Fab Fearless Females In Comics – Summer Reading List

At the comic shop I work at we had a special event last weekend that was met with much success.  A “Ladies” night.  A night where women and woman-identified could shop, chat and just generally geek out in an open store staffed by all female staff and attended by a local female artist.  Even at my store (which is pretty damned inclusive and open) women have felt uncomfortable.  It was nice to shop without the judgement or stares from other male customers and our ladies told us so.

So in the spirit of the night here are my top recomendations of graphic novels and comics that are either written or drawn by a woman or feature a fearless female as it’s main character.  For the simplicity of this list, I’m going to avoid super hero books – even though several fit the bill (Ms Marvel, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Young Avengers) and focus on “alternative” publishers such as Image and Boom.

Saga – A Romeo and Juliet type sci-fi fantasy that features one kick-ass mama who is on the run from multiple people trying to kill her all the while looking after (and breastfeeding!) a newborn baby.  This book is full of sex, violence, humour and fun.  Written by Brian K Vaughn (Y The Last Man, Runaways) and drawn by Fiona Staples, Saga will leave you breathless and begging for more.

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Rat Queens – What can I say, I love this all-female adventurer group as they hack, slash and sass their way through a dungeon and dragon-esque world.  With all the blood, sex and drug references this is not for the faint of heart but give these Queens a try and I assure you, you will be smitten.  (A surefire hit for anyone who has ever played D&D)

Pretty Deadly – Kelly Sue DecKonnick brings us a Western that is beautiful and dark.  The storytelling is unlike any other comic on my shelf – raw and powerful – with artwork to match.  I’m not usually a fan of westerns but Pretty Deadly had me from page one – and has left me yearning for more.

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Sex Criminals – Truthfully I don’t know what to say about this book.  It took me by surprise-I didn’t think I’d like it.  At it’s heart it seems to be about sexual awakening and our society’s opression of sexual expression.  A woman finds out that when she orgasms she can…stop time…and later meets a man who can do the same.  Then they turn to a life of crime using their, um, combined powers.  There’s more to it than that, but I’ll let you have a Sex Criminals awakening of your own.

Castle Waiting – Truly a fable for modern times – this isn’t about princesses or knights or battles against good and evil, but about being a hero in your own home (or castle).  A dysfunctional family of leftover fairy tale characters lives together looking after a somewhat lost pregnant woman.  Beautifully drawn and masterfully written – this is a fav on my shelf.

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This One Summer – A beautiful look into girlhood and growing up – this graphic novel was one of the most heartfelt things I’ve read this year.  A must read – and all ages too.  About two friends named Rose and Windy who are weathering the storms in Rose’s house – and the looming tragedy in the small summer getaway.

Strangers In Paradise – Oh how I love this book.  The complications of friendship.  The raw and powerful emotions.  The realness of the characters (from their personalities down to their angles and curves).  Terry Moore has crafted a masterpiece with SIP and if you haven’t already, I URGE you to give it a read.  There’s more to it than meets the eye at first glance – more passion, more substance, more reality – than anything else I’ve ever read.  I’ll be forever thankful to my friend for introducing me to it – and SIP will remain in my heart one of the comics that showed me comics were more than just mis-proportioned females in capes.

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Nana –  Yes, this is a manga.  And if you value women in comics at all this is a manga you will read.  Written and drawn by the Manga-ka Ai Yazawa (Paradise Kiss) the story about two women named Nana becoming impossible friends and the ups and downs their lives take is a rare glimpse into the Japanese music industry – but also has two of the most realistic representations of women in manga I’ve ever read.  Though it doesn’t end the ride is well worth it as we wait for the creator to feel better and perhaps, someday, we’ll find out what happened to Nana and Nana.

