Here at No Man’s Land, we like to celebrate the groundbreaking and historic achievements of women in Hollywood because, let’s face it, the industry remains notoriously male dominated. At this point, any victory, even the smallest, can feel monumental.
Over the last few weeks, a lot has happened worth celebrating, so let’s break out the champagne and party poppers!
The first reason we have to say “Yay!” is an exciting new trend in the television industry that has resulted in the hiring of dozens of female directors.
“A Wrinkle in Time” director Ava DuVernay got the ball rolling by hiring women to direct every episode of the first two seasons of “Queen Sugar,” a move supported by executive producer Oprah Winfrey. Five of the seven directors featured in the first season were new to episodic television. The roster included women of color from diverse filmmaking backgrounds.
DuVernay, who got her big break directing an episode of “Scandal” for show-running legend Shonda Rimes, recently announced she’ll continue this all-female streak for the third season of “Queen Sugar.” And she’s inspired other TV producers to follow suit.
The second season of Marvel’s “Jessica Jones,” which premiered on Netflix in March, featured all women directors, thanks to the efforts of showrunner Melissa Rosenberg.
According to a recent L.A. Times article, Rosenberg’s initial goal was to hire a directing team that was 50% female. After taking her plan to Netflix Vice President of Original Series Allie Goss, they decided to go all in.
“I’ve been on 25 years of shows and nine times out of 10, those directing staffs are all white men,” Rosenberg said. “So why not all women?”
The makers of Marvel’s “Luke Cage” also recently announced that women, including actor Lucy Liu, “Queen Sugar” vet Neema Barnette and “Eve’s Bayou” helmer Kasi Lemmons, would make up approximately half their directing team for Season 2.
According to the L.A. Times, other shows, including “The Deuce,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Transparent,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” have designated women to direct at least half of the series’ episodes.
While a couple of recent studies found that women directed only about 7% of the top-grossing movies last year, 21% of all TV episodes were directed by women, an increase of 7% from 2015-16. There’s still a lot of growth that needs to happen, but it’s certainly an encouraging trend.
And, yes, even though there has been some good news out of Hollywood lately regarding female filmmakers, the movie industry can do better.
We’ll begin our celebration of positive developments with last month’s news that DuVernay is slated to direct an adaptation of Jack Kirby’s “The New Gods” for DC.
After helming “A Wrinkle in Time” for Disney, DuVernay is more than qualified to direct a big-budget comic book movie. As the first woman of color to direct a DC superhero film, she should inject some much-needed diversity and energy into an uneven franchise.
Last week, DuVernay was one of the first people to break the news via Twitter that “Star Wars: Episode IX” is making history by hiring Victoria Mahoney as second unit director for the film. (A second unit director is responsible for supplementary footage and maintaining the film’s look and continuity.)
DuVernay, who is a friend of “Episode IX” first unit director J.J. Abrams, tweeted: “Happy to share this historic news. A black woman directing stories in a galaxy far, far away.”
Mahoney has enjoyed a successful career in television, directing episodes of “The Misfits,” “Claws,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Queen Sugar,” as well as the TV movie “Red Line.”
It’s great that Lucasfilm has embraced a woman of color as a director, even if many of us still think it’s high time they entrusted first unit duties to a female filmmaker.
In other heartening Hollywood news, screenwriter Christina Hodson has been hired to pen DC’s upcoming Batgirl movie, which the studio appeared to put on ice after the departure of Joss Whedon.
The “Avengers” writer-director’s presence on the film had become something of a feminist nightmare after his ex-wife’s revelations about his treatment of women.
Hiring a woman to flesh out the story of one of the comic book world’s most famous and complicated superheroines would seem like an obvious advantage, but studio executives don’t always see it that way, so Whedon’s exit and Hodson’s entrance come as a relief.
Hodson’s previous projects include “Transformers” spinoff “Bumblebee,” to be released in December. She also scripted DC’s untitled Harley Quinn movie, which is speculated to be based on the popular all-female Birds of Prey comic book team.
DC announced last week that the untitled Harley Quinn project will be directed by Cathy Yan, a former journalist who earned acclaim for “Dead Pigs,” her directorial debut and a Sundance Film Festival hit.
In an industry in which there are very few Asian directors in general, Yan will make history as the first Asian-American woman to helm a potential comic book blockbuster.
With Yan on board, along with DuVernay and Patty Jenkins, returning to oversee “Wonder Woman 2,” DC is shaping up to be a strong champion of women in the director’s chair. It can only bode well for the success of the franchise and for representation in Hollywood.
While I’m excited about the baby steps we’re seeing in the daunting quest to solve Hollywood’s gender parity problem, there’s still a massive amount of change required.
We live in an America where there is basically only one Ava DuVernay and one Patty Jenkins in comparison to dozens of Steven Spielbergs and J.J. Abramses.
Women make up 50% of moviegoers but only 8% of movie directors, only five women have ever been nominated for a best picture Oscar, and women accounted for a meager 24% of protagonists in the top-grossing films of last year. (For more sobering stats, check out the Women and Hollywood website.)
Here’s hoping the industry keeps the momentum going when it comes to hiring women to write and direct so someday we can celebrate female filmmaking triumphs without reservation.
Of all the cool things I saw at WonderCon last weekend, the one that really stuck with me was a bit surprising.
While checking out the exhibit hall, my sister and I dropped by the booth of Hero Within, a sophisticated but geeky fashion company that specializes in men’s wear and recently branched out into women’s clothing as well.
While browsing, we happened to notice a mannequin adorned in a denim jacket with Wonder Woman’s signature “W” stitched across the shoulder blades in a subtle but stylish design.
It took us a few minutes to notice that the jacket was made for men.
This didn’t seem like that big a deal at the time, but after I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about that jacket. After all, in the world of superhero fandom there is this antiquated tradition that Wonder Woman is for girls and Batman and Superman are for boys.
Merchandising and marketing of comic book properties still tends to fall squarely along gender lines and to me, and lots of other female fans, this feels ridiculous and outmoded. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Hero Within’s Wonder Woman Denim Jacket is nothing short of revolutionary when it comes to challenging gender stereotypes in the geek fashion world.
Curious to explore this subject further, I reached out to Hero Within founder and CEO Tony B Kim, who told me the story behind this intriguing piece of Wonder Woman-themed outerwear.
Released in March 2017 as part of the company’s summer collection, the jacket was not initially well received by male comic book fans. It was greeted by many negative comments on Facebook and Instagram, and many of them were – sadly and perhaps not surprisingly – of a homophobic nature.
The design for the Wonder Woman jacket did not originate accidentally. Kim started brainstorming the product in 2016 and put careful thought into it with the intention of challenging industry stereotypes.
“I knew it was time for a change,” he said.
“Since the beginning of fandom, gender stereotypes have ruled who we consider ‘our heroes.’ With such a lack of heroine representation on the big screen, I knew Wonder Woman could potentially change the barriers that existed. I wanted to create a Wonder Woman piece for men that was both smart, masculine and classic — a denim jacket seemed to be the right solution.”
In a blog post about customers’ reaction to the jacket, Kim said he’s been a Wonder Woman fan since childhood, despite “enormous pressure” to only identify with male heroes such as Rambo, Rocky and Mr. T. One of his all-time favorite comic series was George Perez’s Wonder Woman run from the 1980s.
“From that series, I learned that it was OK to have women as heroes. Batman and Superman shouldn’t just be for boys and Wonder Woman just for girls. Being a hero is about courage, sacrifice and honor. Last time I checked, neither sex has a monopoly on those qualities.”
When Kim took the concept of the Wonder Woman jacket to major wholesalers, he found they didn’t necessarily agree with this concept and were “hesitant” to invest in the piece.
“They just didn’t think it would sell.”
Nevertheless, Kim persisted. When he posted the first images of the jacket online in spring 2017, it was met with mixed reactions.
“A vocal minority of men could not understand why a man was modeling a Wonder Woman jacket,” he said. “Soon after, the homophobic responses ensued. I got plenty of hate tweets, messages and e-mails.”
Eventually, according to Kim, fans began defending the product.
“The common sentiment from other females was, ‘We’ve been wearing Batman and Superman for years, why can’t you wear Wonder Woman?’”
When the jacket went on display for preorder at WonderCon 2017, it was met with “plenty of buzz,” Kim said.
