Early comic book forays inspire filmmaker to honor women’s legacy

As a girl, filmmaker Marisa Stotter followed her older brother into the local comic book shop for a Magic: The Gathering tournament, and found herself browsing the shelves, igniting a spark that would grow into a full-fledged comic book habit in high school.

Years later, she would illuminate the hidden history of women’s contributions to the industry in the empowering documentary “She Makes Comics.” (Read a review here.)

The film sheds light on the achievements — not to mention the discrimination faced by — female writers, artists, fans, and creators. It also features interviews with power players in the comic book world, including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, Jenette Kahn, and Karen Berger.

After touring film festivals and other events around the world and winning a major award at San Diego Comic-Con, “She Makes Comics” recently made its debut on Netflix. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you should remedy that immediately. You can also view it on Amazon and iTunes.)

As a fan, I’m ecstatic that Marisa graciously agreed to  discuss the making of her documentary, along with other fun and geeky subjects, including her history with Dungeons & Dragons, the “Wonder Woman” movie, her “Doctor Who”-themed short film, and “Stranger Things.” 

“She Makes Comics” director Marisa Stotter and producer Patrick Meaney with the logo for their documentary.

What sparked the idea for the documentary “She Makes Comics”?

I was working with Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert of Respect! Films on a couple of comics-related documentaries, one on Chris Claremont and one on Image Comics. As those projects started to wind down, we discussed what to focus on next.

At the time (fall 2013), the Internet was abuzz with discussions about sexual harassment, discrimination, and other issues facing women in the industry. Against this background, it seemed like the right time to produce a documentary celebrating women in the comic book industry, although we also wanted to touch upon the discrimination that they face.

The seeds for the project were sewn when you were an English major at Wesleyan University. First of all, English majors rock. Second, tell me how the documentary began to take shape during this time.

I think my English education provided me with a great advantage going into the project. Although I did not specifically study comics as part of the English department’s curriculum, the critical reading and analytical skills I honed at Wesleyan proved to be useful as we studied the history of women’s contributions to comics and used that research to flesh out the arc of the documentary.

You were first introduced to the mysteries of the comic book shop by your brother, but it took you a while to jump into buying and reading comics. Tell me more about that.

Like most younger sisters, I wanted to do everything that my older brother did, and that included playing Magic: The Gathering, the card game, as a kid. A local comic book shop in my hometown hosted tournaments on Saturdays that my brother and I would participate in. I wasn’t very good at the game so I’d lose early on and kill time until my brother was ready to leave by browsing the comics rack. That’s when I first became interested in comics — I think one of the first that I picked up was a “Simpsons” comic since I recognized the characters.

What were some of your formative titles as a young girl?

I didn’t read a ton of comics as a kid, just the occasional “Simpsons” or “Archie” comics and some kid-oriented Batman comics. It was in high school that I began to read comics more regularly and developed my own personal tastes. As a freshman in high school, I read “Persepolis” and “Maus,” which really blew me away. They showed me that the medium could tell any kind of story, and they were particularly appealing to me as a student of literature. I did also get into superhero comics, but those graphic novels broadened my understanding of comic storytelling.

Are you still a comic book reader? If so, what titles are you into now?

I do still read comics, although I don’t have the time to read as much as I’d like to. I’m in a catch-up period reading some comics I missed in the past few months. I’ve been catching up on “Paper Girls” by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, which I absolutely love. And I’m catching up on Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Bitch Planet.”

DC Comics editor Shelly Bond in her New York office in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

What sort of research did you do before you began production on “She Makes Comics”? How much did you already know about the subject?

We were fortunate enough to have on board our creative team Karen Green, the curator of comics and graphic novels at Columbia University’s Robert Butler Memorial Library. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the medium. Karen was enormously helpful as we began researching for the project, suggesting interview subjects and particular works for us to focus on. I was already familiar with some of the people we were planning to interview, but I learned plenty more as we conducted our research.

Why aren’t people generally familiar with much of the history of women in comics presented in your doc?

Women’s contributions to comics aren’t as well-known as those of such legends as Stan Lee and Will Eisner. I think there are a lot of elements that factor into that, but perhaps the biggest reason is that comics has long been considered a medium for male readers, so it is assumed that men are the main creative forces behind them.

How did you go about making your list of interviewees? Was it a challenge to land any of the interviews for the film?

We initially had a very long “wish list” of interviewees that we then narrowed down as the film took shape. Patrick and Jordan had existing relationships with some of the people we wanted to interview from working on their previous documentaries, and Karen personally knew a number of people and facilitated getting in touch with them. We were fortunate that just about every person we contacted was interested in and excited by the project. In some cases we couldn’t overcome logistical obstacles, but we certainly made every effort to get the interviews that we felt were important for the film.

Marisa and “Captain Marvel” writer Kelly Sue DeConnick doing DeConnick’s specialty, the “duck-face selfie.”

Was there one interview in particular you geeked out over?

I’m a huge fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work, and she’s a pretty big superstar in the comics world, so having the opportunity to interview her was really special. I was fortunate enough to get a duck-face photo with her, too!

You funded the film via Kickstarter. What was your crowd-funding experience like?

The “She Makes Comics” campaign was my very first experience with Kickstarter, and it was quite the wild ride. It was equal parts thrilling and stressful, given that we had a 30-day window in which to achieve our goal. I honestly had no idea what to expect at first — I wasn’t sure if the project would strike a chord with potential backers, or if there would be a backlash given the subject matter.

Fortunately, we received very positive feedback early on, and as the press began to cover the project, we saw an incredible outpouring of support. Managing the campaign, however, was a full-time job in itself. We constantly updated the campaign page with new rewards and communicated with backers on a daily basis, while we continued to spread the word about the campaign via press coverage, fan sites, and social media. I was on edge until we reached our goal, which was both an exhilarating moment and quite the relief.

You also worked with the Sequart Organization. Tell me about that organization and how were they involved with the film.

Sequart is an organization promoting comics literacy and the study of comics in academia, so it was a natural partnership given the nature of our project. Sequart had previously been involved in Respect’s other comic-related documentaries, so Patrick and Jordan had an existing relationship and had no trouble getting them on board with “She Makes Comics.”

Readers browse in a local comic book shop in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

Let’s talk about the actual documentary shoot. What were the biggest challenges you faced?

Our biggest challenge was coordinating the logistics of the interviews, since the people we wanted to interview lived all over the world. We attended several comic conventions where we were able to conduct a number of interviews in one location, but even then it was difficult to coordinate with many creators’ busy schedules.

What did you enjoy most about the shoot?

I think I had the most fun shooting at comic conventions. I love to wander around the exhibition floor at a convention and just take in the sights, particularly the creative cosplay. We shot a lot of b-roll footage of amazing female cosplayers, and I was especially excited whenever we met a young girl in a great get-up.

I love the film’s logo! Tell me about how it was created.

Our logo is courtesy of the talented Courtney Wirth, who designed it for us. We wanted the logo to evoke one of the most iconic symbols of female empowerment, Rosie the Riveter, while remaining specific to the subject of “She Makes Comics.” We loved what Courtney came up with, and in fact, I have the original artwork hanging in my apartment!

Marisa and producer Patrick Meaney answer audience questions during a panel at the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival in Las Vegas, Nev.

“She Makes Comics” screened at a lot of film festivals and events. Were you able to attend many of them?

I attended quite a few screenings, mostly here on the West Coast. The movie has screened all over the world, including in South Korea, Australia, and the U.K. It’s really amazing to me how She Makes Comics has managed to resonate with audiences across the globe.

What was the response to the film? Have a lot of women approached you wanting to talk about it?

The response to “She Makes Comics” was wonderfully positive and affirming. I was nervous sending the film out into the world, and I was particularly worried about our Kickstarter backers who had pledged to the project and would now be seeing the product of their support. Fortunately, I heard positive feedback from our backers as well as others who discovered the film. I was approached by many women for whom “She Makes Comics” struck a personal chord. I’m glad that the film opened up the conversation about women in the comic book industry even further.

