Once & Future Vol. 1: The King Is Undead, written by Kieron Gillen, iIllustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire (BOOM! Studios)
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), written by Christina Hodson, directed by Cathy Yan (Warner Bros.)
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, written by Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele, directed by David Dobkin (European Broadcasting Union/Netflix)
The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Netflix / Skydance Media)
Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara, directed by Max Barbakow (Limelight / Sun Entertainment Culture / The Lonely Island / Culmination Productions / Neon / Hulu / Amazon Prime)
Soul, screenplay by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, produced by Dana Murray (Pixar Animation Studios/ Walt Disney Pictures)
Tenet, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner Bros./Syncopy)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon, written by Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall, directed by Nida Manzoor (BBC)
The Expanse: Gaugamela, written by Dan Nowak, directed by Nick Gomez (Alcon Entertainment / Alcon Television Group / Amazon Studios / Hivemind / Just So)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Heart (parts 1 and 2), written by Josie Campbell and Noelle Stevenson, directed by Jen Bennett and Kiki Manrique (DreamWorks Animation Television / Netflix)
The Mandalorian: Chapter 13: The Jedi, written and directed by Dave Filoni (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
The Mandalorian: Chapter 16: The Rescue, written by Jon Favreau, directed by Peyton Reed (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
The Good Place: Whenever You’re Ready, written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group)
Best Editor, Short Form
Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya
Best Editor, Long Form
Sheila E. Gilbert
Diana M. Pho
Best Professional Artist
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, ed. Scott H. Andrews
Escape Pod, editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney, hosts Tina Connolly and Alasdair Stuart, audio producers Summer Brooks and Adam Pracht and the entire Escape Pod team.
FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, publisher Troy L. Wiggins, executive editor DaVaun Sanders, managing editor Eboni Dunbar, poetry editor Brandon O’Brien, reviews and social media Brent Lambert, art director L. D. Lewis, and the FIYAH Team.
PodCastle, editors, C.L. Clark and Jen R. Albert, assistant editor and host, Setsu Uzumé, producer Peter Adrian Behravesh, and the entire PodCastle team.
Uncanny Magazine, editors in chief: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor: Chimedum Ohaegbu, non-fiction editor: Elsa Sjunneson, podcast producers: Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky Strange Horizons, Vanessa Aguirre, Joseph Aitken, Rachel Ayers, M H Ayinde, Tierney Bailey, Scott Beggs, Drew Matthew Beyer, Gautam Bhatia, S. K. Campbell, Zhui Ning Chang, Rita Chen, Tania Chen, Joyce Chng, Liz Christman, Linda H. Codega, Kristian Wilson Colyard, Yelena Crane, Bruhad Dave, Sarah Davidson, Tahlia Day, Arinn Dembo, Nathaniel Eakman, Belen Edwards, George Tom Elavathingal, Rebecca Evans, Ciro Faienza, Courtney Floyd, Lila Garrott, Colette Grecco, Guananí Gómez-Van Cortright, Julia Gunnison, Dan Hartland, Sydney Hilton, Angela Hinck, Stephen Ira, Amanda Jean, Ai Jiang, Sean Joyce-Farley, Erika Kanda, Anna Krepinsky, Kat Kourbeti, Clayton Kroh, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Catherine Krahe, Natasha Leullier, A.Z. Louise, Dante Luiz, Gui Machiavelli, Cameron Mack, Samantha Manaktola, Marisa Manuel, Jean McConnell, Heather McDougal, Maria Morabe, Amelia Moriarty, Emory Noakes, Sarah Noakes, Aidan Oatway, AJ Odasso, Joel Oliver-Cormier, Kristina Palmer, Karintha Parker, Anjali Patel, Vanessa Rose Phin, Nicasio Reed, Belicia Rhea, Endria Richardson, Natalie Ritter, Abbey Schlanz, Clark Seanor, Elijah Rain Smith, Hebe Stanton, Melody Steiner, Romie Stott, Yejin Suh, Kwan-Ann Tan, Luke Tolvaj, Ben Tyrrell, Renee Van Siclen, Kathryn Weaver, Liza Wemakor, Aigner Loren Wilson, E.M. Wright, Vicki Xu, Fred G. Yost, staff members who prefer not to be named, and guest editor Libia Brenda with guest first reader Raquel González-Franco Alva for the Mexicanx special issue
The Full Lid, written by Alasdair Stuart, edited by Marguerite Kenner
Journey Planet, edited by Michael Carroll, John Coxon, Sara Felix, Ann Gry, Sarah Gulde, Alissa McKersie, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, Steven H. Silver, Paul Trimble, Erin Underwood, James Bacon, and Chris Garcia.
