comics

  • BridgetLee 5147e

    “Our failures will help us grow. They forge us. Test us. Make us stronger.” This quote from Ethan Young’s comic The Battles Of Bridget Lee: Invasion Of Farfallis a good glimpse into what this comic is about. Set in a dystopian future where there is an intergalactic war happening, Bridget Lee, the comic's protagonist and namesake, must cope with being a doctor, a war veteran, and the protector of her community.

    It is the type of role we rarely ever see women portray in any medium of storytelling, let alone comics. The inspiration for this comic was one of the greatest war heroes of all time, a hero whose name you probably know. “It’s a sci-fi allegory of the Mulan folktale,” Young, the author and illustrator of the book, tells BUST at one of the nation’s largest comic cons, C2E2 in Chicago.

    “I mean, that is one of my mom’s favorite folktales she told me about it when I was a kid," Young says. "She was very upset when the Mulan animated film came out in '98 because she felt they changed too much of the story. I approached Dark Horse about this, and they were excited about the idea; the only thing is we couldn’t use the Mulan name because of certain legal issues.”

    Additionally, Dark Horse had already produced a comic about Mulan, so instead of using the Mulan name and creating yet another Mulan story, Young chose to create a whole new folktale inspired by the heroine. Bridget Lee is a war hero fighting an intergalactic battle with aliens who have lost their planet and are on Earth seeking its resources.

    The war has caused a lot of carnage and humanity has lost its cities and nations; in its place, three sectors were created and military prowess is prioritized. All are fighting the same enemy and for the same cause—to live another day and hopefully win back their planet.

    bridgetlee1 90db3from The Battles Of Bridget Lee Vol. 1: The Invasion Of Farfall

    What is interesting about Young’s world is that even during an intergalactic war in which human civilizations as we know them have ended, sexism is still there. Three sanctions—Blue Circle, Green Order and Red Prime—authorize a mandate. Every sector has an orphanage post, and men are meant to fight. That means, as it says in the book, “The mandate created certain obstacles for women.” Much like the heroine Lee is inspired by, Mulan, Bridget Lee enters the military group and is an extraordinary fighter.

    All of this is just in the first few pages—don’t worry, I haven't given away any spoilers. These similarities are all a part of Young’s plan and how he is setting up the world. “We changed the folktale in the story to 'the Mighty One,’" he explains. "That’s the folktale within the graphic novel, so I wanted to tell the story about a hero who is very strong but also flawed, who has the ability to be vulnerable but also to take charge—all of these characteristics that we want in our heroes to begin with—and I also want her compassion to shine through as we take care of the orphans in the book.”

    Lee stands out from the canon of war hero stories because of her immense empathy and the daily pain she deals with. In the book, she has lost someone close to her. She must cope with her day-to-day pain, the legacy of being a battle hero, living in this war, and the carnage the war has brought and continues to bring. “I think you can tell in book one, violence isn’t something that she is geared towards," Young says. "She’s not there looking for violence—defending the kids is a very reactionary thing. And you know, my wife is a nurse and my mom was actually in the medical profession when she was in China.”

    Young says the personal connection his mother and wife have to the medical profession was able to inform how he developed Lee. Especially his mother’s experience as a medic in the village she lived in while in China. Lee’s profession as a caretaker is juxtaposed with her experience as a soldier throughout the comic and is one of the main issues our protagonist deals with. Can a medic kill? “Yeah, and you see this within book two as well. You’ll see these conflicts within her where it’s the struggle between doing what she thinks is best vs. doing what she thinks is necessary,” Young says.

    Young explorers this conflict not just with the text but also with the art and art style. The comic is drawn in mostly muted purples and red, colors that can be seen as royal and vibrant, but in a world where war has been constant, even colors fade.

    bridgetlee2 cf606from The Battles Of Bridget Lee Vol. 1: The Invasion Of Farfall

    Although Young creates a dystopian fictional world, readers can see echoes of reality. Pick up any paper with images from Yemen, Afghanistan, or any war-torn country, and we see the desperation and lack of vibrancy. Young has created a world where war is the daily life, and Bridget Lee is not only dealing with greater philosophical issues, but is also just trying to survive. Young explains, “If I had to get into this character's head, I would say in her mind, she’s living in this dystopian world and she can’t tell where the end is, but she still has to try to give hope to these kids. She understands that she fulfills this symbolic role to them as the Mighty One, and so she has to find it in herself to still play that role where she’s uplifting these kids and galvanizing them, but at the same time being realistic, like, ‘hey, we just have to find a way to survive.’”