“It was really fascinating to hear a couple discuss why it was or wasn’t ok for a man to support Wonder Woman.”
When Patty Jenkins’ record-breaking movie adaptation of “Wonder Woman” hit theaters in June 2017, Kim said the criticism stopped, but wholesalers continued to reject the jacket design.
Kim said this ended up being good in the long run. “I needed the stock because the sales for it has been so strong. In fact, I am almost out of inventory.”
The jacket tends to appeal to both men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, Kim said.
“Honestly, the interest has been all across the board — not just one type of customer (which is fantastic). I think that says more about the success of Wonder Woman and the need to support heroines in culture.”
Kim believes geek fashion has “the potential to provoke and change culture.”
“In a small way it can push the needle of change and help redefine who we consider our personal heroes. Wonder Woman is not a hero for a certain gender but she is a hero for us all. Our clothing should reflect that.”
Founded in 2015 and officially licensed by DC Comics and Marvel, Hero Within remains the only company to create multiple Wonder Woman pieces for men, Kim said. (They also offer a woven shirt for men.)
They plan to continue to do so, as well as create more items featuring female heroes for both men and women.
Almost too easy, in fact. The sheer amount of merchandise tied to any one fandom these days can be mindbogglingly disorienting. And when it comes to fandoms, most geeks are into more than one.
Would she like a Tardis backpack or Matt Smith socks? “Game of Thrones” coasters or a Hogwarts house mug? BB-8 cookie jar or R2-D2 cardigan? Wonder Woman cellphone case or “Nightmare Before Christmas” throw?
In this post, we endeavor to simplify the geek gift-buying process with a lively curated list of items that should appeal to nerds of all varieties and fandoms. Best of all, you can get started with your shopping immediately by clicking the links accompanying each entry.
Perhaps you’re wondering where all the porgs are? Just you wait, my friend! The 12 Porgs of Christmas are coming. There’s also a Ghost of Christmas Future lurking with an upcoming Comic Book Gift Guide post.
Happy gifting! Your geek of choice will thank you for it.
There’s a Pop! for everyone.
Funko, maker of those cute little, dead-eyed vinyl pop-culture licensed figures, quite literally has something that will please everyone, from the obvious franchises, like Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel, to characters from more obscure properties.
For the old-school “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan, there’s bad girl Faith from the Pop! Television collection:
For the Disney Princess dreamer, how about this adorable Ariel?
And for the friend who already has more Pops than she has room for, there’s a collection of too-cute mugs, including the Sally Pop! Ceramic Mug. (Other options include Kylo Ren, Snoopy, Hulk, Batman, Chewbacca, and Captain America.)
The year’s geekiest movies.
Give the gift of the year’s fangirliest flicks by choosing one or more of the following.
For the “GoT” fan in mourning until Season 8 (Season 7 is available Dec. 12):
Socks, they’re not just from your Aunt Betsy anymore.
Here’s a comfy foot-pampering twist on the traditional Christmas countdown. Keep their feet fashionable with “12 Days of Socks” featuring colorful pop culture-themed patterns, like this set:
Other patterns include Harry Potter, Disney Princess, Minecraft, DC Comics, and The Nightmare Before Christmas in varying sizes for men, women, girls, and boys.
For the Lego lover who has everything.
This year’s Lego must-have is the Women of NASA set, which is, sadly, temporarily out of stock on the official Lego website.
If you can manage to snag one somewhere, your Lego-obsessed loved one will surely thank you. The set features minifigures of four pioneering women of NASA: astronomer and educator Nancy Grace Roman, computer scientist and entrepreneur Margaret Hamilton, astronaut, physicist and entrepreneur Sally Ride and astronaut, physician and engineer Mae Jemison.
Fortunately, there are lots of other Lego sets available for the brick-inclined, featuring such franchises as Star Wars, DC, Disney, Ghostbusters, Marvel, Minecraft, and NINJAGO.
Deck your geek in tacky sweaters.
The Ugly Christmas Sweater is back in a big — and, frankly, kinda disturbing way — but what the heck? Why not embrace the trend by picking out a hideously festive top that perfectly expresses your favorite geek’s fandom?
Nerd site extraordinaire ThinkGeek has basically turned your Christmas shopping into a vacation with its irresistibly cute Geeki Tikis collection. Take the guess work out of what to get the thirsty nerd on your list by simply selecting the appropriately themed set.
With the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit, kids create their own droid and bring it to life using littleBits electronic blocks. Using the Droid Inventor app, they can give it new abilities and take it on 16-plus missions.
For the fashionista who’s one with The Force.
Her Universe recently unveiled its new Star Wars collection, which features whimsical, Lucasfilm-inspired designs, including this amazing Star Wars BB-8 Retro Skirt.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elaine Wu works at VFX company MPC (Moving Picture Company). MPC was instrumental in visual effects work for, among other movies, “The Jungle Book,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Justice League,” and now “The Lion King.”
Elaine Wu grew up watching TGIF and Saturday morning cartoons and basking in the glory of Disney’s animation renaissance, but working in the film industry seemed out of reach.
After several years in the pharmaceutical industry, she decided she’d rather be doing something she loved, so she quit her job and signed up for an online animation school.
Now, she’s a visual effects animator, working her magic on creatures, characters, and other elements of some of geekdom’s biggest franchises, including Harry Potter, X-Men, Underworld, and Marvel (including “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a couple “Thor” films, and “Iron Man 3”).
She also helped bring iconic characters, including Rocket Raccoon and Baloo the Bear, to life.
Elaine’s work has taken her to New Zealand and Peter Jackson’s famed Weta Digital; to London, where she was part of a team of animators assigned to Disney’s acclaimed live-action remake of “The Jungle Book”; and, most recently, to Vancouver, where she worked on a certain about-to-be-released film starring Wonder Woman and set in the DC universe.
The animator just returned to Los Angeles to work on what could potentially be one of Disney’s biggest live-action adaptations yet. (Hint: The cast was recently announced and it blew everybody’s mind.)
Yep, she’s basically living every film, comic book, and Disney nerd’s dream.
You’re a visual effects animator. Most of us don’t know exactly what that is, so could you start by explaining your job?
Sure! The core of visual effects is creating imagery that cannot or is difficult to produce in real life. As an animator, I’m typically involved in what is called post-production. Essentially, after the live-action portion of a given film is shot, animators work their magic and bring life to a variety of characters, creatures, vehicles, etc. But before an animator can even start, there are a number of creative artists who model (create objects/characters in 3D) and rig (build skeletons) for us to manipulate. Then, there are a number of creative artists who follow animators and integrate CGI into the live action to bring to you the final product.
Were you always interested in working in the film industry?
If I have to be honest, the answer is no. I grew up enjoying film and television just like most anyone else. Rushing home from school to watch TGIF or waking up early Saturday morning for cartoons was just normal. But the film industry just seemed like such an unachievable profession. I guess I just thought you’d have to be super lucky or be some kind of prodigy to make a living doing it.
How were you drawn to visual effects and, specifically, animation?
It wasn’t a straightforward path, that’s for sure. I actually started off majoring in neurobiology and working in the pharmaceutical industry (specifically in intellectual property) for four years before I found my future in animation. In my old job, I was constantly looking for a creative outlet. I found it for passing moments dabbling in my personal food blog, but it just wasn’t enough. I really wanted to be one of those people who loves his/her job! I just had no idea what that looked like.
My boss at the time (who wanted me to become a lawyer), gave me these words of advice, “Don’t try to fit yourself into a job. Find a job that fits you.” That’s when I started examining my interests and inclinations. I loved creating, whether it was through writing or just chatting with my friends and coming up with fun(ny) scenarios. I knew I had an appreciation for art. And I could work my way around computers at its most basic state.
Animation seemed to fit the bill (the little I knew of it), and after talking to a friend’s friend’s friend … (you know how it goes), I decided to quit my job and sign up for Animation Mentor, an online animation school. From the moment I animated my first bouncing ball, I knew I loved it. The rest is history.
Tell me about the start of your career. Was it tough to “break in” to Hollywood?
Through Animation Mentor, I was lucky to have made friends with many other aspiring animators. They were creative, technical, and passionate about the craft. Just being around them made me want to work that much harder. Before I knew it, I was voted “Most Improved Student” by my fellow colleagues — probably because I had never even opened up any sort of animation software before I started the program.
