Tag Archives: women in comics

Jane Tiberia Kirk beams back from an away mission

Star Trek’s ‘Parallel Lives’ and The Awesome Women In The Mirror

IDW Publishing’s Star Trek comics follow the adventures of the Enterprise crew as they explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before.

In Star Trek #29, the Enterprise continues its five-year mission under the command of Jane Tiberia Kirk.

Yup, that’s right:

an image from a parallel, gender-flipped version of the Star Trek universe, where the Enterprise is under the command of Captain Jane Tiberia Kirk.

Captain Jane Tiberia Kirk, Lt. Commander Spock, and Yeoman Jason Rand.

The fun doesn’t end there: the entire crew, from Lea “Bones” McCoy on down to Hikari Sulu and Pavlovna Chekov, is gender-swapped. (Spock is apparently a gender-neutral name among Vulcans).

Mainstream comics have a well-earned reputation for epic fail when it comes to gender, so when I saw pages of this comic on Racebending’s Tumblr, I had a dual reaction. On the one hand, shut up and take my money. On the other: I hope this isn’t a foul mess.

I grabbed a digital copy from the publisher, and I’m happy to report that is not, in fact, a foul mess. With one glaring exception, the characters have kept the sensibilities and interpersonal dynamics of their better-known counterparts. Captain Kirk is still full of bravado, Bones is still a curmudgeon, and Spock is still Kirk’s good sense. No one’s been turned into a whiny damsel, and artist Yasmin Liang hasn’t drawn our intrepid heroes straining their backs to present their breasts and butt to a viewer they can’t perceive.

Because the characters are still so very much who they are in the normal timeline, the comic gives us a glimpse into a mirror universe I’d sure like to visit: one where a group of brilliant female cadets were given control of a top-of-the-line star ship after stopping a Romulan terrorist when no one else could. Where women can discuss engineering, theoretical physics, and the Prime Directive as readily as they talk about babies. Where Captain Jane T. Kirk’s “love ‘em and leave ‘em” approach to sex isn’t any more of a mark against her character than it is against Jim’s.

It’s a universe where Jane, like Jim, is free to be driven not by romantic prospects or the need to prove that she’s as good as any man out there, but by the desire to live up to her mother’s legacy–to be worthy of Georgina Kirk’s valiant sacrifice aboard the USS Kelvin.

But while the story is giving these women room to be whole people, it’s also not glossing over the way gendered expectations hit Jane differently than they do Jim. Where Pike pegged Jim’s tenacity and passion as leadership qualities, Jane is instead ‘headstrong’ and ‘emotional’–and catches flak for it from her superiors.

Admiral: "Everyone at starfleet command is confident in your abilities, Kirk, despite your headstrong reputation. But we are not oblivious to the fact that you are the youngest captain in the fleet..." Kirk: "You can lose the code words, admiral. 'Emotional.' 'Headstrong.' Just come out and say it. A young female captain makes the bigwigs back in San Francisco nervous."

This fool just called Captain Kirk ‘emotional’ in front of the entire bridge crew. Apparently she’s not emotional enough to flip him the bird he so richly deserves for that.

One thing about the comic did give me pause: Lt. Nnamdi Uhuro. While everyone else is essentially the same person they are in the main timeline, the gender swap seems to have deprived the lieutenant of every ounce of his good sense:

Uhuro: "Or maybe I just want to protect the woman I love. Must be an Earth thing. The gallant knight always wants to save the pricess, y'know?"

I’m pretty sure that if the real Uhura heard a dude talking like that, she’d roll her eyes in twelve languages.

It isn’t just that this is out of character for Uhura, who would never brook this kind of nonsense. Uhuro is the only man of color with a speaking part in this comic. Giving him the fail-ball here has some unfortunate implications.

I’m also a bit sad about not having the real Uhura around because she holds a special place in pop culture history. Most folks have heard Nichelle Nichols’s story about Martin Luther King, Jr. personally talking her out of quitting Star Trek, and Whoopi Goldberg’s story of how powerful it was for her, as a child, to see Nichelle Nichols in that role: a black woman on TV who wasn’t playing a maid.

People of color remain underrepresented in Star Trek, but in the time since Nichols hung up her communicator, we’ve seen several Black men don the uniform: Sisko as a captain, LaForge as Chief Engineer, Mayweather as a helmsman. If we’re counting aliens, we’ve also got Tuvok and Worf at tactical. But in nearly fifty years of Trek, Uhura is the only black female Starfleet officer we’ve had in a core-cast role. Any mirror universe where she’s not rockin’ her ear-piece is the poorer for it.