Lady Business, editors. Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan. nerds of a feather, flock together, ed. Adri Joy, Joe Sherry, The G, and Vance Kotrla
Quick Sip Reviews, editor, Charles Payseur
Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog, ed. Amanda Wakaruk and Olav Rokne
Be The Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel, produced by Claire Rousseau
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan Strahan, producer Kalanadi, produced and presented by Rachel
The Skiffy and Fanty show, produced by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink, presented by Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Alex Acks, Paul Weimer, and David Annandale.
Worldbuilding for Masochists, presented by Rowenna Miller, Marshall Ryan Maresca and Cass Morris
Best Fan Writer
Best Fan Artist
Iain J. Clark
Grace P. Fong
Best Video Game [One-time Special Hugo Award Category]
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Publisher and Developer: Nintendo)
Blaseball (Publisher and Developer: The Game Band)
Final Fantasy VII Remake (Publisher Square Enix)
Hades (Publisher and Developer: Supergiant Games)
The Last of Us: Part II (Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Developer: Naughty Dog)
Spiritfarer (Publisher and Developer: Thunder Lotus)
Image Comics will participate in ComicsPro’s Local Comic Shop Day 2020 this year on Wednesday, November 25 with four exclusive variants in celebration of the Direct Market retailers.
The variants will include a special Green Eggs & Ham homage variant of Ice Cream Man #20 by W. Maxwell Prince and Martín Morazzo, a flashy gold foil edition of the Invincible #1 by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker for fans getting excited about the upcoming Amazon Prime Original TV adaptation, a gorgeous gold foil edition of the Monstress: Talk Stories #1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda that even professor Tam Tam will approve of, and a comic shop name-dropping variant of Spawn #312 by Todd McFarlane himself to feed fans’ feverish Spawnmania.
About ICE CREAM MAN #20 (Diamond Code SEP209164)— One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Three fish, four fish, have some more fish. Five fish, six fish—are you sickish? Seven fish, eight fish…it’s getting late fish. Nine fish, ten fish, everyone you love will die and life is pointless so why even get out of bed you little worm you sick little insect with your sad flailing arms and creepy-crawly legs my god I’ve never seen such a pathetic specimen how sad how truly tragic…red fish, blue fish.
A Green Eggs & Ham homage LCSD 2021 edition of the standalone issue from ICE CREAM MAN that sold out multiple times and caused a stir for it’s creepy satirization of classic children’s stories.
About INVINCIBLE #1 (Diamond Code SEP209165)— Strange things begin to happen to Mark Grayson as he develops superpowers. Luckily, his dad is around to show him the ropes, at least he WOULD be if he weren’t so busy saving the world all the time. Mark is forced to go out on his own, and try and figure out how all this superheroing business works. The results are a monumental disaster. Meanwhile, there’s trouble at school when Mark is dragged into a fight of epic proportions.
This LCSD 2020 edition of the debut issue of the long running INVINCIBLE series by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker will introduce the action packed adventure to a whole new audience of readers since its original launch in 2003. Now fans can revisit the iconic superhero story of Mark Grayson in anticipation of the upcoming Amazon Prime Original TV show adaptation coming soon and featuring the voices of fan-favorite Steven Yeun (THE WALKING DEAD), Academy and Golden Globe award winning J.K. Simmons, and two time Golden Globe winning Sandra Oh of the popular TV series Killing Eve!
About MONSTRESS: TALK STORIES #1 (Diamond Code SEP209163)— Bridging the gap between the fifth and sixth arc (which resumes in January 2021), MONSTRESS returns with TALK-STORIES, a two-part limited series that invites you to eat dumplings beside the fire and listen as Kippa recounts a defining moment from her childhood.