    Because of Lee’s very human problems, she is relatable to all readers. Yet there is also a reason why Young made Lee an Asian woman. Young says diversity is very important to him: “I think the more diverse, the better. I know that is kind of a hot topic buzzword to just say 'diversity,' but I think you don't know how special it is to have a character that looks like who you are, until you finally see it. Seeing someone who reflects you and looks like you take on these larger-than-life heroic storylines because you know the whole point of the fantasy is to immerse yourself into these larger-than-life storylines.”

    Larger-than-life storylines also include larger-than-life characters from all backgrounds. Although Young is happy to reach out to other Asians and ensure they see themselves, you don’t have to be Asian or a woman to relate to Bridget Lee. Young says the more diversity we see in comics and film, the more we can respect each other and undo any stereotypes we have learned from pop culture.

    He says he hopes this comic gives audiences a broader idea of what they think a genre hero can be. “I’ve kind of been reflecting on some of the books I’ve done lately, and I like giving my heroes these understated moments of true heroism, but with the backdrop of something much larger happening.”

    Young has brought to life a character who is inspired by an amazing woman, but will be a whole new hero for a different generation. She doesn’t have special abilities and she is highly flawed; those qualities make her a hero, not only of the future, but for all time.

    The Battles Of Bridget Lee Vol. 2: The Miracle Child will be available in stores on May 9. Here's a sneak peek:

    bridgetlee 2579c

    BBLV2 PG 17 b1618BBLV2 PG 18 fd2e0

    BBLV2 PG 19 c01ae

    BBLV2 PG 20 784d2BBLV2 PG 21 401f2

    BBLV2 PG 22 1b911

    BBLV2 PG 23 e8d3a

    BBLV2 PG 24 60228
    More from BUST

    "Green Lantern: Earth One" Puts A Feminist Spin On A Familiar Superhero Story: BUST Interview

    This Comic Book Shows Why The Story Of Mata Hari Is More Relevant Than Ever

    "DC Super Hero Girls" Brings Women-Centered Superhero Stories To Young Readers 

  • goddessmode4 e0fba

    The cyberpunk genre has given us some of our greatest pop culture feminist icons: Furiosa in Mad Max, Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. Now, comic writer, author and game developer Zoë Quinn has given us four other badass women navigating a fucked-up future. 

    Set in a world where technology makes air breathable and water drinkable, Goddess Mode centers on Cassandra Price, a brilliant woman with some serious hacker skills who makes a living as a system administrator to a corporation called Hermeticorp. In this world, most diseases have been eradicated; AI technology has evolved into almost god-level proportions, yet severe income inequality and poverty still exists. There is, however, one very terrible disease that remains called Tucker Bradley Syndrome. It leaves its victims comatose, brain-damaged, and completely reliant on technology to live. Among these victims? Cassandra’s father, also a brilliant tech scientist for the corporation.

    In order to see her father, Cassandra steals his credentials and hacks into Hermicorp’s medical facility. While illegally telepresenting herself in her father’s room, Cassandra witnesses a system fail which severely endangers her father and tries to fix it herself, notifying the higher-ups that someone has hacked their system. After her foray in the medical facility, Cassandra is summoned by the CEO of Hermicorp and, to her surprise, is promoted/blackmailed to do a job looking into an unprecedented system failure that has spread across Hermicorp’s network. It’s then that she is sucked into Azoth, the world (operating system) that controls Hermicorp. After Cassandra is nearly eaten by demons, she’s saved by three badass women with different powers in awesome outfits. This is where the true journey begins. 

    All in all, Goddess Mode is a comic that has a lot of punch, tech, and magic. 

    goddessmode1 506ad

    To write the story, Quinn drew from her own experience as a professional System Administrator and game developer. But instead of making the story heavy on tech, she uses magic to explain Cassandra’s time in Azoth.

