Red Sonja #9

This was an interesting issue. Sonja is collecting the third artisan for the dying pharoah’s last party. This time, the person that she is seeking is a high priced prostitute. Sonja’s been all work and no play and the beautiful specimens in the brothel are a sight for the travel worn, cold and horny Sonja. But the madam tosses out Sonja’s muddy, saddle-rashed arse. Sonja has recently been robbed and can’t afford to pay.

Sonja scales the wall and breaks into Aneva’s room. She momentarily reflects that Aneva is the “Princess of Passion” that she sells her body. “I suppose it’s not much different than what I do, what any soldier does.” And the truth of that really struck me. The complaints about sex work are usually: “but that’s selling your body” (as if at any job you are not selling a piece of yourself), “You’re opening yourself up to violence/injury or disease”. The comparison is also made often between sex work and modelling or athletics, but in the case of expected violence: soldier would be a closer match. 

Obviously, I have thought about this before, but for those who haven’t it is intriguing.

Aneva is hesitant to leave, she’s trying to unionize the escorts so that they can protect themselves from exploitation, theft and assault. 

Sonja tells Aneva about the pharaoh and his slaves. She needs Aneva’s help to see that the slaves are freed. Aneva agrees and they set out. 

Sonja’s been feeling the negative effects of herown life style and agrees to let Aneva give her a makeover. Sonja is distraught, she could have been this beautiful if her tribe wasn’t killed, if she wasn’t enslaved, if she wasn’t driven to the life she leads. The pair get caught up and when the greedy and vengeful Ferox arrives. Ferox is the man who claims to protect the prostitutes but abuses them himself and takes a cut of their income. He sees Sonja dolled up and assumes she is another “plaything.”

“My name, you lackwit doughy-faced ape. Is Red Sonja.”

A melee ensues and Sonja strikes down Ferox’s men, but it is Aneva who takes out Ferox himself. 

Turns out Aneva was named Toa, she grew up on a farm and her brothers taught her how to fight. She was born poor, a skinny kid who worked herself to the bone. Sex work was a way out, but she always dreamed of a life like Sonja’s, of prestige, of rescuing damsels.

So the two had more in common than they thought.

Issue #9 touched on a few interesting sociological concepts. Legitimizing sex work, appearance/beauty norms and sexism, the myth of free will.

If sex workers were able to unionize it would be viewed differently. If sex work was viewed as work instead of criminal behavior, victims of abuse, robbery or harrassment would be able to report without fear of repercussion from law enforcement or reporting from health care workers. Sex work is just that: work. Many people in entry level jobs find their employment exclusionary, exploitative and leaving them with low chance for social mobility.  So how different is it

And in regards to my statement “the myth of free will” how much of a choice do people have in their own destiny? Now this isn’t dire, and this isn’t 100% BUT, as referenced by Sonja and Toa. Aneva is at risk of abuse and exploitation in the brothel, correctly; she places the fault on the abuser and not the victims and seeks to improve working conditions. Her alternative, the way she was raised, saw her already as hungry, struggling and at risk for victimhood by theft. Sonja never got to be feminine, nurturing or excessive because of the tragedies that befell her family. In flashback in earlier issues, we saw that she was not born to be lethal, in fact she wouldn’t kill a rabbit for supper. She would have been soft, but her life circumstances wouldn’t allow it. Both women became who they are because it necessary for their own survival. So there’s a little musing on agency vs destiny. Free will is a myth because everything we go through influences the way our brains make decisions, we don’t have as many options as some would want us to believe. That’s why after Sonja’s family was killed she didn’t decide “Oh hey, I’m going to be a high priced escort”

And on to sexism and conventionally beauty norms, this is actually coming full circle: this discussion came up recently in regards to Lara Croft’s “breast reduction” -what girl’s with big boobs can’t have adventures and PhDs? or in the case of the Big Bang Theory’s bubbly dreamer airhead and pretty girl Penny versus the genius and frumpy Farrah Fowler, or actual Farrah Fowler actress Mayim Bailik versus pretty redhead science mascot Kari Byron (both here). Or: in the actual world, Iowa Supreme Court ruled it was legal for a dentist to fire his assistant because she was too beautiful. So from both men or women, as a society conventionally attractive women are view as being less smart, less capable and beauty becomes a liability in professional careers. Sonja can still sling a sword even after her Cinderella makeover (if Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother were a sex worker).

Think about it.

PrinceLESS #1

I was light on comics to pick up, so I decided to just grab some stuff. And I was sifting through NES cartridges when out of the corner of my eye I see this bright pink comic on the All-Ages shelf. I don’t usually read “all ages comics”, or “girl comics” or “fairytale comics.” 

