Being a fangirl is hard. Sometimes it’s harder than others.
In elementary school, I didn’t want to play house or dress up, I wanted to PLAY, and at Rockwell Elementary, that meant G.I Joe out on the playground dome with the boys. In the early 80s, we knew three women from G.I Joe- Lady Jaye and Scarlett (who for some reason were interchangeable for us) and the Baroness. As the only girl who would play with the boys, I had to play all the girl roles. Playing both the good and bad women began a trend of schizophrenic liking and hating female comic characters. Part of the price to pay for playing with the boys was having to act how THEY thought the female characters should act, which give 7 and 8 year old minds, was pretty stereotypical. But I did it, because otherwise I found myself shut out. It was the same when we played Star Wars. It seemed the girl was only good for being held prisoner, or doing what the boys told you. It wasn’t fair, but if you didn’t, you didn’t get to play. And I wanted to play, so I went along.
Later in high school, the same dilemma reared it’s ugly head, just in a different way. I had a friend who collected, and drew comics. It’s the first time I remember as an almost adult encountering comics in their original form and not having them interpreted through the lens of movies or cartoons.
And I didn’t like what I saw.
I am 5’5. My build clearly shows the stout German stock I come from. I am the definition of mouse brown hair and eyes. I always had my nose in a book, and tended to like them better than people. I was smart. I was not popular. By high school, I knew that was me, I wasn’t going to change. And I didn’t have a problem with it but these comic females caused me issues- they were completely and totally fantastical. Too tall, fall-on-their-face-in-real-life curvy, and dressed for a porno or the tropics, despite the fact that most comic cities (Metropolis, Gotham, Starling City) are WAY north of the tropics. The message I got was that what I was wasn’t good enough. That if I wanted to play in this world, there was a lot more I would have to give up, and give in to.
But again, I wanted to play, so I went along. I had grown up on Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, and animated X-Men. I read X-Men comics, and loved Rogue. I read Witchblade, and skimmed over the half naked bits. I loved Batgirl, but funny enough, identified more with Oracle. When Buffy the Vampire Slayer continued in comic form, I read that too.
But despite all of this, I never found anything that spoke to me. It was still a matter of taking some things and ignoring others. So imagine my delight when I came across My So-Called Secret Identity.
My So-Called Secret Identity is an online comic created by Dr. Will Brooker, author of Batman Unmasked and Hunting the Dark Knight, and he is supported by an almost all female creative team that includes, Ottawa illustrator Susan Shore, Kingston PhD student Sarah Zaidan, and online fan favourites Hanie Mohd, Paige Halsey Warren, Sandra Salsbury and Lea Hernandez.
The comic follows Cat: Catherine Abigail Daniels, a cop’s daughter and PhD student; an average young woman who just happens to be very, very clever.
She’s not a twit, she’s not a victim, she’s not a love interest who is introduced and discarded. She’s the whole thing. She’s the focus. And she’s real.
For the first time ever, when I read the comic online I found a character I got, in every way. I didn’t need to ignore somethings in order to get to the good bits. I didn’t have to skim over art that was ridiculously misogynistic. I didn’t have to ignore insipid dialogue. Everything about Cat, and her story, is something I can buy into.
When Cat says in Issue #1 “The problem’s not me. It’s other people.” I instantly got it. Here is a comic that doesn’t require girls to choose one thing over another. Here is a comic that gives us everything we want about comics- great art, fully-fleshed out characters, villains lurking in the background, the promise of phenomenal things to come, but doesn’t require us to trade anything in order to get all of this.
Dr. Brooker and his team are publishing online, and the website offers lots of goodies.
The first issue is 22 pages of full colour comic available for free, plus a ‘lookbook’ of behind-the-scenes sketches and costume designs. The team are inviting donations towards issue 2, with a $5 suggested minimum; higher bids earn bonus material like extra pages, original art and the chance to see yourself in the comic as a supporting character.
It’s a good bet where my money will be going. Because I can’t imagine anything cooler than having a chance at being a supporting character in a comic this cool.
I look forward to seeing what Cat does, and what stories she has. While I can’t help wishing she’d been around when I was younger, I’m infinitely grateful she’s here now.
The website goes live on 18 February (www.mysocalledsecretidentity.com) but until then, you can get your Cat fix on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MySoCalledSecretIdentity?fref=ts) and Twitter (@cat_abi_daniels).
You’re in for a real treat, as the interactions with Cat on social media are lots of fun, and especially her Facebook page offers some great teasers for fans.
I for one will be following religiously, because I can’t wait to see what happens next.