The Big Idea: Lynne M. Thomas
Posted on April 11, 2012 Posted by John Scalzi 15 Comments
When one’s last book of feminist essays on pop culture (Chicks Dig Time Lords) walks off with Hugos for you and your co-editor, what do you do next? If you say “maybe co-edit another book of feminist essays on pop culture,” then you’re thinking like Lynne M. Thomas, who with Sigrid Ellis has edited Chicks Dig Comics, featuring essays on the form and culture from Seanan McGuire, Jill Thompson, Marjorie Liu, Elizabeth Bear and many other comics and science fiction notables. As Thomas explains, there’s a bond that ties these creators together, and it’s not just a love of capes and masks.
LYNNE M. THOMAS:
I’m a geek girl, and proud of it.
At Mad Norwegian Press, we’ve produced a series of books I call the Geek Girl Chronicles. In Chicks Dig Time Lords (co-edited by Tara O’Shea, which won a 2011 Hugo Award for Best Related Work) we talked about Doctor Who and its fandom. In Whedonistas (co-edited by Deborah Stanish) we celebrated Joss Whedon’s works.
In Chicks Dig Comics (co-edited by Sigrid Ellis), oddly enough (spoilers!), we celebrate comic books.
The initial big idea behind these books was that geeky properties (even those supposedly for men) appeal to women and girls. If you’ve spent any time on the internet, though, you’ve likely come to this conclusion without our help. But we discovered something else as the books came together.
In these books, we celebrate creativity, fandom, and community. People who love geeky things kind of rock with their conventions, websites, cosplay, charity fundraisers, and most of all, friendships. We’re just documenting the multitude of ways in which they do so.
Comics’ creators and fans rock particularly hard, so we thought we’d throw a really loud party to prove it.
In Chicks Dig Comics, women from both inside and outside of the industry explain in their own words what comics mean to them. We also interview some comics’ professionals who have produced works that tend to appeal to female readership. Our comic book pros talk about how comics are written, drawn, edited, and sold, and how business gets done in the industry. Fans discuss how their love spurs them to creative works: cosplay, fanzines, and attending and running conventions.
Chicks Dig Comics is like a portable mini-convention, with fans and creators side-by-side, trading comics back and forth and discussing their favorite bits. It’s also a book that you can hand to your parents, your kids, your sweeties, your friends, to help explain why you’re so excited to go to your local comics’ store every Wednesday when the new issues come in.
So, you know, we didn’t really try to cover too much in this volume.
Here’s what we learned while making this book: The Pro began as a drunken bar bet. Dominant Gorilla Syndrome exists. Batman is kind of a jerk, even when he’s right (but he still needs to hug Dick Grayson more often). The X-Men cause slumber party arguments and coming out stories, as well as professional disagreements. People still argue about their favorite X-men, but maybe we don’t have to choose. Sandman is really a revenge tragedy. Vampirella helps with coping with a childhood bully. Captain America might honor yesterday’s veterans and today’s protesters alike. Whether you’re a DC, Marvel, or indie fan, we’re all on Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency, deputized to solve the world’s problems. Hope is our superpower. All you need is a cape, and we know how to put together a stealth superhero costume in a pinch.
This is a book full of stories from people discovering their own superpowers, as readers, writers, artists, and creators.
The real Big Idea is that wonderful things can happen when people get together because of a shared cultural property.
And that is totally worth celebrating.
Chicks Dig Comics: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s
Visit Lynne Thomas’ blog. Follow her on Twitter.
To be fair, between Chicks Dig Time Lords and Chicks Dig Comics, Lynne also co-edited the excellent “book of feminist essays on pop culture” Whedonistas.
I was so excited to see this title. I love that the message is getting out that Women Read Comics TOO! Let’s hope that the comic industry wakes up and sees that too finally.
As a longtime fan of Fantastic Fangirls , I am delighted to see Sigrid, Caroline, and Jennifer getting involved in the publication of this book, and further delighted to see Lynne getting the chance to publicize it here at Whatever. You’re a mensch, John.
And yes, Ms. Thomas, Batman is kind of a jerk.
@Peter Yup, Batman *is* kind of a jerk. But he has his reasons. (And issues. LOTS of issues.)
We should also never forget that Superman Is a Dick, but that’s another issue.
Unfortunately, I fear that if the comic industry realizes females like comic books too, they will come out with something like Harlequin romances and then wonder why sales are poor. So then, once again, come to the false conclusion that women just don’t read comic books.
@A.M., for what it’s worth, our book has an awful lot of women who like comics just as they are. As with all other things, Sturgeon’s Law applies (even to romance and comics).
(The beauty of a diverse market is that there is something for everyone.)
I’ve often wanted to get into comic books, but I don’t know where to start. I mean, I love the movies and cartoons, and the art I’ve seen in friend’s comics is sometimes awesome, but aren’t most comics long running stories where it would be like dropping into a soap opera in the middle?
@ A.M. Donovan
Echoing what Lynne Thomas said about Sturgeon’s Law, Harlequin romances are just the dross of the Bell Curve. There are plenty of excellent romance writers who write stories every bit as high quality as the great stuff you can find in SFF, and plenty of blogs and magazines that will help you find them. Picking a random romance off the shelf is not the way to go. Romance, the only genre with an undeserved bad reputation worse than SFF and comics!
OMG. She talked about being on the Global Frequency. Squ33333!
Yes, I am still hoping with terrified anticipation that someday I’ll get a call informing me that I am on the Global Frequency…
“I’ve often wanted to get into comic books, but I don’t know where to start. I mean, I love the movies and cartoons, and the art I’ve seen in friend’s comics is sometimes awesome, but aren’t most comics long running stories where it would be like dropping into a soap opera in the middle?”
@Gulliver: Many comics are in fact the kind of continuity-based soap operas you describe, but a GREAT many, particularly today, are self-contained narratives, sometimes collected in a single volume, requiring no prior reader experience at all. In fact, some of the very best comics stories fall into this category:
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (one incredibly good volume/family-memoir)
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (one incredibly complex volume/SF-superhero)
Maus by Art Spiegelman (one grim volume/family-Holocaust-memoir)
Sandman by Neil Gaiman et al. (ten varied and astonishing volumes/fantasy-horror-mythology)
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore & David Lloyd (one gripping volume/dystopia-SF-adventure)
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (two fascinating volumes/history-memoir)
Have a blast!
@ Peter Cashwell
I actually have Watchmen in hardback on my to-read shelf, so I’ll probably start there. And I love Gaiman’s novels, so I know Sandman will be a good story. I’ll check out some of the others you recommended too. Thanks!
It’s worth a lot because, of course, there’s no Geek Girl Borg Queen laying down the approved party line on anything. There are plenty of are fine with the status quo, others who hate it with the burning force of a thousand sons, some will point out there’s plenty of sexist dick-weasels doing “indie” comics, and many who will chart their complicated, ambiguous releationship with the whole damn ball of wax with passion, verve and wit.
Just like teh menz. :)
Sounds great. Look forward to reading it.
this sounds great–but how did I miss “Chicks Dig Time Lords??” and “Whedonistas?” As soon as I hit “Post comment” I’m outta here to find it all! Allons-y Alonso!