The Wire Mother’s Lullaby

Hunger is the beginning of every story. -Kristiana Willsey

I knew a story about a queen who had everything but
a baby, a milkfat miniature to hold tight

forever. She ate witch-blossoms and got one good,
one who hid herself in tatters and rode

out of her life. If I ever felt that hunger
chewing its way in, I would scratch flowers

from the earth until my fingers cracked. I would swallow
a thousand whole to see myself good

and small, to press my sleeping self’s ear
on the hollow where I think a pulse should be.

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Filed under Comics, Poetry

IGNCC 2016, and general updates

Before I get into the International Graphic Novels and Comics Conference 2016, some general updates:

I’ve created a list of services here, which lays out some ways I can work with you on projects and events. I’ve also put together a Panels and Podcasts page, where you can find out more about and listen to my comics-related chat.

***

This year’s International Graphic Novels and Comics Conference (IGNCC 2016) was great. I was feeling no small amount of trepidation beforehand, considering that last year’s International Bande Dessinee Society (IBDS) conference in Paris was an exercise in white privilege-induced anxiety, and had resolved that this year’s conference would be my last academic comics conference, at least in the UK/Europe.

However, IGNCC 2016 — in Manchester this year — felt even more positive than I could have hoped. Often I’m the only non-white person at these events. At IGNCC I met a Native American scholar* as well as several other Asian attendees, including a guy from the Philippines (this NEVER happens; I’d never met another Filipino person at a humanities event until this) and a Chinese woman. I also met some fellow female scholars from America and Spain, and had some delightful chats with them during and after conference events.

The theme of the conference was “Graphic Gothic,” so there were a lot of papers about Batman. The first panel I went to ended up being all about space and madness in Gotham City, which was totally my jam even though I don’t always connect with talk of spatial/architectural significance. My panel, “Gendering Gotham,” which dealt with representations of women and gender in Batman, featured a female moderator and another female speaker as well as myself. Three women talking about gender and feminism — and no one asked us any shitty questions. This also never happens. The questions we did get led to debate, discussion, and friendly chats, but no sexism or mansplaining in sight; overall, very respectful without anyone losing sight of their opinions.

I had to leave on the second day of the conference due to other work commitments, so possibly there were negative occurrences on the days I didn’t attend. But for me, the only real drawback was that several of the panels I wanted to attend were at the same time as mine, or conflicted with panels more directly connected to my research interests. Then again, maybe that’s a good sign. Too many interesting panels is much better than too few!

On the whole, it was an excellent note on which to go out. I felt emotionally and socially safe, I met some really interesting people, and I felt fired up about my research again. (I even wrote another poem, which I’ll post here soon!) More conferences should take a tip from IGNCC 2016.

 

*I think he was Native American; I didn’t ask, but he was from the Black Hills area of South Dakota and definitely wasn’t entirely white.

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More punishments

As a supplement to the previous post:

 

You’re one bad day away…

 

From being me, he says, having learned the spitting

dialects of foreign gunfire, to read blood and powder

like cold tea leaf dregs. From the meat-stink of combat

dug into your nails (it never scrubs out).

 

We were born

on a bad day, then, with the husks of bad days

heaped and rotting at our doors. He learned the rush

of offense. We always knew it: hissed attacks rustling

 

through once-friendly quarters, a fearless step springing

spikes into the heart — we were children, torn open

in full color. No bad day disremembers

how scars grow with your skin, not enough. Learn that.

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Punishments

My favorite Punisher comics are when he turns into your dad (or, as they say up here in Cal-Hab, “yer da”) on Facebook, complaining groundlessly about “liberals” while he beats up bad guys.

No, wait — my favorites are the ones where he infiltrates high schools to stop kids from taking drugs, and beats up children and/or spies on them from his unmarked van in the process.

Then again, I also have a soft spot for Punisher: Armory, which takes ten full issues to detail the specs of his many weapons while using far too many exclamation points and words like “hooboy”.

It’s not a rational concept, is my point, which is why I like it.

There isn’t much you can do in the way of realism when it comes to the Punisher; you can mirror real-world events, such as the late 80s post-Jonestown story about a suicide cult in South America, but you can’t ask readers to realistically cheer on murder. It’s a power fantasy. That’s the appeal.

…especially for me, because as a woman of color, as an Asian woman, I don’t obviously see those very often.

I’m not just talking about power in terms of guns or ass-kicking. White straight guy characters are relatively free of the burden of representation, which allows them to be individuals rather than ambassadors for an entire race, gender, nationality, etc. If they screw it up, countless white straight guys will be next in line to pick up the slack, so they only have to be themselves.

An Asian character whose shtick revolves around killing bad guys would at least be some sort of mystery shadow ninja. If they were female? A mystery shadow ninja/sexy murder geisha. I can’t imagine what a white-guy world would make of a black character whose house was full of guns and went around shooting the evil rich.

The Punisher is. He’s been called a force of nature, which is not only accurate but highlights his role as something natural/unconstructed/unbounded by ninja bullshit (okay, he did go to a “Ninja Training Camp” for a few issues in 1989, but he got the hell out of there because it was fake ninja bullshit). If I could see more characters who looked like me being described as natural, without excessive reference to Mt. Fuji or dragons or whatever, that would be ideal.

Not that I want to be a white guy. I’m comfortable as an Asian woman, proud of my heritage, and at ease with my gender identity. But in public life I’m continuously looking over my shoulder to ensure that I don’t misrepresent, that I don’t put forth a bad image of my race(s), gender, or nationality as a whole, and it’s exhausting. Frank Castle and implacable white male avengers like him have never had to worry about that. What they do stands alone. I wish I had that kind of access to institutional power, where I can stand as an individual and not as a de facto representative for several marginalized groups, often all at once.

That’s the power fantasy I’m talking about. And maybe I shouldn’t want that; in fact, I’m sure it’s hugely problematic. But until I see more characters like me at the center of that fantasy, Frank and his ilk are kind of all I have.

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“Educated into our freedom”: what we talk about when we talk about Charlie Hebdo

On 2 September 2015, three-year-old Aylan Kurdi and his family fled Syria as refugees.

He drowned during the crossing.

Read his name again; say it. Aylan – not Alan – Kurdi. That is the name of a boy who will never see his fourth birthday or see the new homeland his family was trying to reach. His parents will never hold him, hear him laugh, watch him grow up, introduce him to a world filled with something other than war and fear and wanton destruction.

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The void of the abyss: Nameless #1-6

Nameless eyeball

WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS

I’VE TRIED TO AVOID THEM BUT SOMETIMES THEY JUST HAPPEN ANYWAY, YOU KNOW?

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Filed under Grant Morrison

No, YOUR mom was born in the shadow dimension

or: adventures in collaborative critique

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with a friend on a joint analysis of Pax Americana and how it fits into the Multiversity series. (Readers of academic texts and other criticism may recognize him as the author of the “Prismatic Age” piece referenced by Marc Singer, Will Brooker, et al.)

It’s my first venture into collaborative critique, and — considering that a) I normally hate group projects and b) the PhD has lent comics analysis a new level of stress — this has been going surprisingly well.

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Filed under Frank Quitely, Grant Morrison