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Feminism in Comics

Article / 01 July 2021

By Rohit Chauhan

Feminism is defined as the belief in the social, political, and economical equality of both men and women. It grew as a movement in the early 19th century in the United States, taking shape of women suffragettes who fought for the right to vote for women. The comic books were no different; Since the medium’s beginning as females were mostly featured in short-lived and inapt female superheroes or female characters shown either as a sidekick or male superheroes love interest like in the early Superman stories. It hardly mattered if a female role made a difference to the storyline.

The onset of WW2 opened a small window for an independent and determined woman who could take the role of superheroes as they were busy fighting villainous Hitler! The birth in 1941 of the first female superhero in form of Wonder Woman was a momentous event in comics history. Sadly, after some time, Wonder Woman was demoted to more conventional female roles. She was rarely part of the action and became submissive. The spark of feminism was left to die a slow death by the same creators who had thought for a bright moment to let women live their dreams. The prevalent social attitude towards women was of sexism, comic books were creatively portraying women as an object of desire. Moral crusaders of that time decided to raise their voice against the comics, branding them as the originators of moral turpitude which resulted in the formation of the Comics Code of Authority (CCA). The comics censorship was an easy way out for publishers and creators to banish women from the comics world; DC comics' in-house Editorial policy code regarding the portrayal of women is a stark reminder of how insensitive the comics world had become to feminism. The policy read that “the inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women, when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance, and should be drawn realistically, without exaggeration of feminine physical qualities”. 

 

The Rise of Women Power

Throughout the Bronze Age of Comics, feminism gained some traction in response to the feminist movement and attempts were made by companies to reach out to female readers with the publication of several female characters. However, as usual, creators were largely ignorant of true feminism as most of these characters were often stereotypical, like the man-hating Thundra. The feminist activists were fighting hard for the change and they came up with a one-off comic called “That Ain’t Me Babe” which later evolved into Women’s comics; A first-ever all-female underground comic that brought many controversial women’s issues into the limelight. Marvel’s, feminist superhero, Ms. Marvel's debut in 1977 is a classic example of how comics were boasting off their support for feminism, but in reality, they had made a mockery of the movement itself. The first few issues of Ms. Marvel even had the cover line “This Female fights back!”. The change afterward was shocking with Ms. Marvel getting beaten black and blue by lower-class villains, her costume torn, and a yielding look. But worst was yet to come when an all-male Marvel staff under watchful eyes of Comics Code, crushed Marvel’s beacon of the modern woman by showing her as a victim of rape and then her wilful acceptance of it as her destiny. The shallowness of feminism was there to see for everyone, it was not going to go away anytime soon. In 1999, comic writer Gail Simone coined the term “Women in Refrigerators” as a response to an incident in Green Lantern #54, in which the superhero comes to his apartment to find his girlfriend killed by a villain and stuffed into a refrigerator. Simone also had a list made of female characters to show how women in comics were first objectified and then killed intentionally to punish the males in their lives; And those women were depowered or tortured in a wholly lop-sided way than their male counterparts. Or was it just too easy to kill the females to make the male character’s story arc move forward? The other big daddy of comics, DC, was not far behind from their rival Marvel comics. DC’s “Woman in Refrigerator” moment came when Stephanie Brown aka Spoiler was brutally tortured to death in the closing stages of War Games crossover. Fans were aghast at the gruesome killing of another female character and the way DC treated Steph at the end, demanding at least a memorial like that of the second Robin, Jason Todd. DC editorial team stuck to their guns with quotes like “She wasn’t really Robin”, generating even more sharp rebuttal from fans. It was the intense pressure from a feminist group called “Project Girl Wonder”, a website dedicated to better treatment of women in comics, that forced DC to eventually gloss it over with a new storyline where Steph is shown to be incredibly alive after going through a senseless ordeal. And the current Robin says to Batman "Oh! You always knew she was alive! No wonder you never made her a memorial case!". Hats off to DC for showing us how easy it was for them to hide their mistakes and still be able to keep their chin up. Was it really a victory of feminism or utter hogwash, DC could care less? 

 


Moving Ahead

The depiction of women in comics is still highly debatable as far as the mainstream comics are concerned. They continue to struggle with a realistic representation of the woman suffering from bouts of sexism now and then. Take the case of the Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon variant cover that DC planned to release in 2015. It featured tearful Barbara Gordon helpless in Joker’s arms, a chilling reminder of the 1988’s influential Batman story “The Killing Joke” in which Joker attacked and sexually assaulted Batgirl. Soon social media was on fire with the hashtag #changethecover becoming a hot topic for discussion within online comic communities; With feminist groups calling for a complete boycott of all DC Comics. Although variant covers are supposed to be a departure from the norm, it was not hard to see that this specific variant cover was bluntly opposite to everything the young team of Batgirl was trying to do at that time, to celebrate young women. The rebooted Batgirl was meant to show the superhero in a new avatar, fighting to save Gotham City, a superhero comic for everyone. DC quickly got into damage control withdrawing the variant cover based on the artist who had drawn it as they were now listening to their fan’s concerns. It is important here to understand that feminism is much more than how females are dressed up. It is the consistent characterization of female characters or giving them roles, which are in some way or another meant to show them as weak, silly, or dumb that is a cause to worry about. Too much focus on female costumes in comics is bound to create a distraction from real issues concerning females and will lead to the dilution of feminists. However, more recently steps have been made towards equality and de-sexualization with alternative comics leading the march creating stories dealing with real female issues. At Comic-Con fan fest, there is a huge presence of female fans, writers, and artists, eager to see their favorite superheroes or just to have fun. One can see even the Hollywood stars gracing the occasion to much delight of the fans, all due to the distinct effort of noted comic book editors, writers, journalists, and several

