‘Halo Jones’ print exposes more than her body

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Take a step back from the topless ‘Halo Jones’ furore to see the big picture. Bristol Comics Expo 2013 have hung a huge “no girls” sign on their comics clubhouse this year.

‘Halo’ was not the first “Expo eXclusive” print on sale this year. That honour goes to a John Higgins cover, also marketed as for “the discerning adult”. And there’s also the fact there wasn’t a single female on the guest list this morning.

What these things tell you, right there on the very first page of the site, is that women in comics are fictional. They exist to be consumed, objectified. To titilate and provide fan service. Women in comics don’t produce. They don’t create. They aren’t active. We aren’t expected to have a voice, to have opinions. it’s in the language the organisers use, the promotional actions they are taking and the programme decisions they have made. The entire culture of BCExpo2013 is reactionary, sexist and puerile.

Let’s look at some of that language – because someone made decisions about those words. Someone thought “this is the best way to attract the audience we want”.

“Expo eXclusive”

Look! “eXclusive” has got a capital X in it because it’s X-rated! Hammer did this in the 1950s, making a selling point of their X-rating. Hence the film being The Quatemass Xperiment. And “exclusive” also connotes “tasteful gentlemens clubs” etc. So this phrase tells us the organisers know the material is unsuitable for children, and a marketing it on that basis. Bearing in mind this is on the first page you land on, if you google Bristol Comics Expo. And it’s on several pages, so it’s not a typo.

“for the discerning adult”

This is well-established code for people wanting pornography. As a teen, I frequented a couple of seedy bookshops that were fronts for porn shops. One of these was in Soho. The ‘innocent’ fronts happened to sell lots of old Doctor Who books. “Discerning adults” is a phrase designed to suggest tastefulness whilst simultaneously making it clear this is porn. The bookshop owners, by the way, always kept me out of the adult section. It wasn’t visible as soon as you walked in.

“We have a special, very limited run of Halo in all her ‘glory’!”

I’m actually slightly amused by the scare quotes around glory. Like the writer is a bit scared of gurl bits. None the less, it’s code for female body parts.

I don’t have a problem with fan service. I have a stash of Professionals fanfic which would make the writers of the BCExpo2013 site blush. I do have a problem when all the fan service is centered around objectifying female characters though. Combine that with a dearth of female guests and the upfront sniggery tone and I’m not getting prudish. I’m getting angry.

And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

I get angry because my daughter loves comics. I get angry because I like taking her to comic conventions. Yes, we have to do a certain amount of distraction work so she just sees furries as people who like to dress up. And let’s not go into her fear of Darth Vader. I’ve taken her to two BCExpos. Three if you count the year she was a bump being jostled by blokes with backpacks who couldn’t see my Baby on Board badge.

But we’re raising our daughter to be smart. To ask questions and voice opinions. To be creative. And the culture this row has exposed shows the BCExpo2013 doesn’t want girls to be like that.

So we’re out.

Oh, and to just turn the screw that little bit more, the charity the “eXclusive” prints are fundraising for is Marie Curie Cancer Care. That’s right, a charity named after a woman who went into a male world and achieved extraordinary things. A woman who thought, and fought, and had a voice. And a charity that seeks to ensure people are treated as people, with dignity and respect, not just as bodies.

The irony is infuriating.

Scott Pilgrim and the passive Princess?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

On Saturday we got around to watching Scott Pilgrim vrs the World. Towards the end, my enjoyment started to be tempered with uncertainty.

Spoilers follow, so here’s a cut…

Comics, twitter and stuff

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Where I am, baby, is back on my PC after a big crunch in the day job along with lots of other stuff that took me away from the internets. Well, away apart from my iPhone but I won’t join the ranks of the iPhone bores and write about that. Suffice to say, my twiiter remains violently active due to tweetie 2.

I did head over to BICS in Birmingham and, after a launch party in a club that caused everyone to slowly drift away due to the bad DJ choices, sat in a bar with the Geek Syndicate.

They managed to be together enough to run the Marvel at 70 panel the next day. Despite the side-effects of the cosmopolitans I’d had the night before, I ended up wanting to stick my hand up a few times. Noteably when Alan Davies and/or Mark Farmer were suggesting that comics were doomed in the new media landscape because the kids would rather download films. I wanted to point out that during the Golden Era comics were competing with films for the kids’ coin. I think a far more likely reason kids don’t buy comics now is something that came up later in the panel – cost. If adults with large disposable incomes have to pick and choose comics based on how many titles they can afford, the same must be even more true of someone with only a fiver a week to spend each week. Comics used to be pulp, they used to be cheaper than the cinema. Now they are not. Surely that’s a factor in their decline?

I understand my habit of attending events I can’t physically get to but can follow on twitter/livefeeds means I got a round of applause at Novelcon for getting up. The same did not happen at alikeminds, thankfully, but I really need to get my arse in gear for the next Exeter tweetup.


Wednesday, 13 August 2008

I love Jamie Smart. Not in a emo teen girly way (he has quite enough of those fans already, I suspect), but in an actual “I will buy something that is otherwise like Attention Deficient Disorders were let loose with a printing press” (i.e. the Dandy*) for his strips. Not to mention the DFC**. And I’ve been raving about his stuff for ages, oh yes. But for anyone who mysteriously doesn’t have the collected Space Raoul on pre-order, Whubble is his weekly office based web comic.

I especially love this one.

*I was a Beano girl (and proud member of the Dennis the Menace fanclub) but even so, I don’t remember comics being just a load of PR releases for stuff for kids to buy, or pester parents to buy, slapped on the pages with a handful of strips tucked away somewhere. It’s bloody awful. Chuh.

** which is very much what I remember kids’ comics to be like, except neither the Beano nor Twinkle (I was young, ok, and it was the 1970s) had strips written by the Philip Pullman of the day.


Monday, 26 May 2008

Strays, a comic strip I wrote for the Girly Comic a few years back, is their featured web comic for the next few weeks. Lee Kennedy did the artwork, and I certainly found writing it a massive learning curve. Page 1 is up today, with the rest to follow. Hope you enjoy.

Warring States – event / Bear!

Saturday, 6 August 2005

Get out your diaries and look up 16th August. If you’re free and around Exeter, I’ll be doing some shameless promotion a book launch style thing at the King Ludd bookshop on New Bridge Street at 7pm. I think it’ll be a bit of me waffling, a reading or two and then a drinkie or three. I suspect it’ll be downstairs, where there’s also a little exhibition space. I dropped off some books today and will get a window display. Yay me!


Picked up a copy of Bear #9 and the first two issues of Alan Moore’s Albion from Krackers whilst in town. I had to ask quietly if the latter was available, as a guy had just asked them if they had it and been told it was available via pre-order only. I felt that saying “woo! issues 1 & 2 and Albion! You saved them for me!” would not have been politic. Not sure what I think of Albion yet: I feel like I’m missing some key point due to my lack of in-depth knowledge about post-war British comics. The bit in which we get a flashback in the style of Minnie the Minx made me smile, but this intercutting of older comic style with contemporary was done in Doctor Who Magazine’s comic waaaay back in the 80s when two pages were suddenly done in the style of Rupert the Bear complete with rhymes beneath each panel (that may even have been around the time that Grant Morrison was writing for the DW comic). Unlike some of Moore’s previous comics, I am not enthralled immediately.

Bear is, of course, just pointless violence involving a teddy bear and a cat. I wanna Looshkin plushie.

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