A need for critical thinking and representation in geekdom

I do agree with Stitch in that there needs more critical thinking in fandom, whether if it’s pointing out the racism and sexism in a work or racism and sexism in a fandom that needs to be confronted and addressed. For instance, Saiyuki doesn’t get much flak for being sexist even though it’s nearly devoid of female characters let alone those who aren’t connected to or are derivative of male characters enough to counteract its sexism and could be as sexist as Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures is to a possible extent.

You don’t see much in-depth criticism of it possibly because it’s all due to the hot guys, even though in reality and practicality it’s just as sexist as JJBA can get. This isn’t a dig at JJBA, but rather a desire to have the spade be recognised for what it is. Likewise, slash fandoms are notorious for not only misogyny but also racism especially if the black or brown character is either marginalised in fandom, stereotyped in belittling ways contrary to canon portrayals or is made nonexistent.

Another problem with geekdom and geek fandoms has to do with that they fixate a lot on the Far East (East Asia) but not Southeast Asia and South Asia even if they produce a lot of geek worthy stuff, but the fandom for Trese will never be as big and international as say the fandom for say Naruto. Maybe not necessarily so nonexistent but still obscure and small compared to say whatever tokusatsu programme gets, which makes me wonder if geekdom sees the Far East as worthy of a geeky fandom.

At the opposite end, you have Japanese and Korean characters written as if they’re far removed from their cultures that it becomes almost unrealistic to those who know what Japanese and Korean cultures and countries are actually like. From my experience, there’s a tendency to assume that if an anime character has blond hair and blue eyes they ought to be Western and while this is great for localisation, it does erase the fact that Asians and Africans can have those features if they have a mild form of albinism (depigmentation).

Not to mention Asians and Africans with natural red hair and those who dye their hair blond so it’s always possible in the real world, not much is shown in fiction outside of anime and manga for some reason. For another matter, East Asians can get dark skinned whether if they’re mixed or not it does show up in anime from time to time and also in real life but sadly the darker skinned ones get ignored in favour of the lighter skinned ones due to colourism.

There’s not just a dearth of critical thinking but also a dearth of actual representation in fandom where it’s almost always the white men pairing for most slash fandoms and the inability to recognise that Asians can have natural blond hair and blue eyes due to certain mutations and genetic disorders that always assuming them to be white erases the possibility of one. Not that Sailor Moon’s intended to have albinism herself, but it’s an actual thing in real life.

Though due to racist stereotypes, this isn’t brought up much.

What they did with fur

It’s not the most animal friendly topic so far, but there are communities, people and cultures who base their livelihoods off of using animals for their fur for clothing such as trousers, jackets, coats and parkas especially those who live in Northern Canada and Alaska where that’s part of their culture for centuries (going so far to be documented by European explorers in the early modern period). There are even animals who’re domesticated and farmed for their fur, most notably American minks and red foxes.

These animals would have to be fed and cared for before being euthanised for their fur, usually through gassing or electrocution in order to be skinned. As gruesome as it sounds, that’s how they use the animals for their fur. This has raised the ire of some people who even get fur farming banned for good in some countries such as Britain and Ireland for instance, even if that results in more invasive species (as in newly introduced species wrecking havoc on the environment they’re in).

Then they stretch the skins and have it be patched and sewn when made for clothing at all, which the numbers vary depending on the animal being used as well as how many hours it takes to sew such a garment that it takes 40-100 hours for a fur coat to be sewn but less if it were just cuffs and collars. For the Inuit and their habit of using seals for clothing and meat, this takes much longer as that involves softening the fur from chewing it constantly and continuously.

For sewing furs and possibly leather, a special needle is used which’s thin and strong enough to penetrate the flesh and have it be sewn to other patches of fur to make a garment which was the case before the invention of the sewing machine for a long time and still is so to some extent, possibly a great extent, today. It’s called a furrier’s needle, which’s the sort of needle used for sewing furs with and possibly leather when one considers this. Even today, some people use needles to sew fur with and even then it has to be done with a special technique.