And speaking of people of color being underrepresented: this Enterprise is just as white as the original. I wish we’d seen more of Sulu. In this version, she’s the only woman of color in the core cast, and she barely has one line.

But while I wish the ladies of this Enterprise were more diverse, this comic still put a smile on my face. It’s well-written, well-drawn, and funny. Jane Kirk is a great character, and one I wouldn’t mind spending a lot more time with. I’m sad that this is just a two-parter, and not an ongoing series that I can buy every copy of forever.

I’m even sadder that it takes alternate timelines like this for us to get the kind of representation that white men can take for granted. Even white as this mirror-cast is, we’d never see a crew like them on the big screen.

You can get a digital copy of Star Trek #29 directly from the publisher, or pick up a paper copy from your local comic book store.

Kid Flash The Super Creep: The Problem With ‘Funny Harassment’

Content Warning: this post discusses sexual harassment, stalking, and sexual assault.

Kid Flash

Kid Flash

I’ve recently been introduced to Young Justice, a superhero cartoon featuring beloved sidekicks of the Justice League. It started in 2010 and wrapped up earlier this year. I’m a big fan of superhero cartoons, having grown up on the DC Animated Universe. So Young Justice is right up my alley.

But if Kid Flash doesn’t have a drastic character adjustment pretty soon, I’m giving up on the show.

Kid Flash, AKA Wally West, is one of the founding members of the Justice League’s covert junior team. As soon as he meets teammate Miss Martian, he starts hitting on her. She brushes him off.

And so begins a campaign of sexual harassment that, seven episodes in, shows no sign of ending soon. It’s annoying enough to watch as a viewer, because harassment isn’t funny, but what it says about this world and the morals of these alleged ‘heroes’ is pretty gross.

Aside from Robin making fun of Kid Flash with no apparent concern for Miss Martian’s personhood, no one has called him out. Neither Robin nor team leader Aqualad has pulled him aside and said “Bro. She’s not interested. Quit being a creep.” The adult members of the Justice League don’t seem concerned, either–though given how the adult Flash behaves, it’d not hard to work out where young Wally picked up his views on women.

So Miss Martian has to put up with not just killer robots and evil monsters, but also with an incessant campaign of sexual harassment. On top of that, she has to rely on a team that clearly doesn’t have her back. They’d rather laugh about Kid Flash’s behavior than tell him to knock it off.

As far as the show is concerned, this situation is funny. We’re meant to laugh at Wally and his pathetic antics, rather than empathize with how awkward and uncomfortable his harassment makes things for Miss Martian.

If it were just this one obnoxious character on one show, it’d be an ignorant joke in terrible taste. But Kid Flash is part of a larger pattern[1] of pop culture heroes portraying sexual harassment as funny or endearing.

Miss Martian

Miss Martian

This stuff matters–not just because it’s an annoying trope that alienates harassment and assault survivors, but because it leads to real people getting harassed and assaulted in the real world. It perpetuates the idea that harassment is normal courting behavior, and that “no” actually means “keep asking me until I change my fickle girly mind and fall madly in love with you.” Some folks who’ve been raised on a steady diet of this trope have it so bad that they take anger and contempt as signs that their victim secretly likes them back.

A guy who assaulted me went on to subject me to this kind of ‘funny’ harassment. He was a friend of my brother’s and a member of a social club I was very heavily involved in, so I had no good way to avoid him.

Among other obnoxious behavior, he was constantly calling me ‘babe.’ Every single time he did it, I told him to knock it off. I tried patiently explaining that I found it demeaning. I tried yelling. I tried getting up and leaving the room. I tried flipping him off and calling him sexist.

He kept right on doing it.

One day he told me he did it because the main character in his favorite book did it.

I bet the romantic interest in that book told the main character to quit calling her ‘babe,’ too. I’ll bet she was a Strong Female Character who Didn’t Put Up With Nonsense.

And I’ll bet by the end of the book, his campaign of harassment had changed her fickle, girly mind and she’d fallen madly in love with him, thus completing his hero narrative of the good guy getting the girl.

They guy who assaulted me? His campaign of harassment didn’t end that way.

It ended with him assaulting me a second time.

Since I grew up watching cartoons, I’m used to superheroes telling me about seat-belts, recycling, stranger danger, staying away from guns, and not trying superheroics at home. Would it have killed Young Justice to have a member of the Justice League take young Wally aside and tell him that heroes treat women with respect?

