Note: This new blog series #ComicsForSocialJusticeNerds will highlight comics that are different from your standard White Male Superhero – in relation to the comic itself and the creative team behind the scenes. Many of my blog readers tend to work in student affairs & higher education, so if you are into social justice and media representation (and I hope you are!), then I hope you appreciate this new series (also I just want more colleagues nerding out with me!). If you are not working in higher education, but just like comics – this is for you as well!
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’d love to see a burgeoning young queer female romance + teenage women kicking butt, all within the main setting of a record store”?
Well, you won’t believe it, but the world has been given this gift!
Award-winning director, writer, and producer Carly Usdin serves as the creator and writer of “Hi-Fi Fight Club”. The book artist is Nina Vakueva (look up her webcomic: Lilith’s Word). The other members of the creative team are Irenes Flores (inks), Rebecca Nalty (colors), and Jim Campbell (letters).
Today my partner said “Find a new comic” so I scanned the shelves at my favorite local comic shop (Hero House, Indianapolis) and saw a cover featuring four badass-looking young women. The art was fantastic – artist Vakueva puts a lot of personality into her subjects and it has a bit of a manga vibe (and I don’t even like manga). AND, I figured any comic with ‘strong female types’ and from Boom! Studios (one of my preferred comic publishers) would probably be good.
It was better than good.
I was sucked into it by page 2, where our anxious and high-energy heroine Chris stumbles into the arms of Maggie aka “literally the cutest”, on the way to the record store where they both work. The moment was adorkable and there are not enough queer women romance stories in the media (especially where the “Bury Your Gays” trope doesn’t happen).
Instantly, as the reader, you feel thrust back into your teenager past as Chris navigates her workplace in 1998 New Jersey. There’s her crush Maggie (who may like girls and may even like Chris), the goth Dolores who has a chip on her shoulder when it comes to Chris, cool girl Kennedy who knows everything about music, and their 24-year old boss Irene. The blend of dread (does my crush like me or not?), hope (they did x and I think that means yes!), and overall uncertainty about one’s future is brought to life by Chris and it’s easy enough to find a kindred spirit in this illustrated 17-year old character. The creative team does a brilliant job in making these characters feel real.
Of course, something strange is happening. Chris isn’t sure why she is not allowed to work after hours with the rest of the girls or why Maggie has strange injuries on her hands. When the lead singer of Chris’ favorite band goes missing before the concert, boss lady Irene brings Chris into the fold.
Her co-workers are actually a “secret teen girl vigilante fight club”! It’s amazing.
If I care about social justice, why should I give this comic a chance?
- The creative team (except for lettering) is all women.
- The writer and creator Carly Usdin is a queer woman. In an interview with Autostraddle (August 8, 2017), when asked “ How gay is this comic gonna be?”, Usdin said “Like, really gay. I’d say extremely feminist and very gay. And CUTE!”
- The main character is Chris, a queer tomboy 17-year old trying to find her way in the world
- Ergo, it is totally awesome to have someone with an underrepresented identity writing that identity into comic reality!
- Seeing the blossoming maybe romance between Chris and Maggie will make you SQUEE. There are multiple cute moments.
- All the central characters presented so far are women.
- There is not enough racial diversity in comics, so it was good to see that the “impossibly cool” 18-year old Kennedy is a Black woman with braids and a nose ring amid a cast of White women. She’s in a happy relationship with her White boyfriend Logan who works at the comic book store. We’ll see how this area of representation goes – as I know there needs to be more Black women characters in comics but one must be cautious when there are not Black women serving as the writer or artist. In general, I also wish there were more Black women characters serving as the main character in comics and not just as supporting characters. It is important, however, that White writers do incorporate characters of colors since more White writers get published in comics – so this is overall good.
- One area of concern: I did wince at seeing Kennedy punch her boyfriend (a bit playfully?) on the arm when he teased her, leading him to say “Ow! Honey, you know when you do that I’m bruised for like a week.” Society does often play up Black women as angry and Black folks in general as violent, so even though I think this is supposed to be funny and reveal a clue as to how strong Kennedy is (because she is in a secret vigilante fight club), I think it should have been done with a different character. At least Logan admires her strength and badass-ness, since in issue 2 we learned that he fell for her when Kennedy broke up a fight between two men fighting at the comic store. Overall, I look forward to getting to know Kennedy’s character further in the series.
- Favorite quote so far: “Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is…fighting the patriarchy is great, you should try it sometime” (Maggie, issue 2)
Overall, I fell hard for this comic and read the first two issues immediately. Issue 3 comes out on October 25th so pick up a copy at your local shop! For indie comics, it is important to buy single issues as they come out to show support and not wait for the paperback trade. So please head to your local comic shop (call ahead to make sure they order it/have it!) or order online from its publisher Boom! Studios, nd or buy them online on Comixology (owned by Amazon) read as a PDF. Currently this is just a 4-issue arc, so it’s not like you’ll need to buy a bunch of comics to get caught up!
Also – I REALLY hope that while reports say this is a 4-issue arc, that Hi-Fi Fight Club continues onward!
Related Reviews of this Series:
- Drawn to Comics: Carly Usdin’s “Hi-Fi Fight Club” Is “Baby-Sitters Club” Meets “Empire Records,” But So Much Gayer. Autostaddle.
- Exclusive: BOOM! Announces Comic About Vinyl-Loving Teen Vigilantes, Hi-Fi Fight Club by Carly Usdin & Nina Vakueva. Paste Magazine.
- Carly Usdin’s ‘Hi-Fi Fight Club’ Comic is Full of Smart Girls. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls
- Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 is a Cute, Queer Comic with Relatable Characters. Comic Book Resources.
Notes: All images are property of the creators and Boom! Studios.