Fur clothing has been around for a long time in whatever form, whether if it’s an entire pelt of fur, several pelts of fur stitched together to make a garment or patches of fur stitched onto woven garments.

A study in contrasts

When it comes to feminism and positive female representation, Sailor Moon holds up real well. Not only does it have more positive portrayals of female characters, it doesn’t marginalise nor sexualise them (well at least not as much) and it does have a good portrayal of LGBT characters as well. While the old anime does have trans representation, the manga has sound portrayals of female characters that neither sexualises them nor demeans them in any way. It also helps that many of the female characters there aren’t adjacent to male characters, which makes it very feminist.

Maybe not necessarily any less feminist than other manga, but in some regards it is feminist in that not only does it have a large cast of positively or at least less stereotypically portrayed female characters (you could have anime that have large female casts but they are all stereotypes or are sexualised in some way) but the fact that it has a positive female protagonist (twice if you count Codename Sailor V) makes Sailor Moon’s feminism hold up real well. There are anime with female protagonists, but they’re not necessarily feminist if they’re portrayed in a demeaning, sexualised or stereotypical manner.

Sailor Moon is even more feminist in one regard where it has a wider range of interactions between female characters, some of it’s antagonistic but some of it’s based on friendship (though it could be more pronounced in the manga than in the anime, as far as I can remember). That’s not to say it’s entirely absent in other anime and manga like Saiyuki and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures but when you have a large cast of female characters that’s neither demeaned, stereotypical, sexualised, adjacent to males or antagonistic you could run into something that offers a wider range of female relationships.

There was this post on Tumblr which quantifies the number of female characters appearing in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures where it states that it’s Jojolion with the most female characters there, the number might be larger if you include minor characters but it does make sense that’s when its author did put more effort into including more female characters than he did before (the earliest was in Stone Ocean). There may’ve been talk about sexism in JJBA, but there’s not much objective talk about sexism in Saiyuki for some reason even if their female representation’s similar in numbers if not identical.

Saiyuki might have even less female characters if we go by the official manga alone, plus it does have four or five female-adjacent female characters whereas Jojo’s got several more (Trish Una’s the daughter of Diavolo, Jolyne’s the daughter of Jotaro Kujo, Jojolion’s Josuke has a girlfriend and two adopted sisters). The male-adjacent characters almost disappear entirely in Sailor Moon, which makes you wonder whether if it might be easier to make female characters based on or close to male characters than making them properly independent of them.

Or at least not too reliant or adjacent to them, even if it’s kind of vague to some readers and writers really. But there aren’t a lot of people talking about how sexist Saiyuki is, perhaps according to my cousin they’ve been blinded by the pretty boys which would explain why there’s not much discourse about its sexism. Then again as what the writer of Stars, Fools and Beetles pointed out that female writers can be sexist (and if Stitch were to be believed) racist.

Not that Sailor Moon’s devoid of racism, but I think it does hold up well when it comes to the representation of female characters running a wide gamut from adversaries to friends, relatives and lovers that’s commendable. But in JJBA and Saiyuki, this disappears almost entirely. Saiyuki might be more feminist than JJBA to some people, but it’s less feminist than Sailor Moon is even if they’re both based on mythology, have female authors and share voice actors.

Likewise, Killing Bites may have more female characters than these two but the female characters there are highly sexualised and may even be demeaning stereotypes of sorts despite having a female protagonist or two that disqualifies it from being this feminist.

What to do in life

I have been unemployed since 2021 began, though for a while in life I sold a lot of face masks for 20 pesos each (a lot of it’s enough to buy a handful of National Geographic magazines earlier this year). I need to find a way to earn money and to support myself whenever and whatever I can do about it, I even considered selling stuff online which I tried. Maybe it would be more successful this time around, but for now I need to do something to earn something to support myself in the meantime.