The Wicked and the Divine – This comic only has one issue so far, but by Gods what an issue!  I was drooling by the end of it for how amazing it was – I’ve been waiting my whole life for this comic.  By the team that brought the Young Avengers comics I love so much how could I resist?  The artwork practically sings with it’s subtle emotions and the characters are already so likeable and the ending such a twist that I cannot wait for the next issue.

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Lumberjanes – A great all-ages comic about five girlfriends at a sleepaway camp who, in scooby doo (or gravity falls) style find themselves up against all manner of supernatural strangeness.  It’s fun, it’s campy and it’s a perfect fit for a summer read.  Three issues are out now…find them as soon as you can!

What fab, fearless females do you have on your list, and why?

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And they better be good as us, *$%#&^’s!

My Father, The Most Important Man In My Life (Also The Punniest)

When I was about twelve my father had an altercation with a lady at the bank.  They were screwing him around and he just got angrier and angrier the more she tried to justify the bank’s actions.  Thing is, he’s pretty good at hiding it.  My dad doesn’t get angry often and rarely to that level.  The lady eventually just backed away and ran into her cubicle.  He never said a mean word to her – of that I am sure – but his mere presence had her scurry away like a frightened rabbit.

As we were leaving I turned to my dad and said “Daddy, when you get angry, you get bigger.”

And he does.  Not physically bigger like the Hulk but…spiritually bigger?  It’s like his spirit becomes to large for his already massive frame (my dad is 6’4 and rotund) and seeps out around the edges.

This event sticks out in  my mind as a definitive moment in our relationship because deep down I realized that not only was my father a spiritual man – that he was human.  That he got angry and sad and all those emotions he hid from us to keep the smiles on our faces.

I love my father more than any other man alive.  He is the being to which all my relationships have been put against.  He is the person all the men in my life had to measure up to – and that’s a pretty tall order.  The only one to come close is my husband.

I’m one of the lucky ones, I know.  I have a father who is still alive, still a part of my life, who has always loved and supported me no matter what, who loves my mother with all his heart and would lay his life on the line for his family.  He’s an amazing man and wonderful father.

My dad is a martial artist.  As age and weight has set in he’s stopped practicing save for the occasional Tai-Chi in the backyard, but I say IS because he’s never truly lost it.  He didn’t join a club with levels and belts and all that jazz.  They had one belt and it was there to hold up their pants.  They met in a small club and fought, and they fought hard.  It was a small club as the amount of people who could “stand the heat” so-to-speak was small.  Once a week they’d sit under a waterfall and meditate (in Canada).  The spiritual training was as intense as the physical and he carries both to this day.  He wasn’t the best fighter, he says, but when other clubs would face his during tournaments more often than not the fighters forfeited before a punch was thrown.  So when I looked at other kids and said “My dad could beat up your dad” I wasn’t bluffing.

He told me a story of some dude trying to come up behind and mug him late at night.  That dude left with two broken arms (and I hope a new outlook on life).

I’ll never forget the time that my friend’s husband challenged my (already pushing 50) father to a fight.  Her husband was in his 20’s and as high as he could go in his martial arts club.  We all gathered on the porch to watch and it was over in seconds.  Friend’s hubby was sprawled out on the grass my dad holding onto his arm and pressing down on his chest.  Us ladies laughed our butts off.  Hubby’s pride was hurt but he found a great respect for my dad, and it carried over into a friendship for several years.

He rode dirtbikes in his younger years and met his true love through that activity.  I have a tattoo on my back of a wolf (dad) and cheetah (mom) in a circle done in a dirtbike style – in honour of them.  Dad always says that if he hadn’t met my mom he never would have married.  He’s not afraid to be alone.  He was a lone wolf most of his life before marraige.

He’s a nerd.  Since the first computer was built he’s been fascinated with them.  We had a computer long before most of my friends did, mostly so my dad could tinker with it.  I used it to write Sailor Moon fanfiction.

Now that he’s retired he spends his time on a computer creating 3D models of things he reads about in his sci-fi and fantasy books.  He’ll send them to the author when it’s done to his satisfaction.  My dad is retired and creates fan art.  I come by it honestly.

