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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 5)


Kelly Sue Deconnick (writer), Valentine De Landro (artist), Image Comics

In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Pages 11-12 Overview

The scrimmage between the NC team and the guards begins and sees its first score. An injury on the field creates a different score to be settled.

Like with the previous pages depicting the team, these are given the two-page spread to emphasize the space of setting and give room for the many bodies in panels. De Landro creates a symmetrical mirroring of left and right on the double-page to emphasize the two sides of the game, the reactive antagonism within the story, as well as spotlight the Liu twins.


Cells 1 & 2 stretch the entire width of the two pages, establishing the space of the arena which appears to be a modified exercise yard and then the pre-game posturing of the two teams. An announcer tells us who they are: “The A.C.O. Naughty N.C.s versus the A.C.O. Grappling Guards.” The guards have their arms up in postures of bravado. This practice bout is for “education and entertainment.” The entertainment part is clear, but who is being educated and in what way is ambiguous. Certainly the NC team is still learning how to be better players, but they’re also about to learn (again) that the rules made and enforced by others will always be used (sometimes quite flexibly) against them.

For the rest of the analysis, click through to PopOptiq.


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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 4)


Kelly Sue Deconnick (writer), Valentine De Landro (artist), Image Comics

In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Pages 9-10 Overview

With the turn of a page, the issue takes us back to the conversation between Father Josephson and Makoto “Mack” Maki. Gone are the assistant and the video screen. Tonally this scene is more intimate and more subdued. Emphasis has to be on the emotional shifts, and they are subtle. Maki keeps his internal thoughts and emotions tightly guarded, and Valentine De Landro has to subtly show them and cannot risk distraction.

These pages show a literary communion. Josephson’s goal, by sharing drinks, is to bring them together in service of his plans for the ACO team and the financial betterment of the Duemila conference. However, at every panel break, we see the tension of the communion. Maki doesn’t want to be involved, and it is only through manipulative coersion that Josephson succeeds. BP5-9-10-full

Page 9

Cell 1: Josephson is foregrounded, though we see only his torso. He’s taking up space, being afforded, visually, a casual importance. He pours two drinks, an act of communion to connect on the issue at hand. Maki sits on the couch behind him, visually much smaller, facing away from Josephson slightly. Even in this long shot De Landro expresses Maki’s worry through the tilt of his eyebrows. He says, “Six weeks isn’t a lot of time.”


Read the rest of my analysis over at PopOptiq!

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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 3)

BitchPlanet05CoverIn Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Pages 5-6

The 2-page title spread and credits. This spread juxtaposes the lofty diction of the Fathers’ decree of their punishment with the faces of the newly formed ACO Megaton Team. And as they are in the action of the story, the two are at odds.

The Fathers’ liken these women, “beyond correction or castigation,” to an illness–cancer–which must be cut out of the body before it is destroyed. Feminism here, the revolt against the expectations of women in society, is cast as a serious threat to society, not a force that might strengthen it by elevating the oppressed to fully participate and contribute. To keep their hold over society, the Fathers’ law is pitched with a mythic or biblical diction. Though these women are being cast out, the Mother is called upon to give their souls mercy. The Mother is the only salvation left to them.


Asserting against the Fathers’ word is the collage of faces. The mix of facial features, skin tones, and expressions gives image to the term “intersectional.” What is striking is the diversity of the team, and yet, each has an expression of contained aggression–some serious, others with a slight smirk or raised eyebrow to suggest a tinge of enjoyment. They come from different places, carrying with them the punishment of various crimes, but now they are a team.

For the rest of the article, click through to PopOptiq.


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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 2)

BitchPlanet05CoverIn Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.

Page 3-4

We step back from the screen to see who is watching: Father Josephson. He has a conversation with his wife before meeting with Makoto Maki who will later be revealed as Meiko’s father.

