Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Bedroom Dancing

I am a dancer. Dancing is good for my brain, it makes me feel good, it keeps me happy, it's not something I can control, I *HAVE* to dance. I have to dance every day otherwise I feel blue, anxious, overwhelmed, and wonky, not dancing upsets the natural rhythm of everything. 

I've always danced. When I was 4 I did ballet and tap every Saturday until I was 12. My ballet teacher was called Pam, and even though it was just a shoddy rented room in a community centre in Batley,we had to call her Madame Pam. She had a cane and if yr bum or your chest was sticking out when you did barre work she would give you a big slap on the offending protruding body part to make you yank it in. I eventually got too fat for ballet and I was getting caned everywhere, but there was no way for me to yank anything in anymore so I quit. 

I danced at school lots. I had no friends, I was the weird kid reading Lord of the Rings and trying not to make eye contact with anyone. Yet despite that I did dance at school and it turned out I was better at it than all the girls who picked on me. I had no shame, I was earnest and I tried hard at things publicly and couldn't work out why I was picked on so much, not realising that not trying was the way to blend in. I danced to Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation in assembly. My dance teacher was happy she had found someone who didn't give a shit and didn't have any friends to lose by embarassing themselves on stage. Despite having no self esteem, I was oddly happy dancing in front of everyone who made my life hell. I just really loved dancing. The following week I danced in assembly to Space Jam, remember that amazing hit? And then the following week I danced to Backstreet's Back. I may have had no friends, but I got an A in dance class. Who needs friends when you can dance?

At college I did dance again. But this time it was acceptable. All the freaks and weirdos did performing arts and dance was actually considered cool amongst the queers and the weirdos that were my friends (yay, I finally had friends!). That said, I did do an interpretive dance about consumerism to Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' for my A-level dance piece. It was a low point. 

But I love dancing. I dance every morning before I go to work and if I don't do this then I know my day is gonna be bad. I'm not exagerating. Every single morning.  I like to channel Angela Chase and her many many feelings:

I'm not kidding, bedroom dancing is my life. I dance every single day. It makes me happy, and if I'm in a bad mood I can do some proper angry dancing like Troy in High School Musical.

When my OCD is pretty bad it can make me not want to leave the house and I will look for really rubbish and flimsy excuses to stay inside for as long as possible. But I know that staying in bed is bad for me. Sometimes it's ok to admit that you need to stay in bed for a day, but ultimately it's very bad for my brain. But if I feel like I can't leave the house then at the very least I know that I have to do some bedroom dancing, even if I feel like an idiot. The world's a mess and you're my only cure...

While bedroom dancing is my life, dancing in queer spaces is the best.  Creating or reclaiming a space and making it yours feels amazing. I've been organising diy queer grrrl clubnights  and dance parties for 10 years now. From Mass Teens On The Run, to Shake-O Rama, to Bad Reputation. I've had amazing experience with these club nights. Bad Reputation was my favourite. I got to create a space with my friends and dance my ass off to music that I only ever really danced to in my bedroom before. I remember dancing to Muscle Memory by Dananananaykroyd with my fellow djs at Bad Rep (dj tip: never ever ever stay in the dj booth while djing, that's boring. It's best to run out onto the dancefloor to dance like crazy to the song you've just put on. Alternatively, make the dj booth yr dancefloor and dance like crazy in there.). Dancing to that Danananaykroyd song was amazing, previously we'd only ever danced to it in our own bedrooms and we danced so hard that I thought my bones were going to break.

I find it hard to articulate why dancing is so important to me. Club culture will never be considered proper cultural activism. But it's community building and validating and inspiring all the same. I know how ridiculous that sounds. My awesome friend Eva made a short film about exactly that. You should watch that cuz I'm having trouble trying to say what I mean here and the film does it so much better. 

This Wednesday I am going back to dancing lessons at Irreverant Dance. 