He reads comics.  He watches samurai movies.  He loves science and technology, cars and football, writing poetry and playing video games.  He’s the punniest man I’ve ever met.  A classic pun will elicit the best of groans, and they are always perfectly timed.

One time on a trip to Rome he got to take his shoes off and stand where Julius Ceasar stood.

One time he cooked macaroni and cheese for dinner and when my brother and I asked why the Kraft dinner was white, we discovered he had cooked the cheese with the macaroni.  Another time he lit a microwave on fire by putting in an Arby’s sandwich still in the tinfoil.  He’s not much of a cook.  But he does make a yummy egg dish full of cheese and hotdogs and bacon.  I used to ask him to make it for me as he took such joy in it.

He was a teacher and I always felt his kids must be so lucky to have him.  He taught the deaf and I would watch as he talked with others using his hands and marvel at it.  Sign language is, IMO, one of the world’s most beautiful languages.  He gave up his weekends to be with us – playing whatever sport my younger brother had decided was awesome at the time.

Through my dad I met so many fascinating people.  A card-reading woman who sparked my interest and empathy in Native affairs (and medicine cards).  A rough and tough biker who took my brother and I for rides on his motor cycle when he wasn’t roaming in a local gang.  A man from the islands who ate ox tail and watched bad martial arts movies.

He taught me compassion, empathy and to be accepting and inclusive in a time when this was still not the norm.  No matter your background, no matter your religion, no matter your sexual orientation – if you were a good person, you were welcomed.

Infinitely curious about the world around him my dad always asks me about my job at the comic shop.  One time when I was taking care of the Yaoi section of the store (romantic manga written by women for women starring guys) dad wanted to read one.  So I picked one out, gave it to him, he read it cover to cover said “Hmm, interesting,” and handed it back to me.  I laughed and handed him a samurai manga instead of a Yaoi.  “Much more my speed, but I see why it’s popular,” he said.

And as a Grandpa?  I’m so happy that I got to give him a grandchild to adore – and that Bean will get to know him at least some before the inevitable.

There are so many interesting stories, so many awesome things I could tell you about my father.  It would take up several posts!  But I think this is enough for now.  The most important thing is that I love him and he loves me and even if I’d created my own father he wouldn’t have been as good as the one I got.  It was father’s day this past Sunday and, though late, I wanted to share with all of you a bit of my daddy.

Am I a daddy’s girl?  Absolutely and I couldn’t be fucking prouder.

Dad at the local Pagan festival with me.

Dad at the local Pagan festival with me.

 

Aligning With The Pagan Community

I attended a Pagan festival yesterday.  I went to sell my artwork but I came away with so much more.  I had forgotten just how much I missed that particular community in my life.  How much I missed the spiritual, the creative, the energy of Pagans.

I had a very successful day.  I sold quite a bit of artwork, found some of my old books and tarot decks new homes where they would be loved and appreciated (not stuck in a dark drawer) and spent time with one of my best friends – my younger brother.
But the energy OH the energy.  I feel rejuvenated today.  After the amount of artwork I had done over the last week and a half I thought I would be all art-ed out.  But I’m not.  The ideas are flowing more free than ever.  I missed this feeling, so so much.
I kept walking by a tent with two lovely ladies in it.  I liked the way they smiled as I walked by.  They were offering $5 chakra reiki alignment so I took a chance and did it.  I’ve never done reiki before.  It was pretty amazing.  I even sent my brother over after to do it as well.  I’ll have to save up and see about a whole session with her someday. (I also bought a bunch of candles but we’ll talk about my smelly candle/incense obsession later)  She asked me near the end if I wanted my crown left “open” and I said yes – because I want to receive energies and it might allow me to see ghosts.
All in all I had a really good time.  I really really needed a day like this to come my way.
 This post ties heavily into my mental health and mental illness.  I think that no matter how isolated we make ourselves, some of us just want to find a community we belong too.  A group of people who understand us.  A place to belong.
But sometimes that drive to find a place to belong can lead to some dark places.  It can be an overwhelming urge, and often we are naive in our expectations.  Easily lead and easily influenced.  This can end up being a slight detour or a life-altering thing.  Not necessarily for the better.
I’ve been down that path a couple times.  Always at my lowest point.  I nearly got myself into groups I’m not sure I could have gotten out of.  I might have ended up getting hurt, or hurting someone else.
The local Pagan community though – that’s a good place for me.  Full of healing energies, love, light and laughter.  And mead.  You can never forget the mead.