behind-the-show people working hard to bring more awareness of gender issues within the comics world. In the creative space as well, we can see a host of new generation writers, illustrators working hand in hand with the industry's well-known writers and editors. The young talent is more vocal, full of energy, and highly creative, providing a much-needed all-around view to creatives that cannot be easily ignored. Comics is a powerful medium to analyze how women were understood in society during different times as the pages of comics reflect the role of women that society wanted them to follow at any given time. The evolution of women in American society can be visualized from the comics of different eras. Comics are indeed a precious medium for preserving societal changes, yet they also send a strong message that if a medium is made gender-specific, with men dominating the industry for a good fifty years or so, we get to see only one side of the story. Hence, it was but natural for women to become vocal against the certain stereotypical portrayal of women and that has slowly and gradually awakened the comics industry from its deep slumber. The present transformation of the comics industry is simply amazing, in terms of top-notch creativity, catering to a diverse audience. Feminism is beautiful and very much part of our daily life in the modern world. We just need to be aware of it to see its true potential. It is a gradual change that is happening around us, for the better. The recent election of a female Vice President, in the world’s longest-standing democracy, the U.S. is a historic moment for a feminist to celebrate. Feminism was glowing as finally a woman got the same opportunity as a man would.


Motion Comics – The Future of Comics

Article / 17 June 2021

By Rohit Chauhan

The world is experiencing a new wave of emerging technology that is delivering high-quality creative efforts never explored before. Comics have been evolving since the early 19th century, becoming a popular medium for entertainment. The classic comic book ruled American pop culture with occasional tweaks in layouts and story themes. It was not until the late 19th century when comic book-inspired superhero movie “Superman” spectacular box-office results influenced the adaptation of comics into various media, televised cartoons, webcomics, etc. Superhero movies continued their successful journey to greater heights and as the world became more digitalized in the early 21st century, demand grew for comic books that could be easily made available on various digital media platforms, smartphones, tablets, and the internet. The future of comics was evolving, moving from printed pages to digital medium - motion comics were born!

 

Motion comics take the narrative and static artwork from the comic book and use animation (CGI) to create a fascinating impression of moving images, “a multimedia comic.” The comic book images were alive; they could move. 

Keeping the storyline and speech bubbles the same as regular comics have, adding voice acting, sound effects, and music enhanced the overall effect of storytelling, giving the audience a feel of cinema. Motion comics can be easily distributed over the internet, smartphones, e-readers, etc.                    Screen capture from “The Watchmen” motion comic


The potential reach of motion comics in the age of the internet makes it an attractive medium for the mass media and entertainment community to explore and experiment using modern digital tools. The notion of traditional storytelling via comic book is gradually transforming into new motion comic storytelling which can lure millions of new audiences to a medium that is relevant to them. For those from older generations, the idea of story narration in motion comics may seem insane but for many who are hooked to their phone, a crisp voiceover taking the story forward is entertaining. 


Future ahead

Motion comics score highly on innovation and viability as a medium of entertainment in the internet age. It is also leading to experimentation and greater sophistication as companies roll out new motion series. The emergence of mobile app-based versions gets their inspiration from motion comics’ art and are destined to become popular among today’s digitally wired audience. The comic book companies are also gearing up to reinvent themselves to produce printed artworks that are rich in color and have a visually impactful version when seen on a mobile screen.


The shorter motion comic version also allows for quick adaption of comic books into local languages by changing the voice-over tracks. The technology-driven changes in format and distribution of comics are also leading to radical changes in storytelling. The shorter motion comic version is slowly gaining ground with the newer audience who are glued to their mobile screens binge-watching video shorts and reels as they are easy to watch at any time and give a much needed instant break of entertainment from today’s hectic life. 

 

Conclusion

Motion comics have no doubt polarized comic book fans to a great extent. Some oppose it outright as the smell of printed paper can never be replaced nor will the value of printed comic books! For others, the transformation from the static version of comics is the need of the hour, lest we let the art die a slow death. 

 

With its unique cinematic approach and high-tech production making, motion comics have an edge over other interactive modes to bring comic book narration to a new digital audience. Will this transition to motion comics sustain with the greater interplay between animation and the comic book or will it lead to something more enriching and creative? Only time will tell!

What is the New Normal?

Article / 11 June 2021

Rohit C.


Our work and home lives have forever changed in 2020 and continue to do so in the current year. From our physical hugs and meetings to elbow bumps and virtual meetings, everything has changed. We were pushed to learn and adapt to new skills just because it was a question of our survival. It was a big challenge for many of us to accept change so fast in our normal lives and seeing the scale of change from a global viewpoint is just staggering. Who would have thought that a normal toilet paper, in this pandemic, will attain the status of gold! The shift in our lives is real and visible. The new normal that we see today is way different from the old normal and possibly continues in some form or other for a long time.


The normal we enjoyed living

The last year was a complete whitewash for all of us. This frustrating time is still ongoing for a major part of the world as the happy hours many of us boasted about became off-limits. The old normal way of going to the office jostling in a metro, catching sometimes with a long-lost friend was enough to put up a smile on our face. The office was for fun, the thought of staying at home would make many go crazy. School-going children were not far behind. They were happy to go to school every day, learning new things, playing, and having fun with friends. Picnics, outings, sightseeing trips, tourism, and travel were the perfect getaway from boredom as well as to feel good and recharged to live another day. Surprisingly for us, the word “virus” used to be just another harmless word in the dictionary. It was best left for creative writers to imagine sci-fi stories where a lonely virus could bring the world down. And for those who were feeling let down, it was the thought of positivity created by the positive people that worked wonders.


The normal gestures which we were used to, a firm handshake, a tight hug, or a friendly tap are in for a long break. Sneezing and coughing were just a way to show that we are alive! Meeting new people at different places, parties, clubs and even hanging out with friends and family is how normally weekends were spent. People used social media but never went off limits with it, there was much more to do. Life was in the fast lane, people were happy to live a mechanized life for it brought them stability, success, and peace in life. Special costumes were for special occasions, PPE and masks were rarely seen in public; social distancing was unheard of. Office meetings were a good time to eat your favorite pizzas and McD burgers.


