This comic book never fails to make me think deeply about things. Like remember how fun it was to give the head of a push broom a good spin to screw it onto the pole?
Some people read this comic book because they enjoy the satirization of the Patriarchy via a model of women-in-prison storytelling almost exclusively used to pander to the male gaze. I only put the "almost" in there because I'm certain there must be some women-in-prison pulp literature that was actually written with lesbians in mind but was able to avoid being blacklisted or banned because it resided in the male gaze circle of the Venn Diagram of porn audiences. Some people read this comic book to feel empowered by its message of rebellion. I bet some people even read it for the essays in the back which seems weird because that's a lot of words to read for people who read comic books. I bet some guys even read this book to mock the women in it and cheer the men on to victory because women can't have anything nice without overly opinionated men ruining it by missing the point and twisting it into something demeaning! Fucking jerks! Now I bet you're all thinking "But why do you read it, Tess?!" because you're all astute readers who recognized that the structure of this paragraph was leading to a "but I read it for..." closing statement! Well, I don't want to disappoint all of you eggheads, so here we go! But I read it for the back cover! It's so brilliant! I always enjoy pure, unadulterated jokes alongside the knife twisting in the bloated stomach of the patriarchy!
Now you're probably thinking, "If that's true, why don't you just read the back cover while standing around like a knob in the comic book store?" Because I also like the story and the other stuff I mentioned! I even like when a guy writes a letter about how he totally missed the point of this comic book and tries to mansplain his reading to the creators and they answer by just drawing a picture of a dick or something. I don't know if they've ever done that but it would probably be a good response. Also I don't want anybody in my local comic book store to see me reading Bitch Planet. I have a manputation to maintain! At first I typed "mantain" but I thought that was putting too man a mant on man. Plus it just looked like a typo.
This is the part where I don't take anything seriously and make fun of this comic book in ways that might be uncomfortable for people who automatically think everybody is sexist. So if that's you, you might want to find all of the other reviews for this comic book that are intelligent and thoughtful. This won't be that. And to prove it, my first scan with caption:
Other nicknames for Bitch Planet: The Kitchen; No Means Pluto; The Planet Where Nobody Knows The Minutest Comic Book Trivia And If They Do, They Probably Learned It From Their Boyfriends; See Where You Wind Up When You Don't Give Up Uranus; and The Place Where Nobody Knows How To Construct A Killer Magic The Gathering Deck.
The issue begins with women with penises being given health examinations. I mean, that's what the official word statement is! But why would I believe anybody in an official capacity? I'm sure they're doing something duplicitous, like simply using the idea of yearly health exams as reasons to abuse and humiliate the transwomen. Kogo (who is, according to the inside cover blurb, the woman responsible for organizing the Bitch Planet Megaton Team (I mention the cover said that because I didn't want to imply that I remembered it! It's been a long time since I read Issue #7, let alone whatever issue was the one where the idea for a league was bandied about (who is, now that I've read further, actually Kamau's sister whom Kamau Kogo is attempting to find. I should have realized that because "Morowa" is not "Kamau". Sometimes it pays to pay attention. Which is probably why the phrase is "pay" attention!)) mentions that Bitch Planet was originally created to send trans women who were accused of lying about their gender and being purposefully duplicitous. This is the part where a person of greater intelligence and empathy would remark on how this ties in to real world issues of transphobia and misogyny. But I'm just trying to keep myself from saying something insensitive! Not that I'm dying to say something insensitive! I just mean if this were about nerdy men, I would make any joke that came to mind and not worry about what people might think because we all know nerdy men have so much power that a joke at their expense is punching up. Although back in high school, that would have been considered bullying? I guess things are different now! It's weird how bullying used to be a consistent thing white male nerds had to deal with when nobody cared about bullying but now that everybody cares about bullying, it's still okay to bully white male nerds! Ha ha! Nerds! Serves them right!
I like to pretend that I'm not a white male nerd who plays Magic the Gathering and Warhammer. That way I don't get my feelings hurt when I make fun of them. I mean, of course I'm different than they are! I may have a beard but I regularly shave the neck area and I've never been tempted by fedoras! Okay, maybe there were those few years when Indiana Jones first hit the theaters but it's not like my mother was dumb enough to buy me one! She was all, "That's stupid and nerdy. You're already stupid and nerdy enough. Don't call attention to it, you dumby!"
