Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Attention Tony Harris


Depression issues

For anyone who missed it yesterday, artist Tony Harris posted a Facebook whine (some call it a rant, but no, it's really a whine, especially given how he's responded now that the internet has called him out on it) about how all those girls who come to cons in scanty and sexy costumes and "breathe his air" aren't real nerd girls. They don't really know the stuff they're dressing up as, and they're only doing it for the ego boost of getting nerd boys to drool over them and pay them attention, whilst they look down their noses the whole time over said nerd boys.

Of course, the internet had ... quite a bit to say about it.

Author Gail Simone took the positive approach, and decided that November 13 should be Cosplay Appreciation Day.  It trended on Twitter, even. Good for her.

Brian Michael Bendis tweeted he'd come out of convention retirement to dress as Emma Frost and grind on Mr. Harris' table. A little radical, but hey, good for him.

I missed a good portion of it yesterday due to having a day job. But I have my own two cents to put in and they go like this.

Mr. Harris -- sorry, no way you're "dear" to me with an attitude like yours.

It's not all about you.

Women do not come to cons in or out of costume for the sake of nerd boys, fan boys, or any other boys.  Heck, some women don't even  like boys.

It's not all about you. I have been a fangirl since I was little. I watched Spider-Man on TV, 1966.  Learned the words to the song by the time I was three:
Spider-Man, Spider-Man! Does whatever a spider can!

and Peter Parker may well have been my first crush.

I watched the Adam West Batman on TV.  I know the theme song goes "BATALATALATALATALA!" and not "NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA" like most people sing it.

 I had a crush on Burt Ward as Robin too.

 I was the little girl at the beach hoping to see a glimpse of Aqualad riding Imp the giant seahorse!

 I was the little girl at the pool trying to make those cool throwing waterballs Aquaman could make in the cartoon.

 I was the child who could be counted on to have my little butt parked in front of the TV on Saturday morning waiting to hear Ted Ross narrate that opening: "...from the cosmic legends of the universe!"  even though I knew there were no Wendy and Marvin in the comic books.

 I am the woman who remembers "Oh Mighty Isis" live action series (and both of her rhymes to activate her powers!), and Spider-Woman's animated series that didn't get renewed.  I remember Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.

 I remember Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman and how cool it was that a girl superhero got her very own show!  I watched Nicholas Hammond as Spider-Man! Bless CBS for airing those two!

I have been reading comics in one form or another -- money permitting -- since I was 13 years old.

 I'm 48 now.

 When I was thirteen, I thought boys were icky.

 It was several years before my opinion of that changed, and what changed my opinion? The X-Men.  Nightcrawler! Wolverine!  I liked those boys before I liked any of the boys I went to school with. Probably because those boys treated girls with, y'know, respect or something?

 I didn't buy my first comic at age 13 to impress a boy.

I bought it because X-Men #125 had a really interesting cover. A fiery yellow and red image of a woman with big hair on the cover, and it seemed more interesting to me than the Little Dot and Richie Rich I had a few years earlier outgrown reading. So I picked it up. Inside I met Phoenix. Cyclops. Wolverine. Nightcrawler. Beast. Colossus. Kitty Pryde, and Storm.  A superhero character who was not only female but who was black, like me. Wow. Two non-boy reasons to want to read a comic! The very thought!

Instantly, I was hooked.   Hooked for life.

The Children of the Atom, and later other citizens of the Marvel and DC Universes became my best friends. See, I was shy, and awkward, and weird.  This is not the kind of thing that gets you friends in elementary school, junior high school, or high school. I was also what they called in that day a "brainiac" -- which meant the other kids didn't like me because I got good grades, liked to read, and didn't do the sports thing.

Chris Claremont, in all his long-winded glory, wrote stories that had words in them I actually had to look up in the dictionary.  Comics improved my vocabulary.

The metaphor of mutant as teenager -- "nobody understands me, everybody hates me" of course was also one more reason I read comics.  Because I felt like I got the X-Men and they would get me, if only they were real. I was able to pride myself on knowing things my teachers didn't because there were things the teacher didn't know that I did. I didn't start conventioneering until I saw an ad for a Creation Convention in a comic in my late teens, by which point I had been reading comics for almost a decade.

