Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Supanova Loves Adam Baldwin - But I Don't

There's been a bit of controversy around the Supanova convention's latest guest announcement - it seems Adam Baldwin, formerly of Firefly and now of Gamer Gate will be gracing us with his presence here in Sydney come June. A lot of people, including myself, are very disappointed by this decision, and I wanted to outline a few of the reasons why.

Firstly, for those of you not from Australia, I think it's important to understand the con scene that this is all taking place in. To put it bluntly, there isn't one. There is Supanova once a year in each capital city, and occasionally MUCH smaller (think 50 people) events in Sydney and Melbourne. This year newcomer OzComicCon will be entering the marketplace for it's second round, but it's still very new and much more niche than Supanova, which bills itself as a Pop Culture Convention. Pretty much everyone who goes to conventions in Australia, and a lot of people who would never consider going to a more niche convention, go to Supanova. Over 50,000 people attended in Sydney alone last year - it is pretty much the biggest event of it's type in Australia*. Supanova is to geek culture in Australia what the Last Party of the Year is to teen movies - it's a Big Damn Deal, and if you're not there you're missing out on the social event of the season.

Who Supanova choose as guests is very reflective of the type of visitor they're looking to draw in. One of the reasons I've always appreciated Supanova's guest selection is that they didn't look down on the female dominated fandoms like Harry Potter or Merlin - they got over every single related guest they could get. That meant there has always been a good turnout of women at Supanova, which in turn makes me feel more comfortable going along and convincing my female friends that it's a welcoming space. When there is only one convention a year, MAYBE two, it becomes a huge deal whether women feel safe and welcomed at said convention. If we don't, we're largely shut out of the convention experience in Australia - we're the ultimate losers who aren't invited to the Big Party.

Imagine Supanova as the Big Party of the Year, but for these guys instead of the jocks
Supanova have invited some questionable guests before - I wrote here about their decision to bring over Edward Furlong, formerly of Terminator 2 and now of the prison system because he can't seem to stop beating women up. In the end, that was a problematic decision that resolved itself because Furlong broke his parole (with ANOTHER charge of domestic violence) and wasn't able to attend.
It could be argued that in Edward Furlong's case, his private life is his private life and it shouldn't effect an appearance as an actor - I happen to disagree with that, but I can see the case to be made. In the case of Adam Baldwin however, his recent behavior has had consequences that were anything but private.

You may or may not have heard about the shitstorm of garbage flying around online recently that was officially dubbed GamerGate - by Baldwin himself, incidentally. It began as accusations that a game developer had slept with a game reviewer in return for a favourable review of her game, and has grown into an 8-Chan fueled doxxing** machine. If you choose to, you can read more about the specifics of various events here and here, but the short version is that there is a certain subset of gamers are currently monitoring various keywords on social media because they feel they're fighting an ethical culture war, and they can be very hostile. To be fair, I will include this post that describes a GamerGate supporter claiming harrassment - however, I am highly skeptical of the validity of these claims. I've seen the vicious response from self proclaimed GamerGate supporters on more than one occassion - most recently someone I follow on Twitter mentioned Adam Baldwin's upcoming visit to Sydney, and how disappointed she was, and within half an hour her feed began flooding with strangers very happy to throw their disapproving two cents in. While I've seen GamerGate supporters insist this isn't the case and everyone is just lying, the movement is largely targeted at women, and supporters get far more vicious far more quickly when "conversing" with women.

"How dare you talk about Jayne that way?"
Adam Baldwin is very happy to be identified as being in support of this "movement". You can read a delightful interview over here where he describes GamerGate as merely a skirmish in a "culture war", being waged between people who agree with him and people attempting to push viewpoints he believes are merely a political agenda. Is this really someone we want to invite over to join our Big Party? I certainly wouldn't invite him to my party.

However, this could all still be brushed aside as just Baldwin's personal opinions - we shouldn't judge celebrities for having opinions we disagree with, he's got every right to his opinion, etc. And it's true, he does. I don't think he should be burned at the stake for his opinions, or even have to shut up necessarily. But I also don't feel comfortable having him at my party - not just for his opinions, but for the friends he'll bring.

