What I Can’t Write About, by Elayne Riggs

Elayne Riggs

Elayne Riggs is the creator of the popular blog Pen-Elayne on the Web. She was a founding member of Friends of Lulu, an organization dedicated to increasing the involvement of girls and women in comics, as readers and creators. She is married to inker Robin Riggs, with whom she shares two cats, and has odd love/hate relationship with Hillary Clinton.

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25 Responses

  1. Tony Isabella says:

    My darling Elayne…if you have something interesting to say about a comic book, does it really matter if the book came out yesterday or two months ago? It's not like the book isn't available from online dealers. I'd rather read a thoughtful review months later than something knocked out by a reviewer who blew through their weekly stack of comics so they could be the first to post their reviews on the Internets. You have a life, I have a life, we needn't pander to those whose lives are centered solely on comics.On another topic you raised, one of the great pleasures of my life is watching my daughter Kelly play basketball, softball, and volleyball…and it enrages me that girls sports don't get anywhere near as much money and coverage as boys sports. Much love to you and Robin.

  2. Alan Coil says:

    I won't watch that video. I read about the incident already, and just reading about it brought a tear or two to my eyes. Watching that video might reduce me to a blubbering fool, causing red, swollen eyes. I gotta image to uphold, dangit.

  3. Rick Taylor says:

    I wouldn't be worried about IF your article were about comics or not.Just have something interesting to say.These guys need to broaded their horizons anyway.

  4. John Ostrander says:

    We're supposed to be writing about COMICS?!

    • Mike Gold says:

      Dibs on Brother Theodore.

      • John Ostrander says:

        We got Brother Theodore?!

        • Mike Gold says:

          Well, if we're only writing about comics…I'd love to adapt his stuff to comics. I wouldn't even begin to know who's got the rights. Or who could pull it off. Maybe Bill Griffith.And BTW, Harlan Ellison does an astonishing Brother Theodore impression. Maybe someday he'll read one of his short stories in that voice.

          • Alan Coil says:

            There are many short examples of Brother Theodore's work available on YouTube.

  5. Neil says:

    If a trade paperbook collection has been announced in Previews and you have already read the comics making that up, a review of these comics would definitely be heartily enjoyed by many people and would be timely. So, you could take that approach to some comics reviews.I read that sportsmanship story on May 1 and posted about it on Tony's board, but he must not have noticed at the time. I'm glad to see that they ran it on ESPN.

  6. Elayne Riggs says:

    Okay folks, ready for yet another story about the nexus of sports and feminism? Unfortunately, this one will not be uplifting. But hey, at least women can now be in the clubhouse, provided they're plastic blow-up sex toys!

  7. Kathy Pearlman says:

    I am presuming, aside from the pros that read it, your column is for people who don't have advance warning or reading of comics and read thier comics at around the same time you do. Some of us also limit (gasp!) our comics to a select few. So reviews of comics that are past their due date are fine, as far as I'm concerned. Even if that doesn't matter to anybody else, but you and me – and Tony, apparently!