What about the reaction from men? I was disappointed to see some pretty clueless comments from men on the IMDb website.

I’ve spoken with a lot of men who were fascinated by the documentary and came away having learned something new about the medium and its history. There will always be anonymous trolls trying to tear down a project like this, but I received very positive responses from male viewers, some of whom are fathers and art teachers trying to nurture young talent at home and in the classroom.

“She Makes Comics” won the best documentary prize at the 2015 Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. That’s quite an achievement. How did that feel?

It was wonderful to receive recognition at such an iconic convention, and it was fitting given that so many of the stories in “She Makes Comics” have some connection to San Diego Comic-Con.

How did you land a distribution deal with Netflix? That must have been exciting. How has that changed the doc’s reception and prospects?

We initially made a distribution deal with XLRator, and they handled the rest. It’s an enormous milestone to have “She Makes Comics” available on services like Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix because the film will reach a whole new audience. We’ve seen a renewed interest in the film thanks to that exposure.

What would you ultimately like to achieve with “She Makes Comics”? 

What I’m proudest of with “She Makes Comics” is that the film has become a source of inspiration for young girls whose artistic talent is emerging. I think it’s vital for them to see role models, to see the women who have come before them, so they know that creating comics is something that they can do when they grow up. That, I think, is the project’s legacy beyond telling the story of women in the comic book industry.

Filmmaking and acting troupe Team Unicorn in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

You also made a short film, “Tenspotting,” which is set in the “Doctor Who” fandom. That sounds amazing. Where can we see it?

You can watch “Tenspotting” on Vimeo!

Tell me more about the inspiration and making of the short.

“Tenspotting” was a fun one because it started as a joke! I was at Comic-Con the previous year having drinks at the Hyatt bar with two writer friends of mine, Emily Blake and Michael Patrick Sullivan. We kept noticing lots of “Tens” and were having a lot of fun counting them, and thus began the germ of “Tenspotting.”

Emily and Michael went on to write the script somewhat as a joke, but I told them I was interested in producing it — seriously! — and I brought it to Patrick and Jordan, who thought it would be a fun project to take on.

I’m assuming you’re a Whovian. How did you get into the series?

I’m actually not a Whovian, although I’ve seen a number of episodes. Don’t revoke my geek card!

Who’s your Doctor?

Although I’m not a big Doctor Who fan, I’m super excited about Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the next Doctor, and I plan to tune in when she debuts. I really like her as an actress, and I’m excited to see the first female Doctor.

What are your other personal fandoms? How do they manifest themselves in your life?

I’m such an equal opportunity fan — I get invested in almost everything I read or watch, but sadly I don’t have the time to be as involved in fandom as I used to. The Harry Potter fandom will always hold a special place in my heart, and I still have some great Potter fan fiction bookmarked from over a decade ago.

Is it true that while you were at Wesleyan, you were part of a secret group that played “Dungeons & Dragons”?

I wouldn’t say we were a “secret” group, but I did learn how to play D&D in college with a great group of friends. I absolutely loved it, although I think our Dungeon Master got tired of our antics derailing our progress. I’ve been meaning to join a campaign since I recently got the itch to get back into D&D.

“Stranger Things” is packed with “D&D” references. Are you a fan?

I am a big fan of “Stranger Things.” I had the greatest experience watching it for the first time. I didn’t know much about it except that it was set in the ‘80s and starred Winona Ryder. I was totally hooked on the first season, and the second season was just as good, if not better. Along with “Freaks & Geeks,” “Stranger Things” features one of my favorite portrayals of D&D campaigns in television.

I’ve heard you also really like board games. What are some of your faves?

I love Settlers of Catan, although I tend to get fairly competitive with that one. I’m also a big fan of card games like Munchkin and Bang. There are some really innovative games raising funds on Kickstarter, so I often get brand new games to test out with my friends.

Marisa is joined by several of the film’s interviewees for a Q&A following the premiere of “She Makes Comics” at Brave New World in Newhall, Calif.

As a woman, is there anything you’d like to see change in the world of fandoms and geek culture?

I think it all boils down to inclusivity and respect. There is a gatekeeper mentality in some fandoms, based on this idea that you can only be a “true fan” if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the work and have been a fan since “before it was cool.” I’m of the opinion that we should encourage new, enthusiastic fans to become involved in fandom.

I think a number of fan communities would benefit from a change in attitude towards new fans, because ultimately, we are all involved because we love the thing that is bringing us together. It doesn’t matter if you have been reading Marvel comics since the 1970s or if you started after the “Avengers” movie — we all approach fandom in different ways and from different perspectives, and to me, that is what makes these fan communities so enriching and fun to be part of.

Do you have thoughts and/or opinions on the recent success of the “Wonder Woman” movie? 

I really loved “Wonder Woman” on its own, and I appreciate how it seems to have touched a whole new generation of women (and men) who are excited about the character and what she symbolizes. I think the film is a much-needed reprieve from the chaos that is 2017. It has clearly inspired and empowered women in a way that no superhero film has done in the past few years. The “no man’s land” scene in Wonder Woman was perhaps my favorite movie moment of the year; it was so breathtaking and personally gave me goosebumps.

What’s on your career bucket list? Would you like to make more documentaries and films or go in another direction?

I loved the experience of making “She Makes Comics,” but I’ve found my calling, career-wise, to be in television. As I pursue my goals in that part of the industry, I’m bringing along with me a lot of what I learned working on “She Makes Comics,” as well as my lifelong passion for inclusivity and diversity. My ultimate goal is to develop and produce television that depicts stories we don’t ordinarily see on TV, from storytellers with varied backgrounds and perspectives.

What advice would you offer to women who still may be intimidated to go into their local comic book store?

Arm yourself with knowledge! Engage with the fan community online and get some recommendations for titles you may like based on the kinds of books, movies, and TV shows you enjoy. Fortunately, there are more and more comic book shops that are warm and welcoming to new readers and want to help you find your new favorite book. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and ask an employee to recommend some comics. It’s such an exciting world to explore!

 

‘Tis the Season for Geeky Gifting: A Holiday Guide

Most of the geeks I know are easy to shop for.

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 your friend who cried during the No Man’s Land scene:

Wonder Woman [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD]

For the anglophile in your life (available Dec. 12):

Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle [Blu-ray]

For the indie movie fan:

Colossal [Blu-ray]

For the Marvel fan who likes it goofy:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 [Blu-ray]

For the moviegoer whose Spidey senses are tingling:

Spider-Man: Homecoming [Blu-ray]

For the emo X-Men enthusiast:

Logan [Blu-ray]

For your friend who went crazy over “Justice League”:

Exclusive DC 4K Collection: Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice 4K Ultra HD (4K Blu-ray+Blu-ray+Digital)

For the feminist action movie buff:

Atomic Blonde [Blu-ray]

For the “GoT” fan in mourning until Season 8 (Season 7 is available Dec. 12):

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season

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.

Image result for women of nasa lego set

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?

ThinkGeek has an array of eye-straining sweaters to choose from, including:

Star Wars Darth Vader Lack of Cheer Holiday Sweater

The Star Wars Darth Vader I Find Your Lack of Cheer Disturbing Sweater.

Firefly Holiday Sweater

Firefly Holiday Sweater.

Super Mario Bros. Holiday Sweater

Super Mario Bros. Holiday Sweater.

Wonder Woman Silhouette Sweater

Wonder Woman Silhouette Sweater.

And speaking of Wonder Woman …

You can’t go wrong with movie merchandise for anyone whose world was rocked by Patty Jenkins’ record-breaking comic book flick.

Image result for wonder woman bomber jacket

Keep her toasty with the Wonder Woman Movie Ladies Bomber Jacket.

Image result for wonder woman amazon princess handbag

For nights when she leaves the sword of Themyscira at home, there’s the Wonder Woman Movie Amazon Princess Handbag.

Image result for wonder woman the art and making of the film

For reliving the wonder of Jenkins’ epic, give her “Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film” (Hardcover).