It was a lot of hard work, and I had to constantly remind myself why I was up in the middle of the night working so hard and getting mouse-induced finger cramps. A friend of mine let me know upon graduating that Luma Pictures in Santa Monica was hiring, so I applied, and I made it! Within a few weeks, I was moving to Los Angeles!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love creating something out of nothing, and I love working with people who are just as excited doing that. To give life to a character and have an audience believe and connect with what you’re doing is a great compliment. I think/hope other animators would agree.
You recently wrapped up work on “Justice League” in Vancouver. What can you tell us about that?
Unfortunately, I can’t go into too much detail on that at the moment, but I can tell you that a lot of artists’ dreams came true working on that film, and you should all go and watch it!
You’re about to move back to Los Angeles for another job. Can you tell us anything about what you’re going to be doing?
I’m working with a wonderful team on the development of (Disney’s) “Lion King,” but I can’t say much more than that. I can tell you that teenage Elaine is freaking out inside because it’s super exciting!
You specialize in animating animals and animal-like characters. Why are you drawn to these types of characters?
I love creatures for several reasons. Aside from the fact that animating organic creatures is so complex, detailed, and challenging, there’s a real connection that humans have with animals. And it’s a great achievement when you can get an audience to believe they exist and, even moreso, connect with them on an emotional level. I find wildlife to be really fascinating already, so it’s not hard to be interested in them when I see them in real life or review reference material online.
You worked on Rocket Raccoon for “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He’s a pretty iconic character. What was that experience like?
It was great! Rocket is such a lovable yet smarmy character, and there’s just so much depth to the way he reacts to his environment and other characters. You can’t not root for him!
What are some of your favorite characters that you’ve worked on?
I absolutely loved working on Baloo and Shere Khan (in Disney’s live-action “Jungle Book”). Attempting to make them look realistic while having their personalities shine through was challenging and rewarding. The team really did an amazing job on that film.
You’ve contributed to a lot of Marvel projects, including “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World,” and “Iron Man 3.” These are some of the most popular movies of our time. What has that experience been like?
It’s always exciting to work on Marvel films! They’re so well-received across the globe, and to be part of all of that makes me feel fortunate. I almost wish I grew up reading all the comic books! But working on these films, being around Marvel superfans, you can’t help but get that energy from them. And I certainly have accumulated my fair share of geeky knowledge along the way.
You’ve accomplished the impressive feat of working on both Marvel and DC projects. Just between us, do you prefer one over the other?
You’ll find me in the audience for both Marvel and DC films!
Is your job as terribly glamorous as it sounds or is it actually quite technical and routine?
It kind of vacillates between all those things, but I feel like that’s the case with most professions maybe? Animation is a lot of hard work and study. Observation is a big part of it which means that stepping away from the desk and living a fulfilling life outside of work is a big part of being able to bring something fresh into whatever you’re working on.
There is certainly a technical aspect of animation, but more importantly, the creativity and drive for excellence is what takes it to another level. You have to want your shot to look awesome and work together to make each film look amazing. Teamwork is everything!
I wouldn’t say it’s ever really routine as every film is different. But you do learn the art of being flexible in your workflow and to not take notes too personally. And as animators, we like to videotape each other for reference doing all sorts of crazy things that are relevant (or oftentimes not so relevant when we get carried away).
You spent several months in New Zealand working for Weta on “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” That sounds like a dream job for a visual effects professional.
Haha, yeah, it was great being a part of the legacy that is Weta!
Did you get to meet Peter Jackson?
I did not! Though I’m pretty sure I saw him drive by me once. That must count for something?
Did you go to Hobbiton while you were there? Are you a “Lord of the Rings” fan?
I did go! I think my friends would’ve slaughtered me if I went all that way to New Zealand and didn’t go to Hobbiton. I’m a fan of “Lord of the Rings”, yes. I’m not super hardcore, but I did watch all three extended version of “Lord of the Rings” once. Pretty sure I left a clear imprint on the couch I was on.
You were part of the visual effects team for “The Jungle Book,” which was lauded for its stunning VFX. What are your memories of that experience?
I look back upon it fondly as the right opportunity at the right time. It was definitely a work-hard/play-hard stretch of my life! I met some great friends in London working on it! It was a lot of grueling work though, as is the case with most films, but the entire team was really trying to strive for another level of artistry on this one. The whole experience of traveling, building friendships in the rain at the pub, devouring an inhuman amount of chicken wings on a weekly basis with my fellow animators, struggling through and finishing shots, and somehow coming out the other end with something you’re truly proud of … well, that makes for an extremely memorable time.
Your career has included so many projects that would cause a geek to lose their cool, including a couple of “Underworld” movies, “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” What have been some of your favorite projects in your career so far?
One of my favorite times in animation was working on “Underworld 2.” If you ask anyone in the industry, surrounding yourself with the right people makes a huge difference in your experience. In animation, we typically have what we call “Dailies”, where we all get together in a screening room and review everyone’s work. A lot of the work in progress involves trying out new ideas and sometimes inserting little Easter eggs or gags in shots. I just laughed so hard day to day. Such a good time.
Also, working on “Harry Potter” (albeit a pretty small part since it was pretty early in my career), was a dream I didn’t know I had. Compounded by the fact that when I went on the Harry Potter studio tour in London, I saw my shot in one of their intro videos. I got a little giddy.
Are there many women in your line of work?
There is a slowly growing number of women in the VFX industry, but I guess I wish there were more? I don’t know what the statistics are exactly, but it feels like 10% of the VFX industry is women. MPC, the company I currently work for, is actively trying to encourage women to join the this industry, and I really hope it results in more gender-balanced crews! Having a team with unique and diverse perspectives really makes a huge difference in the direction of a film and, more specifically, acting choices in animation.
You’ve contributed your talents to so many fandoms, but what are some of your personal favorite fandoms?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the films and fandoms I’ve had the fortune of being involved with, but I just love Disney. Maybe it’s growing up within earshot of Disneyland fireworks or just being the perfect age during the Disney Renaissance of films. I guess it’s just a part of me. I used to have a little Disney Castle on my desk during animation school to remind me why I was still working well into the wee hours of the morning.
I also love “Peanuts” and “Game of Thrones”!
How does your passion for these fandoms manifest itself in your life?
You’d see these fandoms all over my household really! I just purchased an original character sheet of Fievel Mousekewitz! Can’t wait to frame this bad boy. And it’s Snoopy galore on my bookshelves. I’m proud to say I have a giant Snoopy plush at home. Purely for my nieces and nephews to play with, of course. I also have to give a shoutout to my Dungeons & Dragons character Corgilian, a Corgi barbarian who’s currently on a personal quest to Unicorn Run.
I’ve heard that you have thrown some epic “Game of Thrones” parties. And that you’ve visited some “Game of Thrones” film sites abroad.
My friends and I always have screening events and are part of a GoT fantasy league. We also had an epic party at my place once where we all dressed up as GoT characters, built mini catapults, drank out of goblets, and did some archery with my longbow in my garage. Let the nerdiness ensue … . I also went with a good friend to Dubrovnik, Croatia, to visit the site of Kings Landing! I also stood where Tyrion slapped Joffrey and pretended to slap my friend. There’s a picture somewhere … . It was great!
What do you like about the series?
There are just so many things really. I love the characters (Tyrion is my favorite), and how we learn to love or hate them over time. There’s just such a skill in the direction for drawing us in week after week. And the VFX is really pushing boundaries! Also, I really just love shows you can watch with friends and really make into an experience. Another example being “Breaking Bad”.
Who should sit on the Iron Throne?
Probably should be Jon Snow, but now that there’s a destructive, fire-breathing zombie dragon, will there be an Iron Throne left to take? Hmm … .
Are you as grossed out yet delighted by that whole Jon and Daeny thing as we all are?
Of course! It was a long time coming!
You’re a gamer. What video games are you into? What, how, and how often do you play?
I’m more of a Nintendo gamer? Does that count? I don’t play as often as I’d like, but I do have the Switch! My friends and I got together to play Zelda, and it’s fantastic! You really need to play it. I’m starting “Mario Odyssey” right now. Don’t make me play any of the more complicated games out there that require you to control the camera. I tried “Last of Us,” and my friends ripped the controller out of my hand because I kept pointing the camera at my feet. Needless to say, I was laughing so hard I was crying. Awesome game though. I’m a much happier spectator for those types!