If I wanted to sell garments, I need somebody to teach me how to sell something online since I need to find a way to earn whilst working at home (or indoors generally speaking and at the very least). As for the comic strip, it’s been rejected twice and I need to find a way to get it published so that I can earn money for myself. I don’t know if I’ll be lucky this time around, maybe I’ll be lucky this time but it’s also possible I’d get rejected the third time around. I’m still worried about my career in comics, since it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

If my career in comics isn’t going well, I might as well work on dressmaking in that you needn’t a scanner nor a tablet to do it but you need to find a way to sell online to get money. I may not earn a lot in the meantime either way, but it’s enough to support myself.

Comics criticism and comics fandom

That’s not to say Comic Book Resources doesn’t have any interesting articles about comics as a medium and artform in addition to industry but the Comics Journal does differ from it in that it doesn’t have a strong fanboy odour compared to what became of Comic Book Resources and even then the fanboy odour was there on some level.

That’s not to say Comics Journal lacks essays on what will pique the interests of fanboys and fangirls, but I feel as if it’s one of those comics websites that are actually about the medium and less about franchises and brands. Well at least not to the same extent that Women Write About Comics and Comic Book Resources do. (The only other Anglophone true comics website I can think of is Sunday Comics Debt, which’s a personal blog.)

The Comics Journal might be written by comics geeks but the main difference’s the attitude, it’s not so much about franchises but rather the people behind the medium as well as the medium itself in a way that Comic Book Resources and even Women Write About Comics don’t centre on for want of a better word. These two are good comics websites, though they have a fanboy/fangirl odour to it.

Describing these websites as having a fanboy/fangirl odour makes sense as they fixate a lot on comics brands and franchises rather than the medium itself though they do fixate on the medium from time to time. It’s not that Comics Journal isn’t written by comics geeks but rather it’s not that fanboyish compared to Comic Book Resources, especially in that it focuses a lot on the medium.

Not that it doesn’t focus on the comics industry much, but the difference has to do with a lessened fanboy grasp of things. Fanboy/fangirl attitudes to comics are when comics readers fixate on brands and franchises, where knowledge of the brand takes precedence over knowledge of the medium. Not to mention fannish in-jokes about characters, which’s again a fanboy/fangirl mentality.

The blogger at Sunday Comics Debt may obsess over comic strips but he never came off as having a strong fanboy stench even if he has his favourites, though he does come off as truly knowledgeable about comics and having little to no fanboy pretence in a way that seems lacking in many Anglophone comics blogs and websites I’ve been to over the years. He admits to not being a big fan of superhero comics, but in a way that makes him a bigger fan of comics as a medium.

I still think there’s a difference between liking comics as a medium and liking comics for the brands and franchises but it’s sad to observe that it’s easier to fall into the latter where you go to comics for the characters, brands, franchises and fannish in-jokes instead of exploring what it can do as a medium. It’s like how Dick Grayson, a DC character, became the subject of in-jokes with regards to his buttocks in canon even.

This doesn’t happen much outside of it, which makes me think those kinds of comics are aimed at hardcore fangirls, which made me think the tendency to pander to hardcore fangirls is what befell Arrow (another DC adaptation of the lesser known archer Green Arrow). It’s possible to be into comics and not be a big fan of brands and franchises, well at least not to the extent that fangirls and fanboys invest themselves into.

And fanboys and fangirls can bring something good to the table, but I think in being a fan of comics as a medium can be advantageous in that you focus on what the medium can do and has done (which’s the attitude that’s prevalent in The Comics Journal) rather than the franchise in-jokes fanboys and fangirls are prone to. If there’s a difference between music criticism and music fandom, this ought to be the same or similar for comics criticism and comics fandom.