Whether caught up on the latest issue of MONSTRESS or not, fans will enjoy this delightful spinoff and will want to get their hands on this highly collectable Gold Foil LCSD edition.
About SPAWN #312 (Diamond Code SEP209162)— This LCSD 2020 SPAWN #312 cover will be a variant of Todd McFarlane’s cover for the issue—only instead of listing out the names of those who’ve contributed to SPAWN over the years, this LCSD 2020 cover will wraparound and feature the names of retailers who are registered for the 2020 Local Comic Shop Day festivities! (For retailers who haven’t registered yet, there’s still time! Pop over to comicspro.com/lcsd2020 and register before 5pm PDT on Sunday, November 1 and you’ll be added to the cover!)
Fans of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s bestselling, Eisner award-winning seriesMonstress will have plenty to celebrate heading into the Fall with a special limited edition Monstress Book One hardcover hitting shelves this week; a new installment of the ongoing series—Monstress #30single issue—and Monstress, Vol. 5 trade paperback hitting shelves in September; and a two-issue miniseries—Monstress: Talk-Stories—launching in November from Image Comics.
Longtime fans and new readers will want to get their hands on the deluxe limited edition of Monstress Book One hardcover—each copy signed by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda—a limited print run of only 500 copies. It collects the same interiors as the standard Monstress Book One hardcover edition: Monstress #1-18 single issues of the beloved and multiple award-winning comic series, plus extras, but with a stylish new cover.
Monstress #30 will conclude the current story arc and asks: Who will win this crucial first battle between the Federation and Arcanics? And whose side is Maika on, anyway?
Bridging the gap between the fifth and sixth arc (which resumes in January 2021), Monstress returns with Talk-Stories, a two-part limited series that invites you to eat dumplings beside the fire and listen as Kippa recounts a defining moment from her childhood.
On sale Wednesday, August 5 – Monstress Book One Limited Edition Deluxe Hardcover (Diamond Code: JAN209110, ISBN: 978-1-5343-1432-0)
Available for pre-order:
On sale Wednesday, September 2 – Monstress #30 (Diamond Code JUN200256)
On sale Wednesday, September 30 – Monstress, Vol. 5 (Diamond Code JUL200117, ISBN: 978-1-5343-1661-4)
On sale Wednesday, November 25 – Monstress: Talk-Stories #1 (of 2)
The nominees for “Best Graphic Story or Comic” for this year’s Hugo Awards have been announced. Normally, the winners are announced at Worldcon but with the event this year canceled due to COVID-19, it’s unknown when the winners will be announced.
The nominees were announced on April 8 and were decided from 1,584 valid nominating ballots with a total of 27,033 nominations. Members nominated up to five works/people in each category, and the top six works/people in each category were shortlisted as finalists.
On top of the comics above, Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel are nominated in “Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form,” and Watchmen: “A God Walks into Abar” and Watchmen: “This Extraordinary Being” are nominated in “Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.”
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Today, the finalists for the 2019 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and for the 1944 Retrospective Hugo Awards were announced online today by Dublin 2019.
Below are the nominees for “Best Graphic Story” and you can get the full list of nominees here. Three Image Comics series were nominated while BOOM!, Marvel, and First Second all received one nomination.
Congrats to all those nominated!
Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)
Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)
Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden (First Second)
Paper Girls, Volume 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)
Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Below are the finalists for the 1944 Retrospective Hugo Awards for “Best Graphic Story.”
Buck Rogers: Martians Invade Jupiter, by Philip Nowlan and Dick Calkins (National Newspaper Service)
Flash Gordon: Fiery Desert of Mongo, by Alex Raymond (King Features Syndicate)
Garth, by Steve Dowling (Daily Mirror)
Plastic Man #1: The Game of Death, by Jack Cole (Vital Publications)
Le Secret de la Licorne [The Secret of the Unicorn], by Hergé (Le Soir)
Wonder Woman #5: Battle for Womanhood, written by William Moulton Marsden, art by Harry G. Peter (DC Comics)
Image Comics has announced that the multiple Eisner Award-winning series Monstress by creator/writer Marjorie Liu and creator/artist Sana Takeda will be collected into a deluxe, oversized hardcover edition, Monstress: Book One, in July. A new story arc filled with adventure will launch this January with Monstress #19.
