CHICKS DIG COMICS
Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Chicks Dig Comics is the third of Lynne Thomasís anthologies which look at female fans of nerd culture, following her Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords and Whedonistas! This time, her co-editor is Sigrid Ellis, but it is beginning to feel like Thomas has gone to the well a little to often on this theme. The problem, however, may be that her topic of ďcomicsĒ is too broad to allow the individual essays to form into a cohesive statement, as was possible with the earlier books.
Some of the individual essays stand out, especially when they cause the reader to view the fansí obsessions in a new way. Erica McGillivray's article on cosplay points out not only the fanís desire to recreate their costumes, and the reasons behind it, but also very cogently describes the response the charactersí creators have when they come face to face with someone who cares enough to create an accurate representation, especially when it isnít one of the major characters.
While the early volumes relied heavily on the voices of fans speaking about finding their community and discovering a love for Doctor Who or the works of Joss Whedon, Chicks Dig Comics feels as if it is more heavily slanted at women who work in the industry. This means the volume has more of an insider feel. Instead of being about the fans, it is about the creators, most of whom arrived at their positions because they started out as fans. Even those entries by authors who are not comic creators seem to be written by professional authors rather than by the "average" fan.
One of the mainstays of comics is the existence of secret (and multiple) identities. For comic book fans who feel out of place in the society in which they find themselves, this is a natural hook and more than one of the essays deals with a fan's strong emotional tie to an individual character, whether it's Tammy Garrison's declaration of "I'm Batman" or Caroline Pruett writing about her "Secret Identity." Perhaps the most moving of these stories, however, is by editor Ellis, who explained how reading about Kitty Pryde* helped her come to terms with her own sexuality. This is the kind of essay which demonstrates the difference comics (or anything, really) can make in an individual's life.
Unfortunately, most of the stories related in Chicks Dig Comics arenít gripping. Rather than describing the discovery that they are not alone and that others share their enthusiasm, too many of these essays come across as listening to a generally meaningless debate about whether Emma Frost is better than Jean Grey or whether DC and Marvel can be as cool as the independents. These debates may be enjoyable for the people who are participating, but to outsiders, they only serve to strengthen the image of fandom as a geeky ghetto.
The essays in Chicks Dig Comics show the importance of comics in the lives of the women who read and create them, however their enjoyment, despite the massive numbers of people who attend comic conventions each year, comes across as a more isolated fandom than those covered by Thomas's earlier books. The sense of community isn't as strong and the breakthroughs are often on a more isolated level, which is not to say that they aren't important and life changing, just that for someone reading the essays contained in the book, the discoveries are not, in general, earth shattering.
|Gail Simone||Mary Batson and the Chimera Society|
|Seanan McGuire||Summers and Winters, Frost and Fire|
|Erica McGillivray||Tripping Through the Looking Glass, Stepping Into Gotham City: Cosplay, Creation, and Community|
|Amanda Conner||An Interview with Amanda Conner|
|Carla Speed McNeil||A Matter of When|
|Rachel Edidin||The Other Side of the Desk|
|Terry Moore||An Interview with Terry Moore|
|Sara Ryan||Nineteen Panels About Me and Comics|
|Tammy Garrison||I'm Batman|
|Alisa Bendis||An Interview with Alisa Bendis|
|Caroline Pruett||My Secret Identity|
|Jill Pantozzi||The Green Lantern Mythos: A Metaphor for My (Comic Book) Life|
|Jen Van Meter||Vampirella or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Page Turn|
|Tara O'Shea||Confessions of a (Former) Unicorn|
|Sheena McNeil||The Evolution of a Tart|
|Sigrid Ellis||Kitty Queer|
|Jennifer Margret Smith||The Captain in the Capitol|
|Lloyd Rose||Burn, Baby, Burn|
|Sue D.||Tune in Tomorrow|
|Greg Rucka||An Interview with Greg Rucka|
|Jill Thompson||Comic Book Junkie|
|Delia Sherman||From Pogo to Girl Genius|
|Kelly Thompson||I am Sisyphus|
|Anika Dane Milik||Captain America's Next Top Model|
|Louise Simonson||An Interview with Louise Simonson|
|Sarah Kuhn||Me vs. Me|
|Sarah Monette||A Road That Has No Ending Revenge|
|Elizabeth Bear||You're On the Global Frequency|
|Colleen Doran||Crush on a Superhero|
*As a side note, I'll point out that according to the first story in which Kitty Pryde makes an appearance, she grew up about five blocks away from where I live and am writing this.
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