The New normal we have adapted


A year has passed with “new normal” now part of our lives. It is all about a new way of living, working, and interacting with other people after a major disruption in our life routines due to a global health crisis. The current one emerging from the widespread outbreak of Covid-19 has influenced every aspect of our work and life. All of us are adjusting to new ways to manage our daily activities. This adaptation is the New Normal, for some, it may be a temporary phase while for others it will be a new living culture. Besides, the numerous changes in our lives, the new normal is also about knowing ourselves better. It is also time for preparing for the post-pandemic generation. So let us dive into what is the new normal. 

 

Virtual world

The emergence of a new kind of virtual world in a short span of a year and moving at a break-neck speed is simply mind-blowing. In some parts of the world, this digital transformation, unimaginable a couple of years back is leading the change in society. Society has become contactless to a large extent. People are using digital technology like never before, ordering food, groceries, medicines, etc, online, from the comfort of their home. Binge-watching and eating go hand in hand with a host of OTT platforms to keep us glued to screens for hours. Work-from-home is here to stay as more and more companies adopt it as a part of their work culture. People have upped their skills to cope with remote working learning new office tools. Social media platforms, video chat, and phone calls are the only ways to stay in touch with your close ones. The world of schools and universities has shifted to the e-learning model, teaching done remotely and on digital platforms. Will this abrupt move to online learning will become a norm or we will see an emergence of a hybrid model where online education will have a larger role to play, only time will tell? Cash in physical form is now hardly seen with people finding it easy and safe to pay using credit, debit, or mobile-based apps. Public transport is seeing dwindling users as most of the world is virtually connected. Businesses have increasingly moved to an online model, those solely relying on physical mortar and brick are in deep trouble as consumers accept online shopping at a frantic pace.


The future of medicine is undergoing rapid change. People will continue to have online consultations with doctors. Internet of Things-based devices will continue to grow at a fast pace offering advanced technology at cheaper costs to monitor everyday health. Social distancing norms are part of the new virtual world, people are willing to interact virtually but reluctant to meet in person. The age-old thought of a human being as a social animal has gone for a toss! Personal hygiene was always an important part of our lives before the pandemic, but now it is more to do with how many times we wash our hands, incessantly use sanitizers and wear face masks with a ritual-like frequency. And based on our habit-forming tendency, this will continue for a while and they should. The once-revered word “positive” has lost its sanctity, now it sets most of the people in panic mode. People are happy to see “negative” people or negative-positive people!! (person tested negative for covid-19, and with a positive attitude)


New beginnings

The pandemic has been a great leveler for all of us, giving everyone time to introspect about ourselves, society, and nature. It gave us the time we all needed in building ourselves to cope with this tough situation and learning the various truths of life. We even got the space and time to grieve, to celebrate, and to feel every emotion in between, during this challenging time. We are living in a situation that never happened before, and it is impacting each one of us in a very distinctive way that we never thought of. We even got time to learn our indoor hobbies which we did not even know we had. People enhanced their skills in their area of interest. From the initial shock, the 'new normal' has been able to reduce the chaos and calm us down to a great extent. It has also allowed us to think but it also expands our ability to think openly about the efforts that are needed to help our society at large.  

 

Conclusion

There is no denying the fact that the current pandemic has turned our world upside down. Indeed, it was very tough to suddenly change your way of living to something alien to all of us initially. But we persisted like so many times the human race has done in past in face of adversity. We allowed the change to happen, some for good and some for just survival. It is but natural to resist a change that is so dramatic and so many of us were not ready to accept the new normal. The resistance was more with the inner self which had to give in at some point in time. Will life ever return to old normal is the question that crops up whenever one sits down thinking about life. The answer is probably no as the clock ticks with each passing moment, the new normal has already become normal for most of us. The comfort of tech and habits that we have picked up during this time is here to stay. Of course, some of the restrictions will go off simply because we are indeed social animals! We are born to interact physically with some caution. 


Adjusting to new normal is never too early or too late, it is a process that each one of us is getting used to at our pace. The opportunity to change, make a better version of ourselves is a godsend and should be taken in the right spirit. It is difficult for us as a global community to predict when such a crisis will occur and what will be its impact, but if we prepare for any eventuality then it is sure that the next black swan event will not be as gloomy as the one, we all have endured. “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans” So, let us leave old normal to rest in peace while we focus our energy on the bright future ahead that holds the promise of a great life, a society that upholds the principles of liberty, truth, and justice for all.  

Comic icon of India, Dheeraj Verma, passes away due to COVID complications

Article / 09 June 2021

Mike Gagnon

It is with a heavy heart that we report on the passing of Dheeraj Verma. 

Verma is idolized by comic fans worldwide for his amazingly detailed comic book illustration, and in India particularly, where he is recognized as the first comic creator from India to break into the mainstream comics scene with major publishers such as Marvel and DC.

Verma was hospitalized in May with COVID-19, though he recovered and was showing improvement, Dheeraj developed pulmonary fibrosis as a side effect of his COVID-19 exposure, likely due to organ damage caused by the virus. 

While hospitalized waiting for treatment for his complications Dheeraj fell into a coma and had to be put on a ventilator. 

Being in India, Dheeraj lived in the country with the largest production of Vaccine, but, like most Indian citizens did not yet have access to it. 

As of June 9th, Mr. Verma's passing due to pulmonary fibrosis caused by Covid-19 was confirmed by his daughter in social media posts. 

Our heart goes out to the comics community in India and around the world and all those that mourn the passing of this great artist.

Dheeraj's daughter, Vinnie, was running a crowdfunding campaign to pay for his father's medical treatment to save his life when he passed. 

Condolences and donations can be made to the Verma family at: My Father Is Suffering From Pulmonary Fibrosis. We Need Your Help To Provide For His Treatment - Ketto 

Rest in Power, Dheeraj.


Note from the creative director: When I first met Dheeraj, it was online. In fact, with him being in India and me in Canada, online is the only way I know Dheeraj, but I knew him. 