 I heard about Irreverent Dance last year when I was looking for dance classes but was too scared to actually attend any. I'm queer, I'm a fatty, I have hairy pits and legs, and while I absolutely love my amazing body to pieces, I knew that stepping out of my world into a world where I could be considered weird wasn't something that would be very good for me. Add all that to the nerves of dancing in front of strangers and it didn't seem like it would be an option and so I wished like crazy there was a dance class for people like me. A friend pointed me in the direction of Irreverent Dance who won me over with the introduction on their website:

Not everyone who wants to learn Ballet is young, skinny, graceful, cis-female and gives a toss.
In fact, most of us aren’t…

I booked myself on the Irreverent Dance Hip Hop class and for 2 months had the most fun ever. I danced in front of strangers, my self confidence improved by a million percent, I met new people, I got over a lot of fears, and I learned lots of fun new steps. Honestly, dancing to Usher in a club will never be the same again. It helped with other stuff too, I could feel that issues surrounding my ocd and anxiety improved during this time. I'm not saying dancing is a miracle cure, but it helps me and makes me feel awesome, and when I'm dancing I honestly don't have time to think about the other stuff. 

This wednesday I am going back to Irreverent Dance for a new term and this time I'm doing tap dancing as well as hip hop. I'm nervous as I haven't done tap in over 20 years and I'm obviously scared about making an idiot of myself in front of other people. When I was a dorky teen with no friends I had no fear of trying in public, I hadn't yet learned to be self concious of failing in front of people. But as an adult, trying things in public is something I'm a bit afraid of. I'm working on it and dance classes like this really help and make me feel amazing. Also I wanna learn to tap dance on rollerskates like this so bad:

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Paul Rudd will never win an oscar. And it's a damned shame.

You know how I wrote this post bragging how I'd have my 2nd issue of my Bruce zine done in February? yeah, well that's not gonna happen, I don't know what I was thinking giving myself such a short deadline. This thing has taken on a life of it's own and it's gonna be a long one.  Usually I do all my writing when I can't sleep but unfortunately for me I've been insomnia free for a few months now. Bummer. 

So in the meantime I'm gonna make a fun super mini zine about Paul Rudd. It seemed like a fun time wasting thing to do. So while it looks like I'm just spending my wild saturday night searching for endless gifs of Paul Rudd dancing, this is in fact serious research.

  Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket


Friday, 18 January 2013

Women in comics

 So much has been written about the Fake Geek Girl phenomenon recently. Remember how Tony Harris called us all ‘damned liars’ who ‘don’t know shit about comics’ and Dirk Manning called us “whores”. And how DC repeatedly published The Imposter ad on the back of comics I was happily reading, a weekly reminder that comics are probably not for me. And then Anita Sarkeesian was the subject of mass online bullying due to her kickstarter to research tropes vs women in videogames, and it seems that not only are girl geeks, comic fans, and gamers not welcome, but we shouldn't ever dare draw attention to the fact that things might not be equal. 

The comic industry, like any industry is sexist. Geek subcultures, like all subcultures are sexist. Fact. Total fucking fact. 

Taken from Women Read Comics in Public tumblr

I first started reading comics when I was 15 and I found it a tough world to break into. I didn't know anyone else who read comics, I didn't have a cooler older brother I could borrow comics from, I had absolutely no knowledge about anything. I lived in the back end of nowhere and the nearest comic shop to me was an hour away so I relied heavily on my local public library for their small supply of comics and graphic novels and my decision of what to read and what not to read was purely trial and error. I felt alienated from the world of comics a little bit, I found comic shops to be an intimidating space at first due to my own insecurities and also cuz I had no knowledge whatsoever. Comic shops are intimidating spaces, it feels like at any second you might be quizzed on your DC history or be asked for a secret password. And while I appreciate this is intimidating for anyone, this can be an additional barrier for newbie girl comic readers who maybe tell themselves 'this isn't for me, I don't belong here.' I thought comics were for boys and so I left them well alone for the longest time. 