On a side note, DC’s official store also has great gifts for fans of  Superman, Batman, Arrow, The Flash, and Harley Quinn.

For seekers of magical creatures.

Harry Potter-philes can possess their very own fantastic beasts — as Hagrid and Newt Scamander will testify, this can be a risky endeavor — with the “Harry Potter Magical Creatures” collection.

Their are many wizardy critters to choose from, including:

Harry Potter Magical Creatures #1 Hedwig

Harry Potter Magical Creatures No. 1 Hedwig.

Harry Potter Magical Creatures No. 2 Dobby.

Niffler Magical Creature No. 1.

Gifting made easy and tropical breezy.

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.

Among the many available fandoms:

Star Wars Geeki Tikis - Series 1

Star Wars Geeki Tikis — Series 1. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Geeki Tikis - Exclusive

Guardians of the Galaxy Geeki Tikis — Exclusive.

Star Trek: The Original Series Geeki Tikis

Star Trek: The Original Series Geeki Tikis. 

Inspire them to throw away that ratty T-shirt.

If you know geeks, you know they love their nerd shirts. A little too much perhaps. Especially that holey one that’s been in their closet since San Diego Comic-Con 2010.

Maybe it’s time to get them a new shirt to love. Fortunately, TeeTurtle offers a variety of officially licensed, cute and cuddly, original designs from popular fandoms.

For the Disney fan:

Double-Edged Sword T-Shirt Mulan TeeTurtle

For the Star Wars fan:

It's a Trap! T-Shirt Star Wars TeeTurtle

For the Marvel (or Hiddles) fan:

Chaos and Destruction T-Shirt Marvel TeeTurtle

For the geek in need of Demotivation.

If you know one of those people who rolls their eyes at trite, inspirational sayings and cheesy motivational posters, ThinkGeek has just the cynical thing for them.

The website’s annual Despair Wall Calendar features 12 months of demotivating designs and geeky dates — like Talk Like a Pirate Day! — as well as “holidays” submitted by ThinkGeek customers.

2018 ThinkGeek Despair Wall Calendar - Exclusive

And while you’re shopping at ThinkGeek, here’s another items to consider. It might just be the perfect addition to Nana’s cozy miniature Christmas village.

Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe

For the friend who’s looking for something to cuddle. 

I give you … the Funko Stranger Things Supercute Demigorgon Plush.

Dustin would love it.

Funko Stranger Things SuperCute Demogorgon Plush

Too scary? How about Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro Dust Bunny Slippers?

The droids your kid is looking for. 

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.

The best “Stranger Things” shirt ever?

No Christmas list would be compete without this awesome “Stranger Things”-inspired tee.

The Babysitters Club - Steve's Scary Situation Classic T-Shirt Front

And no T-shirt sums up the way we’re feeling about 2017 better than this one:

Star Trek Picard Facepalm T-Shirt

These are the geeky Halloween costumes you’re looking for!

We’ve closed the books on another Halloween and, already, retailers would have us thinking about putting up the Christmas tree and getting started on shopping for stocking stuffers.

But before we plunge into the thick of holiday madness, let’s pause a moment and reflect on Halloween 2017 in all its geeky glory.

For me, the celebrating included the annual party thrown by my family and a dear friend — it started out as an adult soiree and eventually morphed into kid-friendly pandemonium, but the costumes are still out of this world — and my church’s “trunk or treat” event, where I always end up eating way too much candy.

I hope your All Hallow’s Eve shenanigans were just as much fun and left you with less of a tummy ache.

This year, I was heartened to see quite a few Wonder Women, girls dressed as comic book supervillains, and a surprising amount of female Ghostbusters among the usual throngs of Disney princesses, fairies, and witches. (Hey, I’m not knocking that. My daughter dressed as Mulan.)

There’s nothing like the girl-power a favorite geeky Halloween costume can bring to the wearer, along with the enjoyment it brings to everyone else.

In that spirit, No Man’s Land readers submitted photos of their fandom-themed Halloween finery. (I also requested photos of some of the costumes I liked best.)

They’re displayed below to help you hang on to that Halloween glow for just a few minutes longer (and maybe help you get some ideas for next year’s costume).

Shawna, of earthtoshawna.com, models her elf costume, completely with pointy ears, at a local trick-or-treating event for families. Below, you can better see those ears, which apparently were the trickiest part of her outfit.

Kirsten Kerr and her daughter, Lyla, are an adorable Disney-inspired pair, dressed as sea witch Ursula and her “Descendants” progeny, Uma.

Bethany Samuel channels “Doctor Who” companion Amy Pond, with her husband, Aamod, as Rory, and son Levi as the cutest little Yoda.

Mai Kemble, as Coraline,” from the animated movie based on the Neil Gaiman book, and sister Mei Stewart as classic “Addam’s Family” character Wednesday.

Rachel Luevano decided to dress as classic Batman villain The Penguin after friends told her she couldn’t because she’s a girl. She was part of a themed group that included superheroes and supervillains and created their own cardboard Gotham City skyline backdrop.

By day, Fawn Kemble went to work as “provincial” Belle, of “Beauty and the Beast” fame, complete with a light-up Lumiere prop from Disneyland.

By night, Fawn was a smokey-eyed, fascinator-rocking TARDIS at a family party.

Ellen Grimm wears the Gryffindor house uniform as Hermione. (Psssst, she’s really a Ravenclaw!)

Nathan and Sonia Whitehead gave the couple’s costume the Studio Ghibli treatment as Howl Jenkins Pendragon and Sophie Hatter of “Howl’s Moving Castle.” They decorated their trunk for a trunk-or-treat event with Soot Sprites, Calcifer, and a giant painted Totoro.

The Hobart family — which includes six girls — represent all the nations (air, earth, fire, and water) of the animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with wonderfully elaborate costumes they put together themselves. Mom Dina, center, is the driving force behind their amazing annual costume creations.

The Rivas family represent some of their favorite comic book heroes at a Haunted Mansion-themed party in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. From left, Noah as Star-Lord, David as Peter Parker, Kristy as Iron Man, and Audrey as Wonder Woman.

Amber Hoffman set phasers to stun with her tribute to Star Trek and Zachary Quinto’s Spock.

Chris and Lisa took DisneyBounding to adorable new levels, as Roger and Anita of “101 Dalmations,” accompanied by their two irresistible spotted pups.

Stephanie Patterson and her husband, Jacob, threw a jaw-droppingly detailed “Stranger Things” party to which Stephanie wore this Eleven-inspired outfit, complete with electrodes and bloody nose.

Stephanie also donned this fun and spooky nod to Disney’s Haunted Mansion for another event.

As an extra Halloween treat, below are some more detailed, closeup shots of the Hobart family in their “Avatar: The Last Airbender” costumes.

Cambrya Hobart as Avatar Aang.

Caylen Hobart as Katara.

Adalyn Hobart as Toph.

Brynna Hobart as Prince Zuko.

Brylee Hobart as Uncle Iroh.

Ambrey Hobart as Princess Azula.

Dina Hobart as Suki.

The group with Dad Dale Hobart as Sokka.

Thank you to everyone who sent in pics and gave permission. You are my absolute favorite geek goddesses. 

School librarian, educator finds community, camaraderie in geeky adventures

It’s a special edition of The Geek Goddess Interviews here at No Man’s Land.

Today is the day I get to interview one of the most fascinating and, frankly, just freakin’ cool geeks I have ever known, and I’ve known her for quite some time, because — in the interest of full disclosure — she happens to be my little sister.

A bibliophile, librarian, educator, counselor, photographer, blogger, adventurer, comic book reader, and devoted fangirl to dozens of fandoms, Fawn Kemble presented a bit of a challenge for me when it came to the interview process.

You may notice that this is one of the series’ more lengthy (yet entertaining, if I do say so myself) reads. That’s because I know Fawn maybe a little too well and — I’d say this even if I wasn’t totally biased — she is one of those intriguing people who does, and says, and knows about, and reads, and watches, and thinks about endlessly interesting things. It was quite a task to capture her wonderfully nerdy essence. 