Drawing Up A Storm

I’m on new medication.  It is working.

How do I know?

Because I recently did this:

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And this:

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And I’m working on tons more!  The hits just keep on coming.  So blogging has taken a back seat to drawing, but if you are interested in finding me and my artwork, here are a couple links:

https://www.facebook.com/JKDoerffer – On facebook for updates and fun previews (also to buy any artwork)

http://jkdoerffer.deviantart.com/ – If you are on Deviant Art, here’s a great place to see my gallery.

There isn’t much…yet.  I’m hoping to build up a good stock and do some shows – and save up to buy one of these:

A Cintiq.  Oh, how many t-shirt designs could I make with that!  🙂  Karen Hallion – the artist at the link above, is such an inspiration to me.  I love her work but she represents someone I could be, should I apply myself.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my work with you in the future!

Please Don’t Touch The Mama

*Trigger warning for talk of mental illness, sexual assault and rape*

Right now, I don’t want to be touched.

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The simple act of my husband holding his hand out to help me up from the couch causes a subconscious revulsion.  My body reacts before my logical mind kicks in.  I shrink back and get up from the couch without help.  Hugs?  Forget it.  Kisses?  I’d rather not.  We can safely say that sex is so far out of the question it’s orbiting Pluto.

It’s hurting my relationship with my husband.  He needs closeness and physical intimacy – and I just can’t give it to him.  A simple hug feels like a violation of my space and I retreat as fast as possible.  Whenever I have to touch somebody (mostly my husband because there are not many people who require physicality from me) my brain just starts SCREAMING “stop touching stop touching stop touching”

This isn’t limited to my husband either.  Though not as common, oftentimes I have to force myself to touch my son.  He still wants to breastfeed once in awhile, for comfort and closeness, and I have to clench my teeth and fight back the tears.  The tension in my body is clearly visible when he snuggles up for cuddles.  I have to force myself to touch the one thing in this goddamn universe that makes me remotely happy.  That is so so so fucked up.

I don’t know if this is related to the fact that I am a mentally ill person suffering depression and am currently unmedicated and not seeing anyone.  (Not for lack of trying, believe me)  Or if it’s tied to my horrible past that has been seeping into my dreams unwanted.  Past trauma I had forgotten, or shut out is giving me nightmares.   As I’ve learned more about rape, about rape culture, and what sexual assault actually is, I’m realizing I’m a victim.  My past is littered with unwanted gropes, touches and assaults.  I didn’t know back then.  I thought it was just par for the course, that it was just what guys did, that it was just what happens.

I’m living, currently, in a roulette wheel of feelings.  One day I’m angry – angry at my husband, angry at my house, angry at my job.  I hate it all.  I want to leave it all behind, run away, hide.  Then I feel guilty and slip into depression where all I want to do is sleep, sleep and never wake up.  But sleeping brings no relief as I’m haunted by memories.  I fake my way through work, fake smiles, fake caring.  Sometimes it’s real, mostly it’s not.  And my patience is very, very, very thin.  I am losing my ability to deal with…well…almost everything.