The Monstress: Book One hardcover edition will collect the first 18 issues of the New York Timesbestselling, Harvey Award, two-time Hugo Award, two-time British Fantasy Award, and five-time Eisner Award-winning series, and feature a striking new cover, as well as special extras, including never-before-seen sketches, script pages, and more with over 500 pages of award-winning content.
While fans wait for the hardcover edition this summer, they can pick up Monstress #19 in January, which will begin a new story arc in the series and will follow Maika and Corvin on their search for Kippa through a warped and lethal land, where even Kippa herself will face her own terrible monsters.
The richly imagined world of Monstress is an alternate matriarchal 1900s Asia, with an art deco-infused steampunk aesthetic that’s brimming with arcane dangers. Within it, a teenage girl struggles to overcome the trauma of war, a task that’s made all the more difficult by her mysterious psychic link to an eldritch monster of tremendous power—a connection that will transform them both and place them in the crosshairs of both human and otherworldly powers.
Monstress #19 (Diamond Code NOV180165) will be available on Wednesday, January 23rd. The final order cutoff deadline for comics retailers is Monday, December 17th.
Monstress Book One hardcover (ISBN: 978-1-5343-1232-6) will be available in comic shops on Wednesday, July 3rd and in bookstores on Tuesday, July 9th.
Image Comics has revealed the final 4 of 15 tribute variants planned for February’s 25th anniversary theme month to round out the full list of “tribute covers” celebrating the legendary cover images from throughout the Image’s history.
The newly revealed tribute variants include: Sean Lewis & Hayden Sherman’s The Few #2 commemorating Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta’s East of West #1, Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni’s Manifest Destiny #26 commemorating Jonathan Layman & Rob Guillory’s Chew #1, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress #10 commemorating Todd McFarlane’s Spawn #1, and Outcast by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta #25 commemorating Rob Liefeld’s Brigade #1.
Each month of Image’s 25th year will announce a list of special themed anniversary variants, which will begin to hit shelves on Wednesday, February 1st—the exact date of Image Comics’ founding in 1992, and the date of this year’s “Image Comics Day.”
Last year I prioritized cutting back on cape books and diversifying the publishers and stories that I read. Though many of the comics I read weren’t published in 2016 (especially ones I read during Women’s History Month) I still found it hard to narrow down the list of ongoing series I particularly loved throughout the year.
Here are ten comics I couldn’t put down in 2016:
10. Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams
This is a series I would have loved as a child. Goldie is the perfect mix of Nancy Drew and Eloise (of Plaza fame). Goldie Vance is great for a younger audience but doesn’t shy away from emotionally complex stories. Goldie and her friends are well-rounded characters with a wide range of interests who readers–young and not-young alike–will be able to relate to.
9. Elasticator by Alan C. Medina and Kevin Shah
Elasticator is the kind of smart, political superhero comic I wish was more prevalent. The writing is fresh and interesting and Shah’s art is lively and animated with great colors from Ross A. Campbell.
8. Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung
Lottie Person is just about as far away from Scott Pilgrim as you could get, though they do, at times, share a similar self-absorption. Snotgirl quickly became one of my favorite series of the year, because while not many people can say they’re successful fashion bloggers, they can likely relate to Lottie’s personal problems. Leslie Hung and Mickey Quinn provide gorgeous, vibrant visuals and the best wardrobe in comics, to boot.
7. We(l)come Back by Christopher Sebela and Claire Roe
Reincarnation? Check. Assassins? Check. Shadowy organizations? Check. A+ fashion choices? Check. Reincarnated assassins in love running from other assassins who are trying to assassinate them? …Also check. What more can you want from a story?
6. Shutter by Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca
Shutter is one of Image’s most underrated titles. The story follows Kate Kristopher, the daughter of legendary explorer Chris Kristopher, and her discovery of some little-known family history. The comic is consistently interesting not only because of its plot, but because del Duca and colorist Owen Gieni are constantly experimenting with narrative structure and using different techniques to influence how the story is read.