    “I’m trying to sort of blend the whole tech and magic thing—consolidate it and make it more accessible to people. It’s super jargon-heavy, and magic is, too, in this weird way. But the nice thing about magic is I think it’s a little more relatable. It’s a little bit easier to get across, way less dry and, personally, I think it’s a solid metaphor for the power that tech can have in our lives,” Quinn told BUST. 

    Magic and science have been interlinked and have had close relationship for a long time. Some of history's most noted scientists such as Galileo and Isaac Newton believed in both magic and science. Seeping the tech-focused, cyberpunk world of Goddess Mode in magic makes perfect sense.

    Unlike other cyberpunk stories, which are typically dystopian, Quinn wanted to create a story that shows tech in a more nuanced way.

    “[My inspiration] was kind of looking at where tech is going and what we’re moving towards. A lot of quantum computing and network institutions and stuff like that can get really magic-sounding when you dig into it,” Quinn told BUST. “Part of it was that, and part of it was examining the way that we interact with tech in our lives.”

    Through the use of magic and tech, Cassandra is exposed to a new world and a new side of herself. Quinn explained that this book is not only about a cyberpunk future, magic, and badass women, but it also speaks to our generation. Technology has played a role in connecting the entire world, but some scientists have also talked about negative effects such as disinformation, increased loneliness and isolation, and other effects on our mental health. Quinn, who is also a tech advocate, is telling a story of humanity interacting with tech that can be helpful or harmful.

    “It’s trying to take a point of view that doesn’t position humanity and technology as opposites, and more that technology is as neutral in terms of good and bad as humans are. It all comes down to what actually is going on and what [technology] is being used for. I think tech and humanity are not at odds at all because, you know, technology is basically the most human thing there is,” Quinn said.

    goddessmode3 19e5e

    As for the artwork, Quinn met with artist Robbi Rodriguez and colorist Rico Renzi to explain her vision. Quinn, Rodriguez, and Renzi kicked it off right away. According to Quinn, Rodriguez and Renzi understood exactly what she wanted: together, Rodriguez and Renzi captured the gray analogue world and the neon-colored world of Azoth perfectly. The inspiration for the outfits of Cassandra Price, Farrah St. Geremaine, Tatyanna Cole, and Mary Levy, a.k.a. the oracles, is a mix of cyberpunk/Sailor Moon. Honestly, these outfits are the dream of any cosplayer.

    Though the protagonists are all female, Quinn said, “I didn’t want to make a story that was necessarily about gender. I just wanted to let the cast be not dudes and have that be fine. And not treat it as weird. It’s more about these overall feelings that are shared by a lot of different people and a lot of different situations, and not focusing on [identity], just using it as a backdrop.

    “Fundamentally, the type of story I want to tell [examines] types of power, and that’s one of the big reasons I’m doing all this Internet metaphor, too. Bcause if you’re one person and you’re seeing your place in this gigantic sea of stuff, it’s very difficult to feel like you can do anything meaningful. So that’s kind of the attitude that I’m taking with it. And they just happen to be running in really cool outfits.”

    Each oracle has been condemned to a literal world of demons. Each one has the power to interweave between Azoth and the analogue world. They come from different backgrounds and each one has a different life outside of Azoth. But they all have one thing in common: they are oracles charged to solve an evil in a system that can help or hinder humanity. The colors, writing, and the journey of these four women is enough to keep a reader captivated. 

    goddessmode2 c2952

    Issue 4 of Goddess Mode was released March 27, 2019. Issues 1-4 are currently available through DC Comics.

    All photos from Goddess Mode

    More from BUST

    Erotic Sci-Fi Graphic Novel "Open Earth" Explores Polyamory In Space

    Feminist Comic Artist Julie Doucet Is Back With A Re-Release Of "Dirty Plotte": BUST Interview

    "Thee Collected Cyanide Milkshake": The Comic That Reclaims Punk Rock for Femmes

     

     

  •  

    marvel larson 7d51e

    We’ve waited through one decade and twenty movies for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to give us a female-led film. Well, the first trailer for March’s Captain Marvel is here, promising all the female badass-ery the beloved character deserves.