Many years ago, when neither one of us had had a big break yet, he and I worked on an independent comic together we were going to self-publish. I think we may have gotten it half completed when Dheeraj started catching the eye of bigger publishers with paid gigs. I was looking at forming my own publishing company at the time, so we mutually agreed to put the project on "pause" while we both pursued success in our separate careers, but always stayed in touch and said we'd get back to finishing that book together. 

We never did get back to it, but it was great to see an artist with so much talent and for who I had so much respect continue to succeed and get some of that recognition that he deserved. 

To be honest, if I could be any artist than the one I am, it would have been Dheeraj Verma. One look at his work tells you how amazing his art skills are amazing. I always thought it was crazy that he wasn't already working for Marvel by the time that I first met him. 

What really weighs on my mind, is that when we were working together, Dheeraj and I had discussed the idea of me sponsoring him to immigrate to Canada. At the time I felt like a nobody, and didn't think my fledgling publishing idea would be able to support someone moving across the world, so we decided not to do it. 

If I had done more then, Dheeraj might have been in Canada now. He may have still gotten COVID, but he might not have, and he would have had access to the vaccines and treatment he needed without his family having to worry about medical costs as much. 

There are very few regrets I have in life, but not helping Dheeraj get to Canada is definitely one of them.

I have privately donated what I could to the fundraiser for Dheeraj's medical care, and with a heavy heart, I encourage others to do the same if they can. 

Life Lessons from Black Panther

Article / 28 April 2021

Rohit C.

Black Panther is one of the greatest black superhero movies to have dazzled the big screen in recent times. People from all races were amazed at the sheer richness of black culture. Many movie watchers from the black community wore traditional African attire to enjoy their moment of truth. 


In the imaginary world of Wakanda, an African nation of the highest order and the most technologically advanced country in the world is brimming with life and joy. It has vast reserves of rare and indestructible metal vibranium and they have technology which is light years ahead of other civilizations. Prince T’Challa makes a comeback to Wakanda to take over the reins after his father and the King are killed in a terrorist attack. He engages in ritual combat with his challenger to become the Black Panther. The King faces a daunting enemy, Killmonger, who sees Wakanda’s advanced technology as a means to expand the Wakandan empire all over the world for black people to rule the world. The Black Panther must rise to the occasion to save Wakanda and the entire world from the dangerous rogue Killmonger. 


Black Panther, apart from its visual brilliance, has, for the first time, MCU’s almost all-black lead cast. It caught the eye of the world for its costuming capturing the rich and diverse culture of Africa. Black Panther is all about the true essence of black life if it had not been enslaved and had the freedom to choose the way it wanted to live. It provides us lessons we can all use in real life.


Women Power

Black Panther showcases the real power of women, an inspiration to women and girls worldwide to the fact that they can do everything that men can do. An all-female army Dora Milaje “adored ones,” led by their female general Okoye that protects the King and Wakanda is the symbol of ultimate female strength. There are several examples in present times where women have broken the barriers to finding their rightful place – Kamala Harris, the first African American Vice President of the USA, is one such example. 

Wakanda not only represents the beauty and intelligence, but also the strength and resilience of women's power, a huge motivation for black women and girls all over the world.

 

Knowledge is power

T’Challa, the Black Panther, is a genius in the field of science. His sharp and curious mind uses science to propel Wakanda into becoming a highly advanced nation. He is also a superhero with super strength, agility, and has mastered many forms of martial arts. Black Panther does not rely on his family’s wealth or empire to become king. His skills and abilities make him the best man to lead Wakanda. 


Knowledge is all about awareness and understanding. It gives the power to choose the right direction and make intelligent decisions. The power of knowledge is limitless and can knock out even our strongest enemy, as the advantage lies with the person who has superior intelligence along with physical strength. We must use every opportunity to learn and upgrade ourselves!

 

Listen to your Soul

Superhero stories are all about sci-fi or human endurance. Black Panther is a superhero but there exists a moment of spirituality when he visits his “ancestral plane” to interact with his ancestors as he undergoes the process of becoming a King. Humans have always had deep connections with spirituality. The belief that there is something greater, divine than us that gives us power and courage to choose the righteous path and helps us in our most difficult moments. It brings positive emotions such as inner peace, a feeling of contentment, and gratitude. T’Challa has the fictional heart-shaped herb to experience spiritual vision, but we as humans can also experience the power of spirituality simply by praying and meditation. Our emotional well-being is as important as our physical health. One cannot be healthy without the other!

 

Compassion for your Enemy

The feeling of compassion for a person who has caused deep suffering to us is seldom seen. M’Baku as a challenger could have lost his life during ritual combat but T’Challa spared his life, showing an act of true compassion which made M’Baku realize that T’Challa was indeed a good person and so he became an important ally. People have an increasing tendency to seek revenge, they celebrate seeing someone down, but forget that this only starts a vicious circle of violence which is never ending. Only a brave and daring individual can stop further escalation of violence and offer compassion as a way forward to secure the future. 

T’Challa as Black Panther exhibits what it means to be compassionate and shows how skillful action which is driven by seeing reality from a larger perspective can end violence and bring lasting peace. 

 

The World is One Big Nation

Wakanda became the most advanced country in the world because of the metal vibranium which helped them develop their resources and technology. They refused to share technology, hiding from the world for their benefit. What if they would have worked for the greater cause of black people's liberation or the poor world at large? Our history has several such examples when nations became selfish, ignoring others. 

 

The Nation First ideology has brought far greater suffering to humanity than can be imagined. Nationalism in a broader sense is good for society as it helps its citizens to work for the betterment of their nation. The problems arise when a country decides to safeguard its interests but ignores the fact that its unilateral actions will cause harm to the global community. The US in its previous administration decided to withdraw from global climate change mitigation citing economic reasons and that it was putting the US at a permanent disadvantage, a narrow and selfish thought from the world’s strongest country, ignoring the opinions and studies done by the scientific community that global warming is real and can cause a life-threatening disaster in near future. Though, the recent change in US administration brought forth the majority outlook that the US is deeply concerned about and needs to be part of the global climate pact. Sanity restored!

