It’s been a few months since I’ve talked about comics. I have an ever-growing “to-read” pile thanks to my weekly-ish journeys to the comic book store. Maybe I should get caught up one of these days. Anyway! Since I promised a bonus review this week, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to talk about the wonder and glory that is “Bitch Planet.”
You read that right. “Bitch Planet.” Here’s the premise: this is a dystopian future that is ruled by “benevolent” men. They call themselves “fathers” and they oversee a strict set of rules and circumstances for how women should behave. Women who do not conform to these rigid dictates are labeled as “non-compliant” and sent off to the off-planet Auxiliary Compliance Outpost. The people call it by another name: Bitch Planet.
“Bitch Planet” is definitely heavily influenced by the prison exploitation genre of 60’s in 70’s. That much is clear from the covers and art by Valentine De Landro. The story, however, from Kelly Sue DeConnick is so brutally on-point. There are so many moments in the first three issues that ring true for encounters I’ve had in real life or things I’ve seen. It’s like she took a large fun house mirror to our world and “Bitch Planet” is the ugly reflection of what we’d rather not see.
Women can be sent to Bitch Planet for a variety of offenses like the usual assault and theft to things like “aesthetic offenses” and “wanton obesity.” While it’s utterly ridiculous to think that a woman could be locked up based on her appearance, isn’t that sort of what we do in a metaphorical way anyway? We put women in a certain mental category and erect bars of disgust and disapproval in front of them. Why don’t they make an effort to be presentable, right? Admit it: you’ve probably had a moment or two where those thoughts have crossed your mind. It’s shitty, but we’re all guilty of that level of judgment at one time or another.
Since women can be incarcerated for all manner of things, Bitch Planet is populated by all manner of women. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. That’s one of the other things that truly sets “Bitch Planet” apart from some of the more mainstream comics. Women can look like anything on Bitch Planet. There is no need to present them as pretty, idealized feminine shapes. The first few pages of the first book are full of naked women with each curve and roll on display. They look more real and more like actual people instead of impossible beauty standards and sex objects.
One of the other pieces of media that I keep comparing “Bitch Planet” to is “Orange is the New Black.” As with that show, each woman on Bitch Planet has her own story. DeConnick plans to let us see those stories every third issue. In #3, we get to see the tale of Penelope Rolle, who is locked up for “wanton obesity” among other things. It’s sad, beautiful, and just a little life-affirming. Someday, I hope to have just a dash of Penny’s attitude. You’l see.
To say that the book is a feminist work would be an understatement. It’s Feminist with a capital goddamn “F” for “Fuck the patriarchy.” Each page pulls no punches and each book includes an essay about feminism. The first essay, written by Danielle Henderson, nearly brought tears to my eyes as she wrote about her time teaching gender studies at a Midwestern college. They’re all like that and I’m looking forward to seeing that trend continue. Just because something is painful doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be put on page. If anything, we need to talk more about the painful things in order to make people understand.
Originally, I decided to buy the first issue based on its title and some of the buzz I’d seen. After I read the first issue, I hit the comiXology “subscribe” button so I can read each and every issue as it comes out. It’s just that good and that meaningful. It’s resonated so much with me that I’m hoping to soon get a “non-compliant” tattoo. This book is important and a must-read.