    When we meet Carol Danvers, played by Oscar-winner Brie Larson, she’s crashing into a Blockbuster. The movie is set in the mid-nineties, a prequel to the current MCU. There are some familiar (though digitally de-aged) faces: Samuel L. Jackson is a young, two-eyed Nick Fury. Rookie agent Phil Coulson from S.H.I.E.L.D., and Guardians of the Galaxy’s memorably unmemorable villain, Ronan the Accuser.

    But the spotlight is on Danvers, as she navigates her nebulous origins and chaotic present battling Skrull (bad aliens) on the Kree (good aliens) Starforce. Also featured: her fellow air force pilot, Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau. Rambeau is a prominent figure in the comics, and their deep friendship is a welcome addition to a universe sparse of two women even sharing lines onscreen.

    Captain Marvel first entered mainstream discourse during the end credits of last year’sAvengers: Infinity War. Remember it? As Nick Fury crumbles into ash, he sends a distress call over a high-tech pager. Before the scene cuts to black, the pager alights with Captain Marvel’s vintage insignia.

    Cue frantic googling: “Who is Captain Marvel?”

    Danvers has been fighting space crime since 1968. She was written as an officer in the United States Air Force. An explosion at a high security military splices her DNA with Mar-Vell (the original Captain Marvel, and played by Jude Law in the movie), an alien Kree warrior. This gives her a multitude of powers: strength, flight, and the ability to harness solar energies. Though it’s ten years before she officially takes the Marvel handle, writer Gerry Conway intended her as an empowering figure, writing in Ms. Marvel #1 (1977) that "you might see a parallel between her quest for identity, and the modern woman's quest for raised consciousness, for self-liberation, for identity."

    Still, some gross plot developments led to wide criticism by female readers. One particularly heinous storyline in Avengers #200 involved Danvers abducted, brainwashed, and impregnated by an interdimensional rapist.

    On that storyline, maybe scholar Carol Strickland says it best: “Isn't everyone entitled to respect as a human being? Shouldn't they be against something that so self-consciously seeks to destroy that respect and degrade women in general by destroying the symbol of womankind?”

    Once at the helm, Chris Claremont rewrote Danvers’ timeline, expunging the impregnation, but its memory lingered. Female characters in comics so rarely get to be it all: independent, intelligent, sexually liberated. She is super strong, but cannot be portrayed as muscular; feminine without the “burden” of sensitivity. Danvers is canonically the strongest hero in the MCU, but her comic iteration didn’t prove to be the exemption.

    For that, the first trailer of her big screen debut inspires hope that the hero can subvert the genre’s gender trappings and inspire more solo heroine debuts.

    (Seriously though, why is the Black Widow movie not here yet?)

     

    Top Image: Marvel Studios

    More from BUST

    Brie Larson Calls For More Inclusive Film Criticism, Fewer 40-Year-Old White Dudes Reviewing "A Wrinkle In Time": Link Roundup

    Let's Talk About The Women Of "Black Panther"

    Ruby Rose Will Play Lesbian Superhero Batwoman In A New CW Show

     

     

  • FEMFUR 2 2 a0e6f

    When comic books first came about, they were supposed to be stories about heroes saving the day, and by today’s standards many comics from the golden period would be considered sexist, no matter how strong the central female character was. 

    Thankfully, in 2019, this has been changing. More women and marginalized voices are writing comics, and more comics are starting to address larger, societal issues. One such comic is Cecil Castellucci’s newest work with DC Comics, the six-issue mini series Female Furies.

    Set on the hell planet Apokolips, Granny Goodness (a well-known villain of the New Gods) is in charge of the Female Furies, an all-female team of villains. Granny was the only woman working on Darkseid’s team and she founded the Furies. (Darkseid is the tyrannical leader of planet Apokolips, and one of the most powerful evil beings in the DC). Granny, a product of her time, put up with sexual harassment—she saw it as a price that must be paid in order to get what she wanted. 

    The story dives into the world of the Furies and the sexual, emotional and physical abuse they face from their male colleagues.Granny Goodness was the only woman on Darkseid’s team, and as a result, she experienced sexual harassment as a young woman; years later, when the Female Furies are assembled, that harassment—and the expectation to accept it—continues.