But women and girls do read comics. All kinds of people do. I get frustrated that so much of geek comics culture is trying to convince us otherwise. I feel shitty that this fake geek girl advert was printed on nearly every DC comic I read, a weekly reminder that comics aren’t for me and that I'm the imposter that the ad is referring to.

 I love this quote from Gail Simone...

…being at a convention, a busy convention, and having dozens, sometimes hundreds of women in my signing line, not there because they are being dragged there but because they love comics—taking pictures with them, admiring their amazing cosplay, listening to their ideas and hopes and favorite stories, listening to their passion about the characters and the medium in general, talking with endless female aspiring writers and so many ridiculously talented female colleagues…
…and then having to go to an interview or a panel and being asked why don’t women read comics.

We read comics. You can see us in comic shops,you can see us at conventions, and you can see us on the internet being passionate about the things that we love. Not only do we read comics, but us women make comics too. Women are writers, artists, colourists, inkers, letterists, editors etc. You might be fooled into thinking otherwise though. Go to a comic convention and you will see largely all male line ups and all male panels, perhaps with a token female writer dotted here and there. Ok so not all conventions, some conventions are pretty clued up and are pretty great at showcasing women working in comics. But there are still so many conventions that have little or no women present as guests as well as hardly any people of colour. It’s not representative of the proportion of women working in comics. And visibility matters. If those female creators aren't visible at comic conventions you might carry on assuming that women don’t make comics, and perhaps fewer women will think about working in that industry, perhaps fewer women and girls will read comics. It’s a controversial topic. 

A lot of people in the industry don’t like us talking about it cuz we’re all just people and sexism doesn’t exist right? Richard Clemonts thought that the women in comics panel at Thought Bubble comics festival in Leeds last year was unnecessary and that women should just be included in every panel for fair representation. And while Richard totally has a point - of course women creators should be included in all panels, they still aren't included for the most part, and so ‘women in comics’ panels still need to exist at some conventions, to have informed discussions and to provide a spotlight to the hardworking female creatives in the industry. Personally I like all-women panels, I like focusing on those artists and writers and I think it shows a real strength and focus. All-male panels are commonplace and are never ever questioned and until ALL panels at conventions feature a more even split, I will continue to support and want all-women panels at conventions in addition to women appearing alongside their male colleagues in other panels.

Last year I went to the best comic convention of my life – Morrisoncon, a three day event in Las Vegas celebrating the work of Grant Morrison and his peers and was easily the best convention I’ve ever attended. But while the attendees at the convention were pretty diverse in terms of gender and sexualities, there were still no female creators included in the line up of guests. During one of the breaks me and my friends Seleena and Anita snuck onto the stage while nobody was looking and quickly took a picture of a fake all-female panel of the three of us as a joke that we would be the only women panel on stage that day. (Also we just wanted a pic of us on stage for fun, have I mentioned how much fun Morrisoncon was?)
I don’t mean to sound negative, I can’t put into words just how amazing Morrisoncon was, it was definitely life changing (yes, a comic convention CAN be life changing) Just imagine how perfect it could have been with the addition of Jill Thompson or maybe Becky Cloonan on that lineup.

Comics can be an intimidating world to break into and I would love some of my non-comic friends to climb aboard without these barriers in place. There are so many great women working in comics right now and so many exciting things coming out in 2013.But even male creators writing all female comics books are being attacked. I still can't believe the amount of crap that Brian Wood is receiving for writing an X-Men book with an all female line-up (not only that but half of this team are also women of colour). He's been accused of reverse sexism and a lot of male comic fans are displaying their stupidity for all to see by attempting to correct Brian Wood. "Um, it's X-Men not X-Women." Which means that throughout the entire  history of the X-Men they have simply viewed the vital female members of the X-Men as supporting characters and not real X-Men at all. I love the reply from acclaimed feminist comics writer, Gail Simone, in response to Brian Wood, author of the new all-female X-Men book:

The wonderful Jill Pantozzi wrote a great piece for IGN today reminding me that there is so much to get excited for in terms of women in comics this year. The first thing I do when I open a comic is to check the credits. I look at the writer, artist, inker, colourist, letterist, editor etc and see if there were any women involved in the production of the book I'm reading. There are some brilliantly talented women working in mainstream comics right now (and a billion other women working for independent publishers or who are self publishing) and here's just a few people who you should be excited about in 2013...