  8. Russ Rogers says:

    Elayne, let me quote the great philosopher, R. Nelson, "You can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself."How much are you getting paid to write this column? How much do you really owe to ComicMix or "the readers" like me to stay on topic? Not much.Tony Isabella is right. "Thoughtful" and "insightful" reviews and commentary always trump "timely" or "on topic." And you have as much right to stray "off topic" as any writer on ComicMix, especially if you remain thoughtful and insightful. You are right, Columns need a separate tab from News. The video of the softball athletes perfectly illustrates a point you were trying to make with last weeks column. Go back and be revisionist. Add it to LAST weeks column too! See how much of a rebel and a rule breaker I am! I teared up when I first saw the story on the Today show. It's an example of sportsmanships finest. Winning isn't everything. It's secondary to doing the right thing.Your link to the Blue Beetle Xenophobe article is broken. Go to http://www.getofftheinternet.org/ and search BLUE BEETLE or click on the Comics Category there. I wonder what reaction a Star Trek comic written primarily in "Klingon" would get. (Did you know that "Klingon" is a more widely spoken invented language than "Esperanto!")I searched out "The Open Source Boob Project." (Because I'm a 46 year old, prepubescent boy and somebody said "BOOB.") I found the ferret (that's his pen name), who seems to have spearheaded this social experiment here: http://theferrett.livejournal.com/1087686.htmlThe ferret seems very sorry to have started the whole thing. He's redacted and apologized and shut down his blog to comments because he's getting flamed and doesn't have time to respond to it all. From casually looking at it, the "Open Boob Project" seems to have been a convention joke/social experiment that really didn't do enough thinking about consequences or implications before the ferret and his friends started passing out colored buttons and asking to cop a feel. A red button meant, "No, you may not ask to touch my boobies." A green button meant, "Go ahead, ask. I still have the right to say, 'NO'." This social experiment has been tried before. The color coded buttons made me immediately think of colored bandannas ("flagging") and the gay cruising culture of the 70s and 80s. http://www.columbia.edu/~sf2220/TT2007/web-content/Pages/kaet1.html There are reasons anonymous, "open source," sexual interaction is taboo. It's inherently risky on many levels. I think the ferret also had problems from writing about his Open Boob experiences later. I think the courtesy of "Don't Kiss and Tell" extends to "Don't Grope and Blog." This protects the reputations of those involved as well as the general public who really aren't (or shouldn't be) all that interested. I think the ferret and his crew forgot that you CAN always ask a woman if you can touch her boobies, but you should generally assume that you shouldn't. It's called polite behavior. By passing out buttons, they were in effect asking every woman they came in contact with, "Can I touch your boobies?" That's just crass. Worse, they were asking, "Can I tag you like cattle at auction, so anyone can later anonymously and without any context ask to inspect your udders?" That's just crass and STUPID! Utterly ridiculous. How many women did ferret consult before starting to make and hand out buttons? Just because some women went along for the gag, that doesn't make the joke any less degrading (for both genders) or potentially dangerous. Anyone with half a brain should have seen that a large number of people were going to find this offensive.Was there any thought to making testicles "Open Source," that if a male wore a green button it should be considered OK for any stranger, female or male, to ask them, "Can I fondle your balls?" I seriously doubt it.Ah, there are so many ways that "The Open Source Boob Project" is just stupid and wrong. But, they made it "Open Source," no real copyrights or trademarks. If they had TRADEMARKED the deal, they could have either made some money off this or better yet, SHUT IT DOWN, just like ferret's blog comments. But no, it's open source. It's out there and with a life of it's own now. And me, I've droned on about this for too long, giving the idea even more life than it's worth. That is the problem with being critical of ideas that really don't deserve to see the light of day to begin with. You have to draw back the shades, even just a bit, to even say, "What were they thinking!"I had not heard about Open Source Boobs OR the Amanda Marcotte/Seal Press controversy before this article. Thank you, Elayne. The Seal Press thing seems to be more directly relevant to comics and ComicMix. Amanda Marcotte used images of some Generic Jungle Girl, that looks a lot like Sheena Queen of the Jungle, as front-pieces to the chapters in her feminist book, "It's a Jungle Out There." The images have been described as "hoary old racist, colonialist tropes." http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/04/25/…I'm not sure how I feel about this. The images are both iconic and archaic. I'm not sure how far we need to bend to conform to the standards of political correctness. Why is the Frito Bandito racist and the Lucky Charms Leprechaun not? The simple answer is, because Mexicans and Mexican/Americans were offended by the Bandito while the Irish and Irish/Americans are not as offended by Lucky. At one time, the Irish were regularly racially denigrated in cartoons and comics. Conan O'Brian regularly trots out the hoary old racist trope of The Drunken Irishman. But comedians generally get a special pass with much of their trope trotting.If Native Americans are offended by caricatures of their race being used by sports teams, it's time for sports teams to start rebooting their mascots and names. And I guess we'll give "The Fighting Irish" and the Minnesota "Vikings" a pass until a representative group of Irish or Vikings claims offense.Little Nemo in Slumberland, Babar the Elephant, Curious George, Tin Tin, Tarzan and Sheena are all filled with hoary old racist, colonialist tropes. I'm offended by some of them and can see how they might be more offensive to others. But I don't want to rewrite Babar of Little Nemo or ban them from libraries. And I won't stop reading or recommending them. They are products of their times and special thought should be given by parents, teachers or librarians on how they read them and teach them.Here's the deal. I like Sheena. I like Tarzan. I can see how they represent a racist trope, but I still enjoy their stories. They are exciting and fun. I can see how "The Black Panther" tried to turn that hoary old racist, colonialist trope on it's ear. And I can see why people sometimes wonder why so many Black super-heroes had to have the word "black" in their name: "Black Panther," "Black Lightning," "Black Goliath." You trade up in stereotypes, I guess. I am not offended by the images in Amanda Marcotte's book. But, I'm not black. I don't get to decided what black people find offensive. And I can understand how some people are offended.If the image of Sheena doesn't work in a book about feminism, what will? Amanda Marcotte was looking for a bold, iconic image
    to express excitement and the ideal of a strong woman. What comes to mind? Wonder Woman. Good, but it's a licensed property that would probably cost too much for a small press operation like Seal. (BTW, how much would it cost for a book to illustrate chapters with images of a licensed character like Wonder Woman or Superman?) Could Amanda Marcotte illustrate the 2nd Printing of her book with some sort of Generic Super-heroine? It would probably involve retitling her book and the chapters. And then finding an artist to draw all that! Again, it's an expense that a small press like Seal might not be able to afford. And will feminists complain about images of busty women in capes and tight spandex. Is that trope too old and whorey?

