As women who are deeply invested in the male-dominated worlds of fandom and geek culture, we’re forced to take hope, heart, and inspiration wherever we can find them, which is why we should celebrate all kinds of victories, big and small.
This is especially true in a disheartening summer that’s included the terrible, Weinsteiny revelations about CBS CEO Les Moonves; the return of Chris Hardwick, accompanied by the sadistic glee of his army of toxic minions, er, fans; Superman himself, Henry Cavill, subtly undermining the #MeToo movement by declaring he’s afraid of being labelled a “rapist” if he so much as flirts with a girl; and a certain gang of ridiculous Star Wars podcasters going into troll mode because of a three-year-old photo of a coffee mug.
At this point, I’m so tired of ranting and despairing and so desperately in need of motivation, I’ve decided it’s time to focus on the positive. In the spirit of looking up and moving forward, here are some remarkable recent achievements by women who deserve all the recognition we can give them.
“Star Wars: Episode IX” began production Aug. 1 to much fanfare and, even more wonderfully, recent casting announcements reveal it to be the most female-centric installment of the franchise yet.
Director J.J. Abrams kicked off the shoot by paying homage to absent star Carrie Fisher, who will return to help wrap up the trilogy through the use of previously unreleased footage and good, old movie magic. The cast also includes Daisy Ridley, of course, but also the return of Kelly Marie Tran and Lupita Nyong’o, and possibly a beefed-up role for Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd.
Exciting new additions to the roster include Keri Russell in a mysterious role and newcomer Naomi Ackie, who previously appeared in an episode of “Doctor Who.” I’m sure all this female representation and diversity will be the cause of many fanboy tears. Quick, let me get my mug.
Speaking of casting that affirms strong women: We got our first glimpse of the new “Terminator” movie last week. An image posted on Twitter from the sixth entry in the sci-fi franchise shows off a lean, mean, totally badass Linda Hamilton as gun-toting Sarah Connor, accompanied by co-stars Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis.
The return of Hamilton as one of sci-fi’s toughest heroines is a welcome sight. Davis is best known for the TV series “Halt and Catch Fire” and Reyes has appeared in several Colombian productions. This trio has us asking, “Schwarzenegger who?”
Although the cast of DC’s much anticipated “Birds of Prey” movie hasn’t yet been revealed – rumors are swirling though – a recent announcement detailing which characters will appear in the film generated controversy amongst comic book fans.
The movie will feature such familiar figures as Black Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Renee Montoya. While many fans are upset Barbara Gordon won’t appear as Batgirl in this film, the “Birds of Prey” roster bodes well for a strong, diverse cast.
Directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, “Birds of Prey” is shaping up to be the first major superhero movie to feature a formidable female ensemble.
In July, it was also announced that Cate Shortland will direct Marvel’s long-awaited Black Widow spinoff, starring Scarlett Johansson. Shortland previously helmed the movies “Lore” and “The Berlin Syndrome.” The script for the film was also written by a woman, Jac Schaeffer.
In another major comic book movie breakthrough, the genre welcomes its first female composer, Pinar Toprak, who will score Marvel’s upcoming “Captain Marvel.” Toprak has written music for the TV series “Krypton” and DC’s “Justice League.”
Here’s looking forward to the day when we won’t have to make such a big deal about women being assigned significant roles in Hollywood because it will just be so humdrum and commonplace.
Ground was broken in the comic book industry itself last month when the Eisner Awards – think of them as the Oscars of comics – turned into a long overdue celebration of women creators.
Marjorie Liu, co-creator of Image Comics’ “Monstress,” became the first woman to win the best writer honor, while her series snagged five total awards.
The ceremony, which took place at San Diego Comic-Con, also recognized artist Emil Ferris and graphic memoirist Tillie Walden.
Previously uncredited Wonder Woman comics contributor Joye Murchison Kelly and late DC Comics writer-editor Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk were the first women to claim the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, while many other women were inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame.
Is it just me or did San Diego Comic-Con seem unusually female-friendly this year? I wasn’t there, so I’m just going by what I observed from afar. Maybe those of you who actually attended can confirm or deny this.
After enduring a nasty misogynist backlash when it was announced she’d be the first woman to regenerate into the titular role of the BBC’s “Doctor Who,” 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker was greeted with warm enthusiasm by fans during a Hall H panel and a surprise appearance at the Her Universe Fashion Show.
