently, and not stuttering or rambling awkwardly before trailing off.  When I met voice actor Kevin Conroy at the first C2E2, I just stood there with a stupid smile frozen on my face because I couldn’t speak to ask if I could shake his hand.

So we went into the convention on Friday afternoon and the first thing I did was make a beeline to her table in Artist’s Alley because issue six of Batgirl kept me from killing myself, damn it, and I was not going home until that issue was signed.  And then I got up there and remembered that I was a socially inept trainwreck who could barely stammer out a hello, let alone a “Hi, your comics mean more to me than I can possibly put into words, and also I made you this gift and I hope you find that cool and not creepy.”

And so cue the rambling and the stammer.  In the back of mind I was aware that I was talking to my favorite writer ever and most likely blowing it, but I was like Ralphie on Santa’s lap in A Christmas Story.  My brain and my mouth were not connected properly, and I couldn’t make one respond to the other.

But she understood me.  I don’t know how, from that incoherent mess of an introduction, but she understood.  The guy beside her (whose name I’ve forgotten, unfortunately) thought I was asking her to sign the Jacob’s Ladder for me, which wasn’t an unreasonable conclusion to draw, given how bad I am at explaining myself, but she understood it was a gift and that alone almost made my legs give out from under me.  She liked my Wonder Woman outfit - GAIL SIMONE liked my Wonder Woman outfit - she signed my book, she somehow managed to get me to say my name and speak in something resembling understandable English, and when I asked for a picture with her, she wanted one too.

In that moment, my life was perfect.  I wasn’t an insecure autistic girl with an underbite who felt like she wasn’t a real enough geek to be here.  I wasn’t someone who was afraid to show my face in cosplay.  I was Wonder Woman.  I was on top of the world.  Five minutes into the convention and I’d already had a moment that could never be topped.

Later than night I checked Twitter from the hotel room and she had tweeted about the gift I gave her.  I still don’t know how my roommates managed not to go deaf from all the jumping around and squealing I did as a result of reading that.

She was the only creator at the convention I successfully spoke to.  I was too afraid to speak to Tim Sale or Cliff Chiang, and Scott Snyder’s line was so long I was afraid to even attempt it.  But something about Gail was approachable.  She made me realize I wasn’t some loser imposing on important people.  She made me realize that I had a place in this community, that I mattered.

I don’t think DC realizes what a wonderful asset as a creator and as an amazing human being they’ve cast aside here.  I just hope they realize it and come back to her, begging on their knees.

And hey, turns out writing didn’t hold back the tears after all.

Friday, December 7, 2012

In Which I Make the Joker Talk About Satire

Last week, when I was compiling instances of recent misogyny in geek culture for my blog post about the Joker responding to Tony Harris's attack on cosplayers, I brought up an article from writer and director James Gunn, who is set to direct Marvel's film Guardians of the Galaxy.  The article, now removed from Gunn's blog, was entitled "The 50 Comic Characters You Most Want to Have Sex With."  It stated, among other awful things, that teen moms are "easy," lesbians can be "turned" by the right man, and that daddy issues are hot.  The post went up in February 2011 in response to an Internet poll, and was rediscovered after Gunn's involvement with Guardians of the Galaxy was announced.  The list went viral, people responded with outrage, Gunn removed the blog post, and the situation quickly devolved to hell in a hand basket.

The post, or the portions of it that I was able to see, is appalling and indefensible.  But there is a silver lining: James Gunn apologized, which in situations such as these is sadly all too rare. A real apology as well, not a weasel-worded "sorry you don't get my humor" excuse.  I was thrilled to hear that someone in such a position had realized they were wrong and publicly admitted it.  I thought that maybe people were finally realizing it isn't okay to make horribly offense remarks toward women or minorities.

I forgot about the ever-present circle jerk of dude-bros clinging to the misogyny in their subculture like a life line and hissing at anyone who dares question it.  "Why can't you have a sense of humor?" they'd whined when the post went viral.  "They're just fictional characters!  It's clearly satire!  You feminists just want to stop people from being able to ever make jokes!  If a girl made a list of heroes she wanted to fuck, you wouldn't complain!"

Was it pointed out to them that the article's premise wasn't the problem, but the execution?  That the "jokes" made toward fictional characters were leveled at real human beings as well, and often?  That satire doesn't work if it's indistinguishable from what it's meant to mock?  Of course.  Did it matter?  Of course not.

But I thought at least they'd stop when Gunn himself said the post hadn't been funny.  Apparently I expected too much.  Instead, they just whined that he should never have had to apologize, and that we evil women forced him into it.  They complained that we were trying to silence Gunn, while they tried to silence us.

And so with that, I brought back Lady Joker (and Wonder Woman!) back to tell us what comedy is and what it isn't.