Or, better yet, they could have just not included ‘funny harassment’ at all, because harassment isn’t funny, and Miss Martian is supposed to be there to fight bad guys, not to teach socially-awkward boy geniuses like Wally how to behave around women.


[1] TV Tropes has several pages full of examples, including:

  1. [CW: Harassment, stalking] “The Dogged Nice Guy”
  2. [CW: Harassment, stalking, misogyny]: “Defrosting the Ice Queen”
  3. [CW: harassment, stalking]: “Belligerent Sexual Tension”
  4. [CW: Stalking]: “Stalking is love”

A fisherman of the inland linkspam (14 May 2013)

  • Sometimes I Feel Like I am a Fake Geek Girl: “I know that I’m not really faking anything as I’m pretty up front with the holes in my experience, but sometimes I feel that I shouldn’t even call myself a geek because I’m missing so much ‘critical geekdom’. It feels like geek culture is a competitive and not-inclusive space with invisible hierarchies.”
  • How to draw sexy without being sexist: “‘Sex appeal ONLY comes into play when the characters PERSONALITY dictates that as a factor,’ says Anka. ‘The CHARACTER must be first and foremost the inspiration and guideline for all the decisions made when trying to design the clothing.'”
  • The Great Debate: Comic about the misguided idea that disabling youtube comments to forestall harassment is censorship.
  • ‘Brave’ creator blasts Disney for ‘blatant sexism’ in princess makeover – Marin Independent Journal: “Disney crowned Merida its 11th princess on Saturday, but ignited a firestorm of protest with a corporate makeover of Chapman’s original rendering of the character, giving her a Barbie doll waist, sultry eyes and transforming her wild red locks into glamorous flowing tresses. The new image takes away Merida’s trusty bow and arrow, a symbol of her strength and independence, and turns her from a girl to a young woman dressed in an off-the-shoulder version of the provocative, glitzy gown she hated in the movie.”
  • The Latest on the Women in SFF Debate: Roundup of links about the recent debate on recognition for female authors of sci-fi/fantasy.
  • Using Python to see how the NY Times writes about men and women: “If your knowledge of men’s and women’s roles in society came just from reading last week’s New York Times, you would think that men play sports and run the government. Women do feminine and domestic things. To be honest, I was a little shocked at how stereotypical the words used in the women subject sentences were.”
  • Queer in STEM: “A national survey of sexual diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
  • This 17-Year-Old Coder Is Saving Twitter From TV Spoilers: “Jennie Lamere, a 17-year-old girl, invented the software last month—and won the grand prize at a national coding competition where Lamere was the only female who presented a project, and the only developer to work alone.”
  • A Woman’s Place: “Now, almost 50 years after the birth of an all-female technology company with radically modern working practices, it seems remarkable that the same industry is still fumbling with the issue of gender equality.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Amar Chitra Katha panel

Yet Another List (Comics with Women of Color)

This past weekend I caught up a bit on comic books. I went to Midtown Comics, my usual haunt, and got the most recent trades of DMZ and The Unwritten. The staff weren’t that helpful in my explorations, though — for example, when I asked about what Alison Bechdel’s been up to, I got basically a shrug.

The next day, I visited Forbidden Planet south of Union Square, and the staff seemed far more helpful and sympathetic. When I got up the nerve to ask, “What comics have people who look like me?” they were actually interested in figuring it out and loading up my arms.  “OMG you haven’t read Love And Rockets?!”

(Doesn’t it suck that so much of the Virgin India line is just crap?)

So, since it’s on my mind, some comics that feature women of color as interesting characters:

  • Amar Chitra Katha series — the comics I grew up with, telling Indian history, myths, legends, and fables. Draupadi! Savitri! Parvati! Sati! And so on.  (That panel is the image on this post, photo taken by Satish Krishnamurthy.)

    Amar Chitra Katha panel

    Amar Chitra Katha panel:
    The Rakshasi opened her mouth wide as Hanuman
    was drawn into her jaws by a mysterious force.

  • Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. I read the whole thing, I loved it, it’s what got me back into comics a decade ago. Most of the characters are women, and I’m thinking especially of 355 (African-American), Dr. Mann (American of Chinese and Japanese ancestry), and You (Japanese).
  • DMZ by Brian Wood, which I read avidly. Volunteer medic Zee Hernandez isn’t the main character but she’s in there and important.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, her autobiography about a childhood in Iran. A modern classic, and can you believe I’m only reading this now?
  • Love and Rockets by the Hernandez brothers. Ditto. (I’m a Philistine!)
  • Ayaseries by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, about a family in the Ivory Coast. I haven’t read it yet but it’s come recommended.
  • Lots of stuff by Lynda Barry. I like her stories (but find her art style a little overwhelming).
  • Patrick Farley’s The Spiders stars the African-American soldier Lt. Celicia Miller, and The Jain’s Death is about Anuradha, a South Asian woman.
  • I hear very good things about Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder but haven’t started it yet.

I don’t much care about superhero comics so I’m leaving out Storm from X-Men, etc. Should I read Frank Miller’s Martha Washington stuff? I should also sweep through my household’s shelves, especially our three binders of indie stuff we’ve bought at MoCCA, to find more recommendation-worthy books and one-offs, especially by women and people of color.

(Random shout-out: Mel Chua’s engineering education comics “What is Engineering?” and “What is Education?”)

Gender Bent Justice League (for featured image)

Justice League, Geek Feminism style

With DC rebooting their entire universe, it’s not entirely surprising that I’ve seen a lot of Justice League links of late. Here’s three that I think Geek Feminism readers might find interesting, put together in one post.

What If Male Superheroes Posed Like Wonder Woman On The David Finch Justice League Cover?

Apparently, something like this…

The Green Lantern, Batman and Superman, posing in the same style as used for Wonder Woman on the David Finch Justice League Cover

The Green Lantern, Batman and Superman, posing in the same style as used for Wonder Woman on the David Finch Justice League Cover

That’s just three of them: More here.

An Interview with the Batgirl of the SDCC panels

For example, in the beginning of the panel [Dan Didio] took questions from the audience, and one man asked, “Why did you go from 12% to 1% women on your creative teams?” Didio responded, “What do those numbers mean to you? Who should we be hiring?” If you listen to the podcast, [Note: here's the soundbite] you can hear the hostility in Didio’s tone when he speaks to this man. This belligerence was present every time anyone asked him about female creators.

On the other hand, Paul Cornell came directly to where I was sitting as soon as the New 52 panel ended and said, “I heard what you said, and I’d like to take a minute to try to sell to you directly.” He told me that his new swords and sorcery comic, Demon Knights, would have a majority female cast and that he was committed to keeping it that way. I am utterly uninterested in swords and sorcery, but I will be subscribing to a full year of Demon Knights anyway, because Paul Cornell made me feel like he cared about my opinion, both as a fan and as a human being. I want to give this comic a chance, and I think it would be fantastic if everyone reading this article would at least pick up issue #1 of Demon Knights and give it a chance, too. Cornell’s also writing Stormwatch, and says of Apollo and Midnighter in the linked article, “Yes, Apollo and Midnighter are still gay men. They’re still out and proud. I wouldn’t have written it otherwise.”

Vote with your dollars, people. If you can bear to give DC any of your money after reading the rest of this, buy Paul Cornell’s and Gail Simone’s books. As SilverLocust1 said to me on Twitter, “Please encourage readers to buy comics that prove reader interest, boycotting gives the people who buy all the influence.

I recommend you read the whole interview even if you’re not particularly a DC or comics fan since the talk of women creators, women characters and how we can try to influence the industry to have more of both could be relevant to other media as well.

San Diego Comic-Con Cosplay Spotlight: Gender Bent Justice League

“A couple of us like to do female versions of preexisting male characters. One of our friends, Psykitten Pow, she had a female Flash,” says Tallest Silver, who organized the group and who dresses as Batma’am. “One night, we were all hanging out and I said how funny it would be if we had a whole Justice League with swapped sexes.”

Kit Quinn as Superma'am and Tallest Silver as Batma'am (photo by Shannon Cottrell)

Kit Quinn as Superma'am and Tallest Silver as Batma'am (photo by Shannon Cottrell)

Gender Bent Green Lantern (photo by Shannon Cottrell)

Gender Bent Green Lantern (photo by Shannon Cottrell)

Lots more pictures in the original post and on page two. Wonder Guy’s pose is not as bad as the David Lynch rendering, I promise. And yes, I intentionally inserted photos here of the same three characters as we saw at the top of this post.


I know I also saw some very interesting posts about the reboot of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl but I can’t find it in my history, and I’m sure there’s been a lot more interesting geek feminist friendly commentary on the DC reboot, so please share those links or add your own commentary below!