I’m not even a Whovian, but I found this extremely refreshing. I hope she’ll be just as affectionately received when “Doctor Who” returns to BBC America in the fall.
Another highlight of Comic-Con was the shocking announcement that beloved animated Star Wars series “The Clone Wars” – now celebrating its 10th anniversary — will return for another season. Many fans were moved to tears when they heard this news, but the resurrection of the series is also significant because it heralds the return of strong, groundbreaking female characters like Padme Amidala and Ahsoka Tano.
Other recent announcements that brought joy to geek girls’ hearts include Marvel’s plan to finally debut a comic book series starring “Black Panther” favorite Shuri and the introduction of the new animated franchise “Marvel Rising,” which will feature female comic book heroes with diverse backgrounds and body types, including Ghost Spider, Quake, Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, and Iron Patriot.
And while fans of the original “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series may not be thrilled with the idea of a planned reboot, or sequel, or whatever it is, it’s worth noting the show will be shepherded by Monica Owusu-Breen, a die-hard “Buffy” fan who also happens to be a woman of color.
Hopefully, Joss Whedon will have as little to do with it as possible.
Photos: StarWars.com, 20th Century Fox, ComicBook.com.
When it comes to superheroes, Tasmin Humphries didn’t get the stereotypical memo that girls must idolize Wonder Woman and boys should look up to Superman. (Although, she’s a fan of Diana, too.)
Raised on “The Adventures of Lois & Clark” and “Superman: The Movie,” the Man of Steel became her ultimate hero, thanks to his status as most powerful being ever and his commitment to always do good.
The release of the 2006 movie “Superman Returns” inspired Tasmin to take her status as a Super fan to the next level and she began collecting hundreds of items, from comic books to memorabilia. Her collection now includes more than 1,800 pieces, which could qualify her for World Record status and has captured the attention of many blogs and media outlets, including the BBC.
Tasmin writes about her collection and enduring obsession with Supes on her blog, theaspiringkryptonian.com, and she’s constantly on the prowl for new collectibles everywhere, from eBay to car boots.
Below, she discusses her love of the American hero who became a global icon, why Superman isn’t boring, the new series “Krypton,” her appreciation for every incarnation of the Man of Steel, including Brandon Routh, and why Mr. Mustache himself, Henry Cavill, is her current favorite.
You’re a Superman super fan whose collection of comic books and memorabilia numbers around 1,500 items. You and your collection have been receiving a lot of coverage lately, including BBC and online interviews. What has that experience been like?
Yeah, it’s been great! I really didn’t expect it to go that far! Although, the amount of times I’ve had to get the collection down from the attic has been exhausting. But so worth it. I love sharing my collection with everyone.
I understand you’re close to hitting the record for largest Superman collection in the world. Wow! Is that something that’s going to happen?
Well, the world record is 1,519 items, but I actually have 1,828. Although I have heard they don’t allow comics to be counted in the record, which sets me back a little. But that is one of my goals, yes, and the collection is increasing quite rapidly, so we shall see.
Stereotypically, girls tend to be encouraged to admire superheroes like Wonder Woman, while boys are encouraged to look up to Superman or Batman. How did you subvert this stereotype?
Well, I didn’t really know I was doing it … I was never a girly girl, and I always loved playing with cars and was quite the tomboy. So it started at a young age, but don’t get me wrong, I do love Wonder Woman and other superheroes, including female ones. But Superman just stands out to me. I love being that girl who isn’t interested in spending hundreds on makeup and shoes, I love being that weird and different girl who collects Superman and loves superheroes. And I think it’s important that it’s encouraged.
At what age were you introduced to Superman? What were your first impressions of the Man of Steel?
I was around 6-7 when I first saw Superman on the TV — it was Dean Cain in “The Adventures of Lois & Clark.” I loved it, I was always interested in superheroes and sci-fi stuff, and I was just hooked. I used to watch it most weeks from then, which lead me on to “Superman: The Movie.”
I read that you would watch “The Adventures of Lois & Clark” with your grandfather. What do you remember about that?
I just remember being mesmerised by the idea that this guy could fly, and saved people. I loved it. I was quite young, so I can’t remember all of my feelings. But my Grandad died when I was 10, so I cherish those memories and it has quite a lot of sentimental value to me.
What is it about Superman that your fascination with the character has endured beyond childhood?