Though it could be said that they overlap, the main difference is that there’s not much of a fanboy/fangirl odour for the former. The fanboy/fangirl attitude’s when the reader obsesses over fandom in-jokes, mostly characters and the illustrators and writers to a lesser extent at the very least. The critic’s attitude is near inverse of this philosophy and approach to comics reading, well as far as I sensed it this way.

It’s not that a fanboy/fangirl can’t critique comics, they do to some extent but there’s a difference between simply enjoying the medium and enjoying a brand/franchise/character a lot. You could be a big music listener without being a big fan of a specific musician or band, which’s saying in terms of approaching the medium.

It’s not necessarily wrong to like a brand, character, band, franchise or musician but there’s a difference between immersing yourself in the medium and being a big fan of something specific. That too may be vague but I do know a fangirl/fanboy attitude when I spot one in comics websites and criticism. This can be applied to any other medium and fandom when you think about it.

What happened

My aunt, grandmother and cousin went to my house yesterday and she gave us a lot of food ranging from pizza to cheese and crackers where my lola joked about things like why is the statue of liberty still standing (because it cannot sit) and why nobody can’t contact Washington is because he’s dead or something. My cousin said that one of her teachers listens to Korean music, which I’m not that immensely fond of compared to Indian music for the record. I ate a lot of food, pizza and drinks and had a little nap as I didn’t sleep the other night.

It was a nice visit but that made me yearn for the days when I hung out at my grandmother’s house and she was dancing local Philippine dances and singing for fun, which’s nice as this was a nice day. I still wish I’d go to her house and stay there longer as I find living in Marikina miserable despite the many computers I can turn to, but social connections with flesh and blood people are more important at times. Especially when it comes to face to face conversations and the like.

I still wish I could visit Cubao again to see the dogs and cats there, but this was a nice visit and I do remember last year that Christmas where I came to Cubao to make and eat tacos that my aunt gave me. She also gave me pyjamas to wear, which I did and I wish she would give me some more so that I won’t beg my father to get me stuff. But that’s just me reminiscing about this visit.

Trying to get published

Lately, I’ve been trying to get published but I think my comic strips got rejected because I feel the art was too crude and unrefined to get published at all. In my defence, that’s just me trying to draw on a tablet but the results are less than stellar than what I’m used to. Even then, I feel my artwork may’ve been too mediocre to be published anyways. The third time might be the right time, but I’m not sure if God is willing to let me do comic strips at all.

I did make a comic strip in May to June, but because we don’t have a scanner it never got posted online even though it would’ve helped boost my career in comics in some way though I’m being unrealistic about it. Either I should make my standards higher to get published in something like the Philippine Star or do something different like a webcomic or write comics for instance.

Whatever my desires, I ought to be more realistic when it comes to getting my comic strip published at all and it ought to be different from what I wanted to do. But then again, I want to have something better to do in my life which means I need a way to find income and money when I wanted and needed to. I’m not sure if I’ll even get hired by Marvel Comics if I was dead set on doing comics at all, I could get rejected thrice.

I might be too pessimistic this time after trying my hardest to get my comic strip published, only to be rejected twice despite my revisions, but I could get lucky this time around even though it could turn out to be a pipe dream again. I might still be pessimistic about being hired by Marvel since it has requirements for its employees to come from college or university, so doing a newspaper comic strip would be a more accessible calling.

It’s probably much easier working on a newspaper cartoon, given my minimal education experience (though I have way more luck selling something myself) even if that too has its setbacks from my experience. A girl could dream of course, but I’m still finding a way to get employed and I’d even have to work two jobs to earn more money this way. If only I could find work after 11 years of being unemployed or perhaps 12 years, I could earn money.

It would be the hard way, given I currently enroll in online classes and I’m planning on going to vocational school one day but I need to find work to support myself as much as I can do about it.

A sequel to what the fox doesn’t say

As I said before, fox domestication doesn’t entirely deconstruct dog domestication but mostly because dogs and cats aren’t commonly used for their fur the way foxes and minks are. That’s not to say there aren’t any people owning foxes and minks as pets or have them for practical uses like hunting and pest control, but then again Joseph Carter the Minkman might just be one of the very few people who use minks for pest control and hunting.