 

Similarly, the ravaging pandemic has brought mankind to the edge. “As of 22nd April 2021, 40% of the Covid-19 vaccines administered globally have gone to people in 27 wealthy nations that represent 11% of the global population. Countries making up the least-wealthy 11% have gotten just 1.6% of Covid-19 vaccines administered so far, according to an analysis of data collected by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.” The world community is ignoring the simple fact that, “No one is safe until everyone is safe.” I hope that common sense prevails.

 

Wakanda Forever!

Where are all the women?

Article / 19 April 2021

By Rebecca Olsen

We’ve all heard of Wonder Woman. She’s as tough as they come, smart as a whip, and was there at the creation of the Justice League, way back in issue #28 of The Brave and The Bold, in March, 1960. But she’s been around a lot longer than that. She made her debut to the world in October, 1941.

Who would Superman be without Lois Lane? She’s been the star reporter for the Daily Planet since day one, way back in 1938.

But have you heard of Katy Keane? Or Mopsy? Or Phantom Lady?

Nyoka the Jungle Girl starred in a whopping 76 issues from 1946-1953. Suzie starred in 52 from 1945-1954.

If you’re not a real comic book guru, chances are you’ve been missing out on a lot of incredible leading ladies. The website Comic Book Plus has a category for leading ladies, which boasts 117 different comics, and over 1,000 different issues.

If you look closely, the vast majority of them went out of print in the 50s. A few of them made it to the 60s.

And if you look around the Wikipedia list of superheroines, you’ll notice that there seemed to be a burst of new female characters in the 80s. Though there still aren’t that many that come to mind when we’re talking about leading ladies.

So what happened? War, probably.

When the US finally got involved in WWII, the total number of deployed servicemen nearly quadrupled in one year, from about 450,000 in 1940 to about 1.8 million in 1941. By 1942, the total doubled, to 3.9 million. By 1945, the US had about 12.2 million active duty troops deployed around the world. To put that into perspective, that’s just shy of 10% of the total population of the US at the time.

The war created a void in the US workforce. To make up the slack, women were recruited to replace men in repurposed factories. And they totally crushed it! Rosie the Riveter became a new role model for women and girls all over the country.

We Can Do It! was the original feminist battle cry, and was even propagated by the US government. And rightly so. The men may have been overseas in the trenches, but they were using supplies built by women. The war effort depended on women. And the economy depended on women.


Here’s a Rosie putting rivets on a bomber plane.


By Alfred T. Palmer - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress


So it should come as no surprise that there were at least 117 leading ladies in comic books in the 40s and 50s. Women had risen to a new place of power and strength, and the popular culture of the time was celebrating and mirroring what was seen in society.

So then why do our leading ladies start fading away in the mid to late 50s and early 60s?

The war ended (and thankfully so!)

The soldiers came home to parades and great fanfare, and also a society changed.

Women were used to independence and being praised for their strength. In just a few short years they’d emerged from their kitchens, supported the economy and helped considerably bring about a swifter end to the most catastrophic war in history. Simply put, women had risen to the occasion. And in doing so they had redefined American society.

Unfortunately for American women at the time, however, their male counterparts weren’t at home to witness and evolve in the same way and at the same pace.

After the parades ended and the bands went home, American men expected to go back to life as usual - that is, pre-war life, the husband going off to work and the wife staying at home in the kitchen.

To say that the readjustment post-WWII was difficult for everyone would be an understatement. The automotive industry, for example, refused to hire women after the war ended and factories were repurposed back to peacetime production. These were the same women who were deemed competent enough to build airplanes. After all, the men were back, and they had always enjoyed controlling the labor market. And now that they were war heroes, who could possibly stand in their way?

While many women found themselves being pushed out of skilled jobs, many found clerical positions, and the rise of the office secretary was born. The glass ceiling and the wage gap were born at about the same time. When they did find new jobs, they were nearly universally lower-paying than the ones they’d held during the war.

I suppose secretaries don’t make as credible super heroines as Rosie the Riveter. The We Can Do It! posters must have been torn down and used to fuel the furnace. And popular culture must have done what its always done, followed the moods and trends of the time.

The American Dream was reborn, and with it came a new call to women, “take care of your man.” Post WWII women married younger, and had more children. Even if they wanted to work, there was less time to do so. Magazines featured more and more ads for white picket fences and shiny new appliances, modern conveniences for the modern housewife.

TV shows depicted the ideal American woman as happy, made-up, dressed well, and waiting for her husband with a martini as soon as he got home from the office. Long forgotten were the days of fear and uncertainty.

Women weren’t being called on to be heroic now that the world was enjoying a time of peace, so they hung up their capes and went on with their lives.

Comic Culture Profile: Bangladesh

Article / 06 April 2021

By Suzon A. 

How comic books are perceived in Bangladesh?

There was a time when comic books were perceived as children's entertainment only. With the passage of time, that old notion has started changing.    

Through the combination of words and pictures, comics serve as an artistic medium to engage readers. Now comic books are considered to be a form of art that is enjoyed by people of all ages - no longer limited to children.

With that in mind, several publishers have been publishing comic books, and those books have been attracting bookworms to their stalls at the Amar Ekushey Granthamela this year.

Children, teenagers, and adults alike were enthusiastically buying those books, as they consider that form of literature no less entertaining than traditional novels.  

Though there were stalls selling comic books with an exclusive focus on the juvenile age group, some others have comics targeted at people of varied ages.

Dhaka Comics is one of the few publishers that are selling comic books catering to the need of people of different ages. Founded in 2013 by Mehedi Haque, the publisher aims to give preference to local culture in their works. Their popular comics include Zoom, Durjoy, Rishad, Rohan Rohan, Mrittu Pathar and Dinyed.


“People used to think that comics are for children only, but comics have a universal appeal. For instance, a graphic novel can tell the story of a novel through cartoons, making it comprehensible for all,” said Tanjim-Ul-Isalm, the writer of the Ibrahim and Solemani Angti comics by Dhaka Comics.

