Women in Comics

Comics for Social Justice Nerds: Reviewing “Hi-Fi Fight Club”

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).

Hi-Fi Fight Club panel 1

SQUEE. The moment that sucked me in.

 

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)
IMG_6712-yes

#goals My favorite quote, found in 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:

Notes: All images are property of the creators and Boom! Studios.

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How “Writing Women Friendly Comics” Panel turned into the “Bill Willingham Show” ( Part 1/3)

How “Writing Women Friendly Comics” Panel turned into the “Bill Willingham Show”
A Full Report on the Less Than Friendly Side of GenCon 2015
By Niki Messmore, M.S. Higher Education & Student Affairs

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [FAQs]

You know what’s the perfect way to moderate a “writing women friendly comics” panel? To have a man interrupt every woman that speaks and then center the conversation on himself.

At least, that’s how the “Writing Women Friendly Comics” panel at GenCon 2015 happened, with moderator Bill Willingham (writer and artist).

I know that if he is reading this, Bill Willingham may bristle at this introduction. He stated to The Mary Sue in an interview earlier this year that he bristles when conversations start off in an accusatory tone. Yet considering how he began Thursday’s panel, I think he can take it.

This is a report detailing the “Writing Women Friendly Comics” panel at GenCon, hosted by the Writer’s Symposium, and resulting in quite a bit of press. I attended the panel, took detailed notes, spoke to both Bill Willingham and Marc Tassin (head of Gen Con’s Writer Symposium), and conversed with folks on Twitter.

Oh yeah – and I’m also the woman who called out to Bill Willingham at the panel, interrupting him and pointing out his consistent interrupting.

GenCon 2015: "Writing Women Friendly Comics" panel

GenCon 2015: “Writing Women Friendly Comics” panel. L-R: Willingham, Ha, Pete, Zub, Roberson, Dawson

INTRODUCTION
This following report will cover the panel, provide background information on his this panel happened, Twitter talk, and will include some commentary. I hope to provide an account of what occurred with integrity, since there are quite a few folks who don’t believe the article The Mary Sue (TMS) published on Friday: “[UPDATED] Dissenting Opinions May Occur: Some Thoughts on Yesterday’s Troubling “Writing Women Friendly Comics” Panel”. I warn you, my report is over 6,000 words so I’ve broken it up into several posts (links will be included). But I didn’t want to leave anything out. If you like, I worked everything into headings by topic so if you are skimming you have an easier time of it.

If you have any questions about who I am, why I’m writing this, and why you can trust my word, see the FAQs.

Disclaimer: “Quotation marks” = direct quote. Ellipses (…) mean I couldn’t write fast enough to capture everything and I’ll put the quote in context. Since I was taking notes, I was not able to notate everything that was said but I do stand behind what I captured. Placing something in [brackets] means I, as the writer, add in context to the quote. As much as necessary I include hyperlinks to back up my references and give the reader the option to do further research. When there is a large amount of dialogue, I’ll write it out in a more-so script format that journalistic/research piece because this is a blog and already this report is long enough. Finally, I separate my commentary from the account to provide the reader with an breakdown of all the going-ons; it gets sassier as the report continues.

SYNOPSIS
In case you don’t want the detailed notes, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Bill Willingham (comic writer and artist) worked with the Writer’s Symposium at Gen Con to establish a comic writing track, and he organized a panel called “Writing Women-Friendly Comics”
  2. The description for the panel gets published in May. It is written in such a way that it’s clear that males are the intended audience for the panel. When women are described akin to aliens (what comics do they like and it is even possible to please them?) and the text reads “Are you damned no matter what you do? Is it a good idea to try to write to a specific readership?”, well that is clearly not the way you would write if you expected women to attend. Following it up with a snippy “Note that this isn’t a Women in Comics panel. Dissenting opinions may occur” meant Willingham was immediately on the defensive and this women-friendly panel ain’t sounding friendly to women.
  3. Also in May, it is revealed that all the panelists are male. The Mary Sue runs an article and folks are rightfully outraged. Women creators volunteer as tribute and the panel is integrated.
  4. The panel occurs at Gen Con. The panelists are lovely but Bill Willingham as moderator has a clear agenda. He does not want to acknowledge that identity makes an impact when telling a story and he consistently interrupts women on the panel and in the audience.
  5. I called him out towards the end, interrupting him from the crowd. Another woman did as well. Bill is very displeased and doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong.
  6. The next day I speak to Bill. He’s “said all that needs to be said” yesterday and doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. He follows up a day or so later tweeting his official response on the panel, and it’s a YouTube video of dancing baby girls.
  7. I also spoke the organizer of the Writer’s Symposium to express my concern and learn how this oversight happened. It was a great conversation and this report will go further into it.
  8. I and other folks who were there tweeted about it; Gail Simone and others picked up on it (a Storify of tweets I sampled can be found here; quite a bit of outrage). The Mary Sue wrote a follow-up and quoted attendees along with reactions from the two women panelists. At least one bookstore, Tubby & Coo’s in New Orleans, have boycotted Fables due to Willingham’s mad mod skills (mad, as in not cool but he literally made folks mad).

BACKGROUND – BEFORE GENCON
On July 23, 2015, The Mary Sue (TMS) broke the story that GenCon (North America’s largest gaming convention) would be hosting a panel titled “Writing Women Friendly Comics” and that the panel was all men. This was to be hosted by the “Writer’s Symposium” (WS), which is a speculative fiction writing conferences in its 21st year and sponsors over 140 hours of programming at GenCon. They have different tracks and this year was the first “coming writing track”.

Considering that The Mary Sue and others had written articles on Denver Comic Con’s “Women in Comics” panel with all men in May 2015, the all-male panel was certainly a *headdesk* moment. However, that same day, Marc Tassin (the one-person show of WS), stated that TMS’s article had multiple women reach out to him to be on the panel. Hooray!

NEXT – Part 2

PS: I know this is a fairly long blog series, so please just listen to Marko from Saga (Vaughn/Staples – aka they created one of the greatest series of all time)

saga please keep reading

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [FAQs]