How did you first get into gaming? What do you like about it?
My family played a lot of Atari and Nintendo growing up. I don’t know that I totally think playing video games for hours on end is a great way to have a child grow up, but I’m evidence that it’s not sooooo bad. I think playing video games is a great way to decompress from the day and also find adventure in another sort of reality. I’m also obsessed with point-and-click mystery games. I find them so zen.
A little bird told me you own a vintage pinball machine.
I do! I bought a “Lethal Weapon” pinball machine from a video game auction in Compton like 7-8 years ago.
The same bird told me you also build models. Tell me all about that, please.
When I have time, I like to build little things. I have a trebuchet (EDITOR’S NOTE: A machine used in medieval siege warfare for hurling large stones or other missiles) in my living room actually. I don’t do anything too complicated. I attempted to build a model canoe and haven’t finished yet! Thanks for reminding me! Love Legos, does that count? I have a Lego TIE fighter near me right now.
Looking toward the future, do you want to continue in visual effects animation? What’s on your professional bucket list?
I love animation and the feeling I get from it. I have a huge fascination with virtual reality though. So if I can combine animation with VR sometime in the near future, that’d be pretty epic. Perhaps an immersive experience or some kind of storytelling.
What’s it like seeing a film you’ve contributed to for the first time?
It’s really strange actually. I think the first time I saw my animation on screen, I wanted to turn around and see if anyone else saw it, too. Like, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Is this real?” It’s weird to see your work up on a big screen. I don’t think that ever changes!
Do you still get excited when you see your name in the credits?
I used to, but now I get more excited when friends are excited! My friends who aren’t in the industry constantly remind me with their enthusiasm that being an animator is super cool! Sometimes, I get caught up in the fact that it really is a lot of work and sometimes a lot of hours. But it really pays off when you realize that the work you and your team did is being appreciated by people from all walks of life.
Winter is coming. Got any big plans?
Well, having just moved back to L.A., my plans are to throw on some flip-flops, put on some shades, have a healthy portion of Taco Bell, and order something from Amazon for same-day delivery. Quest activated.
About the Geek Goddess Interviews:
No Man’s Land chats weekly with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways. We’re always looking for interview subjects, so if you know someone who would be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email email@example.com.
If you subscribe to Netflix, I know what you’re doing this weekend.
The entire second season of ‘80s throwback horror series “Stranger Things” dropped Friday, so you’ll be holed up on the couch, plowing your way through all nine episodes while subsisting on nothing but Eggos and chocolate pudding.
Is there some spooky holiday happening soon? What World Series?
I totally get it. You desperately need to know what’s going to happen to poor slug-vomiting Will, scary-but-lovable Elle, sneaking-around-in-the-woods Sheriff Hopper, crazy-eyed supermom Joyce Byers, preppy girl-turned-gun-toting-bad-ass Nancy, and irresistible Goonies-wannabes Dustin, Lucas, and Mike.
I realize you’ll be too preoccupied to focus on anything else until you’ve watched every last horrifying, hilarious, and wildly entertaining second of “Stranger Things.”
But once that’s done and you’ve come up for air, there’s something really important and awesome you’re going to want to check out, and it also happens to be on Netflix.
The 2016 documentary “She Makes Comics” became available this month on the streaming service, and it deserves a place on your queue. (You can also view the film on Amazon and iTunes.)
The thesis of “She Makes Comics” is simple: Women write comics. Women draw comics. Women publish comics. Women read comics.
This might sound obvious, but in a world where comic books are still seen as a predominantly male pastime, it really isn’t, which is why director Marisa Stotter’s film is fascinating and necessary.
If the necessity of it is in doubt, by the way, look no further than the virtually complete lack of reviews of this film online — and that includes Rotten Tomatoes –and at the sexist, clueless remarks of male commentators on the movie’s IMDb page.
“She Makes Comics” may be modest and low budget, but it confidently delves into the secret history of women in the comics industry, revealing female contributions that most people, even comic book readers, may not be aware of.
In a refreshing twist, the doc features little to no male talking heads, but relies on the stories of the participants themselves, including comics journalists, historians, writers, artists, shop owners, publishers, and executives, along with such comic-making icons as Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jenette Kahn, and Karen Berger.
Stotter begins with the origins of comic strips and the comic book industry, which originally featured varied content that appealed just as much to girls as to boys.
With the arrival of the censoring Comics Code in 1954, sanitized superhero stories began to dominate the industry, along with stereotypical, one-note romances marketed to girls. The result was a steep drop in female readership that would continue for decades. In short measure, the industry lost half the population of potential consumers.
In the 1970s, the inception of the underground comic scene seemed to signal the possibility of more original, groundbreaking, controversial stories and subject matter.
However, as cartoonists Joyce Farmer and Lyn Chevli (who sadly passed away in 2016) soon discovered, the movement was a boys’ club, glibly churning out misogynistic images of rape and sexual harassment.
Farmer and Chevli responded with their own feminist publication — written, drawn, and published by women — an empowering but also terrifying experience, considering the violent, negative reaction to their work.
These pioneering cartoonists paved the way for powerful women to enter the industry, including DC Comics president Jenette Kahn, who during her 26 years with the company championed the telling of more diverse, progressive, and thought-provoking stories.
Kahn oversaw the launch of the groundbreaking Vertigo Comics imprint with executive editor Karen Berger, who nurtured the careers of some of the comic world’s most impressive talents, including Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Frank Miller.
Berger was also involved with Friends of Lulu, an organization co-founded by cartoonist Trina Robbins to promote female comic book readership and roles for women in the industry.
While there are more women writers, artists, and creators than ever in the mainstream comic book industry today, Stotter points out that female comic book makers tend to flourish in the alternative, underground, and web comic scenes, where audiences who crave more than just superhero stories tend to be found.
“She Makes Comics” also explores the world of cosplay, where women are sometimes shamed for their participation; comic book shops, which are often off-putting spaces for women; and conventions, like San Diego Comic-Con, which have a dark history of harassment and misogyny, but are becoming more inclusive.
The doc ends on a hopeful note, showcasing such figures as DeConnick, a prolific, outspoken scribe known for her “Captain Marvel” runs, and Simone, a writer who broke into the industry after critiquing it with the website “Women in Refrigerators,” which listed the many female comic book characters killed or brutalized in the service of male storylines.
As a bonus for SoCal residents, “She Makes Comics” features Newhall comic book shop Brave New World and its former owners, Autumn Glading and Portlyn Polston, who welcomed girls to the store and organized events and programs designed to encourage female comic book readership.
Stotter concludes that the recent and growing popularity of geek-related culture and entertainment is a good development for women, allowing them to participate more freely in fandoms and be part of positive, accepting communities of like-minded creators and readers.
Watching “She Makes Comics” was an eye-opening experience for me. Though I write about the comic industry, I wasn’t aware of many of the facts it presents.
I hope the film finds a wider audience and brings awareness to the continuing saga of women who joyfully, boldly, and unashamedly create and consume comic books.
Gig Harbor, Wash., resident Stephanie Patterson used to think Funko Pops were weird-looking. Now she has about 70 of the irresistible, little pop culture figures and counting. (And she’s got a great storage solution for her addiction. It involves IKEA.)
A medical transcriptionist who loves Star Wars, Harry Potter, and “Game of Thrones,” Patterson carves amazing pop culture-themed pumpkins every Halloween and is basically living out the ultimate geek romance with her partner in crime, husband Jacob (seriously, they are the cutest).
Stephanie and Jacob recently visited Funko Pop! HQ, a magical, themed retail outlet in Everett, Wash., and agreed to take us on a vicarious tour of the nerd haven, which the rest of us can now put on our bucket lists.
So … you’re kind of obsessed with Funko Pops! How many do you currently have in your collection?
Our official count is 71!
What are some of the fandoms represented in your collection?
A vast majority of our Pops are Star Wars-related (23 of them so far!). I also have a fairly big chunk of Harry Potter figures as well as Disney, “Bob’s Burgers,” “Ghostbusters,” “Stranger Things,” and other miscellaneous things, like Monty Python and “Orange is the New Black.” I have a handful of Christmas pops from “A Christmas Story” and “Christmas Vacation,” as well as Halloween Pops from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
What are some of your favorite individual Pops in your collection?