I’ve done my best though. Read on for musings on going to a “Hobbit” movie premiere, why libraries deserve to survive, why fangirling authors is the best, what it was like to be an original “Buffy” fan, and why midnight movies are magic, along with general pearls of wisdom like this one: “Once you bring Harry Potter into any relationship, it’s probably going to last.” 

You currently work as an elementary school librarian. That sounds awesome! What is that like?

It’s an odd blend of the quietness of books with the chaos of children, and I adore it. I spend my days reading to the younger classes, checking in and out books, and trying to help the students find books they’ll enjoy.

You were an English major in college and a high school English teacher, so obviously books and reading have played a big role in your life. How did that begin for you? How would you describe your relationship to books throughout your life?

Mum was an English teacher and dad a big reader, so books were part of my life from birth. They used to read to us even before we could read for ourselves and stories like “Wind in the Willows,” “Peter Pan,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Anne of Green Gables,” and “The Hobbit” have been in my subconscious as long as I can remember.

As kids, we didn’t have TV, so we would devise adventures based on the stories we’d read; they fed our imaginations like nothing else. We would check out the maximum amount of books the library allowed and still never had enough. In junior high and high school, my insomniac self would stay up into the early hours of the morning reading whatever I could find on our parents’ bookshelves, the characters becoming like friends to me. Even now, I feel most at home when surrounded by books.

Fawn with a DeLorean from “Back to the Future.”

Have you been interested in geeky things since you were a child? What were the roots of your interest in fandoms and geek culture?

My first fandoms came from books and Disneyland (like most Southern Californians). TV and movie fandoms developed a bit later as our parents and older brothers introduced us to Monty Python, “The Twilight Zone,” “Star Trek,” Indiana Jones, “Back to the Future,” and, of course, “Star Wars.” Our childhood pets had names like Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and Skywalker. Much of our sibling language consisted of random quotes. My little brother and I shared comic books, my sister (you, Lavender, ha ha) shared her Lucasfilm Magazine.

But outside of our little family bubble, geek culture didn’t really exist when I was growing up, at least not in a positive way, so it wasn’t until junior high and high school that I found a couple other friends who would obsess over movies and books with me. The pinnacle of geekdom occurred in college with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” becoming a focal point of my friendships that included waiting in line to meet the actors at our comic book store. It was fabulous.

You have a master’s degree in biblical counseling and experience in social work. This might be stretching it a bit, but from your experience in these fields, do you find geeky interests help people connect in meaningful ways?

When I was in social work, part of my job was to mentor teenage girls who were at risk. My love for Young Adult literature and pop culture helped me connect with them quickly. I could take them to see a movie, and from that we could discuss so many aspects of life much more comfortably. There is a unique bond that comes from delving into story together. As a biblical counselor, I often end up becoming friends with former counselees and a couple of the best friendships to come out of that have been with fellow nerds. Once you bring Harry Potter into any relationship, it’s probably going to last.

Do you ever incorporate geeky subjects, concepts, or activities into your work at the library?

That’s kind of what the library is all about! One of my favorite authors, John Green, once said, “Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff. Nerds are allowed to LOVE stuff, like, jump-up-and-down-in-your-chair-can’t-control-yourself LOVE it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is, ‘You like stuff,’ which is not a good insult at all, like, ‘You are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.’”

One of my goals in the school library is to make it a safe space for my students to express this enthusiasm. Last year, one of the stories I read the little ones was about Spider-Man and I taught them all how to web sling. A Wonder Woman Lego Minifigure resides on my official lanyard. I’m planning on wearing my TARDIS dress to work on Halloween. I try to help the students find things they’re passionate about, whether it’s books about dinosaurs or space, fairytales or mysteries.

Funding for school libraries is being cut in many districts. Do you think libraries are still a relevant and important resource for children?

I believe that now, more than ever, libraries are important to children and adults. In a country in which our president claims any news he doesn’t like as “fake,” students need to have access to great research materials and people who can help them parse fact from fiction. In a world where so many feel disconnected or scattered, kids need to be able to sink into stories in which they become other people and experience other lives. There is a lot of research on the singular benefits to be found through reading fictional long form novels — the main one being a better development of empathy.

Many of my students come from low income households, they don’t have access to books outside of school and their parents are often so busy working hard to make ends meet that they don’t have time to take them to the city library. School libraries are often the only place where kids can pick out their very own books, not just ones that are assigned to them. I believe we should actually be putting a lot more money into school libraries.

Fawn’s collection of library swag and other pieces of nerdy merch.

Librarians tend to be pretty passionate about what they do. Do you have any fun library merch or memorabilia?

My mum and I recently went to the Los Angeles Central Library to see a friend’s play, and we spent quite a bit of time in the gift shop. That’s right, there is a library gift shop! I ended up leaving with a tote bag adorned by a book truck, saying “That’s How I Roll.” I adore it. I have a library card scarf, yellow and everything. I’ve got tons of literary toys, pins, and accessories as well that I’ve collected over the years.

Fawn in Harry Potter regalia in her classroom at Pacifica Christian High School in Santa Monica.

As an educator of high school students, did you ever work pop culture into your teaching? If so, in what ways? Did you find it useful at all as a point of entry with your students?

I did petition the principal to allow me to teach graphic novels, wrote a researched letter proving how beneficial they can be. I ended up getting at least 3 in the curriculum, including “Persepolis,” “American Born Chinese,” and “Maus.” I also have a lot of graphic novel versions of the novels I taught, or BabyLit picture books of them, that I’d bring in. My classroom walls were covered with posters featuring Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.

Once I actually taught my entire class while wearing my Hogwarts Snuggie on Character Day during Homecoming week. We had a book club that met in my classroom, The Booksniffers, in which we’d pretty much just geek out together. I call these students and others like them, the ones that connect on a geekier level, my nerdlings. I went to a couple of book signings and releases with students as well, which were always a blast.

Fawn with Elijah Wood — yes, Frodo Baggins! — at the L.A. premiere of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”

Your students in Santa Monica had the serious hookups when it came to nerd perks. You got to attend a preview night at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and you went to the premiere of one of the “Hobbit” films. Tell me about some of those experiences.

Oh my gosh, those were such special experiences. Yeah, I had a student whose father is Peter Jackson’s casting director. They knew I was a huge Tolkien fan, so they took me to the L.A. premiere of the last “Hobbit” movie. It was surreal; Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were in England filming “Sherlock,” so I didn’t get to meet them, but I got to meet most of the hobbits, dwarves, and elves from multiple “Lord of the Rings” movies.

Fawn with Lee Pace.

Graham McTavish was there in a kilt, fabulously Scottish, hanging out with Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner. Orlando Bloom was snobby. Evangeline Lilly was classy and kind. I spent a few minutes in geeky banter with Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan as we waited for Elijah Wood to be available for a picture. Sigh. That was freaking awesome. And, oh my gosh, Lee Pace is tall and sweet and generous. I still can’t believe that I was there!

Fawn with a former student at a preview night for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood.

Another one of my fabulous students is a roller coaster engineer and helped set up the Hippogriff ride at the L.A. Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I got to go to one of the employee preview nights with him, his wife, and another former student of mine. That was great because it wasn’t very crowded so we didn’t have to wait too long in the lines. Geeky connections are the best!

You recently moved to the Antelope Valley from Los Angeles. Do you feel that living in L.A. — the entertainment capital of the world — gave you a lot of opportunities to consume and enjoy geek culture?

Yeah, in L.A., geek culture is everywhere. I still end up driving down to go to The Last Bookstore, see a play, or get together with friends at one of our favorite book-lined bars we like to call The Harry Potter Bar. Since I fangirl authors like others fangirl boybands, L.A. was the perfect location. I’ve met or been to readings by Ray Bradbury (RIP), Nick Hornby, John Green (three times so far), and Neil Gaiman (twice).

