Gina Coffman guides uninitiated women into the fierce universe of graphic novels
At Zeus Toys and Comics, Gina Coffman often notices sapphic customers wandering into the store and looking like they’re lost. Zeus’ aisles are bursting with illustrations of over-muscled male superheroes. But when it comes to female characters, they’re usually depicted as big-chested bimbos.
Without a helpful guide — like Geek Girl — these seemingly out-of-place damsel-dykes might think that graphic novels don’t have much to offer to empowered lesbian bookworms.
Coffman takes pride in her self-proclaimed Geek Girl status. On Saturday, she’s presenting a lecture to help women navigate the comic world at Bridges and Borders, a three-day queer conference presented by JEWEL and the Resource Center of Dallas.
“A lot of women are turned off by the ‘Super Babe’ stereotype. There’s a whole world of graphic novels that have nothing to do with capes or Spandex,” she says.
For her lecture, she’ll introduce attendees to the works of renegade feminists like Diane DiMassa. She’s the in-your-face creator of HotHead Paisan: The Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, which features the cartoonish title character who wreaks vengeance on her male oppressors.
“Like if someone calls her ‘girlie’ or makes a homophobic joke or even breathes too loud, she just bashes their head in or yanks the dude’s penis off,” Coffman explains.
Of course, no primer on sapphic comics would be complete without a shout out to Alison Bechdel, the immensely talented creator of “Dykes to Watch Out For” who also wrote “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” a memoir done in the style of a graphic novel that was a 2006 finalist for the National Books Critics Circle Award.
Another comic creator she’ll introduce is Darwyn Cook, where his Wonder Woman interpretation visits a ’60s parallel universe painted in a pro-feminist hue. He even pays homage to Gloria Steinem’s stint as an undercover Playboy bunny.
Coffman thinks her lecture is a “lightweight” program to be included in the Bridges and Borders conference, which will certainly be focusing on a myriad of substantial issues: transgender discussion panels, domestic violence in the LGBT community and social justice through performance art.
But Coffman’s thoughtful approach seems just as valid. And this won’t be her first time working a queer workshop panel. In 2006, she presented at the Femme conference in San Francisco. Her topic: “Fat Women.”
“It was all about the acceptable prejudices against being fat. We also talked about how being fat differs in the queer community. As the queer community becomes more vocal, we’re becoming more assimilated — which means we’re also taking in the bad stuff,” she explains. “Now we’re becoming more looks-ist and size-ist, and that affects how we treat each other in the queer community.”
If Coffman is this astute at handling idealized versions of queer aesthetics, Geek Girl is probably Dallas’ best guide for alternative comic culture.
QUEER GENDER POWWOW
There’s a huge slate of programs at the Borders & Bridges, a conference for queer women, Butches and Femmes, lesbians, transgendered and transsexual persons, and their allies.
The conference runs May 23-25.
Coffman’s lecture, “Geek Girl: A Women’s Guide to Comics,” will be held May 24 at 3:15 p.m. in the Fuse Room at the Resource Center of Dallas, 2701 Reagan St.
Conference tickets, $17.99.
For a complete schedule of events, visit JewelRCD.com
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 23, 2008.