The only thing, the ONLY THING, that brings me joy is Bean.  And even he suffers because his mom is sick.  He suffers my inability to deal normally with day-to-day toddler behavior.  The mom I wanted to be, the soft caring mom, she’s only around part time.  The other times I’m angry mom, sad mom, frustrated mom, too-tired-for-this-shit mom.  I’m the mom who doesn’t want to touch her son.  To feel his soft skin and relish in his silky, beautiful, curly hair.  To snuggle his rolls and kiss his little nose.  The fact that oftentimes I have to force myself to do these things kills me.

I can’t keep living like this.  Feeling like I’m swimming underwater and not quite ever reaching the surface, even though I keep following the sunlight.  Sometimes I sink so low I can’t even see the light anymore.  I hurt so much I’ve gone numb.  I don’t want to die, but I can’t keep going like this.  Something needs to give or I’m going to implode, again.

It’s hard for me to talk about all of this on here.  There are people who read this blog who know me in real life.  Family, friends, even work-related people.  But this is me.  This is the turmoil I am in these days.  Some days are good.  Some days are bad.  Mostly they are just days.

 

100 Likes Thank You Give Away!

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Thanks to NaBloPoMo I have many new readers of this humble blog.  Perhaps you came to hear about Bean and his toddler antics.  Maybe you clicked *follow* because you enjoy my geeky posts of nerdy awesome.  Or perhaps you are here to support me in my mental health challenges – or my goal to speak my mind about important issues.  Whatever the reason, I welcome you to my humble home on the web and THANK YOU for making this month worthwhile!

There are OVER 100 people following me (that’s a pretty big line) and to celebrate this achievement I’ve decided to host a give away here at Cupcakes and Hoodies.

I have one of these:

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and if you win this give away you will not only win this fun-to-read comic about ponies, you will get one with a unique cover drawn BY ME and coloured BY ME AND BEAN.  That’s right – a one of a kind opportunity for a collaboration by myself and my up-and-coming artist baby boy.

How awesome is that?  All you have to do is comment on this post – you can write whatever you’d like – and that’s it.  It’d be awesome if you left a note telling me something super about yourself, but even an “I’m IN C&H” will get you entered.  If you want to share this give away with your friends, please do!  And don’t forget to find me on Facebook for all the updates, fun postings and stories about Bean you don’t get on here.

The contest winner will be announced at the end of NaBloPoMo – so March 31.  I’ll post a picture of the finished book them mail it off to the winner!

Thanks again for all your support, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

Get Yourself Some Issues!

I see complaints bemoaning the lack of diversity in the mainstream comic medium quite frequently.  Blog posts and Facebook group updates pointing out the lack of racial, religious and gender diversity in comic books – written both by people who read mainstream comics, those who shun mainstream comics but read indie, and those who have only a passing knowledge of the medium at all.

