Author Archives: Abby Takahashi

TRANSforming Spaces Blog

Nami Kitsune Hatfield’s article brings to light the ways in which trans representation, discussion, and intra-community debate can occur in niche spaces, including internet communities and anime fandom. Hatfield writes,

“Like the interactive virtual space created by the reading communities of these webcomics, libraries, archive, and information institutions have the power to deeply affect the lives and politics of those around them, including the lives of those within the transgender community”

This discussion of interactivity reflects a lot of what we talked about earlier in class, especially a few days ago in our discussion of the serial publication of webcomics. Webcomics like the ones Hatfield describes are unique in that they are shaped and adjusted in response to audience participation; trans readers and trans authors interact via the internet, build friendships, and create a collaborative piece of art together which reflects the previously marginalized experience and desires of consumers. Something I would have been interested to see is a little more critique of webcomic/internet interactivity. For instance, is there a potential to for unhealthy subcultures to grow within isolated internet communities? Are these spaces liberating for all trans people, or are there aspects of interactive fandom that are incompatible with the library-theory Hatfield creates? On that note, how do we feel about the name ‘Kitsune,’ within the nuanced discussion of race, respect, transgender rights, and identity formation? If comics, anime, and manga are to be incorporated into mainstream academics — as Hatfield’s article suggests — then we must also subject these mediums to the same political critique and intellectual rigor that we apply to any other form of art.

Also, here is one of my favorite Alyssa comics. I like the discussion of sex and intimacy as it relates to physical disabilities, and the open and friendly way that Alyssa communicates her life.

Oh, Hey! It’s Alyssa #28: “No Chill”

 

The Erotic in Prison

The scene in Bitch Planet which stood out to me in terms of Lorde’s “erotic” was one of the moments in the showers. Right before Kogo Kamau drags the spying guard out of the wall, we see Penny and Meiko in the background, naked (or nude?), celebrating their victory in the in-world sports game. This stands out to me in relation to our discussions of nudity and the male vs female gaze, but it also seems striking in terms of the sheer joy and humor of the scene. Penny lifts Meiko up from around her waist—the motion is celebratory and excessive, and both women are shouting and praising themselves/each other for their teamwork in the game. I don’t usually see or expect naked women to touch each other in such an unrestrained yet platonic way; even though the women are in prison, and being watched by other women and guards, they seem completely free from external expectations and self-conciousness or shame. I think maybe this is a facet of what Audre Lorde defines as the “erotic”—deep emotions, voice, and physical movement which defies oppressive limitations and the white patriarchal gaze.

The combination of this scene and Lorde’s theory brings me back to movements and concepts that I’ve heard in social justice circles before—specifically the idea of the “carefree black girl.” There are black women and nonblack women of color who say that to exist as a woman of color is radical in itself, since the great powers of the world work constantly towards their oppression and death. Both Audre Lorde and Bitch Planet put forward this idea; that to survive emotionally as a woman of color, to live joyfully, is radical in itself. Within the material confines of the prison, I think the questions of how to express free emotion, and how to decolonize the mind, are key to resisting both mental and emotional oppressive limitations.

Superman is Black!!!!!!

Lamb argues that the superhero genre is inherently white, and that the popularity of our current superhero media is rooted in white power fantasies and imperialist militarism. While I completely agree with this diagnosis, I reject Lamb’s argument that the inherently white genre cannot be improved, replaced, or revolutionized by better stories and increased representation of powerful nonwhite superheroes. Lamb is right about what superheroes are, but wrong about what they could be.

First of all, I’m surprised that the author would create a comprehensive theory of superhero racial politics without even mentioning Judaism and Jewish presence in comics. Both Superman and Steve Rogers were created, with all their flaws, by Jews during WWII; Magneto is a holocaust survivor, whose children grow up to be heroes and antiheroes in both the X-Men and Avengers. Considering the Lamb’s analysis of war, violence, race, and oppression, this omission seems to me like a major oversight.