Fawn with best-selling young adult author John Green.

You’ve been a comic book reader since childhood. How were you introduced to comics? What were some of your formative titles?

My little brother, Josh, and I used to walk to the comic book store and spend our allowances on comic books. He collected “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” and “Generation X.” I collected “Ren and Stimpy.” Though we were fans of both Marvel and DC (my Wonder Woman action figure was my first), we were both fascinated by the new smaller labels like Image and Vertigo. We were captured by the art of Todd McFarlane in “Spawn,” Sam Keith in “The Maxx,” and Jeff Smith in “Bone.” My comic obsession was sealed when my oldest brother, Greg, introduced me to Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s brilliant works with “The Sandman” and my all-time favorite, “Death.”

What was your experience like as a girl who read comics?

When I was younger, I didn’t even realize being a girl into comics was weird because I was kind of used to being weird anyway. Walking into the shop with my brother provided a buffer. It wasn’t until I was in college and I started to find my own comic shops sans brother that I realized how intimidating it can be as a woman. The first time I opened a pull-and-hold account for my monthly comics at a local shop in L.A., the guy treated me so badly, like I didn’t know what I was talking about, that I almost gave up on it. I usually avoid online conversations in comics forums because it’s just not worth dealing with the misogyny there. On a more positive note, there are a lot of pretty badass women working or fangirling in the comic world now who are speaking out more on behalf of the female fan.

What comic books do you read now? Why has that passion persisted for you?

I’m more into comics collected in graphic novel form these days because I just don’t have the time to collect weeklies anymore. I’m in the middle of reading the “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” series, and am going through the “Fables” series. Anything Gaiman/McKean still holds my heart (their “Black Orchid” is stunning). I started a small collection of Batman titles (“Hush” being my favorite).

I think my passion has persisted because comics depict archetypes in a way that never gets old, and the blend of words with art profoundly speaks to our humanity. While I do enjoy the typical tights and capes titles, I also have a small collection of more literary/artistic works. Artists and writers like Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware, Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Luen Yang, Art Spiegelman and Craig Thompson, Adrian Tomine and Vera Brosgol, Lucy Knisley and Brian K. Vaughan inspire and challenge me through their compelling stories and original art.

You’re a Whovian. How were you introduced to that series?

Back when David Tennant was just starting out as the Tenth Doctor, I had a student who was a huge fanboy of the entire series, going back to the originals. I wanted to watch the new show, but didn’t want to go into it blind. So, I asked that wonderful nerdling of mine to make me a list of the integral episodes for all previous nine doctors, like he was giving me homework. So that was my start, before I would let myself watch the revitalized “Doctor Who,” I studied up by seeing a couple episodes from each previous doctor in order to get the continuity right. Then I started with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor in its entirety before Tennant’s Number Ten.

Who’s your Doctor?

Nine was my first, and I adore Eccleston’s Doctor, but I’ll always be a Ten girl. Tennant was just brilliant.

Are you looking forward to the upcoming Season 11?

I am! Because I moved a bit these past couple of years, I fell behind on my “Doctor Who” viewing, so I’m actually just now working my way through Capaldi’s seasons. I need to catch up so I’ll be ready for Jodie Whittaker! I really wanted them to choose a woman of color, so Whittaker wasn’t my first choice, but I’m so excited that they’re finally going to have a female doctor so am hopeful.

Fawn with former students, enjoying a sneak peek at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

You’re also a Harry Potter fan. How and why were you first drawn to J.K. Rowling’s series?

I’m not sure I really remember when or how I got into Harry Potter. I think I started when the second book came out when I was in college? I’d heard that the first book was good but only after the second one was published, so I probably had to catch up. It was kind of cool, because not everyone was into them yet, there were no movies and no merchandise, so you had to come up with your own vision of characters and Hogwarts. I was drawn to them because I’ve always been a huge fantasy geek, and she had created this entire world of hidden magic that was enchanting, dangerous, and thrilling. I’m still addicted.

How does your Harry Potter passion manifest itself in your life?

I have a lot of Harry Potter jewelry that I can sneak into professional outfits to have hidden geekiness. And, as an elementary school librarian, I get to introduce a whole new generation to the books! I’m like the Harry Potter pusher, like, “Hey kid, come here, I’ve got something for you … .” Ha ha ha … I also try to reread the books from time to time, have three wands (one of which a friend handmade for me), and can be found on the couch in my Hogwarts Snuggie on cold evenings.

What’s your Hogwarts house?

Ravenclaw. “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.”

Fawn visiting 221B Baker Street in London.

You’re an unabashed anglophile and have traveled to England multiple times. Why do you think so many geeky people are anglophiles? I’m really trying to solve this mystery.

In our case, it makes sense because our mum was an English teacher, and an anglophile so we were raised into it. British television was a big percentage of our media intake and revealed a different style than American shows. I think many geeks love all things English because they don’t tend to underestimate their readers/viewers like American shows/books often do. They just assume most of their audience is educated and literate.

Obviously, this is a broad generalization and there are many exceptions on both sides. Certain types of geeky kids often end up finding safety and comfort in their English classrooms or libraries, which also tend to attract anglophiles as teachers and librarians. With such quality fandoms like “WhoLock” (“Doctor Who”/ “Sherlock”) Harry Potter, “Lord of the Rings,” Monty Python, and “Downton Abbey,” who wouldn’t want to be an anglophile?

You’re also a huge Star Wars fan. What’s your earliest memory of the franchise? How does that obsession manifest itself in your life?

I have no earliest memory of “Star Wars;” as far as I’m aware, it was just always part of my life. Perhaps because my oldest brother was a fan long before I was born, so the story infused our home. I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw the films, I just know that the first few strains of John Williams’ score have always brought me chills.

The obsession manifests itself in both noble and embarrassing ways. I must admit, to my shame, that I was one of those fans who was so caught up in the prequel excitement that, for a moment, I didn’t realize just how bad they could be until the second or third viewing.

I did adore waiting in line outside the night before the midnight release to get tickets and good seats — I even made a couple of friends in those lines when I was at university who I still know to this day. I probably can’t go more than a couple of days without making some reference to Luca’s space opus, and spend way too much time these days rewatching “The Last Jedi” trailer. It’s been a bizarre and amazing experience to see Star Wars become such a phenomenon all over again.

You used to go to a lot of midnight movie openings. What was so fun about staying up late and hanging out on the sidewalk with a bunch of fellow fans?

There is a camaraderie that comes out when every single person is sleep deprived while waiting eagerly for the same thing. I think the best of geek culture comes out in those moments — everyone encourages each other, saves spaces, does fast food runs, and geeks out. Scoping out each other’s gear, from T-shirts to full-on cosplay, temporary tattoos to weapons and other accessories, midnight screening lines are the best place for people watching. And when you finally get into the theater, too much caffeine consumed, the lights dim, and the title credits begin to a rousing cheer, it’s a natural high that can’t be beat.

I’m very excited that you are a big fan of certain sci-fi and fantasy authors, namely Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman. You met the late Bradbury and you’ve been to Gaiman signings. What is it about those authors that you love so much?

Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman created short stories and novels that cross over between fantasy and sci-fi, two of my favorite genres. They write challenging stories that are still gorgeous, and somehow when you’re done reading them, you feel more human. They both tap into the imagination, demanding the reader expand her mind instead of merely being entertained. They both have the ability to create very realistic characters even in the most futuristic or otherworldly setting. And I think the things I love most about both Bradbury and Gaiman is their originality and beauty. My favorite book of all is Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” which captures childhood, with all its joy and melancholy, mystery and beauty.

One of Fawn’s most cherished possessions is a signed, personal letter from author Ray Bradbury and a photo taken when she met him.

I was lucky enough to meet Ray Bradbury in the audience of a live performance of his one-act plays. His driver (he never got a driver’s license) wheeled him to the front row of the theater in his wheelchair, a glass of red wine in his hand. During intermission, we went up to meet him. I knelt down next to him, and was finally able to thank him for the impact his writing had on my life. He was gracious, and kind, took a picture with me, and then he kissed me on my cheek. It was truly one of the best moments of my life.

