“Bitch Planet” & The Non-Compliant
“2014 Best Writer Eisner Award nominee KELLY SUE DeCONNICK (PRETTY DEADLY, Captain Marvel) and VALENTINE DE LANDRO (X-Factor) team up for the very third time to bring you the premiere issue of BITCH PLANET, their highly-anticipated women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation riff. Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds.” ~Image Comics
“Bitch Planet” is without a doubt the quintessential piece of media that I could point to in the event someone needs elaboration on what Her Story Arc cares about. This totally rad, totally feminist, totally IN YOUR FACE BADASS comic book series debuted mere months ago. It really, really is so much more than a comic. It seeks to push the feminist movement forward by a couple hundred yards. It so meets my desires for feminist literature that simply by existing it meets the Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity, and earns 15/15 without breaking a sweat.
So what is “Bitch Planet” all about? Well, it is a dark future where patriarchal cultural values and norms have grown into an enforced patriarchal government ruled by the Fathers. Women are legally designated as second class citizens, and are expected to look beautiful, be demure, and submit to the men around them. Any woman who fails to do so is non-compliant. And that is a big freakin’ deal, because non-compliant women are sent to a PRISON on another PLANET, which has unofficially become know as (you guessed it) Bitch Planet.
And it is pretty easy for men to find ways to brand the women in their lives as non-compliant. For instance, if they want a new wife but don’t want the inconvenience of dealing with the old one…
To add insult to injury, Bitch Planet itself is one giant reality TV show. Laura Hudson explained it perfectly in her article on Wired:
“The comic smartly reframes the voyeurism of exploitation films as acts of oppression; instead of offering the women as titillation, the comic shows what appear to be television producers watching video feeds of the imprisoned women and editing their abuse—and willingness to fight back—into some sort of sensational reality show. Much like the films, there’s tons of female nudity, but this too is handled differently by DeConnick and artist Valentine De Lando.”
You can see why the comic is rated M for mature.
What I find most captivating is how current cultural norms (ex. diet pills, plastic surgery, beauty pageants) have morphed into even more sinister forms in this not-so-far-in-the-future society. For example, fat women are deemed non-compliant for being fat! In the 3rd issue of Bitch Planet we see three women split one salt-dairy-gluten-free muffin. One woman brags about how much her bowel movements weigh (ostensibly because this means she is losing that weight), and her friend offers to trade her blonde hair for her friend’s bowels. This projected future of government sponsored body dysmorphic disorders isn’t as much of a stretch as we’d like to think. “Bitch Planet” very much serves as a warning to us all. But much like other dystopian fiction, it helps reveal the problems of our current culture by exaggerating them.
However, not all the problems are exaggerated. I know I have experienced some of the sexism found in “Bitch Planet”, and I have no doubt that other readers see themselves in the pages too. Thankfully, seeing our protagonists be athletic, strong, fat, bold, and brash (i.e. NON-COMPLIANT) and stand up to the evil that is the patriarchy is just so God-Damned refreshing. For a simply fantastic frame-by-frame analysis of issue 1 and issue 2 check out the Dinglehopper blog (it should go with out saying that her reviews are loaded with spoilers). She has gone to great lengths to explain exactly how and why Bitch Planet is so amazing.
Each issue begins with the story, follows up with a feminist essay, and ends with readers’ comments & photos. However, my favorite part of “Bitch Planet” is the back cover, which aims to be a mock classified section with content equaling the satire found between the pages. After reading the first three issues, including the essays and reader submissions, I felt good. I felt a sense of community and camaraderie that is so hard to find when most of your feminist friends are in the virtual world, and the day to day grind has diminished you. Something about reading a physical comic book, holding it in my hands, and seeing dozens of other readers posting pics of them doing the same, made me feel reaffirmed. We ARE fighting the good fight.
So where can you get your hands on these comics?
- Latest issue is usually $2.99, older issues are $1.99
- Image: $2.99 per online comic
- Image Direct: you can subscribe to all 12 issues of the print comic for $42.00 ($3.50 each)
- tfaw.comics: $2.80 – $3.15 for the print comic depending on the issue, but it appears they’re on backorder
- In-store hard copy – $3.50 ( the Image site has a zipcode search to find stores that carry it)
The digital edition is nice, but I have to recommend purchasing the hard copy. The matte pages are a pleasure to turn.
To ensure the story’s continuation to the end, we all need to support it (and that support doesn’t necessarily have to include spending your own money). For instance, recommending your local library purchase the comic book series is one way you can help out. Spreading the word to your comic book reading friends would help too.
To stay in touch with Bitch Planet, check out their non-compliant Tumblr feed.
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