Maybe his appearance won't bring a larger than usual number of GamerGate supporters. Maybe they won't be encouraged to be more vocal in their intolerant opinions because of his presence. Maybe I'll also grow wings tomorrow. Maybe I'm just a cynical, overly skeptical bitch, but I believe that Baldwin's appearance will absolutely bring out the work of geek culture in person, just as his support has online. I believe his Gamer Gate supporter fans being there will make the crowd more hostile, and I will certainly feel less safe there as a woman, and a fat woman at that. If there's anything 8-Chan and 4-Chan users love making fun of, it's a fat woman (trigger warning for suicide on this link). Why would I go to a party with these guys, even if it is the part of the year?

Sadly, Supanova haven't yet responded to the Baldwin backlash, despite a petition currently circulating trying to convince them to rescind their invitation (and the inevitable counter petition). I'm oretty sad about the idea of missing it this year - you will have seen from my previous posts about it how much this event means to me. I would hate to miss the Big Party for the first time in seven years, but it looks like I might have to sit this one out for my own peace of mind.

*A reader suggested PAX Australia might have higher attendance numbers, but I was unable to find exact attendance numbers for PAX online.

**doxxing is the practice of disclosing personal information about someone online, in order to facilitate harassment such phone calls and emails to their employer or family, and calling in fake 911 calls in order to get the person being harrassed a visit from the local SWAT team ("swatting")

Sunday, November 23, 2014

5 Reasons Why We Need to #SaveStorm

When I first heard Storm was getting her own solo comic, I was thrilled. As an X-fan from way back, I've always felt that Storm was a seriously overlooked character, with a lot of potential that had never been properly explored. It's only on Issue #5 currently, but already Greg Pak is doing an amazing job of writing everything I ever wanted to see from Storm - he's pulled out all the best, most interesting elements of her history, and thankfully discarded a lot of the nonsense.

Unfortunately, there are rumours circulating that Storm isn't selling that well, and Marvel are thinking of canning it. When I saw Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) on Twitter starting a campaign to help #SaveStorm, I knew I had to put my two cents into the mix. To that end, here are the five things I think that Storm brings to the comics universe that no other book is right now.

1. Storm is black.

It seems like a really freaking obvious point, but I think it's also a really important one. While the world of comics is evvver sooo slooowwwllly inching towards a more even spread of female and male characters, the racial diversity is still more or less nonexistent. I've been doing a series of pendants on my Etsy where I attempt to deconstruct the costumes of a whole bunch of super heroines and draw out the iconography, like is done so often for male characters like Batman or Superman. Because I like being inclusive, I looked over my ideas to see if there was enough diversity there, and realised I didn't have one hero of colour represented. I started working on a Storm design, but I couldn't think of any other superheroines of colour who were as widely recognised. And that is some BULLSHIT.

For all the reasons that we need more women in comics, we need more people of colour in comics too. Yes, yes, there ARE other super heroes of colour in both DC and Marvel. But there are not NEARLY enough. Every nerd (or blerd in this case) deserves to have at least one book where they can see themselves, or how they aspire to be. Every nerd deserves a book they feel like they "own". And I'm sure for a lot of women of colour, Storm is that book.

2. You don't have to be an X-fan to "get it"

Comics, and the X-Men in particular, are notoriously difficult to get a foothold in. When a set of characters has been around as long as the X-Men, it's understandable that the back story is going to be pretty extensive. Unfortunately, it's also ludicrously complex, with world building and breaking and alternate realities and time travel and reboots all over. Even as an X-Fan, I can absolutely understand why people look at that mess and say, "Uh, thanks but no thanks."
But I think Greg Pak has pulled off the ultimate comics magic trick of writing a Storm that is recognisable to long time fans, but also accessible to new ones. In the first issue, and at the start of each issue after that, they give you the important crib notes from her back story;

That pretty much sums it up. 
There is more detail in the actual issues obviously, but for someone who has never read anything of Storm before, I think it covers all the key points without being spoilery or getting bogged down in tedious detail only established fans really care about.

3. Storm explores her humanity

A problem I had with a lot of previous incarnations of Storm is that they went well out of their way to try and make her seem foreign and exotic, which somehow apparently translated to being cold and indifferent. This made for a somewhat tedious character. The thing is, she's done so many interesting things - she's been worshipped as a Goddess, she was Queen of a whole country for a while, she ran the Xavier School. But I don't feel like previous writers have really looked at how that would effect her as a person - I wanted to know more about what kind of person would end up in those situations, and how those situations shaped that person afterwards.