As the clown says, if you have to explain a joke, there is no joke.  It wasn't a joke when supposed comedian Daniel Tosh responded to "rape is never funny" with "wouldn't it be hilarious if you were raped right now?"  It wasn't a joke when James Gunn said teen moms were easy.  There's no punchline, no subversion of expectations.  There's not even a pun.  Comedy can deal with terrible things, but just saying terrible things is not comedy.  It's simply being a dick.  Much like it's being a dick when you jump to the defense of hateful statements and try to silence dissenters, claiming that criticizing someone is censoring them.  It's not.  You have the right to be an asshole, and no one can take that away.  But that sure as hell doesn't make your bullshit comedy, and it doesn't mean you can't be called out.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

In Which I Make the Joker Talk About Sexism

Anyone with interest in the geek community and access to the Internet in these past few weeks has probably noticed a disturbing trend: male creators and enthusiasts telling women where they can and can't belong in the subculture, or making godawful comments about female characters, only to have their comments waved away as satire or lauded as speaking the truth. Whether it's creator Tony Harris blasting attractive women for daring to be at comic conventions in costume, CNN giving Joe Peacock space to complain about how women who don't know enough about geekdom are "poachers," or the recent unearthing of writer/director James Gunn's appalling post about "The 50 Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With" - which featured, among other things, calling teen moms easy and a "joke" that was either about the corrective rape of a lesbian or the idea that homosexuality is a choice - which was dismissed by dudebros and even industry professionals across the board as "satire," it's a hostile world for women who like comics.

While Gunn issued an apology, the outcry from female fans and creators and men who aren't jackasses has done little to shame either Tony Harris or Joe Peacock.  Peacock actually wrote another blog post talking about what a great guy the sexist, transphobic Harris was, while upholding his own belief that women who are at comic cons for reasons that don't meet Peacock's arbitrary standards are predators and bad people.

The geek community has already responded far better than I ever could, from comic writer Gail Simone countering Harris's hate by starting Cosplay Appreciation Day to author John Scalzi's brilliant post "Who Gets to Be a Geek?  Anyone Who Wants to Be," among others.  Webcomic creator David Willis also graced cyberspace with the Shortpacked! strip "Courage," demonstrating just how low the jerks who think they're taking a brave stand against evil womenfolk really are.

But small and poorly worded though my voice may be, I know what it's like to be viewed by pigs in my fandom as a piece of meat who exists only for their sexual fantasies.  I know what it's like to slave over a costume for a convention only to find pictures of myself online afterward mocking my looks and ogling my ass. I know the paralyzing fear of walking into a new comic shop for the first time as a woman, waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time I'm shopping.  Thank you, thank you, Bob's Comic Castle and Empire Comics, for not being the sort of shop that drives female fans away.  So as a cosplayer, a female geek, and a decent human being, I knew I wanted to speak out, and to do so in costume.

So I chose the most unlikely of my cosplay creations to do that.

Why the Joker?  Why not speak out as Wonder Woman, a feminist icon, or as Harley Quinn, a character who already gets fandom hatred, being viewed by some as a female Joker knock-off or an annoying victim who serves to normalize domestic abuse?

First and foremost, I just love the Joker.  He's the quintessential comic villain, Heath Ledger gave him the best performance I've ever seen in a comic to film adaptation, and he's my favorite of all the cosplays I've made.  And I intended that cosplay as a female variation of villain, so I spent a lot of time during its construction imagining the Joker as a woman, and how the other criminals of Gotham and comic fandom itself would view a Clown Princess instead of a Clown Prince.

The Joker is not the intuitive choice to talk about sexism.  My genderbent incarnation is still crude, hateful, and sadistic.  She makes the cissexist assumption that sex and gender are the same thing, and is concerned less with the negative impact of misogyny on women as a whole, and more on how sexist treatment affects her alone.  She is interested in violence rather than education, and counters hatred with more hatred.  She may have traded her Y chromosome for an X, but her newfound sex doesn't make her any less of an asshole.

And even she can see that holding women in a subculture to a different standard than men and ascribing nefarious motives based solely on affecting men to women's actions is not okay.

Or, to make a long explanation short: When you've crossed the line so far that even a homicidal super villain says, "Dude, not cool," it's time to re-examine your life choices.

I hope I've made it work.  The Joker is a beloved character who constantly graces the top of Best Villain Lists.  Theoretically, turning the character female shouldn't cause that respect to waver, but in a world where female fans are constantly questioned about having the "right" knowledge or being too pretty to conform to stereotypes, who knows?  Maybe she'd prove herself as a "real" villain girl.  Certainly enough women who've spoken out against this chauvinistic stupidity have been told that they're not the ones being talked about, that they're the real fans.  But the thing is, no one has the right to declare himself King Geek and say who can and can't live in the kingdom.  Bullshit like that hurts us all, and if you engage in it, I may not shove a Diva Cup down your throat, but I will lose all respect for you.
Special thanks to Ryn Bailey for helping out while I was writing the script!