Bitch Planet *Image Comics) is one of my favorite comics being written and published these days and issue 8 came out yesterday and might be the strongest of the 8 so far. Both the writing by Kelly Sue DeConnick and the artwork by Valentine de Landro are great and work very well together. As do the colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick and the letters by Clayton Cowles.
While I also simply enjoy the narrative that these artists have put together, I'm also pretty comfortable in admitting that as a middle-aged (hopefully), white, straight male, I often find myself uncomfortable in my lack of understanding of what individuals that do not fall into those categories go through on a daily basis. Bitch Planet is definitely a Feminist work--there is certainly a patriarchal slant to the world which has put a prison for non-compliant women up in space. This particular issue introduces Rose, the first transgender character to the prison. It also introduces what appears to be a secret underground meeting of non-compliant women back on Earth, which is actually how this issue begins. Finally, there is the introduction of a non-compliant in the prison that appears to be a very important non-compliant (per the secret underground meeting). Her name is Eleanor Doane.
Beyond the story line and artwork, Bitch Planet has become important reading to me for the pages after that last one with a picture that says "next issue." Kelly Sue's essay after every issue, "Bitchfest," is illuminating issue after issue. In this essay she notes that she brought consultants in regarding the transgender character addition. After noting that she writes characters with different life experiences than her own, Kelly Sue writes:
So...is it that much more difficult to imagine life through the eyes of a trans woman than a white man? Are trans women so very Other?
White males are high status in our culture and we have a long tradition of portraying them as individuals, none shouldered with the burden of representing The While Male experience.
She goes on to note that she realizes she's also not Black, or Japanese-American, for instance, yet she's never brought in consultants to make sure she was getting characters that fit those accurate. In regard to the current issue's consultants:
The point is that the trans experience has not often been seen in our cultural mirrors. When we haven't erased them, we've fetishized them, written them off as freaks or otherwise discounted their humanity. We seem to be on the cusp of progress, thank god, but with so little to pull from in our own cultural history, Val and I felt strongly that we needed to hear the voices of real human beings who were living the experience.
I believe this attitude and effort aids greatly to this series. There's always a guest essay after her own essay--these frequently touch upon similar issues to the current issue. This particular issue also has a pretty fascinating interview with the Feminist Sticker Club. It also has a second guest essay and there's a list of subversive reading selections that I hope to begin dipping into soon. Then there is the letters column--this issue it runs six pages long. The questions or comments from the readers are intelligent and Kelly Sue and the whole group working on Bitch Planet take the time to think about the questions and reply to them honestly. Finally there's a column called Lipglossary, a glossy dossier of feminist language. This month there are explanations of the terms "cis" and "trans." Even the back covers of each issue are creative--this issue an advertisement for B. Compliant Company's red jumpers with the nc logo all over them.
It's simply a great read issue after issue and the first chunk (maybe 5) are collected in a paperback graphic novel format. If you're looking for something great to read and look at, Bitch Planet should be given a look.