Gail Simone (Batgirl)

You know sometimes when you have a hero and then you have that slight moment of panic as you google their personal politics and cross your fingers, toes, and eyes that they are a feminist and not a homophobe or a racist or a transphobe or anything awful like that? We’ve all done that right? RIGHT? Anyway, I don’t have to google anything about Gail Simone’s politics because her politics are blatant. She talks about them, she's an activist, and she's awesome.  She’s a feminist, she’s not transphobic (a novelty these days), she actively discusses race and disabilities and stuff that I care about. And that shows. Her personal website ‘Women in Refrigerators’ was a way to document and ridicule the ways in which female characters in comics were tortured, assaulted, raped, and murdered as lazy plot devices to fuel the (more important) stories of male characters. Gail Simone writes amazing female characters and my favourite series she has ever written for is Birds of Prey. Gail Simone can do an ensemble cast like no other, she makes each character’s voice individual rather than just a mass continuation of her own voice. You can tell that she loves her characters, especially Barbara Gordon. Babs as Oracle was one of my all time favourite characters. Like most people I was annoyed and frustrated at the new 52 reboot by DC as I loved having a central kickass smart and awesome character with a disability and felt that the move to bring Barbara out of her wheelchair and effectively ‘curing’ her was offensive and wrong for that character. Knowing that Gail had now been placed in charge of this reboot (a smart move by DC) reassured me and I kept reading and I was genuinely moved at how good the writing was and how Simone managed to show the trauma, survivor’s guilt and all the other complexities surrounding Batgirl’s rehabilitation. The latest arc surrounding The Joker is chilling and terrifying and the book just keeps getting better. I’m so glad Gail is continuing with Batgirl, I can’t imagine anyone else writing for her right now, and to be honest I will continue to read anything with Gail Simone’s name attached.

Kelly  Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel, Ghost, Avengers Assemble)

DeConnick is on fire right now and so many of her books are on my pull list. She was the subject of some bad convention press last year as the Dublin International Comics Expo had her listed as ‘the wife of Matt Fraction’ (her husband, who is also a comics writer) despite the fact that DeConnick has also been writing comics for over a decade, she was simply identified as a wife. Currently she is working on the revamped Captain Marvel series with a new Captain Marvel - former Ms Marvel, Carol Danvers. Deconnick is also writing Avengers Assembled, and the wonderful revamped series for Dark Horse Ghost. Her writing is funny, smart, and again, is especially positive surrounding female characters. Avengers Assembled features not just Captain Marvel, but also Spider-Woman and presents a great balance in the team, avoiding the standard device of sidelining female characters within an ensemble team book, they are actually present and DOING THINGS!

Fiona Staples (Saga)

Fiona Staples creates the most beautiful and mindblowing art for Saga, a story of love and war in a surreal sci-fi setting. Staples manages to create believable worlds and alien races that inhabit the world of Saga. Despite it’s sci-fi setting the story is grounded very much in the real with love/hate romantic relationship, issues of meeting the in-laws, and oh yeah a series of alien bounty hunters on their tale. These stories have to feel very real and normal despite it’s not so normal setting and Fiona’s ilustrations and colours bring it all home as well as illustrating the weirder and more surreal characters of these worlds.