My favorite Pop! is, coincidentally, the first one I ever got (which is probably one of the reasons I love it so). That would be my Leia in her Boushh disguise. Another one I love is my Harry Potter sitting on a stool with the Sorting Hat on. I love all of them so much, though, it’s hard to choose just two.
How did you begin collecting Pops? Did you intend to amass so many or did it just sort of happen? (I know from experience they can be very addictive.)
It’s funny, I never liked Pops before I started collecting them; I thought they were strange-looking. However, once I found my first one (Leia), I started looking up more of them and realized how many that Funko made that I loved. It just snowballed from there. That Christmas — I think it was two years ago now — I received about seven or eight Pops as gifts from family since they knew I liked them, and that was really the start of my collection. I definitely didn’t intend to have this many, no!
How do you display your Pops?
I have six IKEA shelves on the wall in our bedroom devoted to my Pops, and that has since spilled over onto whatever obliging surface I can find!
Are you running out of room for them yet?
I have definitely run out of room! We’re at critical mass here. I need to make another trip to IKEA for more shelves very soon.
Are there any rare or special Pops you still covet?
There is an old Lando Calrissian Pop that I would dearly love to have, but he is extremely expensive and rare, so that probably won’t happen unless they decide to re-release him!
You and your husband Jacob recently visited Funko Pop! headquarters. I didn’t even know that existed. How did you learn about it? Where is it? Can you just show up and visit?
Yes! It was really cool, a total Pop haven for collectors! It is located in Everett, Wash., about an hour and a half from our house; it’s exciting to live that close to headquarters! It’s been open since the end of August and occupies an old Bon Marche building in town; it’s enormous! Anyone can visit; it’s basically just a huge Pop store with multiple themed areas. They really did an amazing job with the theming too!
Tell me about your experience at the headquarters. What were some of your favorite things you saw there?
When we got there [Funko], we had to wait in a line around the corner to get in, but the line moved quickly and it allowed for a better shopping experience because they only let in a small group of people at a time. I really loved all the themed areas and the detail they put into it.
The Star Wars area was so rad, with a Hoth theme (there was the snow cave with the Wampa and Luke hanging upside down as well as a Snowspeeder and Snowtroopers and Darth Vader up above looking down at everything). They had a Harry Potter area with really great details like the Hogwarts crest on the gate to get in and awesome Pop-ified gargoyles with a huge Hagrid at the entrance.
There is a Gotham/DC area with a Batcave and a Batmobile photo op! There is also an anime/miscellaneous area with a big Pop Godzilla and a little monorail train with Pop figures inside that he is attacking. They really thought of everything, and there were little Easter eggs everywhere that I really loved. There is also a Disney area in the center of the store with Maleficent’s castle and a drawbridge!
The surprising thing is that their prices for Pops are the best I’ve seen anywhere! I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t gouging their customers. They didn’t really have the biggest selection of Pops overall, however; I think I could have found a larger selection at most other stores. The experience and the atmosphere was obviously the biggest part of it.
You and Jacob are pretty hardcore geeks, if you don’t mind my saying so. Were you always into geeky things, or did that come later in life?
Haha, yeah, we’ve definitely become more hardcore over the years when it comes to Harry Potter and Star Wars especially. I wasn’t a geek as a kid, not at all! All of this has come since I married Jake 15 years ago and he really got me into Star Wars hardcore. We’ve kind of evolved together, and especially since geek culture is everywhere now and so easy to indulge your particular fandom, it’s become more of a thing for us.
I know you’re really into Harry Potter. How did that start?
The Harry Potter thing started back when we saw “Sorceror’s Stone” in the theater. After that, we started reading the books that were out and really got into them. We eventually found a Harry Potter book club meeting at the Palmdale Barnes & Noble that we started going to, where we met more HP nerds like ourselves and made some amazing friends. That got us into going to events like midnight showings and midnight release parties for the books, and eventually going to Chicago for a HP con, Terminus, with our friend Delia. That was our first con experience and super fun to geek out with thousands of other HP fans!
If I’m not mistaken, you and Jacob were once in a wizard rock band. Tell me about that.
I can’t believe you remember that! Haha! Yes, we were really into the whole Wizard Rock ‘scene’ and decided to start our own band, The Escapators. We never played a show and Jake wrote one song (“My Phoenix Song”) and recorded it, which got played on an HP podcast. That was as far as it ever went!
You guys are really into Star Wars, too. How does your love of Star Wars manifest itself in your life?
Oh my gosh, Star Wars has invaded every part of our lives imaginable! Every room in our house has at least one (and usually much more) thing that is Star-Wars related in it. We sleep on Star Wars bedding, we’ve got a Star Wars shower curtain in the bathroom, we eat on Star Wars plates and with lightsaber utensils, we’ve got Star Wars figures and toys everywhere in the living room … it’s just everywhere!
We’ve got a Death Star charger in our car and a Millennium Falcon license plate frame and a hanging R2-D2 in the car as well as a couple Star Wars windshield covers. You really can’t go anywhere in our house without seeing it; it’s just so out of hand!
I also have nine different Star Wars foam pumpkins that I’ve carved and put up from September through October and a bunch of Christmas decorations.
What are your thoughts at this point on “The Last Jedi”?
I’m hopeful! I’m looking forward to seeing what Luke’s been up to since “Return of the Jedi” (a lot of brooding on his failed tutelage of his nephew, from the looks of it) and really hoping we find out who the heck Rey’s parents are! I love the Porgs; they are so adorable! It’s looking a lot like an “EmpireStrikes Back”-style movie, which fits the flow of the movies so far (“The Force Awakens” being so similar to “A New Hope”), so I’m hoping there’s all kinds of angst!
What about the Han Solo spin-off?
I wasn’t sure about the Han Solo spinoff (and I’m still not sure if it’ll be good!), but I am so excited about seeing Donald Glover play Lando; that is genius casting as far as I’m concerned! I am really wary of seeing someone try to channel Harrison Ford and attempt to capture even an ounce of what he was able to do as Han Solo, but I’m definitely going to try to be as unbiased as possible!
What other fandoms are you guys into?
We’re really into “Game of Thrones”! When we lived in California and got to go to Disneyland all the time, we collected Disneyland memorabilia.
Aside from Pops, do you collect any other merch?
Hmmm, well, we do have a ton of Star Wars stuff. We have a pretty decent Harry Potter collection going, too, which we got to add on to when we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (Hollywood); we’d love to go to Orlando and see Diagon Alley!
What do you like about owning these souvenirs from your favorite fandoms?
It’s so much fun to represent our favorite fandoms in a way that goes beyond simply reading/watching. I feel like having those things in our house really just further entrenches them into our lives and makes them a tangible thing.
What do you and Jacob do for a living? Is there anything else we should know about you?
Jake and I both work from home now, which is an amazing blessing, as medical transcriptionists. We basically look at doctor’s notes and transfer relevant information into formatted legal reports for Workers’ Compensation and personal injury cases.
We’ve been married 15 years and we’ve been living in Gig Harbor, Wash., for the past five years after being native Californians living in the Antelope Valley for years before moving.
As for hobbies, Jake is a really talented drummer and plays at church weekly. My biggest hobby would probably be my pumpkin carving. I carve on foam pumpkins with a hot knife and currently have 47 carved designs that spend most of their time in my closet, but some are now out and on display on our living room wall!
I used to have a yearly public display at my family’s lavender farm in the fall, where I did live carving, but last year was the last time I got to do that. I adore carving pumpkins and finding the coolest designs online. My favorite pumpkins, though, are the ones that Jake has designed for me to carve; he’s so good at finding pictures and stencils and translating them into patterns! I also do cross stitching year-round.
Do you have any advice for recovering (or not so recovering) Pops addicts?
It’s hard to give advice when I’m so deep into it! Take them out of the box! We’re not strict collectors in the sense that we leave things in their packaging. I love getting to see them unencumbered by their boxes.
My best advice would be to never start in the first place; it’s a sickness! But if you must, have fun with it, and definitely look into IKEA shelves because you’re gonna need some; it’s inevitable!
Below are some more fun pictures from Stephanie and Jacob’s trip to Funko Pop! HQ.
