Kelly Sue DeConnick’s latest comic book offering is a feminist subversion of exploitative women-in-prison from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Issue 3 of Bitch Planet. Image via Image Comics
Imagine a world in which women who fail to adhere to time-worn gender roles are labeled “noncompliant” by a sexist government and shipped to an off-planet penal outpost. ‘Crimes’ come in ambiguous shades of grey and prisoners’ very thoughts are policed, in addition to their workload. Sounds fun, eh? Welcome to Bitch Planet, the dystopian reality and same-named comic book series dreamt up by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by Valentine De Landro.
While a “women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation riff,” as described by publisher Image Comics, born of DeConnick’s “deep and abiding love for exploitation and women in prison movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s,” as reported by Hero Complex, may seem like anything but feminist in nature, DeConnick’s Bitch Planet, if on an incredibly heightened scale, actually mirrors and addresses many societal ills that we face in this present moment—issues of gender, race, body image, and more.
Issue 2 of Bitch Planet. Image via Image Comics
It is an interesting, if unconventional, feminist subversion of a “genre notorious for inflicting voyeuristic, sexualized abuse on incarcerated women.” And especially in the male-dominated comic book industry, where women are offered as titillation and almost always within a slim range of ideal body shapes and composition, DeConnick and De Landro were deliberate in creating and illustrating a cast of female characters that didn’t exactly fit the mold.
Most of the characters are women of color. Violence is excessive and brutal. Female nudity is rampant, but the women range in their shapes and sizes. “I’m ok with the reader being uncomfortable with nudity, but I don’t want the reader to be deliberately aroused by it,” DeConnick told WIRED. “These women are beautiful, but I wanted them presented with lumps and bumps and muscles and scars. Bodies as bodies.”
Image via Image Comics
“I like this stuff so much, and it’s so terrible, it’s so deeply awful and delicious, like those candies that are bad for you,” said DeConnick via Hero Complex. “So I wanted to see if there was a way that I could play with the things about it that I love and also the things about it that make me wildly uncomfortable.”
Bitch Planet will release it’s fourth issue on April 1 via Image Comics.