A Preview of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Women-Centric Comic

There is a page early on in “Bitch Planet” where the women prisoners are ushered through processing like soon-to-be slaughtered cattle. They are completely naked with no convenient art direction or obstacles to block their nudity. While most of the women are clearly uncomfortable to be made into such a spectacle, there is one character, Penny, who seems to revel in other’s discomfort. She is large, very large. She moves with a confidence that almost implies she’s there voluntarily, gives the guards sh*t just because she can, and by the time you’re halfway through this first issue, you’ll realize she doesn’t give a damn about how uncomfortable you are staring at her naked ass. This is “Bitch Planet,” the house that Kelly Sue DeConnick built, and it’s not like anything else on comic book shelves today.

Working with artist Valentine De Landro (“X-Factor,” “Marvel Knights”), “Bitch Planet” is a story about a not-too-distant future where women “criminals” are sent to an all-women’s prison … on another planet. I put criminals in quotations as some of these women may be guilty of murder or thievery and some of them may be guilty of being women. The individual stories of who these women are and how they came to be there is part of the reason why this comic can go in so many different directions. As I said previously, “Bitch Planet” looks like it will be different than most books out, even as it comes from Image, publisher of another of DeConnick’s largely innovative books. That doesn’t mean that DeConnick doesn’t draw from various inspirations, especially prison break and exploitation films like “Caged Heat,” “Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion” and “Victory.”

One of the immediate things about the characters that will stand out to you is not just the fact that they are mostly women, but that they are mostly women of color. I asked DeConnick what motivated her to diversify the characters to this extent and she replied that she wanted to flip the “White Default” when it comes to populating a roster:

“I wrote a letter to Valentine and just asked him to make the deal with me that unless a character was specified as white, they would be of color. I was hesitant … my concern was that we’re doing a prison book, and so of course most of our characters are incarcerated. And I worried about what that choice said. Was I working against my own intention?”

Read more from William Evans at blacknerdproblems.com

The Reality: Fantasy Fiction Novels with People of Color Are Difficult to Find in the Local Library

In fourth grade, I was introduced to fantasy fiction through “The Harry Potter” series. I became a fan of the series when the fourth book was the latest book released. There was something irresistible about Harry’s world that I couldn’t explain. When I read the first three books, everything I read vividly appeared in my mind in bright colors. Once things got darker with the fourth books, the colors shone like stars in new characters and gave me hope for those I already knew.

I loved how Harry’s world painted my imagination with its characters and creatures. As I waited for the newest book in the series to be released, I decided to maintain that feeling by reading other fantasy series such as “Percy Jackson and The Olympians” and certain “Dragonlance” trilogies. Together with the “Harry Potter” series, these books painted my imagination into a lovely kaleidoscope and also sparked an interest in mythology and folklore.

For a while, race wasn’t an issue for me when it came to characters. I related to things that went beyond skin color, like Hermione’s brain and her being put down because of it. In high school, I realized I couldn’t find any characters of color I could relate to in contemporary teen fiction. Due to the lack of diversity in diverse characters, I looked to white characters even more.

After Harry’s adventures ended in my junior year of high school, I found one or two other series that I enjoyed. Then, I started to get bored with fantasy fiction. I was tired of the same old strong female characters and books with vampires, fairies and demons. After a while, even fantasy series I loved to reread also became boring.

I wanted something new, but wasn’t sure what it was. Then last year, I watched the animated series “W.I.T.C.H.” on YouTube and found myself relating to Taranee Cook, a Black female main character who could control fire. That’s when I realized that I wanted to read fantasy fiction with people of color.

On Goodreads, I requested fantasy fiction books written by African-American authors and ended up reading “Sister Mine” by Nalo Hopkinson. While it took me a few chapters to get into the book, I found myself experiencing the same thrill I got from reading the “Harry Potter” books. However, the lack of fantasy fiction by Black authors at my local libraries and my picky reading taste prevented me from finding more books.

Read More from Latonya Pennington: blackgirlnerds.com