Last year, the publication brought out Pancha Romancha by Qazi Anwar Hossain. It was a great success, according to Tanjim, who added: “Even adults bought the graphic novel from our stall then…”

The publication rates their comic books using the letters “T”, “M”, and “E”. Books rated “T” are for the teenage audience, while “M” is for matured and “E” is for everyone.

“Their comics are attractive, and stories are adventurous,” said Prodorshee, an eighth grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College. She was visiting the stall with her mother.

Prodorshee's mother, Dr. Taniya, also could not restrain herself from joining the discussion. She added on: “During my teenage years, we could only find Unmad to read."

"Things have changed. My daughter has many options now," continued Dr. Taniya, in reference to the variety of comic books available at the book fair.


However, some comic book fans said that the number of comic books at the fair was not sufficient. They appreciated the fact that at least a few publication houses were bringing out new comics and graphic novels though.

“When I was in school, I used to read comics, which were mostly from abroad. Now a few [local] publishers are trying to publish comics incorporating our own culture,” said Tahmid Hossain, a student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Popular cartoonist Ahsan Habib, editor of Unmad magazine, a pioneer in the genre, said: “Comics are not always for children. Anyone can read those if those are created considering their age. Now the scenario is changing, with initiatives of different young graphic novelists who are explaining a story through cartoons for everyone.”

Mentioning that a wind of change has started to blow, he added: “Different publications now demand graphic novels from me.”

Progoti Publishers has brought out a celluloid graphic novel titled Kasahara by Ahsan Habib this year. The cartoonist said the book is for everyone. 

Another publisher, Panjeri, is selling graphic novels on Charles Dickens, as well as the popular comedy series Basic Ali by Sharier Khan.

The Unmad stall on Bangla Academy premises was seen drawing a large crowd of comic fans.
Apart from that, the fourth edition of a graphic novel series on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman titled Mujib-4, was available at the fair, along with its previous editions.  
A comic series named Chhoto Kaka Babu by Faridur Reza Sagar was available at the stall of Sapta Dinga. The series is also rated for all ages.

DAILY STAR BOOKS

At the recent book fair, popular Bangladeshi stand-up comedian and columnist, Naveed Mahbub, visited the Daily Star Books stall.

People were seen buying his book, Humorously Yours and Counting, published by Daily Star Books. The book is a compilation of his columns, which he wrote for The Daily Star newspaper.



How are they viewed/any impact they've had on Bangladeshi culture, and any way that comic books/graphic novels have affected your life?

In Bangladesh, where four out of ten people are illiterate and the annual income per capita is only about $1,000, spending money on comic books has never been a high priority. However, that has changed over the past three years, as a growing number of Bangladeshis are buying and reading English and Bengali comic books.

Twenty-four-year-old Farhan Mahmud Akash, a business student at a private university in Dhaka, says he can now buy the latest issues of Batman or Hawkeye in the Bangladeshi capital just a few weeks after they are released in North America. In the past, Akash had bought second-hand comics from used bookstores. “Still, I could not follow my favorite titles regularly,” he said, “Also, most of these issues were from the eighties or nineties.”

The situation for readers like Mahmud changed rapidly after stores began importing comics from top Western publishers – like DC, Marvel, Icon, and Vertigo – and selling them in Dhaka.

Bangladesh also now has two comic publishers of its own, which together sell 10 titles. The burgeoning demand has been facilitated in recent years by the release of several Hollywood movies, featuring Marvel and DC superheroes. Meanwhile, social media and the internet have allowed Bangladesh’s publishers to more easily reach out to their target audience.

Growing reader base

Opening a shop selling only comics and paraphernalia was a risky venture for AKM Alamgir Khan, who goes by the nickname “Jamil”. He is the sole proprietor of Jamil’s Comics and Collectables, which launched in Dhaka’s upscale Banani area back in 2010.

“I was doubtful about making profit, as comics culture had not taken off in Bangladesh ’til then,” said Khan. Importers had deemed it inadvisable to ship in expensive comic books, but Khan, a die-hard comic book collector himself, went forth with the venture and ordered a stock of back issues. “The first few months were tough due to low sales, but the reader base grew rapidly with time,” he said.

Khan took another leap of faith in 2011, when he decided to participate in DC Comics’ “New 52” project, in which all its major series were relaunched.

“I wanted to see whether my readers are willing to buy the latest issues of their favorite comic titles, a few weeks after their release in the US,” he said. It was a risky proposition since the cover prices for most of the issues are between $3 to $4.

“For example, I had initially ordered 10 copies of Batman by Scott Snyder. To my surprise, all the copies sold out within three weeks. Soon I reordered for more from DC distributors, and these issues sold out as well!” he said.

The store’s success has encouraged others to open superhero-themed restaurants and stores selling T-shirts, posters, watches, and other memorabilia. “Big-budget superhero movies from Hollywood were also released in Dhaka coincidentally around the same time, catalyzing the growth of this culture,” said Faizul Khan Tanim, a 37-year-old advertising professional and comics collector.

The growing demand encouraged Mehedi Haque, a cartoonist at Unmad, Bangladesh’s longest-running satire magazine, to launch Dhaka Comics this February. “Until now, Dhaka Comics has released eight different titles in Bengali language,” said Haque. With prices ranging between 50 and 120 takas ($0.65 to $1.50), Haque said the company is selling 600 comics per month – up from 300 a month when it launched. The comic books’ genres include mystery, horror, fantasy, science-fiction, comedy, and more.

“Earlier, comics publishers could not survive in Bangladesh, as during the eighties, there was little scope for connecting with your target segment,” said Haque. “But, right now, through social media and the internet, we can reach out to our young readers very easily.”

The revenue is satisfactory compared to the fate of Kalpadoot and Shuchipatra, two Bangladeshi comic publishers founded in the 1990s. Both had to shut down within months of launching, due to low sales.

