BITCH PLANET

THE SERIES

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AMBER LOVE 19-MAR-2015 BITCH PLANET is the off-Earth outpost for non-compliant women in a society run by a senate of “fathers.” People are entertained by a reality show style competition (like RUNNING MAN) of prisoners and it sounds like it will be rather extreme. Prisoner Kamau Kogo is chosen to clear her name for the murder of a woman named Marian if Kamau is willing to assemble a team and take part in the Megaton games. Issue one developed up to the beautiful twist where Kamau isn’t revealed as the main character until the end. The other prisoners already see her as a leader, a role she didn’t ask for, but fulfills impeccably.

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First off, the entire creative team does an amazing job. Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Valentine De Landro (art/covers), Cris Peter (colors), Clayton Cowles (letters), Rian Hughes (cover design/logo), Laurenn McCubbin (back matter design), Lauren Sankovitch (editor) and published by Image Comics. That’s a massive team and their efforts pay off. I’ve seen books this filled with content done by less staff, but not with this monthly ambition of a planned 30-issue run.

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So far, there’s only been one creative element of BITCH PLANET that I don’t like and feels out of place to me: the dominatrix-nun hologram. The reason for her construction in that style is forced and unnecessary. They make it clear that the hologram could appear as anything, but the overseers select this dom-nun intentionally to hear confessions. She’s in a corset and underwear with a loose habit on her head. It could easily have been a figure dressed as an intimidating guard, but they specifically chose to make this character erotically kinky instead of consistent with the paramilitary tone.

Everything else gets my highest praises. The creators make the issue full from cover to cover complete with fake ads (though some items will be made for promotions, according to DeConnick) for ridiculously anti-feminist products; they share tweets on one page so if you hashtag #bitchplanet you might see your words in an issue; there are essays by guest writers about feminism; a letter from DeConnick; and photos of fans happily showing off their NC “non-compliant” tattoos (some of them are real). The main series and the one-shots stay sequentially numbered.

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If it’s not clear by the name, BITCH PLANET, is mature rated. Issues one and two and probably more, have lots of naked female bodies of ALL TYPES! There’s bound be more violence in the coming issues, but so far there’s been one murder and some brawls.

The artists have shown remarkable care in showing all these various bodies. Some are suburban housewives, others muscular and athletic, tall, short, Asian, white, African-American, and everything you can imagine. BODIES! I just want to yell BODIES every time I turn the page.

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It’s hard to get everyone to understand about representation and why it matters in our media consumption. This is one of the comics that gave me a visceral reaction and caused my eyes to water. All it took was seeing different bodies and personalities. Am I “like” Penny? In some ways, I guess. I wish I was more like her. I wish I was more like Kamau too – she’s so strong and athletic and I’ve never been. There are poor women and wealthy women – although it’s pretty clear, any money doesn’t actually belong to them. Being a woman is like being a dog in a shelter: will you get chosen by a man who has money and neglects you or one that is poor, but wants to spend every minute with you? This is how you write about oppression and violence against women while not showing the female characters as weak, pathetic, helpless or as props. If a woman is weak in character – like the background women discussing their calories – it’s intentional to show that there are women more than willing to bow to the pressures of the “fathers” to fit compliant molds. They’re women you feel sorry for, but never expect anything from. That’s why they’re background. The main characters are dynamic and forceful in personality even if they aren’t physically strong, incredibly intelligent, or if they really wish they could be like the compliant women.

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The representation of such various kinds of women is “in your face” as is the intention of BITCH PLANET. This is the only comic I can recall that doesn’t back down to saying it’s about equal rights for real humans and genders (not mutants). Others pretend to. They have female leading characters or all-female superhero teams or even all-female creative teams. And there are comic fans who find those subtle approaches intimidating and say, “girls are taking over comics and ruining them!” Well, BITCH PLANET doesn’t give a fuck about your male tears and it’s not even an all-female creative team.

KELLY SUE DECONNICK AND SOME GUY WITH HER A LOT - PHOTO BY DEADLINE
KELLY SUE DECONNICK AND SOME GUY WITH HER A LOT – PHOTO BY DEADLINE

Everyone in mainstream comics knows the name Kelly Sue DeConnick whether or not they have any interest in reading her titles. Her name is often spoken in the same breath as Gail Simone’s. They’re on social media and on plenty of convention panels speaking their minds. I’m not even a superfan. I haven’t loved all KSD’s work, but that’s okay. Not everything is going to appeal to me. BITCH PLANET is title that I feel like was written after my personal memories and dreams were siphoned.

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ISSUE 3 – PENNY ROLLE

Penny Rolle is a stand-out character in BITCH PLANET even though she’s not the main character. What’s interesting about issue three is that it’s a planned one-shot; every three issues, writer KELLY SUE DECONNICK will let main artist VALENTINE DE LANDRO take a break and bring in guest artists. These one-shots will be back story about specific characters and it’s fantastic that they chose to begin with Penny.

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Penny is robust in figure and personality. She’s obese, black, and proud. Penny’s story is maddening, as I suspect all the NC’s stories will be. She’s also a different category of prisoner, a woman who is state-sponsored instead of being the property/responsibility of a particular “father.” Penny is a remarkable woman, not because she does things despite her size, but because she’s full of self love. She doesn’t see size as a flaw. She doesn’t see her color and curls as areas that need to be improved, covered, or changed.

This issue shows you a tender memory of Penny spending time with her grandmother. Even though they have a great time baking, Penny makes a mess which isn’t considered proper behavior for a girl. Such a small thing that was easily able to be cleaned up was an act of defiance, per the men, first because Penny and her grandmother were already overweight and shouldn’t have been indulging in cookies; and secondly, because Penny made the mess and laughed about it rather than quickly fixing it.

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At some point, Penny begins working in a bakery “born BIG” as their name and logo of two flanking elephants. She witnesses women counting calories and shaming their bodies in the way we really do – just go to one “fitness and health” magazine site. The news is basically if you had no other choice but Fox News too. The female anchors are cut from a mold, like all good compliant women. If a man decides a woman isn’t suitable anymore, he can have her deemed non-compliant and shipped off to BITCH PLANET.

Penny is the type of woman that doesn’t give a fuck about compliance if it’s something she doesn’t agree with. She’s independent and will kick the ass of anyone dictating or scare the crap out of women catering to them. She’s a future freedom fighter and issue three is a fantastic examination of her personality.

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1 comment on “Review: #BitchPlanet does what I’ve never seen done in comics before.”

  1. I’ll pick up this comic next week.

    At first glance, I thought it was just a grind house kind of thing, so I didn’t take a look at it. The premise and story sound really good, and I’m also glad to hear that people are portrayed realistically. I’ve only seen it in a few comics, but once I noticed women drawn differently (not all super-babes) it became really hard not to notice the objectification that takes place. There is basically one woman drawn with different hair to differentiate them.

    One of the reasons I like Valiant’s Harbinger is that Faith is a woman you’d probably run into.

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