    • Elayne Riggs says:

      Russ, the illustrations Seal Press chose for Amanda's book and cover were Werner Roth art from Lorna the Jungle Girl. If you click on the link back to my blog you'll see the first question I asked was why they couldn't find an illustrator to do a "retro" style for them; there are plenty of comic book artists around who'd do it for next to nothing (i.e., be paid in copies). Good comments on the Open Source thing, which trades on the same premise of "woman as object for male convenience" as does, for instance, the compounded assault on Melissa Bruen.

      • Russ Rogers says:

        You are right. Seal Press could probably find an illustrator willing to do the job for very little pay, in order to build a portfolio. I would suggest that Amanda seek out her biggest critic from the feminist WOC community. Ask them for advice on how to best redesign the cover and interior art to better reflect a more culturally aware position. Would it help to have the Lorna character drawn as a woman of color, rescuing the white man? Would it help to have the caricatures of black natives be redrawn as caricatures of corporate businessmen? Or is the basic premise of having a "Jungle Girl Hero" character make all that comes after it have some kind of "racist taint"? Do the illustrations need to go in an entirely new direction?BTW, thanks for the "Nobert" embed and the plug of my site on your Blog! You Rock!

    • Mike Gold says:

      "You can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself."One of my favorite songs, from the man who put rock and roll into our nation's living rooms. My favorite line: "If memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck."Rick Nelson, Garden Party

      • John Tebbel says:

        Aye aye, see below for my brilliant comment that would have run here if I pressed the correct button.

  9. Linda Gold says:

    Gee whiz. I didn't realize my off handed remark about not wanting to see a sports themed column would cause such a stir. I take it all back. Just because I have a pathological dislike of sports doesn't mean anyone here has to restrict themselves in anyway. You all should write about whatever you wish and I'll read what interests me and keep quite about what doesn't.

  10. mike weber says:

    Funny, as soon as i realised where thatsoftball video was going, what came to mind was the climax of Pixar's "Cars"…No matter how delivered, it's an important lesson for our culture, which all too often finds itself consumed with Vince Lombardi's "…the only thing" philosophy.

  11. John Tebbel says:

    He got a great start from his dad Ozzie, the misappreciated bandleader, producer, athlete, who understood how to bring happiness to millions. They created a quality sound from day one (compare and contrast Pat Boone's similar covers of what was then called Race Music), and were able to expertly surf the wave of fame that, we'll remember, was over some time before the show went off the air. Ricky's brilliant comeback, curtailed by the vicissitudes of the road, was real rock and roll, speaking truth to power. Ring, ring goes the bell.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Actually, Rick's career was curtailed by the vicissitudes of the air, wasn't it?There was this great scene in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet — oft repeated in the better rock and roll documentaries — where Harriet Nelson explained why rock wasn't a danger or a threat and how it was important for each generation to be allowed to express itself in its own way. This scene was important not simply because Harriet was one of the most trustworthy maternal figures in the nation (and there were a LOT on teevee at the time) but had been one of the most popular big band singers — and had been so at a time when being a woman big band singer was being a trailblazer. She wound up marrying the band leader and giving birth to two children, a very popular radio series, a popular comic book, an astonishingly popular teevee series, and the best damn episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery of them all!

    • Russ Rogers says:

      I also think Rick Nelson's influence on 70s music is overlooked and underestimated. He also pioneered Country Rock. Randy Meisner was a member of Nelson's Stone Pony Band. Randy later became a member of the Eagles. Much of the Eagles' sound; the harmonies, instrumentation and general tone and sensibility; comes DIRECTLY out of the Stone Canyon Band! That Country Rock sound dominates country music (and still much of pop music) today.

  12. Alan Coil says:

    Never knew Ozzie Nelson was an athlete, but it's true. You can see it in the way he moves.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      Wow! Talk about topic drift! Let's bring this full circle. I did not know there was an Ozzie and Harriet comic book. Did you know that at one time Ozzie aspired to be a professional cartoonist? http://home.comcast.net/~jimmysplace/starmakers.htmThat would be a ComicMix exclusive, if they could publish an original Ozzie Nelson cartoon! I wonder if David Nelson has any.