Let’s not also forget that despite their forcefulness, people who lead plant-based diets aren’t in the majority and fewer people still forgo use of animals other than pets altogether (there’s one self-proclaimed vegan on Reddit who admits to eating invasive animals so they’re not entirely animal free and they’re even a biologist in training). The number of pet fox and mink owners would be rather small, smaller than those who own ferrets and that’s saying.

To put it this way, globally speaking while ferret aren’t exactly one of the most popular or commonly owned pets in the world they’re still way ahead of foxes and minks in some regards. Much like cats and dogs, ferrets are also used for hunting and pest control. In fact, ferrets are used to flush out rabbits from their warrens. Dogs are also used to hunt rabbits and cats were also brought in Australia to get rid of rabbits (ferrets were deployed the same way in New Zealand).

While foxes are genetically and physically closer to dogs, in terms of anthropogenic usage foxes have more in common with minks (which they’re distantly related to, along with dogs and ferrets as they’re all caniforms), chinchillas and lynxes as they’re are used for fur. In fact, the usage of foxes for fur has been there before though the best documented case is in Canada where they’re used in commercial fur farms. That might be changing due to the growing ban on fur.

But then again, foxes aren’t that commonly kept for pest control and hunting the way cats, dogs and ferrets are.

What the fox doesn’t say about dog domestication

When it comes to a study on Prince Edward Island foxes, they were already exhibiting traits that were observed in Mr Belyaev’s study albeit a few decades ago and possibly older than that as foxes were domesticated for their use in fur farms in the late 19th century. I also think the other reason why this model of domestication doesn’t explain well for dogs in that many owned dogs in other countries are allowed to roam freely and while dogs can be and have been used for their fur, it’s not that common compared to what foxes go through.

The most common uses for dogs throughout history is that they’re kept alive and are used for hunting, pest control, herding and guarding. Even today, it’s still like that with many countries and communities to varying degrees. While dog meat does exist in some countries, even then most locals don’t necessarily eat dogs there (I’m Filipino and I don’t eat dogs myself). Dog meat is a thing in Ghana and Cameroon, but not all locals necessarily eat dogs and many more keep them for either hunting or guarding.

Likewise, many Chinese keep dogs for guarding and fighting and hunting to a lesser extent especially with regards to the history of Shar Pei dogs in China and Hong Kong. Actually it’s more parsimonious to say that dogs have more in common with cats and to some extent, monkeys than they do with foxes despite being more biologically related to them. For instance, cats, dogs and monkeys are commonly kept alive for things like pest control and hunting.

(Not only do macaques lead commensal lives where they thrive from being in close contact with humans without being deliberately domesticated but also one macaques species is domesticated to catch coconuts in farms.)

At some point in medieval Ireland (and was so in recent memory with Bodacious), cats were even kept for guarding livestock. It’s not that common but it did exist. Also both cats and dogs are even allowed to roam freely, they do so whether in the countryside (at least in Europe) or in slums, villages and farms as it is in Africa and Asia. Farm foxes are more commonly kept indoors, for want of a better word, though that’s not to say they’re allowed to roam freely just not to the same extent that dogs go through.

I even have a feeling that the very first dogs were practically semi-domesticated wolves in that while they were made to hunt prey by their owners and were fed by them, they also spent a good amount of their time left to their own devices when roaming and scavenging so I’m meeting the Coppingers halfway this way. I think there’s a reason why the Coppingers challenged Belyaev in his studies of domestic foxes (if they can be called such) is that foxes in Canada were already being domesticated for their use in the fur industry.

So these behaviours, physiological changes and mutations were already there if these surviving photographs and documentations are any indication. They could’ve been there earlier than that if foxes were deliberately domesticated for their fur, but it still proves their point that fox domestication was already a thing before Belyaev did his studies and he got them from fur farms so.