I had no idea there were gatherings for other people like me. It was like finding out Neverland was real! My first costume was Edsel from Mage, by Matt Wagner.  This outfit was not all sexied up, either.

It consisted of a Greek Fisherman cap, a white tank top, a pair of jeans, a pair of driving gloves, and a Louisville Slugger I painstakingly sanded the logo off and then spray painted day-glo green. And it fit what the canon character wore. And she wore my favourite colour!

I should mention she too was a black character in a comic book and whose badassness I admired.  Notice how there is still nothing in my fandom up until this point that has anything to do with boys, impressing boys, getting the attention of boys, or sleeping with boys.

My second costume was Mohawk Storm.  Again, not a terribly sexy costume if you're going by how much skin she shows.  I was also too shy yet to think about doing sexy and trying to be sexy.

She wore a tank or tube top, a vest, and black pants with black boots and black gloves, along with some lightning strike shaped earrings.
I didn't shave my hair, but I managed a faux-hawk with silver hair spray, sneaking out of my parents' house because they would never have approved (they didn't approve of the comics either but that didn't stop me).  My mom had unknowingly provided me a part of the costume by giving me a black suede vest with silver studs.  The rest I saved up money to buy, including the badass thigh high leather boots.  

One of the friends I met at the convention where I wore that costume asked me for a picture. I gave him one, never even suspecting he was interested in me -- and he never let on for years, but he finally cowboyed up and said so, regardless of my costuming or not. That was on him to let me know how he felt, and he did. I wasn't expected to know through some mystic estrogen power. And he didn't blame me for not knowing I had some kind of effect on him. 

I should also mention that my reading comics got me through some very rough years. My parents were not a happy couple. At all. They faked it for my sake until I was ten or eleven, and had another baby when I turned thirteen in hopes of trying to smooth things over, but it didn't take, and as the years wore on, the shouting matches and the domestic violence got worse and worse. I could always escape into the four color (and later flexographic!) pages of a comic.  My mother got violent toward me for the habit and would tear them up if she found them in my room or found me reading them, even though she admitted that it was cool I learned new words from comics, and even though she admitted comics were pretty much just soap operas on paper rather than TV. But hey, I wasn't alone. A lot of the X-Men had broken families too. Kitty Pryde's parents were divorced, like I hoped mine would be someday. 

 My kid sister, when she was old enough, bonded with me through the comics. She would help me organize them into longboxes, and we'd read them and talk about the stories and how cool it would be to have movies of them. GASP! I actually bonded with another FEMALE over comics! ERMAHGERD! 

My third costume was X-Treme X-Men Storm, which costume consisted of a swimsuit, a magician cape, and a pair of boots.  I didn't do it for the attention.  I did it because I liked how I felt and looked in the costume. I letterhacked. I got published more than once. I wrote in college about the death of Vindicator. I wrote about the black Spider-Man suit, calling it sexy (having no idea it'd be Venom some day, ew). I wrote about Rogue joining the X-Men, and my by damn letters got published in the column, so Marvel Comics editorial staff believed my fandom was real! 

 I draw because I'm a fangirl. 

I contributed to APAs as a kid, and when it reached the net, I kept drawing.

 I have had my dreams stepped on by the obnoxious and sexist likes of Erik Larsen who didn't (at the time, he may have grown up since) think girls belong in the comic field and Jill Thompson (who didn't much care at the time for more girls as competition) and John Byrne (who didn't like me protesting that he was taking Alpha Flight's Aurora from a tragic, flawed character and turning her into pretty much a nymphomaniac).

I wrote for CFAN when I found online fanfic and made some of the dearest friends I have to date through that hobby. I roleplayed on MUSHes when I couldn't afford comics just so I could still be in touch with the characters I love so much.  They are like family to me, in some ways more than my real life relatives.

I bought tickets on opening day for the film of X-Men, something I'd been waiting for from the time I was a kid.  I would talk people's ears off about how cool it was that the technology finally caught up so comic book movies could be made!

I'd also seen the Christopher Reeve Superman series, and yes, I did believe a man can fly (well, for the first two movies, anyway)!  I went to see Tim Burton's Batman  at a midnight showing. I screamed and cheered along with everybody else in that audience.   I even went to see Green Lantern in the theater, and thought the critics were too hard on it.  Transformers (which series I watched animated, from the original Gen 1 straight on through to Beast Wars).  I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine for more than Hugh Jackman naked, and had an enraged "WTF" reaction at their interpretation of Deadpool, to say nothing of what short shrift they gave Gambit.