Karen Berger/Shelly Bond (Vertigo and DC)

It was pretty big news last year when Karen Berger stepped down as Executive Editor after 20 years at Vertigo, and nearly 30 at DC comics. Karen Berger saw Vertigo’s inception as an offshoot from DC for mature readers. Under Karen Berger, Vertigo nurtured and developed a whole heap of incredible titles such as Hellblazer, Fables, 100 Bullets, Sandman, V For Vendetta, Doom Patrol mixing creator owned series as well as new versions of previous DC titles. Vertigo now exists as a purely creator owned publishing house and Karen Berger has handed over to Shelly Bond. I’m including Karen Berger in this list of important women in comics because Vertigo was probably what got me into comics. When I started reading comics I was slightly dubious and ever-so-snobby about superhero comics, I wanted to read grown up comics and these all seemed to be published by Vertigo, my gateway drug into the larger world of comics. And yes eventually I got past my whole snobbery and became addicted to superhero stories too. Basically Karen Berger got me into comics and I owe her a lot and Shelly Bond is continuing the good work as Vertigo publish more great titles this year.

Ann Nocenti (Catwoman, Katana)

The most exciting thing ever is happening this year, Katana is leaving Birds of Prey and getting her own solo comic book! Why is this so exciting? Well first of all because I love Katana as a character (as I love every single character in Birds of Prey) but there is so much we don’t know about her yet and I’m looking forward to seeing her outside of an ensemble cast, also the soul of her dead husband lives in her sword and sometimes she talks to it and stuff. She’s pretty ace. But also a solo book featuring a woman of colour from DC? This is big stuff. Ann Noncenti is the perfect person to write Katana which comes out February this year. I already love her work on Catwoman, which is a character I love but I’ve seen her poorly handled by bad writers (and bad artists) before.

Ming Doyle (Mara)

Only one issue in and I’m already hooked on Brian Wood’s Mara, partly due to Ming Doyle's awesome and beautiful artwork. The story is set in a future land where money and politics revolve around sport as a franchised form of entertainment. Ming Doyle's art is stunning. I really love the way that she draws the eponymous character Mara. No cheesecake tits and ass here, Mara is athletic, that's the point, her build is strong but not titillating. Her strength is apparent in Doyle's art and I can't wait to read the rest of the series this year.

Becky Cloonan (The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys)

I don’t know much about how Brian Wood chooses to work with other artists but I do really appreciate the fact that he often works with female artists for his books, and he has got me into a lot of women artists through his various comics. I first saw Becky Cloonan’s art in the amazing Channel Zero book published by Dark Horse and I have remained a fan ever since. I loved her self published book The Mire last year and I am SUPER PSYCHED for The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys which launches in June this year with a preview on Free Comic Book Day. If anyone can make California 2019 come to life it’s Cloonan and the early previews for Killjoys look exactly how I pictured them in my head. 

Jordie Bellaire (colourist) 

People always forget about the colourists! Jordie has coloured Nowhere Men, Captain Marvel, Mara, and Manahattan Projects, some of my absolute favourite books right now. Her work on these books really does stand out (seriously, these titles are amazing, read them!)and she does that great thing of making her work fit specific titles exactly, and it really shows. I'm looking forward to seeing more awesome work from her this year and her name seems to be cropping on so many of the books I read.

Marjorie Liu (Astonishing X-Men)

Last year Marjorie Liu officiated the most talked about gay wedding in comics land (other than the wedding of Kevin Keller)as Northstar married boyfriend Kyle in Astonishing X-Men. Whether Marvel really wanted to confront issues of diversity in comics by exploring an interracial gay relationship in a meaningful way or if Marvel just wanted to tick a box, we'll never know. But what is important is how the story continues after such a headline issue. Liu's writing for the X-Men is so good and she also wrote one of my favourite X series X-23 and throughout all the Marvel events, Astonishing X-Men is one of the few constant X titles on my pull list.

I love that my pull list for 2013 is full of women writers, artists, and colourists. And this is just the most mainstream comics I'm talking about. There are SO MANY women comic creators and artists and editors and publishers working outside of the big name comics publishers and making amazing work right now. And there are so many women and girls reading comics too, I won't let anyone tell me otherwise. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Darkness on the edge of fandom

It's new year and new zines and I am feeling super inspired and so began writing my second issue of my Bruce Zine today!