Comics’ growing popularity in Bangladesh may also be the result of a snowball effect. “The comics community is growing larger by the day in Bangladesh, and some just want to be a part of this community,” said Khan. He explained that many new readers are coming to his store after seeing their friends reading comics.

Comic conventions

As a comic-crazy community gradually formed in Bangladesh, Saadi Habib Rahman and Abu Yousuf – both owners of stores selling action figures and accessories in Dhaka – planned to organize a comic convention in Dhaka.

The first-ever Dhaka Comicon materialized at a restaurant in January of 2012.  It was attended by more than 10,000 fans, who shrugged off a cold wave then. Besides “cosplays”, where participants dress up and pretend to be characters from comic books and pop culture, the two-day event also featured stalls selling T-shirts, comic books, and collectibles.

Following the success of the first convention, Dhaka Comicon 2013 was held at a bigger venue in November and drew in 16,000 people, according to organizer Saadi Habib Rahman. University student Muhammad Mustafa Monowar said he had to wait in queue for an hour and thirty minutes before he could enter the convention.

One week later, the Unmad-JCC Comic Convention was held in Dhaka, which Khan said attracted around 12,000 people. Jamil’s Comics and Collectables gave away more than 22,000 comics at the convention to promote comic culture, he said.

Motivated by the success of these conventions, the organizers have continued running the show annually up until the temporary slow down caused by COVID. 

Living in the Shadow of Covid

Article / 23 March 2021

By Rohit C. with Mike G.

A year has passed but the Corona virus pandemic refuses to die down. Over 2.6million people worldwide have lost their lives. The virus is striking at will, ravaging societies. Never in living memory have humans experienced such terror from a pandemic of this extent. For the first time in over 20 years global poverty will show an increasing trend. IHME estimates show global poverty levels reaching 7.1% in the last year. All the hard work done in the past half-century by the global community to uplift poor people has just been erased.


How Corona virus has left a lasting impact on poor communities.

Poor people are struggling to survive in these difficult times, some with no food to eat, or no water to drink, while the Corona-virus runs rampant in their communities. They face the twin battles of fighting the pandemic and just trying to survive each day.

The economic impact of the pandemic can be felt with rise of extreme poverty mostly in South-east and Sub-Saharan African countries. India, the world’s 2nd most populous country also has large section of disadvantaged people. Many had just crossed the poverty line before the pandemic struck. As India braces for significant economic shrinkage at -9.6% based on World Bank latest estimates, it has another massive challenge ahead, due to the sharp reversal in poverty trajectory. India is expected to reclaim its title from Nigeria as the country with the largest number of extreme poor, because it would have added 85 million people to its poverty tolls in 2020.



Why relief organizations need support  until  Corona is completely eradicated.

Poor people need food, water, and shelter. With an estimated 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty, their survival is a big question mark unless relief work continues unhindered. Until the time large scale vaccinations reach the poorest citizens, we need to support with all our might, those who are working hard to save human lives. The only savior for many poor people is the relief organizations that can help them to stand on their feet and bring some measure of stability to those struggling with the least in life.

Many countries have taken urgent steps to support relief work as well as reach directly to weaker sections. There is urgent need to reassess the needs of relief organizations battling Covid-19 as crisis is not over yet. The scars left by pandemic will take almost a decade for World economy to recover from.

Why All Day Breakfast is a Not-for-Profit

The last thing we want to do is profit from an illness ravaging the planet.

The first thing that we want to do is help.

That's why All Day Breakfast Productions has taken a pledge to support relief organizations, to help struggling people all over the world survive and reach some type of pre-covid normalcy.

We feel this is the best way we can help others in need.

If COVID has taught us anything, it's that we could all do a lot more to help our fellow man, whether it is the neighbor next door or someone on the other side of the planet.

All Day Breakfast Productions – A Not-for-Profit Publisher, pledges to be here now, and in the future, to do all that we possibly can to help and support the organizations that help people on the ground level every day in any way that we can, big or small, because we expect nothing less of ourselves than that.

Ingram is committed to book retailers

Article / 01 February 2021

All Day Breakfast Productions - A Not-for-Profit Publisher, is proud to be associated with Ingram Content group as our distributor. Below you can find a link from March 2020, about how Ingram is committed to supporting book retailer during the global pandemic. 

Ingram Vows to Defend Industry Through Crisis (publishersweekly.com) 



The Bittersweetness of $4 Graphic Novels

Article / 07 January 2021

When I was a kid, I loved comics. You could buy a whole stack at a flea market or a yard sale. Comic shops had a 25¢ bin. You could buy a bag of random back issues at local department stores for $4.99. Brand new issues sold on the spinner rack of your local convenience store for $1.25.

Those were the days. It's no wonder that I amassed a collection of thousands comics in my childhood. I could have rolled in comics the way a lot of you pervs imagine Bettie Page rolling in cash. Rolling, endlessly rolling, riding crop swinging in the air... Anyway, try to keep focused on the main point here: happiness.

They were folded, stapled, four-color or black and white happiness in small doses of 24-32 pages, that any kid could afford by the mitt full.

They were so affordable, you could buy loose boxes of comics in almost every Christmas catalog that was published. It was my favorite part of Christmas. Still is, in memory at least.

Nevermind that kids today would never believe that massive catalogs of hundreds or thousands of pages, one from each retailer, were just dropped off for free on EVERYONE'S doorstep, or the fact that most of those retailers no longer exist, or the fact that I sold most of that massive collection over the last 20 years to finance my own comics projects with middling to nil success.

Comics were fun. And they were affordable. And then, they weren't. Cover price increases have far exceeded the rate of inflation multiple times over, making comics something kids and parents of kids, can no longer afford to get into as a hobby. That's a problem, because the entire monthly comics industry is built on kids and parents being able to afford making it a habit. You know? An affordable hobby? And one comic at a time doesn't do it. Reading a comic once a month doesn't do it. They've got to be able to buy a few at a time, every week or two, to make it a habit. They have to get into the adventures of Clark Kent AND Peter Parker and many others. At $5 each, that's no longer realistic, which is bad for an industry built on that.