5. Clean Room by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt
Clean Room is a creepy psychological horror comic about journalist Chloe Pierce’s investigation of self-help master Astrid Mueller, who Pierce suspects is more cult leader than anything else. Or is she? Mueller is a fascinating character, and the unknowable question of which side she’s actually on only adds to the story’s suspense.
4. The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
What if you could be a god, but you’d die within two years? Consistently equal parts entertaining and heartbreaking with consistently incredible art and color from Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson. You’ve probably heard of this one.
3. Mockingbird by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Sean Parsons, and Ibrahim Moustafa
One of the few superhero comics I read this year, Mockingbird was one of my absolute favorites. Cain writes Bobbi Morse as confident and smart, and the result was a fun mystery thriller with gorgeous art. The series also featured some of my favorite colors and covers this year, by Rachelle Rosenberg and Joelle Jones.
By the time I write my 2017 list, I might be over Mockingbird’s cancellation.
2. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Val DeLandro
2016 was light on Bitch Planet–only four issues were released throughout the year–but continued to provide insightful and relevant commentary in what turned out to be a period of rapid change in the real-life political landscape.
1. Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Monstress started strong in 2015 and only got better. The main character, Maika, is a teenage girl living with a monster inside, something she learns to live with and use to her advantage as the plot develops. Monstress is full of unrepentant female characters set in a stunningly rendered fantasy world.
During my undergraduate study, I spent an enlightening semester learning entirely about women writers and how they write women and girls. It’s something I’ve carried with me, especially in reading comics. While it is now less rare for women to occupy a central role in comics, the field is still overwhelmingly male-dominated and male character-centric. This often leaves female characters in a space that is Other, or separate from the norm.
With creator-owned comics on the rise, women are now able to carve spaces in which to tell their own stories. Two stories in particular, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro’s Bitch Planet and Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress, challenge the Othering of femininity by exploiting the connection of femininity to monstrosity and allowing characters to reclaim this aspect of their identities by embracing the monstrous.
It is possible to understand this reclamation of identity by using Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection as a lens. Kristeva is a Bulgarian-French philosopher, psychoanalyst, and feminist whose work spans multiple disciplines but is prominent in structuralism and poststructuralism.
Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection outlines Kristeva’s theory of abjection in a very French and somewhat complex way. The abject, by definition, is a “non-object” that lingers in a person’s psyche as a consequence of repression. The abject disturbs system, identity, and order. To abject something is to other it from the “I,” pushing it away from the self to maintain personal boundaries.
A simple example of this sort of behavior is food loathing. This is a common behavior, especially in children, but the dissonance between something that is supposed to nourish and the unpleasant taste or nauseous feeling causes abjection. If you hated broccoli as a kid or avoid a certain food after eating something and getting sick, this is a basic form of abjection.
Abjection can also exist among people, so when discussing abjection it is important to make a distinction between subject, object, and abject. The subject is “I.” (When you, reader, speak about yourself, your thoughts, you say “I.” You’re subject.) Now table that thought for a moment. The difference between object and abject is contingent on one point. Objects hold weight and meaning. The abject is not an object because it does not hold weight. The only “object” quality the abject possesses is that it opposes the “I.”
One example Kristeva uses to distinguish each definition is that of a corpse. Kristeva says corpses are simultaneously subject, object, and abject–the body was once a person, a subject, but became object after death. Corpses are also abject because they force us to consider the uncomfortable truth of our inevitable deaths.
What both the food loathing and corpse examples have in common is the idea that they are improper or unclean. People and bodies will abject things they deem “incorrect,” but what is unclean, gross, or incorrect doesn’t directly cause abjection; they create a disruption of a person’s system, identity, and order and that causes abjection. Disruption of the boundaries demonstrates their fragility.
Abjection of people is driven by a failure of one member of a group to recognize its kin. This same lack of recognition drives fear of what has been deemed Other. A person possessing some quality that has been deemed “incorrect” on a larger social scale causes a lack of recognition, which is perpetuated on an individual level. This creates a cycle of fear and rejection by engendering disgust for the “not normal” or “not human.” Social constructs are upheld and continue to oppress the abject.
According to Kristeva, one natural reaction to abjection is religion, which is an attempt to create order where the abject has disturbed it. Using this reasoning, the formation of governing bodies–including the Cumaea in Monstress and the male-led government in Bitch Planet—are an attempt to control the abject.