Me and Bruce was the first zine I wrote about my obsession with Bruce Springsteen. It's a diy comic explaining how I got into The Boss and documenting all the weird ways he has been present in my life. I was never planning to show the zine to anyone, it was more of a diary I was writing for myself, trying to get to the bottom of my obsession with Bruce. I never really thought anyone else would want to read it and I never imagined that there would be other diy feminist queers out there that felt the same as me. I was really shocked last year when I took the zine to Queer Zine Fest London and had the most amazing conversations with a handful of queers that GOT IT. 

My wonky Bruce tattoo!

I find it hard to explain my love for Bruce. He's a white heterosexual middle aged male millionaire stadium rocker. I'm a working class diy queer feminist. I just don't listen to music like Springsteen's as a rule. My favourite bands tend to have drum machines and keyboards and they tend to be from Glasgow in 1996. The first zine I wrote never really explored why it is that I love him and his music so much, it just described the different ways he's in my life. Since I wrote that zine I've become much more aware of other people within queer and diy communities sharing my love for Bruce.

There are so many Bruce zines and comics right now!

Because The Boss Belongs to Us: Queer Femmes on Bruce Springsteen is a super ace zine full of stories of queers connecting to Bruce. You can download the full pdf here

Wings for Wheels is an incredible comic anthology that comes in the most beautiful record sleeve slip case ever. It's a compilation of stories describing funny anecdotes and personal connections to Bruce through childhood memories. It also has the most beautiful artwork. I can't recommend this comic enough!

The amazing Joe DeGeorge from Harry and the Potters has started his own comic. And yeah ok, so these comics are technically about the band Good Luck, however issue 1 features the one and only Bruce, and issue 2 is possibly the greatest tribute to Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band that I've seen. You can buy both issues here

My favourite Bruce pic in the whole fucking world

The lovely Charlotte Richardson Andrews sent me this amazing article the other day called On Bruce Springsteen and Disappointing Fathers which I'm now a little bit obsessed with. I realise that a lot of my Bruce obsession is partly to do with my Dad and his experiences, although not really to do with any fallouts with my Dad like this article talks about. I've appropriated so much of the characters and lyrics in Springsteen's songs to fit my Dad, and I think I'm finally starting to understand why I love The Boss so much. I've decided the next issue of my zine is called Me + Bruce + My Dad and hopefully I'll have it finished by next month.

Also it's the 40th anniversary of Greetings From Asbury Park this weekend, so lets all have a dance to celebrate!

Bad Rep zine

Bad Reputation was one of the most awesome things that I was ever part of. Back in Summer 2011 I dj'd at a birthday party at the amazing Resistance Gallery and got to know Garry Vanderhorne, owner and manager of the best venue I've ever been to. He invited me to set up a new queer club night at his venue and so I assembled my gang of bffs and Bad Rep was born. 

Froogs, Monkey, Zomboy, Casio djing at the freakin BFI!

We played riot grrrl punk pop hip hip diy queerxcore hits for queers + grrrls + punx + geeks from summer 2011 to Dec 2012. Sadly Bad Rep is no more, as the club itself was super time consuming and because there are other exciting projects in store for all of the Bad Rep collective. To mark the end of Bad Rep I made a mini zine transcribing part of an interview we had done with our friend Johanna for her zine on queer spaces. I took parts of the interview, drew cartoons of us all being earnest, and made a zine of our ramblings to give away for free to the first 50 people that came to the final ever Bad Rep. More people would have got copies had I not broken the photocopier at work frantically making copies in time for Queer Zine Fest London.

So for those who didn't get a copy I've scanned in the zine here for you read instead. I wrote more about Queer Zine Fest here and more about the final ever Bad Rep here

Click to enlarge