Whew! I think I made it past the transgender thing without making any missteps by turning things around on white males! Unless the word "transgender" is now the wrong term! Shit. I think I'm supposed to just say "trans"? I definitely know better than to use the t-slur, even though while I was growing up, I thought that was just used for transvestites (mostly thanks to Phil Donahue). Not that that excuses using it, even if some drag queens think it's okay! Also, who am I, an outsider, to project my thoughts onto the person I'm looking at? It would be nothing more than a guess on my part if somebody were a transvestite, or a trans woman, or a woman, or a douche-bro who thinks his woman Halloween costume is totally hilarious? And why should I be guessing anyway? If somebody presents themselves to the world as a woman, they're a woman! Except for those douche-bros in the cheerleader outfits. They're just trying to get laid. Oh shit. I think this paragraph has all of that insensitive stuff I was trying to avoid! Abort! Abort!
Meiko's father learns that his daughter is dead when the prison tries to convince him his daughter is merely unavailable to speak and so they give him a virtual visit with his daughter. There's a clue in the way she plays the violin but I don't remember the Meiko issue well enough to know what it was. Probably something about how his daughter always shirked her practice or something. I'm sure it was very touching for those with a better memory than I have.
Meiko's father decides to flip the fuck out and destroy the facility. His first step is powering down the power grid. That gives Kamau and her new cellmate, Agent Whitney, time to run about the complex and discover Eleanor Doane in the most secretest secret cell on Bitch Planet. Eleanor Doane is some kind of feminist icon that maybe I should remember better but at least Kelly and Valentine and Kelly put in that scene in the beginning to remind me of Eleanor and how she's the focal point of a feminist rebellion back on Earth.
And although that's the end of the comic portion of this comic book, I figure it's really a book in five parts so I should allow for some room of those other parts. The first part is, of course, the comic book. The second part is Kelly's own words about the issue and being that I had a few comments on her words (and also that some of her words--in a more intelligent and earnest and less facetious way--mirrored some of my own), I should probably include her thoughts before vomiting forth a few of mine. I mean, you don't expect me to reprint a white woman's voice without shouting over it with my own male opinions, did you?!
Okay, so, you know, well said Kelly! Not just the thing about the males but, you know, the reason you said those things about males but your stuff about writing a trans woman and how you didn't want to fall into any of the pitfalls I probably fell into while writing about somebody writing about a trans woman!
The third part of the Bitch Planet experience is the essay. This is the worst part of the book because it is composed of a lot of words which, after you read them, you're supposed to think about them. Ugh! Thinking is so hard. Well, here it goes. I'm going to read it anyway! The essay is by Professor John Jennings and is called "Skin Cells".
Whew. That was tough! Professor Jennings describes the flip side of that bit I mentioned about how whites get to be individuals from the moment of birth. In what Kelly wrote and what I was expressing, I was speaking of their internal views of themselves. Professor Jennings points out the other part of that equation which is how other people view you at first glance. If a cop stops me, a white male, his first instinct is that I'm an individual and treats me as such. He leaves most of his preconceived notions behind, especially the closer I fit into his notion of how a "good citizen" should look. So probably white, well coiffed, nice clothes, a car that doesn't look in need of repair. You know, things that might suggest I'm "not poor". But for a black American, that isn't what happens. Preconceived notions fly into the window and crowd the officer's mind. As Professor Jennings states at the beginning of his essay, his black body is inscribed by society "with the visual language of discrimination, fear, and violence."
At one point, Professor Jennings uses the term Iron Maiden and I'm all, "Excellent!" I don't think that was appropriate to the subject matter. I'm a lousy student of everything.
Quote by Claudia Rankine used in John Jennings' essay.
The fourth part of the Bitch Planet experience is the letter column! Except this time there's an interview with the Feminist Sticker Club! So maybe Bitch Planet has more than five parts to the experience!
Oh wait! Maybe this is still part of the essay part because after the sticker interview, there's another essay. This one is by Mey Valdivia Rude, a Mexican-American trans woman, and is called "The Kind of Characters We Need: Hypervisibility vs. Visibility in Trans Representation". This one sounds complicated! And also one that I probably won't have anything to say about because I probably totally agree and don't need to disagree because it's one of those moments where I, as a white hetero cis male, should just go about my business and not interfere! Except to say all that stuff I already said about how I don't need to worry about representation because white males are already seen as not representative! Which is kind of the point of representation. Representation is needed to get to a point where every character is not representative of a group of people! It's almost a paradox! But once trans people are represented constantly and well in pop culture, trans characters will stop being representative of the entire community and will just become an individual trans character. Which means they can be total dicks at that point and nobody will be pissed off! Maybe I should have said "total assholes" because whether or not they have dicks is their own business. But we all have assholes!
And once this is well established, we can have super villain trans characters without any backlash! Right? Did I understand this correctly?
And finally to the fifth, and my favorite part, of the book: the back cover!
Ah! Such sweet and refreshing satire! So good! Wait. This was satire, wasn't it? Um. I'm scared.