I saw Conan. Daredevil.  The positively abyssmal Elektra. The first Ghost Rider (I tried to watch the second, but it was terrible -- even fandom love cannot abide bad script and dialogue!) The Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, and the new one with Andrew Garfield. The Iron Man movies.  I made two good friends that night when I went alone, and I explained to them about the "Demon in a Bottle" arc from the comics that they didn't realize was being foreshadowed and referenced in the movie.  I liked Avengers so much I saw it three times. And these are just the movies based on comics that come to mind at the moment.  I have helped people do research on comics. I have clarified other people's understandings of the history of characters
Ororo Munroe is not native African. Her mother, N'dare was African, but married American David Munroe. They lived in NY until going back to Africa for David's career as a photojournalist. They were killed when Ororo was very small and the orphan ended up with incurable claustrophobia as a result of being buried alive with their bodies. ... At least, if they haven't retconned that out.
I feel the pain of retcons, and the rage of an actress having been cast as my beloved Storm who only phoned in the role and spoke with disparagement of having to be a "made up character" when that made up character was sometimes often frequently the only thing standing between me and jumping onto the LIRR tracks.   My money is as green as yours, and I can spend on what I enjoy. What I enjoy is comics, movies, cartoons.

My first tattoo was the first four elements from The Fifth Element, and only other geeks recognize it for what it is!

My fandom is as strong as any man's, you see if it's not.

Don't you ever.

Try to tell me that my XY chromosome combo, my boobs, or my vagina mean I am not a real fan.  Don't you even try to fix your mouth to say you think I show up in fannish clothes or costumes for the attention rather than to share what I love and broadcast it to other people who love the same things I love.

Ask anyone at Dragon*Con.  Thursday night, before anything even gets started, I'm cheerfully yelling "I AM BACK AMONG MY PEOPLE!" and "WELCOME HOME!" to any geek I encounter, because like me, female or male, they're flying their colors and we recognize each other on sight.

I built and earned my fandom stripes the real honest way -- through a whole lifetime of loving comics media, cartoons and movies, and to say different is not merely misogynistic, but insulting and ignorant.

So you can take your ignorant opinion straight to Four Freedoms Plaza and stick it in the Negative Zone.


  1. Not that you need approval (kind of the whole point), but everything you say is awesome. You probably have no idea how, as a young white nerdboy from a rural background, Mohawk Storm blew. my. mind.
    You are right that Harris was full of shit in his stereotyping of female cosplayers. The thing that is making me nuts is, even if he were right - so what?
    So someone likes dressing up. That's how they have fun. That does not mean they have to do nerd homework to validate how they choose to enjoy themselves. If all anyone wants to do is dress like a character whose design they think is cool, that does not make them less than anyone else. Part of my "nerd-hood" is a strong memory of all the people who would not let me play their reindeer games because they did not approve of how I have fun. The last thing I want to be is that guy.
    I guess Harris feels different.

    1. Thanks for commenting. He is in denial about his sexism, and he's clearly got some unresolved anger about girls he finds attractive sneering at him for liking geeky stuff which they thought was uninteresting. But tarring every girl in costume with the same brush is not going to help him resolve those issues. True, some girls _are_ just paid booth bunnies, and some girls _are_ just out there to find a brainy geek boy to take home for the night, but so what? Their bodies, their money, their time, to spend as they see fit.

  2. Hi, Rob!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. (I've read the comments a few times, but not been able to collect my own thoughts to reply intelligently until I calmed down some from the Harris mess. And then, y'know, the holidays).

    Mohawk Storm blew a lot of people's minds. I was a little curious about punk during those years, and seeing her, whom I respected, go punk, was what gave me "permission" to explore a little.

    Harris only thought through his bruised ego rather than through common sense. There's a lot of that going around in the male geekosphere. George Tait just wrote a whole long article about the #finkeldate fiasco and how it (and his wife) opened his eyes to a lot of clueless but no less sincerely believed misogyny in the game community.

    Take care.