Of note on this two-page spread is the color transition repeated in the background of most panels. Blue on top, pink on bottom. The gradient is tempered with a gray to make it more subtle, but the connotative effect reinforces the hegemonic power divide that is the backbone of the series. Blue, the color of boys, on top of pink, the color of girls. Men are in power, even in the background color.BP5-3-4

Cell 1 continues world-building the Feed. The meteorologist, a pretty, big-busted woman in a strapless pink dress, predicts record-breaking heat on the west coast and mentions water-rationing. Additional text on the screen warns that people in arrears on taxes could have their water turned off–a harsh punishment that could cost lives in record-breaking heat. But this society lives and dies by its rules. Josephson riffs on the report, bridging smoothly from the Feed to his office. He’s apparently in “hot water” with the Mrs. and has his assistant get her on the phone, not using her first name but referring to her as Mrs. Josephson.

For the rest of my analysis, click through to the feature on PopOptiq!



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Cell By Cell: ‘Bitch Planet’ #5 (Part 1)

In Cell by Cell, I look deeply into the panels of an issue, appreciating and analyzing the story and artistic composition.


Kamau pictured in deep purple and red, shown to contrast the top of the cover which remains the normal pink tones. Combined with the text “STEEL YOURSELF FOR HEARTBREAK” and “WHICH WIP WILL RIP?!,” the cover coloring and heavy foreshadowing set a dark tone for the issue which will pay off emotionally later with Meiko’s death. The exploitative hype of the text fits the women-in-prison exploitation genre and functions similar to their characteristic trailers’ scintillating text and montage of violence and nudity.

Page 1

Opening the story is a full page of 12 panels depicting the Feed’s pre-season news coverage of Duemila. The panels switch back and forth between the Feed host and the Sports commentator in the field. Like most news channels, breaking news headlines and stock prices scroll at the bottom of the frame.BP5-1ALL

Cell 1 depicts the host of the program, a woman with pink hair and a purple dress. Her text bubbles are pink. The effect is to align her with the holograms used on Bitch Planet to inform and control the NC’s. The newscaster has a similar job for society at large. She informs in a particular way that works to control the populace. The journalism of this world, and ours for the most part, no longer serves the people, if it ever did. It serves the money. If the news sells ads through content or audience numbers, it plays.

Read the rest of my analysis (700+ more words!) over at PopOptiq!


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Book Review – Death in the Shape of a Young Girl: Women’s Political Violence in the Red Army Faction

Death in the Shape of a Young Girl: Women’s Political Violence in the Red Army Faction by Patricia Melzer

Death in the Shape of a Young Girl

In the early 1970s, a number of West German left-wing activists took up arms, believing that revolution would lead to social change. In the years to come, the bombings, shootings, kidnappings and bank robberies of the Red Army Faction (RAF) and Movement 2nd June dominated newspaper headlines and polarized legislative debates. Half of the terrorists declaring war on the West German state were women who understood their violent political actions to be part of their liberation from restrictive gender norms. As women participating in a brand of systematic violence usually associated with masculinity, they presented a cultural paradox, and their political decisions were viewed as gender transgressions by the state, the public, and even the burgeoning women’s movement, which considered violence as patriarchal and unfeminist.

Death in the Shape of a Young Girl questions this separation of political violence from feminist politics and offers a new understanding of left-wing female terrorists’ actions as feminist practices that challenged existing gender ideologies. Patricia Melzer draws on archival sources, unpublished letters, and interviews with former activists to paint a fresh and interdisciplinary picture of West Germany’s most notorious political group, from feminist responses to sexist media coverage of female terrorists to the gendered nature of their infamous hunger strikes while in prison. Placing the controversial actions of the Red Army Faction into the context of feminist politics, Death in the Shape of a Young Girl offers an innovative and engaging cultural history that foregrounds how gender shapes our perception of women’s political choices and of any kind of political violence.