While I agree that the mainstream comic industry has a long way to go with their representations of women and people of color there are comics on the shelf RIGHT NOW that break the barrier and start moving in the right direction.
It’s up to us to put our money where our mouth (or keyboard) is and show them we want more, by actually buying the issues that represent what we want to see.
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Let me be completely clear about comic issues vs graphic novels.  When a mainstream comic series is first released, it hits comic book store shelves in issue format – floppy comics that represent one chapter in a story arc.  Those story arcs, after several issues have been released, will be collected into a graphic novel format that, while still sold in comic shops, can also be easily sold in mainstream bookstores as well.
Think of it like TV shows.  There is an episode per week that is eventually collected in a boxset for sale.  The initial sales and ratings of the episodes help the companies decide whether to continue the show for another season.  It’s the same with comics.
With comic books, single issues are a companies bread and butter.  The single issue sales give an indication as to whether there is a market for a particular title and whether or not that title will continue in the future.  There have been many great series with amazing artwork and captivating stories that debuted to critical acclaim…that have stopped due to lack of sales.  It’s rare that the collected graphic novel can save a series – it’s the issues that matter.
So ladies and gents….get yourself some issues.
February saw the debut of a super heroine that is everything we’ve wanted.  Carol Danvers has stepped out of the Ms Marvel role and it’s about to be taken over by one of her greatest admirers.
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I love what Comic Book Resources has to say on Ms. Marvel #1:
G. Willow Wilson is writing a common teen’s tale. Kamala Khan is not understood by her family, her peers can be bullies, she finds trying to fit in awkward and frustrating. This is an experience we’ve seen or had ourselves, it just so happens to be told through the eyes of a Muslim Pakistani-American girl in New Jersey. Her ethnicity and religion aren’t used in broad brush strokes, like how ’80s-era Chris Claremont would throw in a “By the White Wolf!” or “Unglaubich!” and be done for the day. Comics don’t necessarily have the best track record for representing diversity in a way that doesn’t seem like a Captain Planet cartoon. Despite the media attention around this new series, Kamala is not defined by what makes her different. Who she is and what she wants to be is woven into the story, so while the details might be foreign to us, the weight of what’s happening is universal.”
She’s a kick ass teenage girl who lives in New Jersey, is growing up Pakistani and American and comes from a Muslim family background.  AND IT’S A FANTASTIC BOOK!  Judging by the reaction and the fact it sold out almost everywhere right away, I’d say Marvel is doing many, many things right.
Did you miss it?  Don’t worry, a second printing is just around the corner, and issue two is due on shelves soon.  Speaking as a fan, I can’t wait.  The first issue was great and has left me wanting to know more about Kamala and how she deals with these new powers of hers.  I haven’t looked forward to a single issue THIS MUCH in quite awhile.
But that’s not all – Marvel has several comics that I would not only recommend from a feminist standpoint, but also from a comic fan standpoint – solid titles that will capture your attention and have you anticipating the next issue.
Black Widow – If you enjoyed the character and wanted to know more about her, here is your chance.  Natasha flies solo as she searches for atonement for her blood-stained past.  Stunning artwork and full of mystery I hope the movie can live up to the high bar this comic has set for the story of Black Widow.
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She Hulk – I came for the artwork, I stayed for the brilliant story.  Jennifer Walters is She Hulk, but she’s also a struggling lawyer trying to find her place in that cut-throat world.  She’s strong, capable, and fun to read about.  This is a great introduction to the character, I especially enjoyed when she “hulk smashed” a boardroom table with her finger.
Captain Marvel – She’s become somewhat of a feminist icon this past while, just coming off a critically acclaimed run.  This new title will take her to new heights (outer space!) and present new challenges, from saving worlds to saving personal relationships.  Plus her costume is totally bad-ass.
Not feeling the Superhero love?  No problem!  Here are some other choices for you to hunt down:
Rat Queens – Who doesn’t love a fantasy world full of hilarious hi-jinks and bloody action?  Rat Queens delivers with all the beauty and violence one would expect in a D&D campaign, perpetuated by an all female crew.
Fiona Staples - of Saga fame

Fiona Staples – of Saga fame

Red Sonja – Speaking of fantasy, Conan’s female counterpart recently had an overhaul.  Gail Simone is penning this fabulous book (and please, do not judge the book by it’s…um…outfit).  Not to mention the book featured different covers by the best FEMALE artists in the industry.  Miss Xena?  Give this warrior woman a read, you won’t be disappointed.
A Voice In The Dark – This is a very off-kilter coming of age story.  Not for the feint of heart.  Taking cues from Dexter but coming at the type of story in a whole new way.  Definitely a must-read if it’s your cup of tea.
I’ve given you a good place to start, hopefully it will inspire you to seek out a local shop and see what they have to offer.  (Try Hater Free Wednesdays for reviews of comic shops and a list of “safe spaces” for women and LGBTQ customers)
Do you have a title you buy the single issues for that you feel deserves more readers?  Any up and coming comics you think my readers would be excited to know about?  Tell us about it below!