When someone she loves dies (spoiler alert, it's Wolverine), she mourns in a very human, familiar way. Compare to this to one of the more well known prior portrayals of Storm;

To be fair, this page is from a ludicrous old storyline where Carol Danvers and Rogue are unsuccessfully sharing the same body, so Dazzler decides to take them all shopping (comics everybody!), but I think it illustrates nicely the alien nature Storm used to have, in comparison to the warmth Greg Pak's writing has given her.

As someone who struggles with her temper due to a personality disorder. I found this sequence particularly touching;

It's true that I can't wreak physical havoc in the same way that someone with ultimate control over every aspect of the weather can, but when my emotions get out of control it can feel like I've destroyed my world. This sequence really touched me, in a way that X-Books don't usually.

4. It's pacing is unique

Some of my friends hate the pacing of the book currently, and that's fair enough. Different strokes, etc. But for me, I'm really enjoying how episodic, meditative and comparatively slow it is. I enjoy how it meanders around themes rather than a monster of the week, and I can't think of any other superhero comics currently being published that have that feel to them. But then I liked Ang Lee's Hulk as well, so my taste can be pretty unpopular.
I do think, however, that it's important to have diversity in superhero storytelling. Why bother picking up six books a month if they all feel the same?

5. Storm is so freaking badass

All my points so far have been relatively highbrow, which is fine for me, but what if you just want to see Storm kick some butt and be totally awesome? Luckily, this run of Storm has plenty of that too.

She does everything from save a village from a tsunami to take down an alien champion three times her size, and she does it all looking fantastic. I love that Victor Ibanez draws Storm as looking so strong and physically capable, especially in action sequences. Too many hero book artists take the opportunity with female heroes, especially flying ones, to jam the point of view right up their ass crack, and I HATE it. But Ibanez largely steers away from that particular icky trope.

I mean, just look at this iconic, heroic pose she's in here. It's a thing of beauty. And then when she turns on the light show...

BABOOM! I get so thrilled every time I see a female character taking people down in comics, because it still feels so new and subversive. And also because I would like to be able to fry people with my mind.

So those are my five reasons we should #SaveStorm. What do you think? Have you been reading Storm? Are you interested in getting into it? If you're reading it, are you an X-Fan, or an X-Virgin?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sydney Comic-Con 2014 - Cosplay Madness

Alright, this post will be pretty light on words but HEAVY on pictures, so strap yourself in and get ready for some awesome cosplay!

Artemis from the Young Justice cartoon - so sadly cancelled before it's time.

A real life DC Bombshell pinup

Femme Beetlejuice! Why the hell not.

Badass Black Canary

A surprisingly shy Black Widow

So this isn't technically a cosplay, but LOOK AT THAT SKIRT!
She got it from Kitten da Amore, if you want one of your own.

This costume BLEW MY SOCKS OFF. If you haven't read any Terry Pratchett books, this is Death, the Death of Rats and the Death of Fleas done INCREDIBLY accurately.
Death of Rats even had a little ratty tail!!
Elsa's train was incredible, and Bo Peep was carrying an adorable stuffed sheep purse.

I loved this 80's rendition of Captain America/Winter Soldier
Not the most elaborate cosplay, but I'm a sucker for a girl with a shield.

I am also the most ridiculous sucker for any and all Fem Captain Mal cosplayers.

This Gamora and Rocket team were mother and son - family cosplays always get me right in the feels.

I LOVE the ingenuity of this Fem Iron Man outfit.

I think I might have been the only person there who
recognised this cosplay - other people remember Lexx, right?

This Korra had SO much attitude!

Gender bent couples cosplay is my bag, baby, and this Magneto and Mystique team were magnificent.

I never thought I'd see a Mary Poppins cosplay, but I'm so glad I did!

Kamala Corps represent!

Like the Iron Man, I am absolutely in love with the ingenuity of this Wolverine cosplay. She even had a dogtag necklace!

So these aren't cosplay, it's just me and what I wore. I pulled out my beloved Valhur Morgullis necklace for the photo with Jason Momoa, which I thought might be a bit lame until I saw the 50 Danerys cosplayers in line.

This retro Poison Ivy was fantastic.

I spotted this girl in the afternoon and she looked SO tired of being stopped, but I'm never going to miss a good Simpsons reference.

Another family cosplay, this is a little Kaylee and an awesome Starbuck.