About the Geek Goddess Interviews:
No Man’s Land chats weekly with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways. We hope these simple snapshots motivate other women to passionately embrace the fandoms they love and to do so with pride.
I’m always looking for interview subjects, so if you know someone who might be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before DC’s “Wonder Woman” movie, I wasn’t really a fan of the Amazon warrior princess.
As a kid, growing up in the ‘80s, I played with Wonder Woman action figures and was familiar with the campy, 1975 television series, starring Lynda Carter.
Mostly, though, the images I remember seeing of Wonder Woman at the time struck me as little more than pin-up girl clichés. So I just never got into her, or the comic books that told her story. Comics had always been problematic for me, anyway, because stories of strictly male heroes didn’t interest me much.
I was excited about the movie before its release, of course, but mainly because it was the possible culmination of a lifelong dream to see female superheroes finally placed upon the same cinematic pedestal as the male ones.
Of course, “Wonder Woman” was everything I hoped it would be and more, and I could finally understand why Diana Prince is such an iconic character. Almost immediately, I became curious to learn more about her comic book origins and read her stories for myself. (Yes, I’m that annoying fan, the late adopter.)
Knowing where to begin was a conundrum. After all, there are decades of Wonder Woman lore and dozens upon dozens of different runs to choose from. So I asked my friend Kristy, who has sung the praises of the daughter of Themyscira for years, to help me out.
Kristy helpfully suggested I start with The New 52 Wonder Woman books by Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang. It’s a six-volume series, starting with “Vol 1: Blood,” that is a complete story arc unto itself.
My friend also recommended “Wonder Woman: The Circle,” from 2008, penned by comic book goddess Gail Simone, who writes Diana with a playfulness and strength I adore. (The only downside is the book is retailing for anywhere from $40 to $70 at the moment. I borrowed it from Kristy.)
I’m in the midst of doing the extremely fun homework my personal Wonder Woman guru assigned me and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
I have a feeling some of you may be finding yourself in the same boat, wanting to immerse yourself in the Wonder Woman comic books, but not knowing where to begin.
So I contacted Roger May, owner of Horizon Comics in Lancaster, Calif., to get a professional opinion on the matter.
May was in agreement with Kristy when it comes to Azzarello’s New 52 run.
“It’s very different,” he said.
“It basically gives Wonder Woman a new origin story. It’s a play off of the clay storyline where Diana’s mom (Hippolyta) fashioned her from clay and the gods wept and brought Diana to life.
“In Azzarello’s story, it turns out that is a story that was fabricated to protect Diana and her mother because basically Zeus had an affair with Hippolyta and Hera is a very vengeful wife. As the story unfolds, this kind of comes to light, years later, after Diana is Wonder Woman. There’s kind of a power struggle for the kingdom of Olympus.”
May describes the six-book series as “fantastic.”
“It really kind of showcases Wonder Woman as an Amazon warrior. You do still have some elements of her diplomacy and heart and everything, but at her core she’s a warrior and that really comes through.”
May said the series would be ideal for someone who might be “interested in the Olympic gods aspect.”
“If somebody was a fan of the whole pantheon of gods that Wonder Woman is related to, that would definitely be the book. The artist, Cliff Chiang, came up with some really stunning interpretations of the different gods. Hades is like this little kid. He’s got a crown of candles and the wax is like dripping over his face … and it’s just really kind of creepy. Poseidon is this giant fish. Hermes is kind of a winged birdman. It’s a stunning book to look at.”
May also recommended another book with an entirely different tone: “Wonder Woman: The True Amazon” by Jill Thompson.
“The entire comic is painted,” he said. “It’s a beautiful book.”
“One of the interesting things about that story is it actually kind of follows Wonder Woman as a young girl on Themyscira. It’s a little different than the movie. (In the book) Diana started out as a spoiled, little brat because she got everything, everyone doted over her, (but) there was one girl who doesn’t cut her any slack.
“It’s basically a redemption story and it’s what drove her, being Diana, to strive to be a shining example for everybody else. It’s a really good story, self-contained, original, never in comics before.”
May said other possibilities for future Wonder Woman comic book fans include checking out runs from the ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as the current “DC Rebirth” series, which is about 30 issues in.
If you’re feeling weird about shamelessly jumping on the Wonder Woman bandwagon this late in the game, don’t worry about it. You’re not the only one. So don’t feel shy about making the leap and popping into your local comic book shop to ask for help.
According to May, “there’s definitely been a resurgence in Wonder Woman’s popularity” since the movie was released in June.
“I’ve always been a fan,” he said.
“For so long, DC media has been dominated by Superman and Batman and it was really nice (too see the movie) and now Wonder Woman is like (DC’s) best movie to date, so I think that had a lot to do with this renewed interest in her, and we’ve definitely seen an increase in traffic for the books and toys, novelties, action figures, everything.”
There are a shocking lack of statistics pertaining to the number of women who read comic books.
The almost total absence of information relating to female readers suggests publishers and retailers don’t find women significant enough to factor into their sales data.
According to The Atlantic, this wasn’t always the case. In the 1940s, comic book stories were more inclusive when it came to gender. According to a market research report from 1944, 91% of girls ages 6 to 11 read comics, as did 81% of girls 12 to 17, while 28% of women, 18 to 20, partook of the pastime.
While this is clearly no longer the case, anecdotal evidence — and a few ambitious attempts to crunch the numbers (see the website graphicpolicy.com, for instance) — points to a growing population of female comic book fans. The industry, meanwhile, has seen an influx in women writers and artists.
While it’s disappointing that female comic book readership can’t even be quantified, the cold, hard fact remains that fans of the medium are largely male — or viewed as such — and women readers are still considered a rarity.
If this is ever going to change, a new generation of girls must be introduced to comic books and encouraged to feel they belong in the world of sequential art.
(Specific demographic information does indicate that comic book readers are skewing older, so it can’t hurt to introduce young boys to the medium as well.)
You might ask, “Why bother introducing girls to comic books?”
The benefits of teaching daughters, granddaughters, or nieces, or little friends to understand and appreciate the medium are many, from sparking a lifelong love of reading, to introducing them to strong, female role models, to giving them fluency in a visual language that inspires creativity and challenges the intellect.
It’s also fairly obvious that our society is currently steeped in comic book culture with a powerful craving for superhero myths — from the success of the Marvel movie multiverse to the recent box-office domination of “Wonder Woman.” It can only be positive for girls to see themselves represented in this phenomenon.
The task of introducing young girls to comics isn’t necessarily an easy one. The adult content of the traditional Marvel and DC canons isn’t exactly appropriate for children and the industry remains awash in sexism, from the absence of three-dimensional female characters to the posters of scantily clad women you’ll find on the walls of some comic book shops.
As a mother of two girls, Brenna Humann often finds herself grappling with these issues.
“Even when (comics) was something around all the time with my brother, I felt it was never quite for me,” she said.
Humann recalls that, as a child, she was “bothered” by the sexism she encountered in comic book stores.
“It just wasn’t for girls, and that went without saying.”
Now, Humann struggles to find comic book characters her girls can relate to.
“It bothers me how my girls love superheroes so much but I don’t have much to give them. We have this DC set of board books that we keep gravitating to because they love hero stories, but they always immediately latch onto the literal one page devoted to Wonder Woman and Raven and get bored with the rest. I find they always immediately latch on to the females in any book we read.”
As a result, her family has gravitated to more “gender neutral” material, like Pokemon.
“So, in short, we end up mostly doing hero worship without the comics.”
Humann’s husband, William Schiller, has introduced their daughters to picture-heavy manga, if only to acclimate them to “the idea of how to view a story.”
Schiller has used Naruto, One Piece, and Dragon Ball Z, though he admits he has to censor some of the content. He’s saving the classic Marvel and DC comics for when the girls are older.
“A lot of my (comics) collection will be hidden for their high school days,” he said.
Elementary school librarian Fawn Kemble began reading comics as a girl, which spawned a lifelong interest in the medium. As a high school teacher, she often taught graphic novels in her English classes.
“My love of comics came from just reading Amazing Spider-Man, Bone, The Maxx, X-Men. Also, I used to love the Uncle Scrooge comics.”
The girls who frequent her library tend to gravitate to the “Adventure Time” graphic novels.
“I think comic writers should keep both male and female readers in mind when writing any story and not just fall into the old, male-centric style of the past,” Kemble said. “Many comic fans are women, so they should remember that.”