Fangirling authors is the best because you finally get the opportunity to thank them for the impact their writing has had on your life.

Fawn and friends from college meet “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” stars Alyson Hannigan and Anthony Stewart Head at a comic book shop in Santa Barbara.

Let’s talk about something very important now. You mentioned that one of your first hardcore fandoms was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Tell me a little about your experiences of vintage Buffy fandom.

Ah, Buffy. When the original movie came out ages ago, the one Joss Whedon hated, I saw it in the theater with my sister and a friend at least three times. We were hooked. Even that lesser version captured our imaginations in a way few other movies had. When we found out Whedon was making it into a TV show, we were ecstatic.

The show aired while I was in college, and became a weekly gathering of my geeky friends. We’d all go to the one apartment who had cable to watch it, then debrief afterward. There was a comic book store in downtown Santa Barbara, Avalon Comics, that somehow had the hookup and had a few signings of Buffy actors back before there were so many comic conventions or other places to geek out. We were able to get signatures and Polaroid pictures with the actors who play Willow, Xander, Giles, Drusilla, and Spike.

James Marsters even let me touch his hair, and my friend, who’s a bit short, touched Anthony Stewart Head on the butt (she claims by accident!). We even went to a club in Hollywood one night to see James Marsters’ then band play. They weren’t very good, but we had a lot of fun.

Spike or Angel?

Angel for Buffy, Spike for me.

What other fandoms are you into?

Other than ones mentioned above, I’m a SuperWhoLock girl (“Supernatural,” “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock”) who’s also obsessed with all things “Hamilton,” Disneyland, classic and children’s lit, “Firefly,” Netflix Marvel, Wonder Woman, “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones” (the books), “Dirk Gently”, YA literature, and others.

Do you collect anything?

Books. Lots and lots of books. Classics, new releases, graphic novels, and children’s books mostly. I also accumulate English major/librarian accessories, as mentioned above. I have a bunch of little geeky figurines, action figures, and other nerdy tidbits scattered throughout my bookshelves.

What upcoming release (books, movies, TV, etc.) are you most looking forward to?

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” Season 2, the upcoming “Murder on the Orient Express” movie, DC’s “Justice League,” although I kinda just want to see Wonder Woman, DC’s “Doomsday Clock” comic, the follow-up to “Watchmen,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and next year “Black Panther,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2,” “Isle of Dogs,” and, on Netflix new seasons of “Jessica Jones,” “Daredevil,” “Arrested Development,” and “13 Reasons Why.”

You recently launched a blog, the cleverly titled The Awkward Spinster. It’s about your experiences as a single, Christian woman. Are there challenges to being a single geek girl? Are there benefits?

Being a single geek girl at my age can feel a bit lonely at times. Most of my friends are married, and aren’t quite as available for fangirling moments as they used to be. I can also feel like the odd one out as both a single Christian woman and a geek. I still sometimes dread going into comic book stores or online forums with which I’m not familiar because I don’t have the patience to deal with sexist men anymore.

The benefits are the geekdom creates its own community, which embraces singles a bit better than the rest of society. If you get a good group of geeks together, they are supportive, clever, funny, and encouraging. It’s awesome. Two of my best friends are single geek guys, so we often go to rooftop movies or binge-watch nerdy shows on Netflix together.

As a woman, is there anything you would like to see change in the world of geek culture and fandoms?

As awesome as geek culture can be, it is not immune to the negative sides of humanity. And, because so much of fandom life is lived online where people somehow feel more enabled to say cruel and sexist things they would never say to a woman in person, the misogyny can be overwhelming at times. In comic books and movies, women are still often depicted as the Virgin or the Whore and nothing in between — just damsels in distress and cold-hearted vixens. “Wonder Woman” was a step in the right direction, but just a step. We have a long way to go.

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 lavendervroman@gmail.com.

It’s Halloween costume crunch time. Channel your inner Barb, Belle, or BB8!

Earlier this week, we critiqued the annoying and increasingly ridiculous trend of “sexy” Halloween costumes for women.

Now that we’ve explored the outfits many of us don’t want to wear on All Hallows’ Eve, let’s talk about costumes we geeky ladies might actually want to put on.

Whether you’re still figuring out the details of your costume or have no idea what to wear on Halloween, you’ll find plenty of ideas below based on pop cultural trends and tried-and-true geek classics.

I used to spend a lot of time assembling my own costumes, but in recent years I’ve craved convenience over creativity.

One of my new go-to favorites is the pajama costume, or onesie. All you have to do is step into them, zip them up, and they’re warm, cozy, and comfy for a night of trick or treating or a family Halloween party.

Target has an adorable selection of Union Suits pajama costumes, ranging from whimsical animals, like unicorns and dragons, to geeky classics, like Harry Potter and Spider-Man.

One of my favorites is this Princess Leia onesie, complete with hoodie buns:

Target

Before I surrendered to the comfy convenience of a pair of Union Suit PJs (I’ll keep which one I chose a secret), I had big plans to put together my own Antiope costume.

I’m sure I’m not the only fangirl who was so inspired by the kick-ass Amazon warriors of the “Wonder Woman” movie that I wanted to celebrate by getting in on some cosplay action.

After studying Antiope’s amazing leather-and-metal-studded battle armor, however, I decided I didn’t have the money, time, energy, or skills to pull this one off.

DC Extended Universe Wiki

But if one of you, my readers, decides to go for it, like the dedicated cosplayers pictured below, I want to be your best friend forever.

Dowen Creative Studios

Of course, there is at least one packaged costume option when it comes to the Amazons. This “Adult Deluxe Beach Battle Wonder Woman Costume” would do the trick if you’re not too picky about authenticity.

Walmart

If you’d rather be the Princess of Themyscira herself, a la Gal Gadot, you don’t have to settle for one of those skimpy, less-than-battle-ready “sexy” Wonder Woman costumes.

This one’s not half bad:

Rubie’s Costume Company

I’m partial, however, to a playful homage to the goddess Diana, courtesy of Her Universe’s cosplay-ready Wonder Woman Collection.

All you need is the “DC Comics Wonder Woman Replica Tiara” and the “DC Comics Wonder Woman Reversible Dress” — which you’ll totally wear again.

Hot Topic

If you’ve got cash to burn, complete the look with the proper footwear, “DC Comics Wonder Woman 3-Piece Wedge Boots.”

legionofleia.com

Also on my wishlist of costumes I’d love to see women rocking on Halloween are the characters that populate the mythical kingdom of Wakanda in the upcoming “Black Panther” movie. Somebody please do this! This group totally pulled it off.

tosche-station.net

Some of my favorite costumes last year were themed around the Netflix ’80s throwback horror series “Stranger Things.” Never have Halloween revelers been able to create so much impact by throwing a string of Christmas lights around their necks.

From my research, it looks like “Stranger Things” will be a popular theme again this year. The show returns for Season 2 on Oct. 27.

There are many characters to choose from, of course, but none more beloved than cult favorite Barb.

Rock those Coke bottle glasses and mom jeans!

Spirit Halloween

Slap on a blonde wig — or shave your head for bonus points — and smear a little blood under your nose and you’re good to go as paranormally gifted test subject and waffle lover Eleven.

This “Blush Long-Sleeved Babydoll Dress” will be your piece de resistance.

Hot Topic

Except, you’ll also need this amazing Eggo-inspired purse (available at Spirit Halloween).

Spirit Halloween

Judging by the enthusiasm expressed for “The Last Jedi” trailer on social media this week, Star Wars will also remain a popular sartorial choice this Halloween season.

Honor the memory of Carrie Fisher with a classic Leia look:

Her Universe

Or, because there seem to be no porg costumes … yet … show your love for that other adorable sidekick, BB8, with this stunning cosplay dress:

Hot Topic

Or channel your inner rogue smuggler with this “I Am Han Solo Collared Tank-Dress,” which I totally dare you to wear to work the next day, too.

