Monday, 11 March 2013

Miscellaneous Mondays: ECCC Round-up Part 1

After four years of attending the same comic convention, even one that is growing as quickly as ECCC, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect on the show floor. There’s the artist alley, the clothing retailers, the publishers’ booths, the creators’ tables, and the specialty stores. Because the convention organizers regularly update their site with news of special guests and displays, you may know for months in advance whose panel you’re going to attend. There aren’t many surprises.

That’s why my favourite part of the build-up to ECCC is the release of the programming schedule: it’s where you encounter the unexpected. I knew I would find things like Sir Patrick Stewart’s panel closing out the con (and knew, too, that I would be willing to weather the mass exodus afterwards because, come on, it’s Jean-Luc Picard). I did not know that I would find a two-night film festival featuring short films made by women. (I also did not know that finding such a thing in the program did not necessarily mean that I would find it at the convention, but more on that in the next Monday post...) I didn’t know that I would find two panels perfectly tailored to the interests of this blog, but there they were.

The first of these panels was one focusing on the progression of characters, both male and female, “from victim to hero.” As you can imagine, the majority of the time was spent discussing the “rape as backstory” trope, but the panelists brought up some interesting points. The four panelists -- Scott Allie, Editor in Chief of Dark Horse Comics, Mike Oeming, the artist of Powers, Kelly Sue DeConnick, the writer of Captain Marvel, and Christos Gage, a writer for Marvel who has also written for Law & Order: SVU -- all argued against the use of sexual assault as the sole means to build a female character. Oeming summarized the ‘80s and ‘90s use of rape in comics as “a catalyst to unleash mayhem and violence and craziness and stuff.” It was not about a woman coping with the physical and psychological effects of sexual assault, but about finding a way to set them off on a rampage.

The panel further discusses topics such as the treatment of the sexual assault of male characters and the differences between writing a female character as a woman and writing her as merely “a dude who just happens to have breasts.”

While I would strongly recommend that you shell out the fifteen bucks to get access to this panel (and tons of other worthwhile videos), I would also like to share with you two of my highlights, of the panel and of the convention, both provided by Kelly Sue DeConnick. When the panel discussion turned to the question of whether sexual assault is a lazy writing tool, DeConnick offered this response: “I would not be sad if we were to call a moratorium on rape, at least in superhero comics, for a few years, just to see if we could do it, you know?”

Her other comment is basically perfection and, while I’m glad that the last part of it is making the rounds on Tumblr, I think it needs to be appreciated in all its glory. Speaking about the proper way to write female characters, Kelly Sue DeConnick said this:

“I don’t require that your female characters be upstanding individuals; I’m kind of a bitch. I am wildly imperfect. I don’t require that all of the female characters that people write be role models -- I don’t want them to be. What I do require is that you allow them to be the protagonists in their own stories, and when you include women in your other books -- magically, just like men -- they need to be there as individuals with agency, with their own motivations and their own desires and their own lives. [She goes on to explain the Bechdel Test.] The Bechdel Test has plusses and minuses, like basically, for me, it boils down to what I call the “Sexy Lamp Test,” which is if I can take your female character out and put a sexy lamp in their place, you’re a fucking hack.”
Best moment of the entire convention? I think so.

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