Second, I don’t quite follow Lamb’s argument that attempts to increase representation in comics are automatically “conformist cries, conservative activism from patient racial integrationists” who feel “desperate yearning” for inclusion in white society. Lamb backs this position up with the hypothetical example of a Black Superman. He writes that “Against Superman, all humans are beta males, cowering along the cave shadows, waiting for the alpha’s rage to subside, praying calm on the apex predator.” Lamb continues to say that Black Superman represents a

“present danger to the American experiment, an unholy figure derived from Tea Party                   paranoia, Barack Obama’s calculation and Terry Crews’ musculature. Public Enemy’s                     prescience abounds – were Superman Black introduced on the game-changing Action                  Comics’ cover, White America would have yet another reason to fear a Black planet”

This argument seems flawed. I see that white Americans would fear a black man as powerful and dangerous as Superman – but they also fear black men in hoodies, and black children with toy guns. The priority should not be to avoid scaring white people, but to take away their power to act on that fear – which is a whole other fight, not easily solved in the sphere of popular culture. Given this, I think that we could use a little (or a lot) more white fear in our comics. It’s probably time to criticize and threaten the “American experiment,” in any genre possible. A powerful black figure, created intelligently by black creators, is not a racist, fear-mongering caricature, but an assertion of power, hope, and yeah, aggression, of the oppressed towards the oppressor.

I’m going to bring up Magneto again, because I love him, but also because he’s a great example of the (inconsistently executed) potential of white fear. Even as a white man, Magneto demonstrates that Christian American heroes do not have a monopoly on violent solutions, and that on occasion comic writers are capable of nuance. Lamb seems to claim that white imperialists have a monopoly on ‘legitimate’ violence, which would make superhero stories inherently demonstrative of white supremacy – but what about violent solutions to problems of oppression, as opposed to petty crime? I would argue that superhero movies and comics have the same potential to host these debates, and to express radical politics, as any other form of narrative art.

Monster Culture Blog

I was especially interested in the section of Cohen’s theory in which he explains that “the monster always escapes.” This means that no victory over a fictional monster is ever complete; it is understood that the monster will return in some form, and that it remains available for use in future stories. Cohen writes, “who is the yeti if not the medieval wild man? Who is the wild man if not the biblical and classical giant?” These themes of death and resurrection are especially applicable, since both comics and fantasy are genres in which death and resurrection are common tropes. This appears in superhero comics in which characters are reborn in name (like Captain America), killed and brought back as in the death of Superman, or brought back via clone or time travel, etc. Comics, fantasy, and myth favor unlikely reincarnation over the “gritty reality” of other genres, saving their monsters in order to bring them back in different forms for another round of fighting.

Monstress follows this trend in the first issue, in that the female villains Yvette and Sophia appear to die but are saved and resurrected: as Cohen writes, “the grave opens,” and the villains survive so that the story can survive as well. In a larger sense, the reincarnation/survival of female monsters also allows stories to adapt to changing times. Maika, Yvette, and Sophia are all changed by their brushes with death, and will likely develop further as the story progresses. Monstress adapts female monster theory by embracing the horror of the female body: scars, blood, disfigurement, disability, and wrinkles. In conversation with Cohen’s theory, this adaptation raises interesting questions about female anger, power, and darkness, as well as the “monstrous” quality of female hunger for violence, knowledge, sex, revenge, or love.

Autobiography Reflection

I was interested in the way that our reading for today analyzed the similarities in autobiographical style between Bechdel and Barry. In many ways I felt that the two texts were opposites, since both have such a different style of narrative, temporality, tone, and color. However, I do think that women’s autobiographical art projects, as a genre, tend to run along somewhat predictable lines. When searching for autobiographies for my group presentation this week, the options of art styles and subjects seemed surprisingly limited considering the great variety of comics outside this category, and the variety of styles from detailed to simple to purposefully grotesque and ugly. Most women’s autobiographies had to do with trauma, mental illness, love, and coming of age, and used art styles which if not the same seemed to exist in the same family of art history and style. The most interesting graphics I found in this category were shorter, almost informal comics: like the dream-horror comics of Emily Carrol, Kate Beaton’s joking self reflections, or the incomprehensible therapy-comics made by young women on the internet, for no audience but themselves.