ThinkGeek

And if you’re a “Clone Wars” fan, you can go all out with this colorful Ahsoka Tano costume, complete with headpiece.

Hot Topic

Thanks to the DisneyBounding craze, you can’t go wrong with a Mouse House-themed costume.

Thanks to the success of the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” film, many Disney fans will be embracing the straight-from-the-film version of the village frock worn by that strange but special bookworm, Belle.

Walmart

If you’d rather go old-school when it comes to Disney princesses, this Mulan cosplay dress is understated but on-point.

Hot Topic

Superheroes, especially the ones owned by Marvel, are predicted to dominate Halloween again this year.

This cosplay dress is practically dripping with the anticipation of the upcoming “Ms. Marvel” movie starring Brie Larson.

Her Universe

And what fan of Hiddles and Hemsworth wouldn’t have to have this reversible Thor/Loki dress from Her Universe. You can wear it again soon to see “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Her Universe

If you’re more of a Whovian than a Marvel geek, you don’t have to look very far to find duds themed after your favorite Doctor. Or you could just slip into this gorgeous, vintage-looking, timey-wimey Tardis party dress.

Hot Topic

You can always shun the latest trends and go retro with your costume instead, although I fear the three examples I’ve gathered below could actually be quite trendy this year.

The witchy 1993 Disney film “Hocus Pocus” is enjoying something of a renaissance lately, which is why I’d highly recommend putting a spell on yourself and going as one of the Sanderson sisters.

Spirit Halloween

Admit it, as much as every goth girl longs to dress up as winsome ragdoll Sally, haven’t you ever wanted to be the Pumpkin King?

Hot Topic

And to channel ultimate ’80s goth girl Lydia Deetz (aka Winona Ryder), all you really need is a clever prop, ThinkGeek’s “Beetlejuice Handbook for the Recently Deceased Journal.”

ThinkGeek

In conclusion, if you’ve got a party to get to, places to go, or people to see on Halloween, but you’re not feeling the full costume vibe, ModCloth has an eccentric and irresistible collection of vintage-style frocks, blouses, skirts, and other clothes in cute and spooky patterns that demonstrate you’re in the spirit of the evening.

Happy hauntings!

ModCloth

 

Share Your Halloween Costume!

Are you going all geek goddess this Halloween? Send a picture of yourself decked out in your costume and we’ll post it on the blog. Direct photos to lavendervroman@gmail.com. Trick or treat!

It’s Halloween time. Can we cool it with the ridiculous ‘sexy’ costumes, already?

Last Halloween, I was riding high on the girl power of the new “Ghostbusters” movie.

I wanted my costume to celebrate the film and its all-female leads.  I ain’t afraid of no ghosts! And maybe secretly I’d always wanted to don the trademark beige jumpsuits and proton packs I’d seen guys sporting at conventions for years.

So I went online to browse for women’s “Ghostbusters” costume options.

I had something like this in mind:

Unfortunately, this cool, comfy-looking “Grand Heritage” version cost upwards of $180.

I continued my search in hopes of finding more affordable options, but I kept running into this:

I’m pretty sure this mini-skirted, plunging-cleavaged, baseball cap-topped scrap of beige material would be of little use in actual ghostbusting, unless one happened to be hunting the specter of Hugh Hefner.

And after the revolutionary, kick-ass representation of funny, talented women in the “Ghostbusters” reboot, this “sexy” version of the instantly recognizable uniform seemed like a major slap in the face.

I ended up going with these PJs from Target instead:

I’m sure I’m not the only woman who’s had this experience while shopping for Halloween costumes, or who has browsed through row upon row of ridiculous “sexy” seasonal get-ups in hopes of landing upon something decent (and by decent, I mean something that isn’t unbearably tacky and won’t completely destroy my positive body image vibes.)

When exactly did Halloween transform from a kid-friendly night of wee children frolicking innocently around the neighborhood in cheap plastic masks and candy binge-induced tummy aches to a tacky R-rated sorority party?

I’m not sure, but I for one would like to issue a plea to All Hallows’ Eve retailers everywhere: Please, please, please … just please … stop it with the nonsensical “sexy” costumes, already, and give us ladies something to wear that we can feel good about.

Seriously, though, it’s insulting that women are expected each year to maneuver themselves into a couple pieces of spandex, obviously designed by males according to boneheaded caveman ideas of what is sexy, themed after pop culture characters or inanimate objects — like slices of pizza or donuts (or the actually-a-real-thing “sexy” loofah costume below).

Men, meanwhile, just get to dress up like normal people and pretend to be (not-sexy) firemen, (not-sexy) superheroes, or the (not-sexy) Super Mario Brothers, or something, without worrying about incriminating photos resurfacing years later on social media.

(BTW, I’m not hear to slut-shame anyone, so if you’re a consenting adult woman, 18 or older, who enjoys dressing up in “sexy” costumes in public or the privacy of your own home, and doesn’t feel sad, or self-conscious, or pressured, or desperate for male attention, more power to you.)

Aside from the misogynistic implications of many of the Halloween outfits designed for women, the “sexy” dress-up trend constantly seems to be taking wrongheaded costuming creativity to idiotic new levels.

The internet nearly imploded as early as August this year when perhaps the most absurd “sexy” costume of all time was revealed, and it happened to be a completely wackadoodle riff on a male “Game of Thrones” character:

Not only is Yandy.com’s “Sexy Northern Queen Costume,” a furry-caped S&M fantasy gone wrong, it’s obviously a female twist on the popular “Game of Thrones” character Jon Snow (just in case you didn’t get it).

This costume has gone to crazy-town on so many levels, from the fact that the series  is full of strong female characters, to the completely nerdy observation that Jon Snow’s duds from the all-male Night’s Watch are completely inappropriate for a woman. I could go on, but it seems pointless to bother.

Now admittedly, Yandy.com is a lingerie business, so you can’t totally fault them for taking the sexiness a little too far, but they could have at least done their “GOT” research.

Dishearteningly, according to a 2015 Time story, the company makes up to 30% of its yearly $50 million revenue around Halloween, peddling outfits like the aforementioned fur and pleather monstrosity.

This year, they’re also offering the Glamazonian:

I’m sure this would make Gal Gadot’s Diana want to punch Yandy’s CEO in the face.

And, along with a hotpants-clad female version of Donald Trump, they’ve whipped up my personal favorite of this year’s “sexy” costume crop, the Ali Hamilton, in honor of everyone’s favorite Broadway musical:

If only enterprising lingerie sellers were the only culprits in this twisted game of insane “sexy” costume one-upmanship. Unfortunately, options that are just as sexist and bizarre as the Ali Hamilton can be found at such wholesome retailers as Target and Walmart, along with the usual suspects, like Hot Topic, Spirit Halloween, and Party City.

Here are some of this year’s more bonkers selections:

This “Star Wars” Stormtrooper costume is actually pretty cool, except for some reason the model is sticking out her hip suggestively and has accessorized the outfit with high-heeled platform boots. She’s not a little short for a Stormtrooper anymore.
Cause, you know, we’ve always secretly thought Chucky was hot.
This is totally true to the spirit of Winona Ryder’s character in “Beetlejuice.”
Looks like someone wants to see an all-female “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot.
There goes everyone’s “Harry Potter” childhood, dying right before our eyes.

Since this is Halloween and all, I’ll wrap up on a darker note by bringing up the truly horrifying side of the “sexy” costume trend.

Seasonal retailers aren’t just targeting women with skimpy outfits inspired by pop culture favorites. They’re also selling them to little girls, thus grooming an entire generation of underage women to voluntarily offer themselves up as eye candy to whatever pervy pedophile might be lurking nearby.

All you have to do is walk the aisles at your local Spirit Halloween pop-up to know exactly what I’m talking about. Short-skirted Rainbow Brites and weirdly fetishistic My Little Ponies are there for the tween-age taking.

