Comics Herstory: Kelly Sue DeConnick
It’s difficult to say what Kelly Sue DeConnick is most known for: her iconic run on Marvel’s Captain Marvel book, which pushed Carol Danvers to achieve higher, further, faster, more, or Bitch Planet, which took comic fans by storm and popularized a feminist message of noncompliance among its readers. Perhaps it’s Pretty Deadly, a gorgeous story DeConnick and artist Emma Rios created about death and love. She has also written for, DC, BOOM! Studios, and Dark Horse, and was the first female comic writer to pen an ongoing Avengers series with Avengers Assemble.
Currently, Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet are ongoing, and both are notable for the ways in which they subvert tropes of masculinity and femininity. Some context that is useful in understanding part of the message of these works is feminist scholar Julie Kristeva’s theory of abjection. Essentially, abjection means “othering” something from oneself in order to maintain the self. DeConnick’s characters are othered because they disturb the systems and order of their respective worlds to maintain their senses of self.
In Bitch Planet especially, the otherness makes a point about how women are demonized for their very existence, and that this is rooted in misogyny. Bitch Planet is unabashedly feminist, premised on a world where patriarchal control is taken to an extreme. The book also includes essays on feminism in the backmatter, and, in addition to letters, there have also been numerous photos of people who have gotten the noncompliant symbol tattooed. Though it’s only seven issues in, it has become incredibly significant in those seven issues, and has cultivated a community around the book’s central theme of noncompliance.
Pretty Deadly’s appeal is enormous, in both art and writing. Simply put, it’s a stunning book. Thematically, it deals with both love and death, two inevitable parts of life. Pretty Deadly is the story of Sissy, Fox, and Deathface Ginny, and is a unique twist on the usual narrative. Having taken up Death’s mantle at the end of the first arc, Sissy, a child, isn’t the type of character usually cast as Death. Pretty Deadly works to subvert a number of tropes. Fox is the antithesis of the typical masculinity present in a Western story–for example, by the time the reader meets Fox, he is in the role of Sissy’s protector and caretaker. Now in its second arc, Pretty Deadly is very much worth reading for its beautifully crafted story and artwork.
In addition to writing comics, DeConnick and her husband, Matt Fraction, head the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds production company, and last year revealed that they will be developing Fraction’s Sex Criminals for TV. Readers can keep up with all of this information by signing up for Milkfed Criminal Mastermind newsletters, as well as motivational “Bitches Get Shit Done” texts from DeConnick. (Or follow #bgsd or #bgsdlist on Twitter.)