It’s just love the idea of it, someone who strives to do good in any situation even if it affects himself. I love that he is one of the most powerful beings, well, alien, yet he disguises himself as a human, a geeky human who has no confidence whatsoever. I’ve always loved the idea of alter egos and suddenly transforming into your best possible self. I think I just aspired to be like him and he’s a great role model and hero to have.
You’ve said Superman is a “popular character but he also gets a lot of unnecessary criticism.” Could you elaborate on that?
Well, he gets called boring and the big blue boy scout. People say he is boring because of the power that he has and because he always does good. He’s a superhero, what do you expect? They say he isn’t relatable, and that he’s old fashioned, but he is one of the most relatable characters, he is old fashioned, but not in a bad way. He’s been around for 80 years. He’s iconic.
There’s always this dilemma with Superman, that he’s too powerful and therefore difficult to write. What do you think about that idea?
I think it’s stupid — he is powerful, yes, but doesn’t use his power to its full capability because of his morals, he holds back even for criminals and bad guys. If he did, well god help them. Although he is the most powerful, he doesn’t want to be. Plus he has weaknesses — Kryptonite and a fair few Kryptonian villains whose powers are parallel.
You began collecting in earnest in 2006. What sparked that?
It was “Superman Returns.” Once that came out there was a lot of memorabilia released, whereas before there wasn’t much out in shops. I loved the film, so I wanted the t-shirt, and then the poster, and then it spiralled out of control from there.
Where do you tend to acquire the items for your collection?
All over really. I get a lot from eBay, though, and also Amazon. Car boots are also good too!
What are some of your favorite or prized items?
I have a few autographs from Brandon Routh and Dean Cain. I also have a General Zod figurine signed by Terrence Stamp himself. Comic-wise, I have Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, and Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.
Where do you keep all this stuff? I read that your boyfriend has promised to build you a Superman museum someday.
Everywhere. I currently live in a two-bed flat with my mum, so my room is covered in it. It actually looks like a 10-year-old boy’s room … But a majority of it is in the attic. I’m hoping to get a place with my boyfriend in the next year or so, and we have agreed that I am allowed a Superman room — my very own Fortress of Solitude.
Is there an ultimate dream item that would make your collection complete?
Well, of course, Action Comics #1 — although I don’t have a spare $3 million …
As a fan, you consider “every representation of Superman” a success. Even the 2006 film “Superman Returns” with Brandon Routh?!
Yes, ultimately that’s what started my collection. A lot of people hate that representation of Superman yet love Christopher Reeves, but the way that Brandon Routh was told to portray Supes is the same way Christopher Reeve did and I think he did a great job.
Seriously, though, it’s very broadminded of you to appreciate every incarnation of Superman. Why do you appreciate them all?
Each person that has played Superman has done it in their own style, or taken their own take on the character. Look how different Henry Cavill’s Superman is to Christopher Reeve’s. I, of course, have my favourites, but I do genuinely appreciate every take on Superman so far.
You do have a soft spot for the latest Superman, played by Henry Cavill. What do you like about him?
I do, yes. He’s taken a character and made it his own, he has brought Superman into reality and made him 100% relatable. “Man of Steel” is my favourite Superman film, and he really understands the character. He is also a fan of Superman himself and you can see that in his portrayal, you can tell he wants to do the character justice (no pun intended) and I love that.
“Man of Steel” is your favorite Superman film. There’s been a lot of buzz about the sequel lately. What are your expectations for that?
I am very excited for that! I’d like to see a villain we haven’t seen on the big screen before, and I’d like to see Henry return. I know he has had talks about the sequel, so I’d like him to have a bit of input to the film — he knows what he is doing. It’s about time he had a sequel.
How do you feel about the much-maligned “Batman v Superman” and “Justice League”?
I love “Batman v Superman,” although I would have liked to see more of Superman before Doomsday was introduced. That’s my only peeve with it. Other than that, it’s an incredible film. “Justice League,” there are parts I liked, that scene where Superman was brought back is my favourite part. But I do have issues with it — and I can only imagine what it could have been if (original director) Zack Snyder had full control throughout.
You watched and reviewed the SYFY series “Krypton.” Tell me all your thoughts about the show.
I love it. It’s great to see the stories of Krypton being told, especially BEFORE Superman. All we’ve ever really seen on TV and film is Krypton being destroyed. We are also hearing and learning about the history of Krypton, which I love. The cast are amazing, and so, so talented and I won’t give anything away but, although it’s set before Superman, a lot of his acquaintances show up.