Rather than glorify this unsettling reality with lots of photos, I’ll leave you with just one. It’s called the “Teen Girls Locked N Loaded Cop Costume.” It’s the stuff stripper wardrobes are made of. You can buy it at Walmart.

And it makes me feel a little bit ill.

Shawna of earthtoshawna.com contributed to this post. 

Photos: Yandy, Target, Walmart, Spirit Halloween, Party City, Amazon. 

Where to begin if you’re a Wonder Woman comic book newbie (no shame in it!)

I have a confession to make.

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.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.

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.”

 

 

 

The Future of Comic Books Should Be Female

Photo by Fawn Kemble

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.)

A display of comic books and graphic novels targeted to girls at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Fawn Kemble.

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.

Lifelong comic book fan and elementary school librarian Fawn Kemble has an extensive collection of graphic novels that could be appealing to young female readers. Photo by Fawn Kemble.

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.”

The Last Bookstores in Los Angeles features a wide array of comic books and graphic novels geared toward girls. Photo by Fawn Kemble.

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.

Photos: Amazon. 

Let’s call this the summer of THE BADASS LADY

Traditionally, Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer as kids settle back into school and adults bid bye-bye to their dreams of beach days.

It’s also the end of Hollywood’s favorite movie season, which means it’s time, once again, to celebrate the Badass Ladies of Summer.

The Badass Ladies of Summer originated in 2014 on my first blog, after I spotted an encouraging trend of women delivering strong, wildly entertaining, box office-stealing performances in a typically male-dominated season.

Past Badass Ladies include Emily Blunt in “Edge of Tomorrow,” Charlize Theron as Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Alicia Vikander in “Ex Machina,” Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad,” and the endlessly funny female-led cast of “Ghostbusters.”

Now, to 2017.

As we all know, this summer was owned by one badass lady in particular. It’s tempting, in fact, to declare that she may be the badass lady to end all summers of the badass ladies.

I’m talking, of course, about Gal Gadot, star of the long-anticipated “Wonder Woman” movie, directed by another badass lady, Patty Jenkins.

Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot on the set of “Wonder Woman.”

Not only is “Wonder Woman” the first legit female superhero movie — “Elektra” and “Catwoman” clearly do not count — it’s a bonafide box office smash, the highest-grossing movie of the summer and the most successful movie in the DC extended universe (a universe populated mostly by dudes.)

It’s worth remembering that “Wonder Woman” achieved these impressive landmarks after enduring months of rumors of the film’s impending box-office demise. There was more than a whiff of sexism in the air as website upon website speculated as to whether a female-fronted comic book movie could ever be expected to soar, let alone survive.

“Wonder Woman” appears to have utterly demolished the Hollywood boy’s club, but as usual, things may be more complicated than they seem. Judging by the rest of the summer, bad-ass ladies are still struggling to make their mark on a testosterone-fueled cinematic season.

Two of the summer’s biggest critical darlings, “Dunkirk” and “Baby Driver,” were almost shockingly male-dominated in terms of casting. Directors Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright may have had perfectly valid reasons for this, but it’s difficult to ignore the absence of central, powerful, or compelling female characters in these admittedly excellent films.

Katherine Waterston in “Alien: Covenant.”

It’s not as if women were missing entirely from the summer landscape, but when they did show up to fight monsters, run away from or trigger explosions, and kick butt alongside male co-stars, their presence was often a disappointment.

Scarlett Johansson’s star turn in “Ghost in the Shell” was all but scuttled by a major white-washing controversy. Meanwhile, Brie Larson, Sofia Boutella, and Cara Delevingne scrambled to be noticed amidst the mediocrity of, respectively, “Kong: Skull Island,” “The Mummy,” and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

Katherine Waterston should have had a well-deserved breakout moment in Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,” but her Ripley moment was obscured by a series of cheap, misogynistic horror clichés, including multiple, lingering shots of a woman’s severed head and a gruesome nude shower scene.

With something as delectably empowering as “Wonder Woman” on our summer plates, it’s tempting to let all this slide, but clearly Hollywood is still in need of many more bad-ass ladies to give it the kick in the butt it requires to realize that strong roles for women are the way of the future.

That said, we’re here to laud the ladies who did break barriers, cross boundaries, and inspire awe with their bad-ass acting and action prowess. Their ranks may be small, but their performances packed a huge punch.

Dafne Keen in Logan: Keen was only 12 when she starred opposite Hugh Jackman in the latest and bleakest of the Wolverine spin-offs. Her performance as mutant X-23, aka Laura, is the stuff of a parent’s nightmares, but it’s truly amazing in its total avoidance of child actor clichés.

There’s never anything cutesy or cloying about Keen or her relationship with Jackman’s aging, disillusioned Logan and Patrick Stewart’s decaying Professor X, who become her protectors in a world where mutants are hunted and all but extinct.

Clawed and feral, Keen is a furious, beastly ball of rage and survival instincts. At one point, she casually emerges from a melee, clutching a severed head. Mute for the first portion of the movie, when she finally speaks and cracks an unsettling smile, we get a glimpse of her uncommon talent. She may be young, but she’s already a badass lady.

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman”: It’s magnificent, really, the way Gadot so naturally embodies the iconic role of the Amazon warrior princess of comic book legend. There’s no swagger in this performance, just humility, grace, and unabashed joy, which makes it a pleasure to watch.

Director Jenkins deserves credit for working closely with Gadot to develop the role of Diana, a goddess who leaves her sheltered life on the all-female island of Themyscira to become the benevolent champion of a self-destructive human race.

It’s not that Gadot’s Diana isn’t feminine or beautiful. It’s that her femininity and beauty never define her. As she intervenes in World War I, believing that meddling god of war Ares is behind the conflict, she fights with courage, honesty, intelligence, and humor, supported by a posse of male sidekicks.

She is the ultimate superhero for the Trump era, compassionate, unstintingly righteous, thoroughly unconflicted about her divinity. She’s better than us, but she understands our plight.

Gadot is featured in action scenes, elegantly staged by Jenkins, that are the empowering stuff of little girl’s dreams. In a scene showcasing the fierce battle skills of Themyscira’s Amazon warriors, including Robin Wright’s gob-smackingly awesome Antiope, Jenkins quietly renders moot the male gaze we’re so accustomed to seeing in action movies. To recognize it is to realize it is possible to do away with this tired cinematic convention, and that’s historic.

Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde”: It didn’t attract the attention that “Wonder Woman” did, but “Atomic Blonde” deserves just as much praise for its bold subversion of action movie stereotypes.

Set in 1980s Berlin, it features Theron as a spy navigating Cold War intrigue and blatant sexism to retrieve a stolen list of agents for the British government. Mysterious, passionate, and solitary, Theron’s Lorraine is as hard-boiled and badass as they come. Her sex appeal and flair for ‘80s fashion are the least interesting things about her.

Theron did a majority of the stunts in the film, which are brutal, intense, and authentic. It’s refreshing to see a woman fighting realistically, even if, like the men in most action flicks, she can endure more of a beating than is humanly possible.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if Theron’s steamy lesbian sex scene is an exploitative male fantasy or a daring depiction of female pleasure.

At any rate, “Atomic Blonde” confirms Theron’s rightful place in the Badass Ladies hall of fame.

Photos: amctheatres.com, lanacion.com.ar, youtube.com.

Introducing the Geek Goddess Interviews …

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, lavendervroman@gmail.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. 

Kristy Rivas with her favorite comic book writer, Gail Simone.

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.

The Rivas Family, from left to right, Kristy, Audrey, Noah, and David. And, of course, that’s Chewbacca in the middle. The family poses with the Wookie at Disneyland.

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.

Kristy and her kids enjoy reading comics together and sharing in lots of geeky activities. Above, Noah and Audrey take a comic book break.

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.

The Rivas family, from left, David, Noah, Audrey, and Kristy, pose for a comic book-themed family photo shoot.

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.

Who’s your favorite clone?

Oh man, I have two. Alison and Helena.

Kristy, Audrey and Noah in front of the Batmobile at an event.