The librarian suggested taking a gender neutral approach when introducing girls to comics. Otherwise, they tend to be pushed toward an inordinate amount of romantic storylines.
“I’m also a firm believer that girls should read regular comics, too, not just ones targeted to them.”
Bay Area residents Michelle and Roy Pollock began reading graphic novels to their daughter Georgia when she was 2.
Georgia’s first comics were the online fairy tale retellings “Erstwhile Tales.”
“We only read her certain ones and glossed over some aspects,” Michelle said, noting that “Erstwhile Tales” feature strong female characters.
Strong female characters are a theme in the Pollock household. They’ve since advanced to “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” and the “Valor” comic anthology – “the artwork is wonderful and the women range in sexuality and race,” Michelle said.
Another tricky element to introducing your daughter to comic books is discovering and accepting that their tastes may be wildly different than yours.
Columbus, Ohio, mom Kirsten Kerr said her 8-year-old daughter Lyla has definite opinions about what she wants to read.
“Right now she finds a lot of comics too busy, but does like the style of book that’s almost like a diary (ie., ‘The Tapper Twins’),” Kerr said. “I think they take a lot of their sensibility from comics.”
“Her tastes are very different from mine,” she said, somewhat ruefully.
“She has already said no Stars Wars and no Harry Potter.”
Schiller said he doesn’t think it’s as important what comic books girls are reading, as long as they are reading.
“Don’t limit reading to anything (in particular). Just hook ‘em.”
If you’re wondering where to begin when introducing girls to comic books, here’s a list to get you started.
You can find comics, graphic novels, manga, and other related materials at your local library or comic book shop (they’re not all full of sexist posters), as well as bookstores and Amazon.com.
Brainwash Your Baby
Marvel’s Look and Find books: Marvel’s series of Look and Find pictures books might be the perfect starting point to indoctrinate your child in all things superhero.
5-Minute Marvel Stories: Series of super-quick Marvel superhero sagas make for ideal bedtime story material. Ages preschool and older. Marvel Press.
For the Littlest Readers
“Tiny Titans”: The Teen Titans morph into Tot Titans and share misadventures at Sidekick Elementary School. Official recommendation is ages 7-10, but reviewers suggest they’re suitable for preschoolers to second graders. By Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar, DC Comics.
“Super Powers”: The Justice League is dispatched to locate the missing Batman. All ages. By Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar, DC Comics.
“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”: The ‘80s toy franchise reboot is set in Ponyville, home of Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack. Ages 4-8. By Katie Cook and Andy Price, IDW Publishing.
“Itty Bitty Comics”: Kid-size comic adaptations include The Mask and Hellboy. Ages 3-7. By Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar, Dark Horse Comics.
For Elementary School/Pre-Teen Readers
“DC Superhero Girls”: DC Comics series reimagines classic heroes and villains, including Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy as teens attending Super Hero High. Ages 8-12. By Shea Fontana, DC Comics.
“Hildafolk”: The heroine of the “Hildafolk” series loves exploring her enchanted world, a place with trolls, talking crows, and mountains that move. Ages 6 to 10. By Luke Pearson, Flying Eye Books.
“Teen Titans Go!”: Frenetic animated TV show adaptation stars Beast Boy, Raven, Starfire, Robin, and Cyborg. Ages 7-10. By Sholly Fisch and Lea Hernandez, DC Comics.
“Abigail & the Snowman”: Whimsical graphic novel details the friendship between a 9-year-old girl and a yeti who escapes from a government facility. Age 8 and older. By Roger Langridge, KaBOOM!
“The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl”: Meet Doreen Green, college freshman, friend of Tony Stark, and upbeat superhero with squirrel-like powers. Age 8 and older. By Ryan North and Erica Henderson, Marvel.
“Courtney Crumrin”: Tales of a girl who moves into her uncle’s spooky, old house are perfect for kids with a goth side. Age 7 and older. By Ted Naifeh, Oni Press.
“Ghosts”: A girls learns to put aside her fears for the sake of her sister, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Ages 8-12. By Raina Telgemeier, GRAPHIX.
“Zita the Spacegirl Adventures”: Series features an intergalactic heroine. Ages 8-12. By Ben Hatke, First Second Books.
“Bone”: Award-winning graphic novel series, considered one of the best of all time, tells the story of three misfit cousins who are run out of Boneville and lost in a vast desert. Age 9 and older. By Jeff Smith, Cartoon Books.
“Phoebe and Her Unicorn”: Syndicated comics series depicts the friendship between an awkward girl and an arrogant unicorn. Ages 8-12. By Dana Simpson, Andrews McMeel Publishing.
For Teen Readers
“Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur”: Marvel team-up between a pre-teen super genius with inhuman genes and a savage tyrant teleported from the prehistoric past. By Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, Marvel Unlimited.
Charmz: A new line of romance comics, including “Chloe the New Girl,” “Stitched,” and “Sweeties.” Ages 10-14. From Papercutz, edited by Mariah Heuhner of groundbreaking teen graphic novel line Minx.
“Anya’s Ghost”: A misfit finds her new BFF at the bottom of a well. Ages 12-17. By Vera Brosgol, Square Fish.
“The Plain Janes”: Three lunch buddy rejects named Jane form a secret art gang. Grades 7-10. By Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, Vertigo.
“Nimona”: Celebrated web comic mashes up medieval culture, science, and technology. By Noelle Stevenson, HarperTeen.
Contributors to this post: Fawn Kemble, Kristy Rivas, Shawna of earthtoshawna.com, Brenna Humann, Tanissa Potrovitza Schoen, Kirsten Kerr, Michelle Pollock.
The Internet is lousy with websites dedicated to pop culture, but only a handful of them feature women’s voices or are concerned with women’s issues.
There are some great ones — The Mary Sue, A Mighty Girl, and Her Universe come to mind — but, by and large, the content circulating on the geek Interwebs is written by and for men.
The No Man’s Land blog was created, in part, to address that imbalance. The site’s top priority is giving voice to fangirls who boldly pursue their geeky passions in whatever form they may take.
In that spirit, we’re proud to introduce our regular Wednesday feature, The Geek Goddess Interviews. (We know. We know. It’s a cheesy name. Just go with it.)
Every week, we’ll chat with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways — in career, family activities, hobbies, activism, opinions, creative pursuits, and other realms of expression.
We hope these simple snapshots will motivate other women to passionately embrace the fandoms they love and to do so with pride.
I’m always looking for interview subjects, by the way, so if you happen to know someone who might be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email, email@example.com.
For our debut interview, I’m proud to introduce one of my dearest friends, Kristy Rivas of Lancaster, Calif.
Kristy is a former teacher, a duty aide at a local elementary school, a comic book enthusiast, an expert movie buff, and the best convention buddy you could ever ask for. I’ve often benefited from her comic book wisdom and recommendations.
Kristy was a die-hard Wonder Woman fan long before a certain Amazon warrior made her big movie debut. One of the most interesting things about her, though, is the way she shares her geeky interests with her husband, David, and her children, 10-year-old Noah and 7-year-old Audrey. They have to be one of the coolest families ever.
Were you interested in “geek culture” as a kid or did that come later? When did you embrace the lifestyle?
I was not interested in “geek culture” as a kid. I did not read comics and I was not into sci-fi. After I was married, my husband decided to let me know that he was into “geek culture.” I was taken aback when he wanted to display his He-Man and Batman action figures in our home. He slowly began to draw me into some of his geekdoms. He introduced me to comics.
I began to embrace the lifestyle around 2005. There were a combination of factors that led to my embrace of it. My husband began buying Batman comics, Batman Begins came out, and we had made friends with a few self proclaimed geeks.
You’re a comic book reader. How did you become interested in that?
My husband would pick up Batman comics sometimes and I would read them too. I really enjoyed the Batman comics. In 2008, he bought me a Wonder Woman comic written by Gail Simone. Then, in 2009, Brian Q. Miller began a Batgirl run with Stephanie Brown and Gail Simone was writing Birds of Prey. These were the comics that really brought me into the comic book world. I am a comic book fan because of Gail Simone.
Marvel or DC?
DC Comics. Marvel films.
(Christopher) Nolan’s Batman trilogy and (Patty) Jenkins’s Wonder Woman (from DC) are my favorite hero films.