You wrote some thoughtful tweets on the passing of Margot Kidder, who famously played Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve. How did you feel upon hearing the news?
I was sad. You never think of your heroes passing. She was supposed to be at Comic-Con last year but cancelled. She was also announced for this year, too, so I was hoping I’d get the chance to meet her, but unfortunately not.
You have a blog, theaspiringkryptonian.com, dedicated to your collection and your fandom. When and why did you decide to start writing about them?
Just over a year, I think. I wanted to do it so I could share my collection and interests with the world. None of my friends/family are really into the whole Superman thing, so I interacted with people on social media and it went from there.
What do you enjoy most about blogging?
I just love seeing that people are actually reading what I write! It’s a great way for me to show my passion and I’ve learnt a lot by doing it.
One of the things you’ve said you like about Superman is that his stories represent minorities, especially in some of the older comics. Tell me more about this and why this stands out to you.
Yeah, I’ve been reading the old comics recently, and he sticks up for criminals and gives them a second chance. He also sticks up for women — back then it was very much a man’s world and even he was fighting for equality, also between the rich and the poor. It stands out to me because things like this are still happening, and it’s amazing to see your hero stick up for those minorities and tackle those issues. I am technically classed as a minority — you don’t get a lot of black female nerds out there. It doesn’t matter what the minority is, everyone should have an equal chance at life.
When it comes to Superman comic books, what are some of your favorite titles, runs, graphic novels, writers, artists, etc.?
I have many … Favourite title and graphic novel is Red Son or Kingdom Come. Comic runs, I love The Adventures of Superman — to me, that is classic Superman. Writers — Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway and Curt Swan. Artists — Alex Ross, Curt Swan, Jim Lee. Kaare Andrews’ take on the hero is beautiful too.
You got the rare opportunity to visit DC Headquarters on a visit to the U.S. I want to hear all about that!
It was amazing! I couldn’t believe it when I was there. I still can’t believe it now. I would love to work there, it’s a heaven for geeks like me!
I see you were recently making the rounds of Superman arcade games. I need more details!
Yeah, I went on holiday for a weekend and saw a load of Justice League arcade games. It was great! I had to have a go on them!
You have two Superman tattoos. Tell us about them.
Yeah, I wanted to get something to show my passion for Superman. My first Superman-based one was Superman and Wonder Woman on King and Queen playing cards. I also love Wonder Woman. My second one is “Man of Steel” Kryptonian for “be weird,” because you should embrace your uniqueness.
Are you a DC girl in general? What are some of your favorite superheroes aside from the Man of Steel?
Yeah I’m a DC Girl, but I do also like Marvel. I’m not against them. Other than Superman, I love Wonder Woman. I also love some of the villains — Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Aquaman. Marvel-wise, I love Captain America and Thor, along with The Punisher. A bit of everything really.
What other fandoms are you into?
Erm, none really as much as this, but I absolutely LOVE Harry Potter, Disney films, too, Star Wars, Game of Thrones.
In your opinion, is there a Marvel hero who matches up to Supes?
Morals-wise — Captain America. Power-wise — Thor is close, but I’m not sure he could take him.
Who would win in a fight, Superman or Wonder Woman?
Superman. Although they are both very strong and powerful, Supes has the upper hand. Although I’m sure there’s comics where she has beaten him.
What’s your favorite color of Kryptonite?
Personally, I’d like some X-Kryptonite, so I can get me some powers! But on the big screen I’d like to see black Kryptonite in action. I’d like to see the evil side to Superman, just because it’s so different and hasn’t been done before.
Who’s your favorite Superman villain?
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, I have two: Bizarro for obvious reasons. But also Mr Mxyzptlk because he is just an odd concept and he’s bonkers! I think he’s hilarious.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how big was the Henry Cavill mustache fiasco?
When I first saw, it was an 8, but I’ve calmed down now. But it could have been covered up so much better. But I loved that he joked and still jokes about it.
Is Superman a uniquely American icon or a symbol of hope for the world?
I think he was created an American icon — “truth, justice, and the American way,” that’s something he said quite often. But now he’s become hope for the world. I’m British and I love him. I know there are others in other countries that believe the same.
If you were to write the next Superman comic or movie, what direction would you take the character in?
That’s difficult. I’d like to see a new villain that we haven’t seen before, maybe Bizarro or Darkseid. I’d like to see something similar to “Man of Steel” and tackling real issues, as well as supervillains.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, email@example.com.
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.