Image

 

So in this story we have a Fairytale Princess. And this fairytale princess is of color. Unfortunately this is so notable because of representations of Princesses including but not limited to those by Disney whose single foray into having a black/African American princess left the heroine as a swamp animal for most of the movie without any princess privileges. And spare me the “but Tiana worked hard” or “it was realistic” because No. It wasn’t. And frankly it doesn’t matter: There were so many discussions about whether or not Disney could have used an African folktale for the story or if they made the right move by setting it this way and the correct answer is that they could have done both or neither: EverAfter/StoryLand worlds are make believe and everyone should be included. No one living in 2014 America recognizes themselves culturally with dragons or castles or birthright. And yet for some reason these movies repeatedly come out with white characters as if this is something logical because it’s realistic or historical because it has an origin in some Northern European country. And writers, artists, animators, marketing execs and whoever else can handle that movie/comic/TV fans can suspend disbelief for talking snowmen, fairy godmothers, magic spells, etc., but do not think the masses can handle a princess being a different race than the one in the original literature written hundreds of years ago? OH Spare me. People who actually have a problem with it should be banished to 1280 AD. 

Plotwise: We start off with a story within a story: a fair maiden with arms like pipecleaners getting saved from a tall tower guarded by a dragon by her one true prince. And they live happily ever after. Oh Joy! Princess Adrienne doesn’t buy it. And she tells her mother so. Her mother is nonplussed. The practice of locking Princesses in towers to be saved by the most valiant of knights who will prove himself brave and worthy enough to rule is accepted. She figures Adrienne will get over it (she doesn’t) and she gets locked in a tower when she turns 16 (after being drugged by her parents). 

While stuck in her tower, she writes so she doesn’t “go stupid” and scolds both the dragon and princes below. One such prince shows up and says he seeks a “fair maiden.” She tells him that “fair” means “white.” She calls him a moron, then says, “You’re so anxious to take a wife! Why don’t you take a book first? Work your way up.” 

Through a series of events she ends up teaming up with the dragon that ‘s guarding her tower (by telling him that he’s part of a system that is detrimental to him!), gearing up, and setting out to free princess from towers! 

The real gem in this feminist dream? 

The end of the comic has a mini story that features a Prince, forced to go through Charm School to learn how to save princesses who finds out that it’s not all he hoped it would be. 

Because patriarchy is bad for everyone. HOLY GUACAMOLE!

I picked up the $1 reissue of this and I cannot wait to find the rest because it is both fun and insightful. And Adrienne is dressed like Princess Peach which has nothing to do with anything really, I just thought that was cool. I know I focussed in on all the social justice stuff. But really the overall plot is a spunky action-chick who teams up with a dragon (to rebel against society). Come on. that is so rad.

I don’t even give stars for comicbooks and this gets 5 Stars

Legends of Red Sonja #2

The Grey Riders are still hunting down Red Sonja, ready to exact their revenge for her doings against them. 

Meljean Brook’s “The Undefeated” was my favorite of the two tall tales. Told to the Grey Riders hunting Sonja through the eyes of The Beheader, a fierce warrior; Red’s armor gets even skimpier. He says that her prowess in inflated, that the stories take on a life of their own. A drunken wager between The Beheader and Red Sonja lead them on a quest to pry a ruby from the jaws of an elephant beast. The Beheader paints her as a coward who hides behind men. The ruby around his neck proves he won the wager, right? Maybe Red Sonja isn’t as fierce as lore makes her… uh huh..

Image

In Tamora Pierce’s story, the Grey Riders are greeted by a child whose family has recently employed Sonja to protect her mother, a Goddess. Cassandra James’ art here was rather weird. Belly buttons in odd places, Sonja’s face crooked. It didn’t have the swagger of the first story. Interestingly, Red’s tale by Tamora Pierce is told through the eyes of a young girl, since Pierce is well known for the Young Adult series the Beka Cooper trilogy and Song of the Lioness featuring young female protags, it certainly added another dimension. 

Through out all this, Sonja is lurking in the shadows, making sure the Grey Riders are drawn off course. 

Next Month: January 22nd: Rhianna Pratchett, author of the Lara Croft video game origin story entertains us with a “legend” along with writer of Sherlock Holmes/Damsels/Raise the Dead Dynamite comics superstar Leah Moore. Nichola Scott, who worked with Gail Simone on Birds of Prey makes some art.

Feature and Follow Friday #2!

You know what day it is! Check out and follow Parajunkee and Alison Can Read for deets. Join up, check out the other blogs on the list. Be cool, make friends.

This week’s features are: The Attic and The Reading Realm. Check them out, too!

Q: Yesterday was the US’ Independence Day. Share your favorite book with a war in it, or an overthrow of the government.

I’m going with:

Image

I read this for the first time when I was 19 or 20. No idea it was a classic. In fact, I just found out it was published in December of ’84. hey, man, so was I!

The book is a little bit like Starship Troopers. It’s in the future, the war is against giant ant-like aliens. It’s called the Antwar. Awesome action, but mostly it focuses on the psychological effects of war. Felix separates parts of himself, what he calls “the Engine” makes him into an unstoppable killing machine, a tool of war. But the armor records his memories and his thoughts and Jack (who’s a criminal, and somewhat tricked) puts on the armor to uncover the saved data.

Gritty, depressing, powerful.

Alright. So, have a look around, enjoy yourselves. You can follow me on twitter, bloglovin’ or here on wordpress!