What are some of your favorite comic book titles?
Both of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey runs.
Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone.
Court of Owls by Scott Snyder.
Batman: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder.
Brian Q. Miller’s Batgirl run.
The New 52 Batgirl by Gail Simone.
New 52 Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello.
Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb.
Gotham City Sirens.
You were on the Wonder Woman bandwagon long before the movie became a hit. What drew you to the character?
Hope, power, love, faith, and strength. She has the strength and goodness of Superman but isn’t afraid to do what is necessary, including killing a foe. She has the sense of justice of Batman but doesn’t let it rule her life. She is a stranger in our land. She came as an ambassador and fights for us even though she isn’t one of us. She has faith in humanity. She is a great warrior. She is just AWESOME!
What did you think of the movie?
I thought the movie was fantastic! Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot did a fantastic job of bringing all that Wonder Woman stands for to the screen. The no man’s land scene gave me goosebumps.
What are some of the other fandoms you’re interested in?
Star Wars, Disney, Orphan Black, Gilmore Girls, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Geeky interests and activities are a big part of your bonding time with your husband and kids. Could you talk about some of the interests you all share, as well as some of your individual interests?
We all love games so we play some geek themed games together. We will play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, or Disney Cranium a lot. We also love to go pick up comics together. My husband and I go to WonderCon and to a lot of geek centered films. I don’t really do many activities by myself. I really love that
we can do so many things together.
What are some of the geek-related things you enjoy doing together?
We love to watch The Flash and Supergirl together. We also love buying comics, Free Comic Book Day, playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly, attending the D23 Expo, going to see Star Wars films opening night, lightsaber duels, and many other fun things.
What are some of the collectibles you’ve amassed together or individually?
Oh man, we have so many Funko Pop! figures between us. We also have many geek related Legos and action figures. We don’t have any real collectibles though.
What do you feel your kids have learned from your encouragement in these areas of interest?
I don’t know. This stuff is widely accepted right now. It’s a good time to be into geek culture. We are having fun.
What would be your advice for families who want to incorporate these types of activities into their time together?
Go to Horizon Comics (in Lancaster, Calif.). Rodger is great and he will help you find something you like. Have fun with it. They might not love what you love. Encourage them to find something that they love. If you go to a Con, be relaxed.
You’ve attended a lot of conventions, including WonderCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and D23. What are some of your best memories from those events? What do you enjoy about cons?
Cons are so much fun! I have met Gail Simone twice, Ashley Eckstein (of Her Universe), Jim Lee, my husband met Scott Snyder, and we have been to many fun panels. My favorite con memory is just watching my kids enjoy the D23 Expo. Hearing their laughter during the DuckTales panel, watching as my son got his Oswald book signed by the author, watching my daughter jump into Scrooge’s money bin, and enjoying the time we have together sharing in our geekiness.
I love the atmosphere at the cons. I love that there is always a panel I want to see. I love hearing about where they are taking my favorite book characters or hearing people talk about where they wanted the Wonder Woman movie to go. I love the cool costumes that people have made. It is just a fun activity to share with those I love.
As a woman, is there anything you would like to see change in the world of geek culture or fandoms?
Acceptance. Some people don’t like all the strong, female characters that are front and center. Honestly, I have seen some really good changes recently. Ashley Eckstein and Her Universe have expanded. I loved that they sold Wonder Woman merchandise and they are selling more decor now. Shea Fontana is doing a great job with DC Superhero Girls, which we all love, and is now writing Wonder Woman. Nicola Scott was doing the art work for Wonder Woman recently. Star Wars has Forces of Destiny and many other great books and comics.
Those are all great things. I would love to see more DC stuff out there for my kids in the comics. They did a great job with DC Superhero Girls but now my son’s left out of the DC comic loop.
I think things are moving in a great direction for girls and women right now. I want that to continue. Wonder Woman kicked ass! (The) Captain Marvel (movie) cast Brie Larson, which is fantastic. Maybe they are learning that women are awesome too! I also love that Black Panther looks amazing!! Also, the fact that Rey (of Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Wonder Woman were front and center, strong, fun and not sexualized. Women are so much more than sexual objects and for people to leer at. Let’s keep that going.
What’s the next event or big release (movies, comics, etc.) you’re looking forward to?
The Dark Nights Metal comic looks exciting. That came out but we don’t have our copy yet. I also heard that Gail Simone has something in the works. Also, The Last Jedi!
You’re a fan of “Orphan Black,” which recently wrapped up its final season. What did you think of the finale? (SPOILER ALERT!)
I thought the finale was great. I enjoyed that we got to see the clones defeat Neolution, encourage Sarah, start curing all the Ledas, and be able to continue their lives. It brought everything together and tied a nice bow on it for us.
I’m sure certain people will scoff when I say that in June a movie changed my life. Or maybe it didn’t quite change my life, but it changed the way I saw the world and it changed the way I saw myself.
In June, I saw Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”
After decades in development limbo, DC’s long-awaited comic book adaptation arrived exactly when I needed it most, after months of demoralizing political and social setbacks for feminism and female wellbeing in general.
Despite what James Cameron says, “Wonder Woman” is a feat of female representation the likes of which Hollywood never seemed capable of delivering before. The fact that it also became the biggest hit of the summer, breaking records left and right, was just icing on the cake.
Sure, “Wonder Woman” is a deftly written, wildly entertaining, gracefully executed, slickly produced big-budget comic book movie. It’s also so much more.
As star Gal Gadot charged into battle, bullets pinging off her silver gauntlets while soldiers cowered in the trenches, for perhaps the first time, little girls did not have to stretch their imaginations far to put themselves in her place. They were finally granted the same delight boys have long enjoyed, watching Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Batman, or any other epic hero on a hero’s journey to save the world.
For grown women, the experience was even more profound.
Starved for female cinematic role models of power, strength, courage, compassion, intelligence, and heroism, the sight of Gadot’s Amazon warrior presiding over kick-ass action, not as a sidekick or sexual object, but as a three-dimensional hero who reflects back to us all that is best about our own humanity, was revelatory and unexpectedly cathartic.
There were tears. I assure you, they were tears of joy.
That said, it would be foolish to assume “Wonder Woman” changes everything.
For all we know, Hollywood will jump on the female-led action movie bandwagon for a couple years before going back to business as usual. The worlds of science fiction, fantasy, videogames, comic books, cosplay, and TV and movie fandoms will likely remain minefields for women to navigate. Girls and women will still have to fight for their voices to be heard, in fictional worlds as well as the real world.
What has changed then?
Personally, I’m feeling more hopeful about the potential for women to step up and take their place at the forefront of geek culture, to blaze trails and envision ourselves in roles we thought we might never assume.
This hope has inspired a new project, a blog dedicated to the voices of women who are passionate about fandoms of all kinds. It’s no coincidence I’m launching this endeavor the day before “Wonder Woman” is released in digital HD.
The title of the blog? No Man’s Land. Because this project is very much in the spirit of Wonder Woman but is by no means limited to the subject of Wonder Woman.
My intention is that No Man’s Land would be an outlet for the resources and skills I’ve honed during a more than 15-year career as an entertainment editor, film critic, blogger, and freelance writer.
Most of all, though, I want to have fun, and I want you to have fun too. This will most often take the form of shameless and enthusiastic discussion of all our favorite geeky things.
So we’ll be talking about Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who, and Harry Potter, and Stranger Things, and comic books, and anime, and comic book movies, and conventions, and television shows, and books, and collectibles, and cosplay, and whatever other nerdy thing we happen to be obsessed with at the moment.
And Star Wars. Lots of Star Wars. Because it’s Star Wars!
No Man’s Land will also endeavor to highlight the stories of women who are passionate about various fandoms and express this in fascinating ways, in pioneering careers, creative pursuits, unusual hobbies, family activities, and many other avenues.
We won’t shy away from talking about feminism, politics, social issues and perhaps even subjects that are painful, complex, or controversial.
Guys, despite the blog title, this is a space where you are welcome. We’d love your thoughts and contributions because we know so many of you are on our side.
Readers, I’d love it if you would function as my lasso of truth by offering your comments, feedback, suggestions, content ideas, pitches for guest posts, or whatever is on your mind.
Let’s get out of the trenches. I’ll see you on the battlefield.
Photos: Heroic Hollywood, YouTube, CBR, DC Comics.