It’s hard out here trusting a white woman. After the recent election, I find myself side-eying a LOT of white women. And it’s not just me, many Black women I know say the same thing. We’re part of the 94% and we are looking at that 53% with more than a little bit of mistrust. So it’s refreshing to find a comic creator like Kelly Sue DeConnick.
DeConnick is known for her groundbreaking writing on comics like Captain Marvel (seriously if you’re wondering why Captain Marvel is going to be the first female Marvel superhero to get a solo film look no further than DeConnick’s run on the series). But it’s in her creator-owned series like Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet where Kelly Sue illustrates how you can use the comics medium to push an agenda that’s progressive and shows a commitment to addressing issues like race and sex. Most importantly, DeConnick sets herself apart as an ally who knows when to step back and admit what she doesn’t know.
When I asked her how she became The White Woman You Want to Fuck With she readily admitted that it happened because there was a Black woman who was willing to fuck with her. When DeConnick decided that she wanted to write Bitch Planet, a book set in prison, she realized that she would have to engage in race. One idea she came up with was having all the prisoners be white and all the people in charge be people of color but her good friend, writer, and awesome Twitterer, Danielle Henderson, called her on her shit. In order to write this work, DeConnick knew she had to fully engage in a dialogue about race. And engaging about race in a public forum is hard, y’all.
Bitch Planet is an exercise in how to properly engage in discussions of power as a person who holds privilege. The artist on Bitch Planet Valentine De Leandro is a Black man and between him and Kelly Sue they’ve crafted a story centered around a Black woman in prison that manages to be three-dimensional and doesn’t exploit the women while playing up the tropes of the prison genre. Though different in style and tone, Pretty Deadly, also features Black characters. Pretty Deadly layers many levels of storytelling and features a Black family who encounters Death and reapers throughout many generations.
DeConnick’s commitment to furthering a progressive agenda extends beyond the page. Currently the single issues of Bitch Planet feature feminist articles in the back matter and guest writers have included Mikki Kendall and Danielle Henderson. Coming in June of 2017, Bitch Planet will release a series of issues that are written and drawn by guests, mainly women of color and non-binary creators. Each issue will feature three short stories set in the world of Bitch Planet. The first issue will feature Cheryl Lynn Eaton and Maria Frolich, both Black women, and Andrew Aydin, who co-created March, the graphic novel based on John Lewis’s biography. Issue two will fittingly feature a story from Danielle Henderson (seriously they’re friends) and issue three will feature art from Vanessa Del Rey. Giving these creators a platform as well as a rich world like Bitch Planet to play in shows DeConnick’s dedication to bringing us closer to a world that is not just about equality but equity.
When people wonder what being a good ally looks like it’s this. Prioritizing the voices of women of color, especially Black women, and putting your money where your mouth is. I may clutch my purse now when I see a white woman walking down my side of the street but when it comes to Kelly Sue DeConnick, she can come to the cookout … or I’ll at least bring her a plate.