There were probably a million pictures taken of this Stargate Jaffa cosplayer, but I had to snap my own.

I see this woman at EVERY con, and every time she has her head covering co-ordinated
into a stealth cosplay. This time she was Super Mum!

Tank Boy. I just...I have no words.

One of the better Tomb Raider cosplays I've seen, and I've seen some FANTASTIC ones.

I was so embarrasingly excited to see a Trill cosplay! I think I might have freaked this guy out a little, but he did such a good job of the spots!

This Winter Soldierette just SLAYS me.

And finally, an absolutely perfect gender bent Wonder Girl! I wish they'd put the female version in this outfit. 

Phew! That was a hell of a picture post. Hope you enjoyed it!

Sydney Comic Con 2014 - Guests, Art, and Loot

Hello and welcome to my new, geekier blog! This is where I'll be putting a lot of my thoughts about straight up geeky things, that have nothing to do with anything covered over on Reluctant Femme.

What better way to kick off a new venture with a con round up! Admittedly, this is extraordinarily late, but better late than never right?

The organisation behind US super-convention New York Comic Con made their first foray into the Australian market this year, and as a con starved Australian geek I'd just like to say they're welcome back ANY time. As much as I love Supanova, I'm also incredibly and continually jealous of the US convention circuit. We just...we don't have that here. Supanova tours the country, every now and then a contender like Armageddon will try and squeeze in, and that's about it. Naturally, when Comic-Con was announced, I was already on board just because it was an extra con! I didn't have to wait a whole year for the next one! Then they announced Jason Momoa (of Stargate:Atlantis and Game of Thrones fame) would be there, and I knew that come hell or high water I would be there too.

Overall, I'm really glad I made it. I was a bit light on cash, which is never the best circumstance at a con, but the guests were great (not just Momoa), and the organisation was relatively good from a visitor perspective. The space chosen was kind of odd though - the convention was held at the Convention Centre, which makes sense until you realise the Convention Centre is actually on an island that's only accessible by ferry. No, I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to put a Convention Centre on an island. But on the upside, it did lead to the amusing experience of being on a boat full of cosplayers.

Me and my boy, giggling to ourselves while making up sea shanties about Pokemon

The standout guest of the weekend was, for me, Jason Momoa. Not only is he DEVASTATINGLY handsome, it turns out he's also quite an engaging speaker, and I was really interested to hear about an upcoming film he wants to make about colonialist history in his native Hawaii.

I paid a hilarious amount of money to find out what Jason Momoa smells like, and I regret nothing.

Unfortunately he didn't take those glasses off the whole time. He also chugged four coffees in 15 minutes.

Seriously though, the man is built like a golden brown, glistening ton of bricks.
The local guests I was most excited to see were the boys behind Danger 5, a comedy that will hopefully be starting it's second season on SBS very soon. If  you like bizarre, over the top parody, I can't recommend it enough, and the director and writer are just as entertaining as their show. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of them this time, so here's a poster they signed for me last time I saw them speak. David Ashby's signature is so big because he signed it with a pen held in the mouth of a puppet dog. kind of makes sense if you've seen the show.
Sort of.

The boy and I picked up some excellent swag, despite limited finances. The boy was very excited to be able to add to his collection of Batman Black and White figures after picking up a Darwyn Cooke designed sculpt.

Personally, I much prefer Darwyn Cooke's design, in the front.
The one in the back is by Tim Sale and I think it's ludicrous, but the Boy loves it.
I spotted some Game of Thrones blind boxes, which is pretty much a perfect storm of interest for me. They were also limited editions from NYCC, so obviously I had to pay far too much money at two separate stalls in order to get the greatest chance of awesomeness from the boxes. Somehow, I instead ended up with two matching figures.

On the upside, it is at least an awesome figure.

The boy picked up some great local art as well, which is something we both love doing at conventions.  This Batman print is from a local artist called Louie Joyce, and is actually the third print of his in our collection.

Another artist both the Boy and I are fans of is Douglas Holgate - The Boy has long been obsessed with a Batgirl/TinTin print Douglas did.

In order to save ourselves the expense of buying literally every print he had we decided instead to go for a custom sketch.

So incredibly adorable!
I have to admit though, the highlight of comic conventions for me is ALWAYS the cosplayers, and Comic Con did not disappoint. Stay tuned tomorrow for the beautiful people of Comic-Con!