I picked this up because, well, I mean, just look at it. Sure, like a lot of academic work it looks dry and specific and maybe even a little esoteric. Which, really, if you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time should ring some bells. Anti-capitalist gender nonconformity in a revolutionary context. With endnotes? Forgive me while I squee.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s be serious for a moment. One’s opinions about feminism, resistance versus the status quo, and even violence tend to calcify if one doesn’t continuously interrogate and investigate alternative and especially contrary opinions. Given the chance to read up on feminist political activism in cold war Germany I reckoned I could learn a lot.

And I did. I read through the book and wanted to say something erudite and impressive about it and all kinds of things happened and it never came together. I recently reread a few chapters and the thing is, I don’t have to. Patricia Melzer does that. Her primary sources do that.

I have to tell you that this book is absolutely worth reading. The scholarship is outstanding. The research is thorough, extensive, detailed, and nuanced. And the writing is engaging, authoritative, and even exciting at times.

That’s rare. I spent a long time in a library with more than six million books desperately wishing folks would stop reusing stock phrases and repeating themselves every chapter to pad out their word counts. I’ve read novels recently with less trust in their readers, less forward momentum, and clunkier phrasing.

That’s all great, you might say, but what about the subject matter? At it’s heart, this is a discussion of praxis and identity. What is a feminist versus what does a feminist do. The women of the RAF were engaged in political action that simultaneously expressed their feminism and challenged everyone else’s. The book shows how the metanarrative of the pacifist feminine was part of their revolutionary discussions. However it also points out that the popular media latched onto and reverberated that meme and placed it at the front of the discussion.

Thus we get the title, taken from a newspaper article positing that citizens might now need to fear confrontation with death in the shape of a young girl. ‘Cause girls aren’t violent, right? Mainstream feminism has traditionally defined violence as symbolic and symptomatic of patriarchy, reifying and reinforcing existing power structures even when it’s deployed in opposition.

The book tracks how that became common knowledge and mounts a strong challenge at the same time. It’s a concrete investigation of particular situation that nonetheless informs many others including our own. Take Ta-Nehisi Coates’ meditations on the establishment’s exaltation of the pacifism in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Or Anita Sarkeesian’s flat out dismissal of the most recent George Miller movie as simply not feminist because it foregrounded violent resistance.

Death in the Shape of a Young Girl problematizes the gender essentialism inherent in the notion that women are not violent and that political violence is therefore necessarily unfeminist. It proposes an examination of all feminist practices rather than the idealization of a feminist subject. And it challenges the reader toward the critical examination of historical contexts and practical results.

It’ll destabilize you. You should read it.

Recommended for fans of “We Have Always Fought,” The Baader Meinhof Complex, and Mad Max: Fury Road.

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Wisecrack’s Newest: ‘Boss Bitches of History’

Let’s not bury the lead: Wisecrack’s brand new video series Boss Bitches of History is developed, written, and hosted by porn stars. But these are no ordinary porn stars (I can only surmise, though my experience and insider knowledge is extremely limited.) Ela Darling has a masters degree in library science. Her co-host Sovereign Syre has a masters in creative writing and a background in sociology. Are these the new millennial adult entertaintresses? Highly educated but also in total control of their sexual selves? That sounds feminist AF.bbofhistory

If so, they may be the perfect hosts for the new show which focuses on a “boss bitch” of history in the Wisecrack way. I’ve been a fan of Wisecrack’s edutainment videos since I first saw Thug Notes: Pride and Prejudice.  When they added Earthling Cinema and 8-Bit Philosophy, I was tickled. These guys know how to make a fun but informative video. Now they’re giving us the greatest “give zero f**ks” women in history–yes, please!

The new comedic series is dedicated to celebrating emboldened women throughout the ages who bucked the system and boldly faced the sexist hegemony of their time.

One difference from the other shows to be aware of. There is sexual innuendo and some cussing. This isn’t a show that will likely find its way into history classrooms, except perhaps at the expense of the teacher’s job. History teachers: for now, stick with John Green.

But in your off time, after you put the kids to bed, do enjoy Boss Bitches. The first two episodes are out and embedded below.