    What makes the book interesting is that Apokolips is a hell planet where villains live and all the women are villains, but Castellucci manages to bring empathy to these characters who, at first glance, might not be so sympathetic.

    Castellucci came up with the idea after finishing her run on Shade the Changing Girl with DC’s Young Animal imprint. Castellucci says she was interested in doing something within the DC Universe and approached DC co-publisher Dan Didio with various ideas. “They were all very boy-heavy, and referencing ‘boy’ pop culture things and I said ‘ugh, well, where’s your Handmaid’s Tale?’ And he said ‘well, that is a very interesting thought,’” Castellucci told BUST at Chicago’s Comic Con C2E2. “And he said, ‘well, if you can crack Female Furies with that kind of lens, then you know we can talk.’”

    Castellucci went home and read Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus and was inspired instead to create a story relevant to the #MeToo movement. 

    “I already knew going in—and they already knew I was going to be talking about real world issues that we’re dealing with, and looking at the Female Furies through that lens,” Castellucci said. 

    Castellucci took a lot from Fourth World Omnibus. She says she was struck by how much of the story she was writing she pulled from Kirby’s book, which also focuses on the world of Apokolips. “I’m just turning up the volume on some of the things that are already inherent in that book. It’s not that Jack Kirby was sexist or anything like that—it’s just that he was a product of his time, and he was looking at things in a much different way,” she explained.

    FEMFUR 3 1 f0a5c

    In the news and the zeitgeist, we seem to finally be reckoning with how widespread sexual misconduct and sexism is across industries. Industries that have been purveyors of sexism, whether on purpose or unintentionally, are rethinking the roles they’ve played in toxic cultures that modern movements are addressing. And in the comics world, this could mean either the characters and the content or the people working in the industry themselves.

    DC Comics fired editor Eddie Berganza in 2017 after allegations came forward of him forcebly gropping or kissing coworkers. In 2018, DC’s Vertigo imprint abruptly ended a very successful comic, Border Town, after sexual abuse allegations surfaced against creator Eric Esquivel. These companies are starting to believe victims and do the work to undo years of harmful thinking, whether that thinking relates to how women and marginalized voices are portrayed, who gets hired to tell these important stories, and which stories are being told.  

    “We don’t need to accept that [there’s] only way to tell a story. You know, with diversity with women, we have stories too, and we’re part of it. So when you look at the Fourth World, the Female Furies and the women are almost non-existent, they’re so much in the corner of that story. I’m just bringing them to the center of the story,” Castellucci said. “And I have to give credit to DC Comics for making it a mainstream comic. I feel like that’s number one. The more you make these stories not on the fringe but sort of the main titles, I think that’s going to help.”

    On that note, Castellucci said she hopes her work reaches audiences that might not necessarily know much about the world of comics, or the world of Apokolips. “I think that what I find with a lot of my comic books, like the Plane Janes, or Shade the Changing Girlor Female Furies, they are entryways that someone who loves comics can give to someone who doesn’t yet read comics,” she said.

    These comics are not only ways of engaging new people with comics, but also a tool to enable audiences to talk about issues including harrassment and sexism. Castellucci said she doesn’t want to just preach to the choir but, instead, give the choir a book to put in the hands of someone within the community who doesn’t know or understand the issue.

    “My goal [as a writer] is what I think our goal as women is: is to have agency,” she told BUST. “Self-agency and control over our bodies and our destinies so, you know, that’s where I’m hoping that we go.

    “I think what the Female Furies awaken to is that everything’s not fair, but it’s even more not fair to them, and all they want is for it to be equally unfair as it is for everyone else. I think that’s an [idea we can see] in the real world as well,” Castellucci told BUST. 

    FEMFUR Cv3 ea6b9

    Female Furies issues 1-3 are currently available.

    Photos courtesy of DC Comics

    More from BUST

    "Captain Marvel" And The Joy Of Owning One's Power

    Danielle Paige Is Bringing Women’s Stories To The Forefront Of Comics

    From "Captain America" to "Captain Marvel": Why Representation Matters