It's no surprise that in an ever tightening, ever competitive, consumer-driven system would see the graphic novel replace the comic book. If A kid can't afford to follow everything, and one comic isn't enough, a graphic novel is the next logical purchase decision. If you can't follow them all, then at least you can focus on one character at a time and get one complete storyline. Demand and budget restrictions dictate that some collectors will continue to follow the single issues, some frustrated that the store is always sold out before they get there will switch to graphic novels or drop the title altogether. And yet some, those on a tight budget, which these days is most of us, will stop buying the floppies and willingly keep themselves 6-12 months behind the monthly storyline in order to save about 30% of the cost of this collectibles hobby. Roughly speaking, $30 worth of monthly comics are reprinted as a $20 graphic novel. 

With a graphic novel being a bigger dose, a kid can get into the hobby and read a $20 graphic novel per month, where they wouldn't perhaps be able to buy multiple monthly comics every week or two.

It's a much narrower opportunity to pick up new fans, and a far cry from the affordability when I got into the hobby.

The closest thing in recent times is the advent of graphic novels being added to the shelves of dollar store chains, something that became prevalent in 2019. 

See, in the book store industry, the have "returns". Unlike comic shops, book stores can return unsold books to the distributor for a full or partial credit. These books are then returned to the publisher, who must reimburse the distributor for any money they have been paid for the books that are returned. This leaves the publisher with X number of books that they can't essentially sell as new. Even if they are in pristine condition, the books are essentially considered "seconds" and no longer sellable as new product. 

The publisher can't just sit on a warehouse full of returned books that could accumulate quickly if the publisher has multiple titles, so the publisher then sells their returned books to a discount distributor. Regardless of how much the book was originally priced for, discount distributors pay roughly $1 per book. This dollar usually goes straight to the publisher without any percentage going to the creators, something often worked into the contract, and these $1 sales do not generate any royalties for anyone involved in producing the book. The books purchased by a discount book distributor are then sold to department stores and other retail outlets to fill discount bargain bins where most books sell for roughly $5.

So, it can be assumed that since the rise of popularity of graphic novels in books stores, there must also be an equal increase in returns and a proportional number of graphic novels now available through discount distributors, such as dollar store chains who now carry graphic novels in the $3-4 range. Books that are selling for $30-$40 on shelves in book stores and hobby shops are also sitting on the shelves of your local dollar store for $3-$4.

It's not the 25 cent bin, but when you consider that a graphic novel gives you much more comic bang for your buck, and that the dollar store offers the same graphic novels as the hobby shop and book store, at a lower price than a single floppy comic, it's plain to see that this is how the kids of this generation are going to get into comics and reading. 

So, as I do every year, I bought a little something for myself for Christmas, as a kind of reward for the year. This year I bought myself a whack of random graphic novels and when I opened them, it was like re-living a small sliver of that Christmas joy as a kid. opening a box of comics and being amazed at the variety of characters, stories, art and imagination. 

I also sent a box to each of my nieces and nephews, in the hopes that they would experience the same thrill and joy that I did on Christmas. I think it was successful.

It's not a box of comics from a Christmas catalog, but the dollar store is what kids who are going to get into comics have today. 

It sure does give me mixed feelings. I don't like to promote or give free advertising to large corporate retail entities, that's why I'm not mentioning any specific chains. You will find that different chains do have different selections, likely because they deal with different distributors and those distributors deal with different publishers, but if you are diligent and willing to put in the work, you can find comics from across all publishers, age groups and genres.

I have to assume that hobby shops and retailers won't like this kind of news getting out one bit, but it's already out there and the retail dynamics are not the fault of the consumer. The simple fact is comic shops got strong-armed into unfavorable no-returns policies because they agreed to buy comics from one distributor who controls flow and access to product. If comic distributors accepted returns, the retail environment would be much healthier for hobby shops.

Currently, the same book that your dollar store pays $1.50-$2 for and sells for $4, sells to your local hobby shop for $20 and retails for $40. It's no way to compete in a consumer driven economy and doesn't help the shrinking number of comics and hobby shops who are struggling to stay open during COVID. 

At the same time, I'm not sure we can rally around comic shop owners to demand change, when it is us, their very customer base who cannot afford to entertain ourselves with the $40 books they have on offer, and if we or our kids want to enjoy an affordable and entertaining hobby, have to go with the cheaper alternative. If I have to choose between the health of one industry, as much as I love it, over the financial well-being and stability of EVERYONE who is currently struggling, I choose what is good for everyone. (It also helps that my local dollar stores have a wider range of publishers and genres than some of my local comic shops.)

So for the time being, I will spread the word about dollar store graphic novels, to help others cope with the quarantine, even though I know that none of the money from those book sales go to those, like myself, who create them professionally. Those that are buying the $3 graphic novel today are the potential future comic collectors that will come into hobby shops in the future. To be honest, dollar store graphic novels are probably the best advertising that these comic publishers and retailers have had in years. No dollar store has the complete set or run of any series, so those hard core fans who want to fill in the gaps will have to go to a retailer eventually. My partially completed set of Eagle Moss Star Trek graphic novels is proof. 

So, it may not be the situation we want, but it's the situation we live in. Maybe if people stop trying to defend and protect their own interests, those involved in this chain can work together to improve it, not just for their own benefit, but more importantly, for the comic buying and loving public. 

As a man nearing his 40s, this topic makes me surprisingly and unexpectedly giddy. I'm constantly suppressing the excited school boy inside of me because I want others to discover the same love for comics that I have. I even thought of approaching some of these chains to see if I could work out a sponsorship deal to do youtube videos of my dollar store finds. I hesitate though, mostly because I don't want to compromise the content that I create with advertiser influence. 

BTW it took me many hours over multiple days to write this. I'm thinking about doing these longer blog posts as videos or even animated explainer videos. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below. 

BTW here is some of my recent art:


Thanks for reading, 

Mike