Not to mention, if fox domestication’s not a good model for dog domestication you’d be better off observing stray dogs which’s what the Coppingers did anyways even if they made mistakes in their research.

Targeting a casual readership

When it comes to making stories for a wider audience, that involves taking into consideration what they’re really into and what do they want in a story. It may not be exactly like what I’m saying but it does matter when it comes to making comics for a wider, less obsessive audience though that involves realising what most people are really into to get into their heads, desires, wants and needs. That involves a greater deal of business sense than what’s usually done when it comes to creating characters and stories people can relate to.

Business sense in that it involves catering to a wider audience than what one’s used to, though that involves a greater deal of competition when it comes to vying for readers’ attentions and affections when it comes to selling what’s essentially the same product. It may not always involve the business sense I mentioned before, but that still involves being aware of what most people are into. To put it this way, most people aren’t into heavy metal they want pop music or rap (especially in the US).

You really have to be aware of what most people are into when it comes to creating and selling a product that will win their hearts and souls, to wit characters like Kitty Pryde (from X-Men) tend to be very popular with a cult audience. She does have traits a cult audience shares with but she’s not really a character most people can relate to (she has a dragon but Charlie Brown has a dog and many, in fact most people have dogs). That involves being aware of what most people are into if you want to cater to them.

Though this may not always be the case for all comic strips, but many of the more popular ones tend to have characters relatable to the masses. Peanuts and Garfield tend to have characters that have everyday experiences, interests and feelings so they resonate with a lot more people than say the likes of X-Men and Fantastic Four, especially if their books sell in the millions (which’s far more than what the average X-Men trade paperback book sells).

It’s like if you want a character that appeals to a lot of people, you have to research on what appeals to a lot of people if you want to market one to them. Most people aren’t heavy comics readers so making a protagonist a serious comic book reader would only appeal to a cult following, so you’re better off not making one if you want to appeal to more readers this way. That may not always be the case but relatability is key when it comes to appealing to a wider audience.

Admittedly, my examples aren’t perfect but the key here is to make a character relatable to a mass audience in order to appeal to a casual readership. Maybe not necessarily relatable but one that can win over a wider audience and readership over something that panders to a cult following. You might as well broaden your social circle and/or interests to get into what most people are into if you want to make a more relatable character at that, though some do it effortlessly so.

When it comes to understanding what a casual readership wants, that involves not preaching to the choir much and target a wider audience instead. That’s going to be a big risk if you’re used to pandering and selling to a narrow audience, but it’s worthwhile if you want to grow your customer base and audience but that involves taking their interests into consideration or at least what sells in the market.

You may not necessarily need to do business when it comes to making a relatable character but it is important when it comes to taking other people into consideration when it comes to making a character appeal to a wider audience than what you’re used to. You could still make your viewpoints and interests appeal to a wide audience but that has to be tempered by what people want, need and relate to.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t sell much to a wider audience if you don’t know how to temper or balance your own interests with things people want to see and read. I feel the best writers who create true everyman characters know how to balance self-interests with the interests and experiences of other people when it comes to making stories that appeal to a wider audience. That’s a skill lost to some comics writers who pander a lot to fellow comics nerds, the art of balancing one’s interests with others is gradually lost with these characters.

You could still have your interests while taking other people’s experiences and interests into consideration when it comes to writing characters that appeal to a wide audience, but to do so you needn’t just business sense (even if it’s not always necessary) but also the ability to balance your own interests and experiences with the experiences and interests of others to create characters and stories that appeal to a wider audience.

It may not be an easy skill, but it’s a skill that those who write everyman characters have mastered when it comes to aiming for a casual readership and audience. Now that’s something one has when it comes to appealing to a wider audience, especially if it’s something that resonates with a wider audience rather than a cult following that many superhero and some comics writers are used to.