Chicks Dig Comics: An excellent love letter
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.
Heroine Content readers, I have been cheating on you. With comics.
It's a passion I flirted with in junior high (Elfquest), got serious with in college (Sandman, Hellblazer, Strangers in Paradise, the Invisibles), and quite possibly married about two years ago when I read X-Men books for the first time. (Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men, followed very closely by Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men, and X-Men: Supernovas by Mike Carey. All in about a week.)
I'm well and truly hooked, to the point of ordering bookshelves specifically to fit the large format Red Star graphic novels and strongly considering a tattoo based on Warren Ellis's Nextwave. And I may have gotten my preschooler to eat scrambled eggs by telling him they were Canadian eggs like Wolverine eats, thank you Faith Erin Hicks.
So when I was offered an opportunity to review the new anthology Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them, I was thrilled. Luckily I had already pre-ordered it, so I didn't have to face reading a 200+ page book as a PDF advance review copy.
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When my book arrived, I tucked it in my bag for perusal while waiting for my husband and four year old son to finish up playing with War Machine figures at our second favorite Local Comic Shop.
First I moved my chair across the room from their game because the book was so interesting, I didn't want any distractions.
Then we got home, and I snuck into my bedroom so I could read a few more pages while they were picking out kiddo's jammies.
Then it was his bath time, and I overheard "I don't know if she's coming in here, honey, I think Mommy's really enjoying reading her book." That being deemed unacceptable by the child, a compromise was struck, and I attended bath time. Sitting far away from the water and still reading the book.
Why did I get so completely hooked? Because Chicks Dig Comics is a love letter to something I adore. Like This is what women in superhero comics should be, it's about passion. It's comics readers and comics creators sharing why they adore the stories found in comics, from superheroes to horror to comedy to soap-opera melodrama. It shows quite clearly how much better comics fandom has gotten for women in my lifetime. So many of the essays pointed out that in years past, comics conventions were almost exclusively male - these days, women and girls are well represented. When some of the contributors in this book were growing up, it was impossible to find another female comics fan. Now with the internet, it would be hard not to. And there are enough fans, and enough interest in the topic, that Chicks Dig Comics can be a viable project.
I found the whole thing so incredibly refreshing.
I'm not sure that any further description of which bits I personally liked is terribly useful to anyone else. There are 30 pieces in the book if you don't count the introduction and foreward, so everyone who reads the book is going to have their own favorites. The collection as a whole moves along quickly due to the length of each piece and the variety of subjects and approaches. Some pieces focus on the writer's personal experiences, while others focus on specific characters and books or describe working in the industry. Marvel, D.C., and indie fandoms are all well represented. Editors Lynne M. Thomas and Sigrid Ellis did a fantastic job mixing the essays together so that each piece feels fresh as you get to it.
I very much appreciated the inclusion of perspectives from women with disabilities and queer women. My only "wishlist" item was more voices of women of color, beyond comics writer Marjorie Liu and the amazing piece by Sarah Kuhn. For example, several of my "must read" bloggers on comics and pop culture are African-American, so it felt strange to not see that perspective represented explicitly.
Would I recommend Chicks Dig Comics to anyone who doesn't read comics? Maybe not, though fans of any genre which has been considered "for guys" will find a lot of common ground with the contributors. For anyone who has been involved with comics, I would recommend this in a heartbeat. It's smart but not bogged down in academic jargon, which I appreciated as someone who's been away from academia for a long, long time. And it's a fun, energizing way to spend time on the issue of women in comics, which can often be as much about pain (Greg Land, augh!) as it is about joy.
If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think!
Now I'm going to publish this post and go back to re-watching the Marvel movies in preparation for The Avengers on Friday...
p.s. Grace had previously reviewed Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them, which like Chicks Dig Comics is from Mad Norwegian Press. You should check that out too.