When making my own autobiographical comic, I thought a little about what I would like to read in someone else’s comic, as well as what would feel good for me to produce. I would like to see the genre of autobiography expand from its current form into stranger, less immediately accessible styles and forms. For my own comic, I thought that since I was under no obligation to create a comprehensible narrative for a publisher or audience, I should just draw abstractions which connected to my emotions, and write whatever words came to mind unedited. I also wanted to get away from the usual, linear progression and often consistent, simple, almost cutesy style of many graphic novels which gain popularity in mainstream culture. It made me reflect on the challenges that people trying to tell a narrative face in terms of the visual art side of comics, and the limitations and possibilities created by the medium.

Culture via Image in Rose and Misty

The Rose paper on critical visual methodology was interesting to me in its analysis of the literal eye’s ‘vision,’ versus the ‘visual’ sphere of perception, interpretation, and implicit bias. Rose argues that culture is constantly created and re-created by people in their effort to ‘make sense of the world.’ As a part of human culture, visual art is a way of creating meaning and belief, which is communicated either implicitly or explicitly through the work. This means that like other art, all comics are influenced by explicit belief and implicit bias, which add to the larger culture and impact the real world at large. This ‘expression of meaning’ theory is most interesting in regards to race – especially in light of the severely racist history of comics and cartooning.

I was interested in the way that meaning and culture could be conveyed implicitly the Misty comic. Many of the other visual choices in the images seem purposeful and explicit – like the fashion of the characters. The art frequent outfit changes make it clear that the characters clothes’ are chosen purposefully and with thought, and that the reader should also be noticing and enjoying the fashion in the strip. Choices like Misty and Darlene’s body type, or hair color, might be less purposeful, while other biases might be hard to see at all. An obvious visual choice – and indicator of culture – is the presence and absence of characters of color. I would guess that for producers and consumers of culture, the choices to have an all-white character cast, or to include a friend or other character of culture, are a combination of both purposeful culture-building and implicit, unremarked bias. Race as a part of visual culture can be conveyed or omitted, both of which have an effect on culture in real life.

I also noticed in the write-in letters between Misty stories, that a few letters were from children of color, one a girl with an Asian name hoping for a similar character to appear in the comic. While the comic writers did not answer her question about representation, they were very kind and encouraging to the letter-writing children who were teased at school because of their race. This detail made me wonder about the possible gap between the opinions and feelings of the image-creator, and the meaning which they have the ability to express in their published art. What kind of culture produces images like those in Misty, and what kind of culture do those images build when consumed? What aspects of this cultural time, or unexpressed meanings and opinions, might be omitted in the creation of comic art like this?

Bias and Expression in Misty

The Rose paper on critical visual methodology was interesting to me in its analysis of the literal eye’s ‘vision,’ versus the ‘visual’ sphere of perception, interpretation, and implicit bias. Rose argues that culture is constantly created and re-created by people in their effort to ‘make sense of the world.’ As a part of human culture, visual art is a way of creating meaning and belief, which is communicated either implicitly or explicitly through the work. This means that like other art, all comics are influenced by explicit belief and implicit bias, which add to the larger culture and impact the real world at large. This ‘expression of meaning’ theory is most interesting in regards to race – especially in light of the severely racist history of comics and cartooning.

I was interested in the way that meaning and culture could be conveyed implicitly the Misty comic. Many of the other visual choices in the images seem purposeful and explicit – like the fashion of the characters. The art frequent outfit changes make it clear that the characters clothes’ are chosen purposefully and with thought, and that the reader should also be noticing and enjoying the fashion in the strip. Choices like Misty and Darlene’s body type, or hair color, might be less purposeful, while other biases might be hard to see at all. An obvious visual choice – and indicator of culture – is the presence and absence of characters of color. I would guess that for producers and consumers of culture, the choices to have an all-white character cast, or to include a friend or other character of culture, are a combination of both purposeful culture-building and implicit, unremarked bias. Race as a part of visual culture can be conveyed or omitted, both of which have an effect on culture in real life.

I also noticed in the write-in letters between Misty stories, that a few letters were from children of color, one a girl with an Asian name hoping for a similar character to appear in the comic. While the comic writers did not answer her question about representation, they were very kind and encouraging to the letter-writing children who were teased at school because of their race. This detail made me wonder about the possible gap between the opinions and feelings of the image-creator, and the meaning which they have the ability to express in their published art. What kind of culture produces images like those in Misty, and what kind of culture do those images build when consumed? What aspects of this cultural time, or unexpressed meanings and opinions, might be omitted in the creation of comic art like this?