In December, I had the good fortune to attend an event where Kelly Sue DeConnick was a keynote speaker. I’d heard great things about her work, and especially about Bitch Planet, but I hadn’t checked it out. After hearing DeConnick speak, and seeing the visuals, I immediately bought Extraordinary Machine, the first collected volume , and now I am an evangelist:
For those of you who haven’t been lucky enough to encounter Bitch Planet yet, most of the story takes place in an outer-space women’s prison, where incorrigibles are kept away from mainstream society. The number of ways in which DeConnick (and her artist collaborator Valentine De Landro) challenge social narratives, include marginalized voices, and make bitter fun of cultural expectations is awesome, and deserves much more attention than one blog post. Fortunately, if you look around, you’ll find that attention to the series is easy to find.
Unsurprisingly, however, this multi-decade fat activist was especially struck by Penny Rolle, pictured above. Penny is a mountain of a woman (“I don’t run”), with a complex history and a strong ethical sense. She’s one of the best “morbidly obese” characters I’ve run across in fiction, and the best Black one I can think of offhand.
Penny’s crowning moment, so far, is when the prison “scientists” hook her up to a mess of electrodes, on the theory that they can see how she imagines her ideal self, which will help them mold her away from her grotesque reality to something more palatable.
What do they find?
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“I ain’t broke.
“… and you bastards ain’t never gonna break me.”
Best. Result. Ever.
DeConnick and De Landro are serious about their body image activism, along with all their other prongs of activism. The ads in the back of each issue would demonstrate that even if Penny wasn’t in the story:
If ANY PART OF YOU has ever been jealous of anorexics or considered extra-medical hormone injections or parasites, or use body hate to bond with girlfriends, you have bought in. It’s near impossible not to, but maybe today TRY not to believe that your VALUE is inextricably linked to some asshat’s assessment of your desirability. Fuck that dude. Fuck that CULTURE.
Read Bitch Planet. The rest is every bit that good, just about different at-least-equally-important social and political issues. Oh, and it’s also entertaining, well-paced, and very well-drawn.