Kristeva says another natural reaction to the abject is to create art. Using comics to explore the abject allows both readers and creators to approach the subject in worlds both fictional and real. The settings of the comics discussed here (an off-world prison and an alternate version of early 20th century Asia) allow writers and artists to discuss issues present in real life. The main characters of both comics are monstrous women, all of whom are attempting to create their own space in the world. Comics give these creators a space to both examine the abject and criticize the social systems that oppress the abject in a fictional world, as well as in our real one. (Bitch Planet also accomplishes this by including essays in the backmatter of single issues.)
In Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro’s Bitch Planet, women who are determined “non-compliant” are shipped to an off-world prison. Non-compliance in women is determined by any number of “crimes,” including being “aesthetically offensive,” obese, or transgender. In Bitch Planet, misogyny is taken to an extreme level. Women who fall outside of a narrow box of acceptable gender behavior and presentation and individuals who don’t conform to traditional binary standards are punished for existing. It’s a harsh critique of the standards women are held to in real life–both behaviorally and aesthetically.
Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, combines a number of fantasy elements that make up an alternate Asia, which plays home to Maika, an Arcanic teen. The Arcanics’ magic makes them highly desired by the Cumaea, a religious order that uses Arcanic Lilium to enhance the powers of its members. Arcanics are regarded as a lowly sub-human class, which allows the story to explore themes of racism and slavery. Since it is told from Maika’s perspective, much of the story also focuses on her strength (inner and outer) as she resists the oppressive force of the Cumaea.
Though they take place in vastly different worlds, Bitch Planet and Monstress feature protagonists who have been Othered in some way. The characters readers are meant to root for and maybe even identify with are seen as non-human because they disrupt established social structures and system, identity, and order.
Inmates of the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost are abject for any number of reasons, from not being feminine enough to “driving” their husbands to infidelity. They are treated inhumanely, used only as an example for other women and bodies in sport. The women find a sense of community with each other, bound by their monstrous qualities.
Maika of Monstress is introduced as a slave, immediately establishing her as abject and Other. This is only furthered when readers learn of her powerful psychic connection to a literal monster that she refers to as her “hunger.” Maika is considered a monster even before she embraces this title.
The pathologization of women’s behavior in Bitch Planet and demonization of Arcanics mean that these characters are considered monsters regardless of whether their behavior reflects that designation. Neither comic is subtle about its connection of femininity to the monstrous, and both take care to show that women’s experiences with society intersect differently based on race and sexuality.
The metaphor of the monstrous is accessible in Bitch Planet, where the particularly relevant issue three focuses on how women are punished for attempting to conform to social standards (taking part in harmful diets and beauty rituals) and for living outside these standards (in which case they are made social outcasts). The metaphor is equally accessible in Monstress, where Maika quite literally lives with a murderous monster called Monstrum inside of her. The Monstrum, though dangerous, helps Maika to defend herself against threats and to withstand constant dehumanization.
These works are important because they bring to light issues that some readers may not experience because of their social or economic privileges. By forcing readers to interact with abject concepts, these stories also force readers to consider perspectives they otherwise wouldn’t because readers themselves wish to escape the uncomfortableness of the topic. These stories also examine institutions which have been founded on oppressive platforms whose original intent was to protect the privileged from the abject.
Despite being considered monstrous, the characters in either comic embrace this aspect of their identity. Inmates in Bitch Planet use their strengths as non-compliant women (both physical and mental) to fight for their freedom. While Maika’s goal is to find answers about her mother’s death, she also uses her monstrousness to protect other Arcanics and fight the Cumaean order. This is a way to claw back at the systems that have rejected and othered them and to reclaim their identities and their rights to live a free and happy life.
Characters pushing back against oppressive systems reflect the real-life struggle for equality between the abject and those who have abjected them. These characters want to be seen as an “object” rather than Other in the sense that this would allow them to be recognized by their peers as non-abject and human.
Though Bitch Planet and Monstress explore vastly different worlds, they both offer a unique approach to examining the abject. And as female characters fight for and claw out their own space in their worlds, their creators do the same in ours.
This paper was originally presented as part of the 2016 Comics and Popular Arts Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.