In Chicks Dig Comics, editors Lynne M. Thomas (Hugo-Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords) and Sigrid Ellis bring together essays by award-winning writers and artists who celebrate the comics medium and its creators, and who examine the characters and series that they love.
In Chicks Dig Time Lords, I discovered how unifying a fandom can be, bringing people from different places and backgrounds together over their love of a single show. It’s like “the family that plays together, stays together.” On the other hand, Chicks Dig Comics shows just how diverse a fandom can be, and still stay together because of the love of the medium, and not just a particular character or title.
I had a harder time connecting with a lot of the writers in this collection than I did in Chicks Dig Time Lords. I think part of this is because of how diverse comics are. Many of the writers, when talking about their first comics usually mentioned Batman, or Archie Comics. More than a few started reading the old horror comics from the 50s and Vampirella. Neil Gaiman’s name came up a lot too. I didn’t read any those growing up. I’ve never had a big interest in superhero comics. Uncanny X-men was the only “real” superhero comic I read regularly. I never cared about Archie or any of the gang in Riverdale, and I had no idea Sandman was a gateway for many women into comics. My first comic was Elfquest. I found issue 4 on the floor in my older brother’s bedroom, and was hooked from that moment on. This became a pattern as it was my brother who introduced me to a lot of other titles. I started reading X-Men because he got me a few issues of the Phoenix Saga. He gave me the first issue of Amethyst: Princess of the Gemworld, one of the very few DC titles I’ve ever read. Pre-reboot Blue Devil was another. With so many of the writers being superhero fans, my strongly fantasy-influenced mind felt lost more than once as I read the essays.
I learned a lot though. I had no idea there was a raging debate among female X-Men fans over who Scott Summers should be with; Jean Grey or Emma Frost as Seanan McGuire writes in “Summers and Winters.” Me, I’m a Jean fan overall (mainly because of the phoenix force), but I think both women would be better off without the waffling schmuck. I also learned I was a unicorn growing up from Tara O’Shea in her essay “Confessions of a (Former) Unicorn.” I became a fan of comics while still in elementary school, and started going to comics cons in my early teens. It never really thought about the lack of others of my gender, especially when I found other like-minded girls in high school. I learned how lucky I was that I was never told “Girls don’t read comics,” as many of the writers experienced, and had parents that supported my interests. The diversity of not only interests, but experiences of these women were really fascinating.
While I enjoyed the personal essays, I enjoyed the analytical essays more. “Burn Baby Burn” looks at Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force, and how the writers had a hard time dealing with a strong female character. This is one of my favorite. “I am Sisyphus, and I am Happy” by Kelly Thompson is a good look at current movement of how women are portrayed in comics today. Gail Simone makes a pretty compelling case for how it isn’t about getting women to read comics today, but getting men to acknowledge it. Sigrid Ellis’ essay “Kitty Queer” gives some really food for thought about homosexuality in CCA-era comics.
In the end, Chicks Dig Comics succeeded to engage me just as much as Chicks Dig Time Lords, but in a very different way. While I found myself nodding and agreeing with most of what I read in Chicks Dig Time Lords, I found myself often arguing with the writers in Chicks Dig Comics. Not a bitter, go-for-the-throat way, but a sitting-with-friends discussing it kind of way. I didn’t agree with all of the writers, but they were thought-provoking and engaging, and I couldn’t ask for more.